Skip to main content

Will 2010 be the 'year of plus'?

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
Plus-size models including Candice Huffine, left, and Michelle Olson were featured in V magazine's fashion spread.
Plus-size models including Candice Huffine, left, and Michelle Olson were featured in V magazine's fashion spread.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "V" magazine is the latest publication to feature plus-size models
  • While those working in the industry think it's exciting, they're not expecting more work
  • Plus-size models typically don't get a shot at high-fashion spreads and beauty campaigns
  • Agents say it will take more than these two spreads to change that
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- Nearly everything in fashion is cyclical: the clothing, the hair, the accessories, and yes, even the people come in and out of style with impeccable regularity.

It's no wonder, then, that plus-size models and their agents are accepting the latest clamor to place larger models in high-fashion editorial spreads -- the first appearing in Glamour magazine in November, the second in V magazine's size issue, on stands Thursday -- with a shrug and a smile. They're hopeful, but if you've been in the business long enough, you've seen it all before.

Still, said Jon Ilani, director of Wilhelmina's plus-size division, 10/20, there's something a bit different this time around.

"We've seen sparks like this before, but this is the biggest spark," Ilani said, referring to the spreads. Although it's too early to tell whether or not the trend will stick, leading to more plus models landing upscale fashion campaigns and editorials, Ilani said his department has seen noticeable improvement.

"An ad agency called to see all the books for a new campaign," he said as an example. "They didn't book anyone, but at least folks are considering."

Krista Mays, a size 12 model who has already graced Glamour's pages for editorials on finding the perfect pair of jeans, is optimistic that this year, the trend will stick.

"The work is picking up -- I do agree that 2010 is going to be the 'year of plus.' The industry is constantly growing," Mays said. To end 2009 with the Glamour campaign, followed by V magazine, she said, certainly couldn't hurt her career goals.

While frequent Ashley Stewart face Muslimah Shabazz is a bit skeptical of the large amount of nudity both V magazine and Glamour employed when shooting plus size models -- "We don't have to take our clothes off for you to be able to see that we're plus-size," she said -- Shabazz maintains that the spreads have the potential to make some change.

"They show that we can do the exact same poses, wear the exact same clothes and look just as good," she said. But will it lead to more jobs in the runway shows, beauty campaigns and high-end editorials where slender still rules? Shabazz isn't so sure.

"My agent hasn't necessarily said: 'There's a movement! Let's go out and get it!' None of my agents have," she said. "Bottom line is that there aren't that many jobs. V is just one magazine."

For girls over size 10 who want to model, they can book "mostly catalog work and lingerie," said Aida Brigman, Shabazz's agent at Click Model Management in New York City, New York.

"There are more girls out there than there is work. For the straight-size girls [models who vary between size 0 and size 6], there's a ton of work," Brigman said. "But for plus-size, you have German catalogs and things like Land's End. It's not a huge market; it's not as big as people would like it to be."

V magazine's issue proclaims that big is in, but Brigman said it is doubtful that these splashes of acceptance in the fashion world will translate into having more than one major runway show for plus-size models. Remember, she cautioned, this has all happened before.

"In the late '90s and early '00s, [plus-size] was supposed to hit big and it didn't," she said. "Grace and Mode [magazines] didn't survive; the Lane Bryant fashion show ended. We live in a country where it's a trend for five minutes and that's it."

Dorothy Combs, owner and principal agent of the boutique plus-size agency Dorothy Combs Models in Miami, Florida, tries to keep her models encouraged despite the challenges.

Although larger models are rarely, if ever, chosen to lead high-end clothing campaigns or work fashion week, "I don't feel that they're restricted that much. It just depends on the model and what the client is looking for," Combs said.

She added that while "it's great exposure to be in the magazines, it doesn't pay the bills." Instead, it's a steady diet of catalog shoots that are truly the models "bread and butter."

Sage Salzer, an ad campaign regular, went from starving herself as a teenager to make it in the straight-size category to working four or five days a week as a size 12 model in her 30s.

While she loves it, she does admit she wishes she had the opportunity to get more high-fashion work. "Of course I would love to do more editorials," she said. "I can't even tell you how much. But there's such a limited amount of that going on. I'm hoping that [V's size issue] isn't a token thing."

Even beauty campaigns, which are devoted to faces, would rather book a straight-size model; Salzer said she was turned away from an Aveeno campaign for being plus-size.

Amber Cather, a plus model who, like Salzer, transitioned to this side of the industry from the straight-sized world, said she's never even gotten the chance to be rejected for those kinds of campaigns.

"My agents send me in for stuff I have a shot at getting," Cather explained with a laugh, which means she's not walking into a go-see that's the territory of straight-size models. Even though these spreads aren't likely to change that reality, Cather thinks they'll at least open up people's eyes.

"More editorials prove that there are amazing plus size girls who aren't what people typically think a plus size model is," she said. "Just because we're curvier, we can be just as beautiful and we can sell mascara and lipstick just as well."

The downside to the hype surrounding these spreads is that it could actually make it tougher to book a job, because more women realize they don't have to get skinny before getting in front of a camera.

"People's views in the industry are still restricted, and it's going to take a while to change," Combs said. "These spreads aren't helping us book more work, but it's great awareness. And yes, as a result, more competition."

Which, argue some veteran plus-size models, is how change starts.

"We make a statement with what we're doing in this industry, we're saying something with our jobs," said Becca Thorpe-Litschewski, who has been a plus-size model for the past 10 years.

Thorpe-Litschewski recalled the days when plus-size models were relegated to catalogues that no one even knew existed, banished to wear nothing but oversized T-shirts and leggings. Now, she said, they can wear the Dolce and Gabbana jumpsuit or designer jeans in a known fashion publication.

"[V magazine model] Candice is a dear, dear friend of mine, and I'm as happy for her getting that job as I would have been had I got it myself," Thorpe-Litschewski said. "Things like the V spread and the Glamour spread, it causes a momentum that can keep rolling forward until hopefully there won't have to be a special issue."

 
Quick Job Search