6 Women, 6 Different Shapes, Wearing the Same Size Bikini

Working as a model for over 17 years of my life, as well as owning a modeling agency has given me a unique perspective on the female body, measurement, and size. For those of you who aren’t aware, measurements are really important when you are a working model. As a working model, your body measurements are critical because when you are hired for a job you need to fit the sample size clothing on set. This is true for both straight size models who’s samples can range in size from a size 0-4 and for plus size models who are sample size can range from a size 14-16. Sample sizes are not determined by the model or even the art director who hires the models. Samples sizes are decided on a corporate / manufacturing level. Why are samples sizes so small? That is a great question, and although we can jump to conclusions about size prejudice in the industry, (which totally exists) it comes down to economics! You use fewer materials making a size 0-4 sample than a size 10-12, and for plus size, you use fewer materials making a size 14 sample vs. a size 20 sample. When you use few materials, the cost is less, and in the apparel industry, profit is always the number one agenda.

When it comes to women in the fashion industry, we as consumers are exposed to only two distinct body types; the ideal straight size model body, the ideal plus-size model body, and nothing in-between. To make matters worse we are inundated with photoshopped and facetuned bodies on Instagram that depict cartoonish female body types, we rarely to never see in real life. At HNS we want to create content that is intelligent, thought-provoking, truthful, inspiring, healthy, and for the female eye. For us as women to have a healthier relationship to our bodies, we need to break down some of the false beliefs we have about them.

The Invisibility of Being Size 8 to 12

One of the proudest moments in model Leslie Flores’s career was in September 2016 when she won ASC Production’s competition for New York Fashion Week Model of the Year in the “Ultra” category. After a shocked reaction, she rushed on stage to claim her prize which included a sash, the chance to walk at ASC Dubai Fashion Week, and a free photo shoot.

Flores is unique because she is not your traditional runway size model, but she is not plus-size either. She falls into the aforementioned “Ultra” category, which includes women size 8 to 12.

Flores got into modeling because her daughter became ill with pediatric cancer, and it was a job she could do freelance while still having time to take care of her. The big problem she had when she started modeling was that she wasn’t sample size, but she was also too small for plus-size.

“I was in ‘Neverland’ as they call it,” Flores said. “As a size 8 to 12, there is no marketing out there for you. The only person I ever see representing those sizes on the runway is me.”

In the last year, women size 8 to 12 have slowly been getting representation in the modeling industry with agencies like MSA Models and True Model Management including those sizes in their Curve divisions, although Curve often includes women size 14 and 16 who are on the lower end of the plus-size spectrum. For the longest time, women size 8 to 12 were just expected to buy.

Francesca DeCastro is a retail sales professional who has worked at large specialty stores including Gap and Banana Republic, and smaller boutique retailers like Splendid. Over the course of her retail career, she says the most common sizes she’s sold have been between sizes 6 and 10. However, she also noticed when they had live models for events they would be no bigger than a size 2.

“The only time in my whole career I saw women bigger than a size 2 represented in any type of promotional material was for the plus-size division of Gap.com,” DeCastro said. “When I worked at Gap, we started scaling down on marketing, but I do remember these ‘real people’ campaigns, that would include people of all races and sizes, but aside from that, all I saw were skinny women.”

At most retail stores, it’s easy to find sizes from 00 to 12, with more stores starting to carry sizes 14 and 16. The demographic of women 8 to 12 have been referred to as “the rack queens,” in reference to the expectation they will just buy, even though they are rarely if ever represented on the runways or in ad campaigns.

Research by Dr. Xuemei Bian, a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Kent in the UK, found that when ultra-thin models were switched out for average-size women, it didn’t change the perspective or opinion of that brand.

So, what does the fashion industry have to lose by being more size-inclusive?

One problem is, average size women have grown too accustomed to not being represented.

“They know their sizes are carried in store even if they don’t see it in the pages of fashion magazines, but they have become so used to not being represented, they just go ahead and shop, and until recently there wasn’t a strong vocal movement calling for change,” DeCastro added.

The issue with the lack of marketing and representation for women size 8 to 12 goes further than just the marketing and promotional teams of fashion brands. It starts with the design schools.

Most design schools lack mannequins bigger than traditional sample sizes, so from the time they start developing their craft, most designers aren’t even trained to think about women beyond the standard runway sizes.

Rashad Calhoun, a self-taught designer behind his own brand, Dahsar by Rashad, has spent 14 years in the industry as both a custom clothing designer and celebrity stylist specializing in evening wear and bridal.

When he first started out, he worked exclusively with plus-size women, and once he transitioned over to working with standard sizes, he had a different perspective from many of his colleagues. He found that many designers and stylists are only equipped to deal with women who are one size.

“When clothes are designed for runway shows they are obviously designed to fit a certain size. If you have models who are all sample sizes and one doesn’t show up, it’s easy to switch out for another model,” Calhoun said. “The fact is, designers are afraid if their one size 8 to 12 model doesn’t show up, they are stuck with this garment that none of the other models can wear. When design students are teaching their students how to prepare for Fashion Week, the focus is always on the standard size models.”

