You may be increasingly hearing terms like “body activism” and “curve”, but what does it actually mean to be a plus size model? Here we talk to agent and former model Anna Shillinglaw about the curve industry, featuring mega babe Molly Constable.
There is a common misconception that a curve model is any beautiful woman who is larger than the runway model standard measurements of 34″-24″-34”. But that isn’t the case — sizing is just as important in the plus world as it is in high fashion. In the UK, plus size is categorised as above size 12 (size 8 US), with most clothing lines catering for larger women starting at sizes 16-18. But clothing size isn’t the only measurement that matters — height is just as important for plus models as it is for regular runway models, with the preference being for girls who are 5’10” or taller. However there is a (small) ray of hope out there for those who still don’t fit the guidelines — “My largest model, Tess Holliday, is a UK size 26,” says Anna Shillinglaw, managing director of MiLK Management in London. “She is also 5’5”, so sometimes anything goes if the individual inspires me.” (And having a large social media following doesn’t hurt either!)
The ultimate issue within the size debate is that for larger models to become mainstream, the mainstream has to offer larger sample sizes. “I have editors see my girls and want to use them but then say they just won’t fit the samples they have,” explains Anna Shillinglaw, who nevertheless continues to pitch her curvier models to high fashion clients. Not having access to larger sample sizes leaves stylists who want to use a plus model with only two options: high street or lingerie. This then leads to plus size models being typecast as commercial — casting them for anything else can become just too much effort. “We have to have larger samples made so we can put curvy models in magazines and on the catwalk on a regular basis. The samples are [currently] too small and don’t fit the models,” says Anna.
Shillinglaw lists some of the major players within the plus/curve world as Violeta by Mango, ASOS, Aerie, Marina Rinaldi, Panache Lingerie, Miss Guided, and Zizzi. There are no major design house names amongst those listed — even though designers are increasingly realising they can’t afford to ignore the multi-billion dollar plus industry for much longer. “A few designers [last fashion week] used curve girls but if you compare it to how many slim models are used it’s a huge difference,” says Shillinglaw. “London Fashion Week used no curve models and it was very disappointing.”
With an increased emphasis on diversity in the fashion industry, we hope size is an issue that continues to be discussed, with curve models being cast by leading high fashion design houses. “There are still loads of challenges but boundaries are being broken every day,” says Shillinglaw. “I think it also takes an agent with vision and passion to think outside the box and make beautiful imagery to show the top clients and creatives in the industry what curve models have to offer.”
Photography – Claire Rothstein for models.com
Styling – Hope Von Joel
Hair – Davide Barbieri (Caren Agency)
Makeup – Clare Read (London: Caren Agency, New York: MAM )
Nails – Lucie Pickavance (Caren Agency)
Model – Molly Constable @ Milk Management (London)
Retouch – Morph Retouch