The comeback of the plus-size model

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Curvaceous figures were once coveted before it became in vogue to be thin to meet the concept of modern-day beauty. Although waif models still dominate the runways at major fashion shows, it seems that the plus-size figure is once again being recognized and embraced by the fashion community -- and the world.

Big and beautiful
Sir Peter Paul Rubens was a 16th and 17th century Flemish painter perhaps best known for selecting women with curvaceous, voluptuous figures as the subject matter of his work. Before the 20th century, historians say that women who were considered attractive displayed bodies ripe with curves.
During the periods of time many refer to as the Middle Ages and beyond, plus-size figures were coveted. Paintings and sculptures of this time -- those even outside of Ruben's domain -- clearly show chubbier figures, which were considered to be appealing. That's because one's weight was often a sign of his or her social status. Wealthy people were able to afford and indulge in the fattening foods that would pack on the pounds. Therefore, poor people who also may have been thin were not seen as attractive. Today these Rubenesque figures are regarded as being too fat in areas of the world where food is plentiful. In fact, the tides may have turned completely. Where weight was once a sign of opulence, today obesity is largely a problem of the lower class. But in countries where starvation still occurs, heavier women are often considered as being more beautiful.

Thin is in?
Estimates suggest that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder, although this number may be higher because many people with an eating disorder fail to disclose it or seek treatment. A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 to 10 percent of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18 to 20 percent of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 to 40 percent ever fully recover.
Although anorexia, bulimia and other disorders are classified as mental illnesses, there are some women (and men) who have attested to the fact that media portrayals of thinness as a sign of beauty have impacted their body images on various levels. Many health experts have stated that the proliferation of eating disorders and depression over body image is largely influenced by the media. Studies have indicated that two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their life to achieve their weight goals. And 80 percent of women who answered a past People magazine survey responded that images of women on television and in the movies make them feel insecure.

The rise of plus-size
While no doctor or health expert will tell you it is healthy to be obese, the fact remains that every person's body is different. There are healthy women who wear a size 4 and healthy women who wear a size 14. More and more people are beginning to embrace their bodies as they are, and that switch has given rise to an increase in the number of plus-size models and personalities appearing in major campaigns.
Model Crystal Renn is just one proponent of the movement for all sizes to be viewed as beautiful. Renn, who authored the 2009 "Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves," nearly lost her life due to anorexia and other extreme measures she endured to walk the catwalk with a fashion-thin body. Renn, who fluctuates between a size 10 and a size 16, once weighed 95 pounds, but now speaks out against pressure to be a certain weight to be seen as beautiful.
Ford Models has a Ford+ division that caters especially to promoting women who do not meet the standards of traditional stick-thin models. While these women may still not be considered plus-size according to everyday standards (plus size in the modeling industry is between a size 8 and 12), they do present a more well-rounded example of the female body on the runway. Today, the plus-size segment of Ford has expanded in number from its inception and has regular bookers. Furthermore, these plus-size models are being hired for mainstream fashion designers, not just those geared toward plus-size clothing. Renn joins Whitney Thompson, Marquita Pring, Gitte Lill, Natalie Laughlin, Tara Lynn, and Alyona Osmanova as some of the most recognizable names in plus-size modeling.
Although it's not likely that fat will be the new thin, more media outlets and facets of the fashion world are showcasing a wider variety of body types today. HM121654