The lack of size representation for size 8 to 12 women is also an international one. Frederick Frost, a fashion stylist and blogger based in Venezuela, has found that the majority of women he has done wardrobe styling for are size 8 to 12. However, while he finds the majority of women he works with are curvier, the ideal body image is the slender figure of Miss Venezuela.

“When I see advertising with women it’s usually for specific shops or underground publications, it’s never anything too popular,” Frost said. “While plus sizes will start at 12 in Venezuela, women size 8 and 10 get virtually no marketing.”

The solution needs to first start with the fashion schools who need to train their students to use more women sized 8 to 12. It is also on marketing and promotional teams of designers and mainstream stores to feature more models of those sizes, and not just for “real people” campaigns. The size 8 to 12 consumers deserve—as consumers of all sizes should have—their moment to shine. They shouldn’t just be treated like they are programmed to buy.

Women’s Body Image and BMI

Vanishing Point: The Evolution of 20th Century American Beauty Ideals

1900s-1910s: The Gibson Girl

The Gibson Girl, a creation of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, was a synthesis of prevailing beauty ideals at the turn of the century. Rarely is a beauty standard so explicit and clearly defined, yet Gibson based the iconic illustrations on “thousands of American girls.”

This ideal of femininity was depicted as slender and tall, albeit with a “voluptuous” bust and wide hips. The incongruous and exaggerated look was achieved by way of corseting, pinching the torso and waist significantly. Gibson Girls were portrayed as up-to-date on fashion and style, as well as physically active and in good health.

While the ideal originally began as the invention of an illustrator, the look was soon brought to life by various models and actresses such as Camille Clifford – winner of a contest to find a real-life analogue of Gibson’s drawings – and Evelyn Nesbit. Following World War I, this idealized image gave way to that of the less prim and more informal flapper girl.

1920s: The Flapper

A product of the increasingly liberal “Roaring Twenties,” the flapper represented an idea of women that was far more casual than the formal, corseted Gibson Girls. The archetypal flapper was an immature young woman – a teenager or young adult – who was scantily-clad and had little regard for uptight behavioral norms.

They were often described as independent, wise-cracking and reckless. Their easygoing style represented a rejection of the Victorian style and also came to emblematize widespread disagreement with the Prohibition movement. Their appearance was one of boyishness and androgynous youth, with minimal breasts, a straight figure without any corseting, and shorter hair.

Flashing of the ankles, knees and legs was a common feature of flappers – dresses and skirts in the style were designed to be loose and reveal the legs when women would dance to jazz, popular among flappers. Bare arms were likewise nearly universal. Larger busts were frowned upon, and bras were made to tighten so as to flatten the chest. Blush, dark eye makeup, and substantial lips were in style, as well as tanning; a sporty and healthy appearance was prized.

The ideal of thinness and an enhanced appearance often drove women of the 1920s to diet and exercise in order to achieve this look, as well as buying cosmetics. The look to aspire to was increasingly depicted in advertisements. This freewheeling lifestyle came to an end with the onset of the Great Depression.

1930s-1940s: Fashion in Wartime

The impact of the Great Depression brought a more traditional style back to women’s fashion and body image. Though short hair remained commonplace, skirts once again became longer, and clothing that showed off a natural waist was in style.

Shoulder width was particularly emphasized, and the prevailing shape at the time became starker, highlighting the specific contours of the body rather than draping and disguising them in softness.

With America’s involvement in World War II came wartime requisitioning of fashion materials such as silk, nylon, and clothing dye. Women’s attire therefore trended toward practicality, with simple blouses and un-elaborate jackets becoming predominant. Women even received instructions on how to tailor the unused suits of men away in combat, remaking them into everyday women’s wear. And in contrast to the lean boyish flapper style, women now aspired to become more curvaceous and emphasize their feminine figure. In particular, advertisements now told women how they could avoid a too-skinny look.

In this era, the celebrity image was almost within reach of the average woman. While American women had an average BMI of 23.6, many celebs ranged from 18.5 (Barbara Stanwyck) to to 20.3 (Lena Horne) – a gap, to be sure, but not an extraordinary one.

1950s: Post-War

The ideal body image for women remained fuller-figured in the post-war period of the 1950s. A busty, voluptuous hourglass look was prized, as exhibited by models such as Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly.

The increasing popularity of Hollywood films helped propel glamour models like Monroe to widespread public consciousness, and combined with the increased freedom of material after the end of wartime rationing, women’s fashion options were once again extensive. However, this expansion in options now meant that women were expected to take full advantage of beauty products and never leave the home without looking their best. Along with a well-composed overall appearance, flawless skin was now expected as well.

During this period, the average woman’s BMI remained steady at 23.6, still well above that of Shirley MacLaine (18.8) or Elizabeth Taylor (20.5).

