Friday, 5 August 2011

Pin her or Pad her? A Plus-Size Model Dilemma.

Hello lovely Readers.

I am about to Rant.

Before reading this post, please understand this looks at the faTshion aspect of our beautiful fashion world. My blog rarely does this. I'm just writing this as a little disclaimer to let you know that this post may not be filled with the sunshine and lollipops that you're used to. This will all be back in a few days time when I review the latest and greatest in Curvy fashion footwear. Wedge Wellies. SOON! x.

Please note this post is TEXT heavy.


Pin her or Pad her? A Plus-Size Model Dilemma.

Plus Model Marquita Pring. STUNNING!

Hi. Got any fatter?

I think I'm not the only blogger who has, in the last twelve months RAVED about plus models. They are stunners. Bree Warren, Laura Wells, Tanya Gervasi, Tara Lynn, Justine Legault, Fluvia, Mia Amber, Lizzie Miller - I could go on and on. GORGEOUS.

So. Many of us have RAVED about these gorgeous plus-size models... but also, many of us have lamented the size of many of the models selling us plus size clothes. I'm talking about the gorgeous size 8 to 14 girls who often model for ASOS or Evans or the like. It is a practice I have had to come to grips with - I've previously asked on this blog why we have to endure women modeling clothes they couldn't actually fit into (Crystal Renn may have signed a two year modeling deal with Evans a few years ago, but as that contract ended she really was too small to be showcasing those clothes... I love her - but defy anyone to tell me that last statement isn't even just a little bit accurate).

Crystal Renn and Models for Evans. We can tell, they ain't size 20s. But heck, they are pinned WELL.

To be honest, I came to grips with most of that - Size 8s - 14s modeling larger clothes... It was something Christina from Musings tweeted - she said she didn't care what size the models were, so long as the clothing was pinned properly. I thought about this a lot after she tweeted it - and saw a lot of sense in it. I figured - well, at least they are shaping the girls the right way and making their bodies and our plus-size clothes work together.

A while back I lamented about this particular issue specifically as regards ASOS CURVE. I had exchanges with ASOS directly about this and although (at that time) didn't feel completely satisfied with their answers, I did at least get them. Now, honestly? The ASOS models take my breath away. MAYBE concerns previously raised by myself and others have had an influence in ensuring the ASOS Curve models are actually wearing the clothes (as opposed to the clothes billowing on them) or maybe ASOS just thought "we can pin this a little better"... They have done a good job and the overall model shots of the ASOS Curve range are pretty gorgeous. 

In my discussions with ASOS, one of their reps mentioned the fact that some plus models have been required in their work life to wear "fat suits" to make them wider and fill out clothes more. NOT at ASOS - ever or at all, but in some magazine shoots and on occasion for other retailers. At the time, I thought ASOS was deflecting and I didn't think too much of it.  Until this weekend when I read the following article in The Sunday Times...

And it made me ask - What cost, this desire for plus size models?

What cost indeed:

----------------------------START TIMES ARTICLE-----------------------------

The Sunday Times (Times Newspapers Limited.)
Date Published: Sunday, July 31, 2011.

The plus-size model's little secret: a fat suit by Rosie Kinchen

Christina Hendricks has helped "popularise" curves in mainstream thought.

SKINNY is out and curves are in but in the world of fashion nothing is quite as it seems.

Fashion's latest trend for curvier women may have given models the all-clear to move up a dress size or two, but rather than putting on weight they are opting to add strategic padding so they appear bigger than they really are. The curve-enhancing padding, known in the industry as a fat suit, is increasingly being used by models eager to meet the demand for bigger women. Several agents and models said that even plus-size models, regarded as anything over a size 12, are faking it rather than putting on the extra weight that the new vogue demands.

Saffi Karina, 27, a London based model with the plus-size agency Hughes, has been asked to "pad up" her size 12 figure on a shoot for a German client later this year. "The brand said they loved her look," says Sarah Eastaugh, head booker at the agency, "but they really wanted someone who was a size 14." Karina, who is two dress sizes bigger than most conventional models, says: "I was advised to get a padded undergarment that adds a couple of inches to your bust, waist and hips — a 'fat suit', so to speak." She hopes the suit, which is being made by a seamstress, will allow her to work for clients eager to portray more voluptuous girls.

The demand for shapelier women is partly a reaction to the controversy over anorexic looking size-zero models. It has also been fuelled by the popularity of actors such as Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. Even high-street retailers now stock underwear that "accentuates" the bottom and hips. The trend has come from the US.

