Body Positivity: Shooting a "Plus Size" Model


Last month, we (i.e. the director of Playful Promises and I) decided to shoot some of the "larger" sizes we do on a size 14 model. As a bit of an experiment. 

First, let's take a step back, so I can explain one key point. One of the things that often makes me want to bash my head against the keyboard is when people demand to know why we cannot expand our size range, particularly "large" cup sizes. Seriously, every time you ask a tiny, independent brand this, someone kills a kitten. Think of the kittens. 

Thankfully Catherine at Kiss Me Deadly has written a long detailed reason as to why, which includes charts and numbers and probably makes most people wish they hadn't asked. And sure, most people ask in a very polite way, but some people take it as a personal attack on their breasts. CHILL OUT. 

Despite people informing us that we'd make lots of money if we made larger bra sizes (as opposed to the reality which would be that we'd go out of business if we made larger bra sizes), the large sizes are the ones left over at the end of a sale period. So, the experiment was that we shoot those larger sizes on a size 14 model (as opposed to the size 10 models we use for lookbooks) to show what those sizes look like on.


This is Ali. Gorgeous, right? Of course she is, she's a woman. Like the rest of the models I use. Size 8, size 6, size 14, all "real".

 And you know what I found different about working with a "curve" (which is the word the agencies now use, rather than plus size, because the latter phrase makes those outside of the fashion world explode) model? Absolutely nothing. I didn't need to have her pose differently, I didn't need to do any more retouching than I would on a size 10 model. Because being a model is her job, her job entails looking after herself. Just because she is a size 14 doesn't change this. She's fit, healthy and confident, which should be the key concepts in body positivity. 



We released the images on our facebook, with a statement saying how much we love ALL sizes, all positivity and rainbows. And then comes the inevitable. The body shaming of thinner women. And it's sad that people, men and women, feel the need to do that. As if it's some competition.

Perhaps I find such comments insulting because I've been on the receiving end. I used to be incredibly underweight for the first 15 years of my life, despite eating well. I was called names too, much the same as bigger girls would have been. That hasn't put me in the mind-set that telling "fat" women to "stop eating" (in my case, it was that I should "eat a hamburger") is ok. So why is this suddenly acceptable now? And among so many women?



I feel that it's a mixture between a backlash against the fashion world and encouragement from certain brands using this backlash to their advantage.

The phrase "real women" seems to be a fairly new one. In fact, I'd love to know if anyone knows a more specific timeline. I wouldn't be surprised if it came into use (in this way) since the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign began to roll out in 2004. I'm going to write a whole different post regarding my thoughts on the farce that is Dove's "Real Beauty", but for now, let's just say it's a marketing stunt, tapping into a sensitive subject to help sell beauty products. 

 It's such a shame that, when a brand or a person DOES do something positive for body image, some of the responses just put other women down. Will we ever be able to get to the point where women are not pitted against eachother?