I have yet to meet a woman of my age that has never encountered a Barbie doll. Barbie is distributed to 150 different countries across the globe, and has the same measurements as….no one! The closest life size representation of a Barbie doll would probably be Dolly Parton or Pamela Anderson. I honestly like Dolly too much to continue any more parallels between the two. ;]
I received my first bag of blonde haired, blue-eyed plastic molds around age 4. They were all hand me downs from various relatives. At 5 or 6 years old, I had chopped most of their hair into to a buzz cut and swapped their threads out with camouflage from G.I. Joe. I did not want to be like Barbie. I wanted to be like my brother. Barbie was going to follow suit, whether she liked it or not. At that time her size meant nothing to me.
Now, over 50 years since the “birth” of Barbie. As her measurements haven’t changed much, the perception of our bodies has definitely flipped a 180. The images we now see in magazines and advertisements reflects our culture’s current obsession with being thin. As far as what number defines “plus-size” is a common topic of controversy. Nowadays, the term “plus-size” is used to describe the healthy and curvy women we once idolized in Barbie’s initial era. From pin-up calendars to wiggle-skirts to Marilyn Monroe, and everything in between. Runway gurus will tell you that plus-size is a dress size 6/8 and up. When it once began with a size 14 model. If you check out the specifically plus size stores, you are lucky to find anything under a women’s size 14. Take a peek at various Facebook threads concerning size, and you’ll run into a barrage of women fighting for size 18+ representation. Yet, the models that represent plus-size have become increasingly smaller over the years. I have wondered myself, is the fashion industry intentionally lowering this plus-size standard to shame average women into thinking they are fat? Thus sending them into a world of crash diets, while the weight-loss world profits and designers feel less obligated to broaden their size spectrum…
For women of all sizes, 2011 was quite a year. Robyn Lawley was the first plus-size model to grace the pages of VOGUE Australia’s September issue. Yea- not the cover, but the first to hit the innards of the magazine. She is 6 feet tall. And a US size 10. Robyn along with Tara Lynn and Candice Huffine exploded media outlets with their June cover of VOGUE Italia.
Then 2011 had it’s disparages and set backs. September was counteracted by the American Apparel “Next Big Thing” contest where we covered Nancy Upton’s protest. In May, the plus-size community tragically lost a size 18+ advocate and family member, Mia Amber. And most recently we discovered that the clothing company H&M uses digitally created bodies to model their clothing, because the virtual “body can better display clothes made for humans than humans can…”
I recently asked the women and some men around me, “what does plus-size mean to you?” A few of these women said it doesn’t even cross over their thoughts. A couple more said they think of “big girls” when they hear plus-size. One, a size 14 herself, told me she sees plus-size as the matronly section in the department store. She believes it starts at size 16, but isn’t sure.
After much dialogue about what rings in your thoughts when a person hears “plus-size”- I came to a few conclusions of my own. Now I am interested in your opinions. The demographic I spoke with was quite mixed, but I began to wonder if the average woman even thinks about these words. Outside of media coverage on the specific discussion of plus-size, does this word “plus” really mean anything to us? Is your size a state of mind? Or do you put labels like “skinny,” “fat,” “plus-size,” on your body because of where you buy your clothing?
And if in anyway, how does your size affect your day-to-day mentality?