You’re a Plus-size Model?

Via Summer Rayne Oakes
on May 17, 2013
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In the fourth episode of SRO Conversations, model Kate Dillon-Levin talks with Paul and me about the definition of a plus-sized model and how the fashion industry has changed over the years as it relates to a woman’s size.

Twenty years ago, models were a size 6-8 and weighed 8 percent less than the average woman. Now models are a size 0-2 and weigh 23 percent less compared to the average woman twenty years ago.

To watch the full-length version of this conversation, visit here. To view all conversations, including this one, visit the Podcast page.

Please feel free to direct any comments/questions for this episode on Twitter @sroakes with #SROConvo.



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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Summer Rayne Oakes

Summer Rayne Oakes is a model-activist working on reforestation and artisan training efforts through the Mezimbite Forest Centre in Mozambique and Sub-Saharan Africa. She is also the co-founder of Source4Style, a sustainable materials marketplace, advisory board member of Phytotrade, and has currently released a weekly video series entitled SUMMER RAYNE OAKES Conversations, highlighting discussions with cool people on what matters most. She is featured in this year’s Pirelli Calendar shot by Steve McCurry of Afghan Girl fame. You can follow her journeys and personal musings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


5 Responses to “You’re a Plus-size Model?”

  1. to be fair women in USA are often obese so all things considered.

  2. Karen D says:

    Lots of models are too thin, it's true. But using 20-year-ago statistics is misleading. I was recently shopping for vintage wedding gowns, and the vast majority are for girls with a 23"-26" waist– not even close to the average size of women today. People are getting bigger and bigger, and it makes the contrast between models and "ordinary" people seem more and more extreme. And provides shock-worthy numbers like these that don't really mean that much.

    Models are spindly because clothes look great on them. Lots of them look like bony scarecrows out of the clothes, but hey… there are lots of versions of beautiful. "Too" thin is one, and "too" large is another. I'm glad there are so many varieties of beautiful!

    Anyway, I don't think the change is in the fashion industry as much as it is in culture in general (American especially). In fact, 23% sounds like a lower number than I would've guessed!

  3. amphibi1yogini says:

    Don't forget that, as ever, so-called plus size models could have a front-of-camera modeling career longevity that the straight-size models could only dream about.

  4. Deborah and Karen, you both have good points. But there has been a marked change within the industry. As Kate had mentioned, it used to be 6-8, but now it is 0-2. The National Eating Disorders Association reported that twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman (129 pounds vs. 140 pounds). Today, the average woman is 160 pounds and the typical model weighs 23 percent less (123 pounds). This may not seem like a huge jump, but for a 5’10” woman (a typical model height), 129 pounds would have just made the 18.5 BMI cut-off and 123 pounds would be considered underweight. Keep in mind that these are averages; the unsaid reality is that young women in the industry are often encouraged to lose “ten pounds,” sometimes without the information as to whether that should be done in the first place–or how to do it while keeping one’s health in mind.

    What might not help the situation is another under-addressed topic (which is brought up above), which is the unhealthy growth in the opposite direction. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 36 percent of American adults over the age of 20 are obese and 33 percent of us are considered overweight. That means that 69 percent of America needs to lose weight in order to achieve optimal health. This is also reflected in women’s view of themselves. A recent Gallup poll reveals that the average woman today feels as if she is 22 pounds over her “ideal weight,” up nine pounds from 20 years ago.

    There needs to be a healthy approach to this with all different sizes to promote health and wellness.

  5. SportsTops says:

    Well done Kate Dillon-Levin, what an inspiration for women all over the world.