NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
I recently read an article in People Magazine about plus-sized model Crystal Renn. The article mostly focused on a recent retouching scandal in which Crystal had been made to look shockingly thin in a fashion spread by a photographer. While unrealistic retouching of photos is definitely an issue worthy of discussion, my focus for this post is the definition of “plus-sized” and how outrageous it has become.
Crystal Renn is 5’9,” weighs 150 pounds, and wears a size 10, yet she is considered one of the most successful plus-sized models in the industry. The mind boggles that size 10 is now regarded as plus-sized. If you look at the photo of Crystal in her swimsuit in the People article, you’ll see a slim and fit looking woman who does not appear to be overweight or even particularly voluptuous. At 5’10” and size 8, I am not much smaller than Ms. Renn and am generally regarded as lean and slender by those who know me (I sometimes disagree, but I’m still working on my body image, as my readers well know…).
At What Size Does “Plus” Begin?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being plus-sized, but shouldn’t the women who model clothing designed for plus-sized women actually be able to fit into the sizes? Lane Bryant is probably the most popular and well-known plus-sized clothing store in the country. I visited Lane Bryant’s website to see what sizes are sold in their stores and learned that they start at size 14 (and sell up to size 32). If Crystal Renn modeled for Lane Bryant, the clothes would either have to be altered substantially or pinned back for pictures.
Renn’s History is Similar to Mine…
It turns out the Crystal Renn has a similar history to me in terms of her weight. She used to be anorexic and bulimic and at one time weighed only 95 pounds. In her quest to regain her health and sanity, her weight increased to a high of 175 pounds, at which time she was signed on to do plus-sized modeling. Over the years, her weight gradually decreased to her current level as she stabilized her eating and exercise habits (she had previously been a compulsive exerciser).
Crystal’s current weight and shape is likely as healthy and normal for her as my present body size is for me. It is actually quite common for recovering anorexics to gain quite a bit of weight after beginning to eat normally again after a long period of excessive dieting. It doesn’t always happen, but it isn’t at all uncommon.
The Unrealistic & Unbalanced Fashion Industry
My issue is not with Crystal Renn. I applaud her for embracing her body at all sizes and for always displaying poise and confidence. She has been – and continues to be – a role model for many at size 14, 12, or 10.
My issue is with the extremely unbalanced and unrealistic fashion industry! I read an article on getting started as a plus-sized model that states that this size classification begins at a size 8! So I guess if I were a bit (or a lot!) younger, maybe I could be a plus-sized model…
No Such Thing as Too Thin?
Sadly, Crystal Renn was getting plenty of modeling work when she was 95 pounds and a size 0. She was starving herself to death, yet the modeling world embraced her emaciated figure. It was only by the grace of her strength and fortitude that she didn’t join the ranks of Ana Carolina Reston, Luisel Ramos, and Eliana Ramos, models who have died from anorexia.
The average “straight-sized” fashion model wears a size 0 or 2, and size 00 is becoming increasingly common. Even allowing for the “vanity sizing” that has become more prevalent in the fashion world, this is ridiculous! I can understand why models need to be thin to more easily showcase the clothing, but weren’t the supermodels of the 80s and 90s thin enough? Is there really any need for a model to be thinner than Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, or Heidi Klum? I don’t think so!
Stop the Insanity!
I think it’s time to stop the insanity in the fashion world and emphasize health and fitness for models over extreme thinness. I honestly believe that designers and manufacturers would sell more clothing if the models looked healthier and had more curves. That way, women would actually be able to more easily envision themselves wearing the clothes.
I applaud Crystal Renn’s vision for the modeling world, one in which there are no plus-sized models and no straight-sized models, just models. I would stand for an ovation if these models all looked as healthy and vibrant as Ms. Renn does in her swimsuit in the People Magazine article.