Last week Marquita Pring, who has posed for Italian Vogue and walked the catwalk for Jean-Paul Gaultier, revealed that as a size 14 to 16 she wears padding to appear bigger. "I don't know if we should reveal this secret!" she told Women's Wear Daily. "They're pieces of foam. I lay them flat on each hip. They're like a solid inch and a half thick. "It's to make you seem all around wider," she added. "It's better for me because I can still be healthy and work out and have the body I want." Pring's agent, Garry Dakin, said he had noticed an increasing demand for fuller figures in high fashion and regular editorial work. In June, Italian Vogue featured four plus-size models, including Pring, in a cover shoot by Steven Meisel.

Debra Bourne, who founded All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, a campaign for diversity in the fashion industry, does not advocate the use of padding. "It's ironic, like reverse airbrushing," she said. "It might be a step in the right direction but we shouldn't be setting up another ideal. Our message is about authenticity."

-----------------------------END TIMES ARTICLE----------------------------

So. Plus-size models. Pin them to make them fit the clothes. Pad them to make them curvier. I can't even begin to dissect the elements of this article that disturbed me. The thing is, at least if a model is small and has to be pinned, we can SEE that. We can KNOW that a size 14 girl doesn't fit size 20 clothes. But to me, padding a girl to make her look bigger, in order to sell something is a contextual lie. It is just as bad as the Julia Roberts airbrushing scandal that was in the media late last week (in my opinion Julia doesn't really need airbrushing). I understand advertising. Before I worked in films, I worked on television commercials so am well aware of successful marketing ploys, but for me - PADDING a model is just a bad idea.

One of my FAVOURITE all time pictures of a plus model is Tara Lynn in French Elle. No pinning. Certainly no padding. Naked. Natural. Gorgeous. I remember seeing this picture of her and thinking - WOW.


Tara Lynn is smaller then me - but THAT is a body I can relate too. I love Tara Lynn for that photo spread. And all she is doing is being herself.



You know, I know fat suits HAVE existed in fashion for quite a few years now, however, the hilarious irony that curves are now so "IN" that mainstream media can discuss "fat suits" doesn't really amuse me.

I am actually really bored of people stating there should be no "plus-size" distinction in the modeling world. I am really bored of plus-size being a negative term. I feel sick that because "plus-size" is in vogue right now, a fat suit can become a norm. I lament that a gorgeous, healthy woman can say something like, "A fat-suit [sic] is better for me because I can still be healthy and work out and have the body I want" - WHILE selling stuff to ACTUAL plus-size girls.

Despite my last sentence, I actually have NO qualms with the models in this article for taking an opportunity by padding out or for speaking openly about this. I actually commend them for being so honest. And, apart from the women in the Times article who state that they have used fat-suits I can't say how many models do this or name anyone else who does.  I obviously can't say how this is being facilitated, or who uses or advocates this practice, but I can say this:

As a woman, a consumer, a fat girl, a plus-size clothes wearer and someone who HATES being deceived, the use of fat-suits, to pad out models, has struck a very bad chord with me.

How does it sit with you?


Please note this post is in NO WAY trying to attack any models who use padding. I have written because I am lamenting the state of affairs as regards the FASHION industry. Further from this, please note, I am not ignorant and do understand how things work in fashion, but every now and again, I have to be able to vent about things like this here on my blog.

For me, plus-size fashion and our plus-size world are the most wonderful things. I LOVE them. I do not love "plus-size" people and or clothing being treated as a negative. I believe padding, like airbrushing sets unreasonable expectations and standards which are detrimental and frankly - fashion has done this for long enough.

Em. x.


  1. Great post, thank you. This practice just seems like another way to insult women who need to wear plus sized clothes.

  2. Thanks for that post, that's a thing I never really thought about. Or even knew, well the pinning is obvious when you know Asos Curve for a while...
    To me all this padding is like: "Oh it's in now to be curvy so take this foam and put it under your dress, the fat girls will love this! But soon this curvy-thing will be doomed again and then we all can go back to skinny as if nothing happened!" Well alright that's exeggerated but it feel this way to me. I don't even know why there are no size 20+ models modeling the clothes...

  3. My primary issue with padding is that it lends itself to an ideal plus-size figure. "Plus size" may be in vogue right now, but only in the sense of voluptuous breasts and full hips. This is not, however, the body shape of many overweight women. Where are the apple-shaped models (with or without padding)? Where are the smaller-busted pears? These women alter their bodies in order to look like the customer, but I have to say that as a customer I still do not see myself.

    It is incredibly devastating to not be able to relate to the average model. Even more devastating to not be able to relate to 99% of the plus size models out there.


Hi there! Thank you for leaving your post. Due to some blatantly obvious spammers I have had to turned comment moderation back on with word captcha for older posts. Hopefully the spammers will bugger off and I can take some of the settings back to normal quickly! Thank you and smooches! Em. x