The History Of Plus Size Models

The market for plus-size models has never been better. But this has not always been the case. Here's how today's demand for full-figured models evolved.

Up until the 20th century, voluptuous women had been revered and captured on canvas by master artists. From the classical era through the Renaissance, Barouque and Rococo eras, artists' models were what today would be considered plus-sized. Historically, people who were thin were generally less affluent.A healthy figure was a reflection of prosperity, and models and movie stars reflected the look of the general population. For example, actress Lillian Russell, who was one of the biggest stars of the late 1800s and early 1900s, weighed in at 200 pounds in her prime years.

It wasn't until the turbulent 1960s that fuller figures became less desirable, and models began to slim down to the point of appearing emaciated.British model, Twiggy started this trend with her elfin, almost childlike figure.Suddenly, models couldn't be thin enough.Curves were out, and fashion took a new direction that was to influence the industry for the next two decades.

For fuller figured women, this development was distressing.Even catalogs and print advertisements for stores that offered clothing for larger women featured tiny models wearing clothing that had to be pinned in to fit them.But the majority of women did not fit this mold, and women with curves felt as though they were shut out of the fashion industry.Modeling agencies competed with one another to find the next Twiggy, and anyone who did not fit this profile found herself unable to get work.

This trend had serious ramifications as women who were seeking to be ultra-thin began engaging in a variety of behaviors to reach that end.Eating disorders, which were unheard of until the 1960s, began to appear in women (and men) in disturbing numbers. Women also began abusing drugs such as methamphetemines, which severely suppresses one's appetite.Getting thin was literally killing people. Still, the fashion industry continued to feature rail-thin models.

In the late 1980s, the fashion industry began to take notice after having ignored this segment of the population for years. Women were increasingly demanding better fashion and wanted to see models that more accurately reflected their own image. A major breakthrough came in 1988 when Liz Claiborne introduced the Elisabeth line.Fashion-hungry females were thrilled to finally be able to purchase stylish clothes by their favorite designers in larger sizes.

While more and more designers were beginning to create fashionable clothes for larger women, these clothes were still being modeled by women who were anything but full-figured.But all of this changed in 1990 when Emme Aronson defied the odds to become the first top model who was also plus sized.

Emme was born in Manhattan but her family moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia when she was a girl.Ultimately, she was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Syracuse University.In 1990, she was employed full-time as a marketing director for a real estate firm.She was looking for a new advertising agency, and remembered reading about an agency that had featured full-figured models.

At 5'11" and weighing 190 pounds, Emme had classic blonde beauty and an engaging smile.She went to the agency, and despite being given a hard time by the photographer, she persisted.Her ad sold, and suddenly she was in high demand.Plus-sized women finally had a role model - a woman who was not a size two and who wore her size proudly.

Emme went on to appear on more than twenty magazine covers, and received a lucrative contract with Revlon.She has since launched her own clothing line, written an autobiography, and appeared on E! Entertainment's Fashion Emergency.

Emme's success did not go unnoticed.Major agencies began recruiting larger models, and today, most agencies have divisions that provide work for full figured models. Younger models such as Mia Taylor, Kate Dillon, Melissa King, and Laura Johnson owe their fame to the inroads made in the 1990s by Emme Aronson.

No longer are size twos modeling clothing for stores that cater to plus-size fashion.As a result, the job prospects for larger models have never been better.Size is no longer an obstacle for girls with curves who want to become fashion models.And with 50 percent of women in the U.S. wearing a size 14 or over, this business will certainly continue to flourish.

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