Glamour's Plus Sized Photo Shoot: Real Change, or Trend?

8 years ago

In September, Glamour magazine included a small photo of model Lizzi Miller. The photo wasn't on the cover, or even in a prominent spread; instead, it was tucked away on page 194, next to a piece about body image titled "What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body." The response, of course, was overwhelming; women were enthralled by Miller's size 12-14 body, particularly her tummy. 

Because she had a tummy, which was remarkable for a model in a fashion magazine.

Jezebel's Margaret Hartman appreciated Glamour's attempt to include real women, but hesitantly:

But still, being the ladymag with the most body diversity isn't that hard when your competition is Vogue. Both pictures of Miller were included in articles about body acceptance and May's plus-size swimsuit spread was a rarity. Every other model featured in this month's Glamour was very thin. Even "What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body" starts out with the standard photo of a perfectly-proportioned model staring at herself in the mirror with a slight frown, which doesn't exactly depict the average reader's issues with her body. Any shot of body confidence readers got from seeing a woman with an average-sized body presented as sexy is quickly neutralized by the magazine's other 295 pages of diet tips, workout recommendations, and images of women with all their natural bumps and rolls airbrushed away.

Hartman is skeptical, though, that Glamour is really making a change, either in the magazine or in the fashion industry at large. After all, fashion media has a lot at stake here: "If magazines run more images like the one on page 194, women may internalize the idea that you can look sexy with messy hair, no clothes or accessories, and a layer of body fat and stop buying products to fix their natural yet somehow 'flawed' figures."

This month, Glamour is capitalizing on their new niche as the Fashion Magazine That Loves Plus Sized Girls: The November issue features a two page photo of seven plus-size models, all nude, and all looking fantastic. So is this a big leap forward, or a baby step?

There are two ways to think about this, from what I'm hearing: One is to say, hooray! Real women in a mainstream fashion magazine! Showing their real curves! Big leap forward!

But the other side is this: The fashion industry isn't serious about including real women; this is one spread in one issue of one magazine, not a change in the entire industry. Designer samples are still made only in size 2; magazines are still primarily filled with women who are taller and thinner than the rest of us. Two pages of girls who look sort of like us doesn't make up for two hundred pages of girls who look nothing like us.

And then there's the middle ground: Glamour is absolutely on the right track, and it's great to see women whose bones are fully covered by their flesh, but to call a size 12 a plus size is laughable. Let's see some size 18 or 20 models in the mainstream fashion magazines -- then we'll acknowledge a change.

Marie Clare seems to be outstripping Glamour in the real change department; the magazine has hired stylist Ashley Falcon to write a column for them.

I'm the most stylish among my friends. Growing up in Miami's tight-knit Cuban community, I was the girl everyone sought out for fashion advice, the one who transformed boring outfits into head-turning looks with the flick of a collar or the cinch of a belt. Of course, it surprised no one that I decided to pursue a career as a fashion stylist—though at 5'2" and 220 pounds, I'd need an elaborate pulley system and a can of Crisco to shimmy into the clothes I dress models in. Instead, I'm relegated to the plus-size racks, where trendy usually translates into "when's your due date" empire waists and cinch-sack drawstrings. It's not easy being chic, but it's an epic struggle when you're a big girl.

Falcon is savvy and funny and honest about her size; her column, unlike the Glamour photo spread, will effect real change.

BlogHer community member Venus Vision wrote an open letter to Glamour; for her, Lizzi Miller's appearance in the magazine was an affirmation that her body was beautiful.

What say you: Is the face of fashion changing, or are magazines like Glamour patronizing larger women? Are you happy with the images you see, or are you looking for something different?

Susan Wagner writes about pragmatic fashion at The Working Closet and chic suburban living at Friday Playdate.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

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