What are the chances of the ‘plus-sized’ body being truly accepted in fashion circles?

Plus-sized models and fashion seem to be carving a niche in a size-zero world, but is this really permanent or just a show?

Written by Radhika Iyengar | New Delhi | Published:November 3, 2016 8:28 pm
plus-size-model_759_ie-file Will fuller-bodied people finally find acceptance in the fashion industry? (File Photo)

A new phrase has emerged in the lexicon of the Indian fashion industry – plus-size clothing. It’s a new cultural phenomenon that hopes to challenge the status quo in an industry that has otherwise been solely synonymous with women belonging to reed-thin sizes. The diversity plus size clothing offers is not only progressive, it’s liberating.

For decades, the notion of a woman’s beauty has been sculpted around the size and shape of her body. Fashion magazines have thrived on creating the perfect mirage of flawless female bodies with narrow waistlines. For the longest time, the idea of fuller-bodied women has been considered visually unappealing.

In 2012, fashion demigod Karl Lagerfeld dismissively called Grammy Award-winning singer Adele, “fat”. That comment generated an uproar across global media, making conversations concerning women’s body size, mainstream and important. A year later, in an attempt to rectify what he had said about Adele, Lagerfeld offered an alternative adjective for her size – “roundish”. The fact that one considers it to be his/her self-proclaimed right – irrespective of whether or not one is a fashion authority – to comment on a woman’s body is downright appalling. A woman’s identity is reduced to the number of digits associated with her waistline.

The world is dominated by celebrities who have plenty of time to commit to intense hours of physical fitness in order to look great on television. This results in millions of women who aspire to be like them. In such a situation, those who do not fit the parameters of what is considered “slim”, feel marginalised.

In 2016, however, things are gradually changing. Plus-size women, along with women activists, are passionately pushing boundaries and demanding that beauty should be all-inclusive. Photographers like Substantia Jones have created full-fledged, unabashed series dedicated to plus-sized women, celebrating them with all their wrinkles and stretch marks. Fashion shows celebrating plus-size women are also becoming popular in the West.

In India, a similar gradual change, at a much smaller scale of course, is taking place too. Lakmé Fashion Week recently took on the baton of campaigning for beauty for all sizes. It launched its Plus-Size fashion show this year, which saw “plus-sized models” strutting on the runway. Dove initiated its #RealBeauty project to inspire Indian women to “break the rules of beauty”. It invited women of all “shapes and sizes” to share their photographs on its website and participate in conversations revolving around the body image and body acceptance. Fashion blogs in India such as Curves Become Her, Beyond That Bouffant and Girl with Curves are cropping up too. They are being run by women who are fierce, stylish and proud of their curvaceous bodies.

The question to ask, however, is this: Can plus-size body type find acceptance in a realm that has been dominated by size zero and the like? Will this socio-cultural movement last or will it see its end long before it has even really begun?

One has to wait and watch.