Although it sounds absurd on paper, the fashion industry has long ignored or underserved the needs of the globe’s largest sector of women for unfortunate reasons of purposeful exclusivity. According to the weight spectrum of women around the world – from South Korea at the lowest end (56.5kg) to USA at the highest (87kg) – an adult woman weighs in at an average of 71.75kg.
Furthermore, waistlines are steadily on the incline as human diets are changing to incorporate more processed, pre-packaged foods. For example, a recent study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education found that the average American woman’s size has increased from 14 to 16/18 in only a few short years. Although the plus-size category is growing worldwide, the fashion industry has barely deigned to glance in its direction, leaving curvier women to suffer ill-fitting silhouettes, low-quality materials, and outmoded designs.
The problem is systemic. When creating a look for the runway, pattern-makers start with a standard size 2 or a roughly 59-centimeter waist, and few designers have chosen to venture outside of creating a narrow and exclusionary range of sizes for their respective collections. However, in the past few years, that is all finally changing – fantastic plus-size brands and retail outlets have emerged to meet the needs of women who don’t fit traditional (and painfully outdated) sizing standards.
At New York Fashion Week, there were only six plus-size models represented on the catwalks during Fall/Winter 2016, but the number has risen steadily. Although the Spring/Summer 2019 shows have just started, we can look to the past season for inspiring numbers. During the Fall/Winter 2018 shows, 30 plus-size models walked the runway, making for one of the most inclusive and diverse fashion weeks in history. Still, “curve” models – the new industry term for those previously known as “plus-size” models – only make up one percent of the current models who are working.
With the advent of fashion brands like Eloquii and retail sites like 11 Honoré that sell labels like Prabal Gurung to women up to size 22, the need for curve models has soared. They not only represent what the average woman really looks like, but are also behind the body-positivity movement. Models like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence have gained a tremendous following due to their championing of unconditional self-love, leading them to land campaigns in publications like Sports Illustrated. By encouraging us to ditch traditional beauty standards and embrace our figures just the way they are, these ten curve models are reshaping the way the media portrays women.
Ashley Graham is far and away the most popular curve model in the world. Although she entered the modeling industry in 2001, she didn’t receive her big break until she appeared in a controversial Lane Bryant commercial in 2010, when the content was censored by ABC and prevented from airing due to Graham’s size. She shot to fame after a series of articles and TV appearances, and has been carving out her lane ever since.
Graham is not only a body-positive curve model, but also a proponent of change in the fashion industry. She spreads her message of self-love and acceptance via her popular Instagram account and ad campaigns, and has even designed a line of swimwear for curvy women in collaboration with Swimsuits for All. Additionally, Graham has appeared on major magazine covers and in several Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions, walked the runway for Michael Kors at New York Fashion Week, and more.
You may recognize Jordyn Woods as Kylie Jenner’s BFF, but she has become a professional model in her own right. Although she is signed to the “Curve” division at Wilhelmina Models, she advocates for doing away with the delineation between plus-size women and everyone else. “Yes, I’m a ‘curve’ model, but to be completely honest, I feel like there should be no separate sections in fashion – there should just be one. If it fits, it fits, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” she told Obsessee magazine. Woods also recently launched her own size-inclusive athleisure label, Scndnature.
Julie Henderson once had dreams of becoming a military pilot, but her gorgeous face and figure guaranteed her life a different outcome. After being dragged to Ford Models in Chicago by a friend, Henderson was quickly signed. Since then, she has landed work with L’Oreal, H&M, and Target.
Henderson – along with fellow curve models Danielle Redman, Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, and Inga Eiriksdottir – launched ALDA after Ford Models closed down its plus-size division. ALDA supports models of every size and won a major coup when the five founders approached IMG and were all signed to the agency. Henderson described ALDA by saying, “Fashion dictates so many things in our lives, and little girls grow up thinking that this is what beauty is. What ALDA does is say, ‘Listen, every woman is beautiful.’”
While many of us never expected to see curve models like Hunter McGrady in the pages of Sports Illustrated, this striking woman has helped rewrite the rulebooks. As a 16-year-old, McGrady starved herself and stayed in the gym for hours every day in order to achieve the absurd size standards dictated by the modeling industry.
“I walked into one of my very first modeling jobs at a size 4. They looked at me and said, ‘We didn’t realize you were this big’ and sent me home,” she told People magazine. Finally, McGrady had enough, and decided to eat normally and embrace her curves. Now, as one of the industry’s most successful curve lingerie and swimwear models, she is an inspiration to millions.
The fearless and exquisite Marquita Pring has walked the catwalks of Jean Paul Gaultier and Tome, landed major fashion editorials, and helped start ALDA. She’s also a pioneer in the curve-model movement. However, in her opinion, she’s just a model – no modifiers necessary.
“I don’t feel a need to specify my size when telling people about my job. I think the term ‘plus size’ has a negative connotation. Personally, I wouldn’t even refer to a woman who’s a size 26 as ‘plus size’. I’m proud to set an example for women of all sizes as a bigger, curvier model, and I’m so thankful to get letters from women of all sizes thanking me for promoting a more realistic healthy image,” Pring told Fashionista. We couldn’t agree more.
If Iskra Lawrence’s over four million Instagram followers don’t convince you of the significant influence of curve models, maybe her TED Talk, campaigns for brands like American Eagle, and runway appearance at Chromat will. Lawrence – who refuses to have any of her modeling photos retouched – is bringing complete and total body acceptance to the masses. Furthermore, she openly calls out body shamers, turning the tables on their prejudice in eloquent and inspirational ways.
When Precious Lee first moved to New York City to become a plus-size model, she encountered agents and clients who wanted her to change her hair, her clothes, and even her name. It wasn’t until Lee decided to stick to her principles and embrace her true identity that her career took off. Not only was she the first black curve woman to appear in Sports Illustrated, but she is also an outspoken advocate of body positivity.
Lee has also provided unique and insightful criticism of the expectations of curve models within the fashion industry by saying, “One of the most insulting things for plus-size models that I’ve discussed with some colleagues is that people are so surprised when a girl who isn’t a size 2/4 knows how to move and doesn’t need to be told exactly what to do. Okay, I get it, it’s flattering, but it’s also like, there are girls who have been doing this for over 15 years. Why would you be shocked that I know how to find good light and take a good selfie?”
This Netherlands-based model went viral in 2017 due to her uncanny resemblance to Gigi Hadid. However, Iza Ijzerman has earned her stripes in the curve modeling industry and runs her own fashion blog. She has primarily worked with Dutch brands like Ibana Fashion and Eline Rosa Jewelry alongside retail sites like Loavies.
Tabria Majors, a curve Sports Illustrated model, has earned a fervent following because of her outspoken opinions on plus-size women in the industry. Accustomed to challenging the status quo, Majors told Galore: “The main challenge plus-sized models face is the lack of visibility. There aren’t nearly as many brands that offer plus sizes compared to straight sizes. High fashion doesn’t really exist for plus-sized models either. The industry has definitely made great strides to be more inclusive, but improvements can still be made.”
Majors regularly posts inspiring body-positive content to Instagram, calls out body shamers, and is open about how people’s negative comments impact her well-being. It’s easy to fall in love with her natural good looks, but we have a feeling you’re going to love her wit and mind as well.
Lulu Bonfils – the satirically brilliant and socially relevant model behind popular Instagram account @LouisVuittonCrocs – might be in possession of some of the most angelic features we’ve ever seen. However, her ethereal features belie a strong sense of humor and an even stronger personality. Lately, we’ve been spotting her in ad campaigns for brands like Gucci and Diesel, as well as on the catwalks at New York Fashion Week.