Fat Models vs. Skinny Models

I know there has been some brou-ha going on lately about this issue.  Truthfully, I haven’t read any of it – because it’s such a moldy-oldie issue.  So, if it’s so moldy-oldie, why do I choose to write about it?  Because I think the issue is more about the fat community than the clothing industry.

My personal feelings about thin models selling fat clothing is that it is offensive.  I feel like the vendor is treating me like I am so stupid I don’t know that the clothes draping on the willowy model are going to look significantly different on me. 

However, in the past, Lane Giant and others have done experiments of running ads with fat models and ads with thin models and the ads with the thin models always create more sales. 

So while I know that clothes are going to look different on my fat body, the sales numbers have led the companies to believe in general folks in the fat community do not know this.  Or that fat people so hate their own fat bodies, that they don’t want to buy something that a fat woman is wearing.  Either way – how sad is that?

Until we learn to look at fat bodies (others and our own) and see beauty – we are going to have issues (conscious or not) buying clothes that are modeled on fat bodies.  And you can’t blame the clothing industry for doing what is necessary to sell the most of their product.

If you have ever been to a NAAFA Convention, you will know that one of the most joyful events is the fashion show.  NAAFA members model clothing for the vendors attending the convention.  I have participated in several of these fashion shows, and I have to tell you I love it.  I also love being out in the audience during the fashion shows.  Onstage or not, there is such a pure joy in seeing fat people wearing beautiful clothing, feeling good about themselves, and knowing that they are being admired and appreciated.  And lots of clothing gets sold in the process.

Some print catalogues do use fat models, and a few even use super-size models.  Online, you have a greater chance of seeing clothing modeled by fat and super-size models.  But these are smaller companies and often they cannot compete with the big companies when it comes to pricing; making it more difficult for the fat community to support them. 

So even if you object to the use of thin models, your personal circumstances may leave you with little choice; and I don’t want to berate anyone for doing what they feel is best for themselves.  We all have to make choices and pick the battles we can or want to fight.  Hell, I order from Lane Giant (or Woman Within as it’s now called – are they referring to that thin woman inside of me that is supposedly screaming to get out?  Well if she exists, she can STFU), because sometimes I can’t justify paying $80 for a pair of slacks modeled by a fat woman, when I can get the same thing for $30 modeled by a thin woman.  Do I feel torn about it?  Sure.  I want to support fat-positive companies, and my husband will confirm that I do (way more than he would like at times)  So we all do what we can do, when we can. 

I much prefer that vendors who sell to fat people use fat people to market their product; and we’re making a little headway.  But again until fat people put their money where their fat is and stop giving those vendors business, it’s not likely to happen.

And as a footnote, I don’t want to totally dis on the companies like Lane Giant – they were here first!  If you are an oldster like me, you can remember the joy when the first Lane Giant store came to your local mall!  Holy crap.  A store where all the clothes fit YOU!  And the clothes were cute too.  So there is a level of loyalty to them because they saved me (and maybe you) from those awful old lady clothes which was what I had to wear before because there were no other choices.  And now there is Torrid and Avenues – but Lane Bryant (there I said it) led the way – much to their profit, but they still led the way.

8 thoughts on “Fat Models vs. Skinny Models

  1. It’s great that you understand and knowledge fashion companies might use not so large models to model the plus size clothing. Not that I think it’s okay, but is definitely does make a difference in sales, and they want to make money just like everyone else in the world. I think it’s also great that you understand that there are better things people can do than just complain about the fashion industry, and you touched on the idea of actually digging deeper as to why consumers are more willing buy clothes modeled by a barely plus sized woman rather than a super sized woman.

  2. I think their rationale in terms of sales is specious and circular and self-serving.

    If thin women sell more clothes, that’s a product of thin women being used as clothes models and our being only exposed to ads featuring thin women as clothing hangers. It’s not some hard-wired thing that can’t be helped.

    Most of us are simply not trained to see fat bodies as beautiful, and thus we are likely to not recognize the clothing fat bodies wear as beautiful.

    So yes, we may well be less likely to buy something modeled by a fat woman, but that’s bound to change as we are exposed to more images of fat women looking beautiful in beautiful clothing.

    Think about art. Imagine if contemporary artists said, “I can’t have a fat nude woman because art with fat nudes doesn’t sell. People just don’t like looking at fat women naked. Nothing I can do about that. It’s just the market.”

    We’d laugh at them, right? We’d say, “Have you visited a museum lately?”

  3. I think it’s important to note that Lane Bryant the store is making attempts (and has been for many years now) at using more plus-size models (even though they are only inbetweenies). I would love to see Woman Withing/OneStopPlus (formerly Lane Bryant Catalog and not associated with the stores.. ever) actually using people who could even where the clothes they sell for their photos. I don’t even find it all that insulting.. I just find it silly.. why would you hire women to model clothes they can’t fit?

  4. I do applaud Lane Bryant’s store effort to use plus-size models. I just wish they would use a more diverse group of sizes.

    I have to say that, yes, the problem is a vicious circle. If all you see are thin models, seeing fat models can be a shock – a good one or not. Personally, I love seeing fat models! Any example of fat people who feel good about themselves is a goodness.

    For awhile Roamans was using plus-sized models for lingerie, but that seems to have stopped -which I find distressing.

    I also have to wonder if part of the problem is availability of professional fat models. If there are not as many, it may not be cost-effective to use fat models for large-scale catalogues. Just a thought, I have no idea if this is another part of the problem – but if it is, it is certainly easily solved. There are lots and lots of beautiful fat women out there who would love to work at modeling.

    And maybe my old age is coming into play – because Junonia, Torrid, Avenues all use fat(ter) models. So the winds of change are blowing – I just wish they would blow a little harder.

  5. I just got an avenue catalog and was looking forward to shopping until I saw all the skinny models in the clothes. I was insulted and thought it odd not to mention many of them looked ridiculous in clothes that were too large. Why would you make a line of clothing specifically for larger bodies and only show them on small ones?? Would you make a line of clothing for petites and show them on all 6ft and over models? I think it is ignorant on their part and I will not shop there again.

  6. hey everyone i need some help.. well alot of help as you see im writing an argementive paper about how there should be more than skinny models.. but im stuck so if you could help we i would like it…

  7. I would love to find a website that actually used plus sized models. I want to know what the clothes will look like on me…not what i wish they would look like!

    • Best place to see fat clothes on fat people is http://fuckyeahchubbyfashion.tumblr.com/
      The participants usually include info on the designer/store.
      Other sites with fat models would be:
      Torrid, SWAK, Big Girl Gear, MIB (Making it Big), Daphne Larger Sizes.
      Another good resource for fat clothes would be Kelly Bliss’Plus Size Yellow Pages.

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