1960s: Twiggy

With the sexual revolution of the 1960s came a substantial reversal of the ’50s idealized image. Rather than curvaceous figures, thin and androgynous women were now prominent, somewhat recapitulating the flapper look of the 1920s.

Twiggy, a major supermodel of the 1960s, embodied many of these seismic shifts in idealized body types. In contrast to the full-figured and voluptuous Monroe and Kelly, the 112 lb Twiggy had a minimal chest, a slight frame, short hair, and a boyish look. This new form of beauty abandoned all curves and any hint of a mature look, instead appearing almost prepubescent.

However, a “hippie” look including long, straight hair also came to the fore in the latter half of the ’60s, and a more full-figured hourglass look persisted among several high-profile actresses such as Jane Fonda and Sophia Loren.

This decade, the average American woman’s BMI rose to 25.2 – taking her quite a distance from celebrities like Soledad Miranda (17.6) and Jessica Lange (20.4).

1970s: Thin Is In

The 1970s saw the continued dominance of a Twiggy-like thin ideal, which began to have a widespread impact on women’s health and eating habits. Anorexia nervosa first began to receive mainstream coverage in the ’70s, and singer Karen Carpenter was known to diet at starvation levels over the decade – a practice which would claim her life in 1983. The era also saw the rise of diet pills, which often used potentially dangerous amphetamines to suppress the appetite.

Actress Farrah Fawcett and her layered hair and one-piece swimsuits also rose to prominence as a sex symbol of the time. Hair was typically worn long, and makeup was now minimal to achieve a “natural look.” The cosmetics industry diversified to take advantage of these trends, with a wider range of offerings in terms of makeup looks.

American women’s BMI remained relatively steady at 24.9, making it difficult to match the body types of celebrities like Morgan Fairchild (18) or Joni Mitchell (20.5).

1980s: Supermodels and Hardbodies

While the 1970s thin ideal persisted, there was now also an increased emphasis on fitness. Toned but not overly muscular bodies were now prized, and aerobic exercise shows and videotapes became a widespread trend – dieting was no longer the only way that women were expected to keep a perfect figure.

Media depictions of women in the ’80s tended toward even more slenderness and greater height. The most popular fashions included headbands, tights, leggings, leg warmers, and short skirts made of spandex or other stretchy materials. This era also saw the rise of supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Claudia Schiffer. In the ’80s, 60% of Playboy magazine models weighed 15% less than a healthy average weight for their size.

For the average American woman, such a body shape proved difficult or impossible to achieve. While women had an average BMI of 25 in 1980, most female celebrities ranged from 17.6 (Cheryl Tiegs) to 20.4 (Bo Derek).

1990s: Heroin Chic and Baywatch

Throughout the ’90s, this ideal became even more exaggerated. Women were expected to maintain an increasingly thin look, yet with large breasts as well, as popularly depicted by Pamela Anderson on “Baywatch.”

Meanwhile, high fashion also began to emphasize the “waif look” and “heroin chic.” This movement stood opposed to the fit and healthy look of ’80s supermodels, instead focusing on thinness alone and a bony appearance. The look was epitomized by Calvin Klein advertisements featuring models such as Kate Moss.

Throughout the decade, American women continued to face an impossible standard. Celebrities like Tara Reid (17.5) and Penelope Cruz (19.6) showed off bodies that were far below the average of 26.3. By the year 2000, the situation was more dire than ever: Women with an average BMI of 27.5 were left to compare their bodies to Keira Knightley (17.2) and Natalie Portman (19.5).

The Shrinking Woman: Bodies in Media

The weight and proportion of popular female icons, as measured by BMI, has remained consistently below that of the average American woman for several decades. In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe had a BMI of 20; Twiggy, the ’60s supermodel, had a BMI of merely 15. ’80s model Cindy Crawford had a BMI of 19, while Kate Moss’s BMI was only 16.

For comparison, the average American woman had a BMI of 25.2 in the ’60s, 24.9 in the ’70s, 25 in the ’80s, and 26.3 in the ’90s. As the size of the average woman continued to increase, growing to 27.5 in the 2000s, models and actresses maintained what is by comparison a super-thin look.

Who Defines “Plus Size”? Bodies in Business

Twenty years ago, models weighed, on average, 8% less than average American women. By now, they weigh 23% less. Most models now have a weight that’s considered clinically anorexic.

Even the definition of “plus size” has begun to shrink. Ten years ago, plus size models typically ranged between size 12 and 18, while they now span only sizes 6 through 14. Half of American women actually wear a size 14 or larger, meaning that even plus sizes no longer represent the average American woman. Most designer fashions now only range up to size 10 or 12.

Overall Trends

The American body ideal for women has fluctuated somewhat throughout the 20th century, with alternately stick-thin or voluptuous, busty figures being valued at times. But in recent decades, these two conflicting images appear to have merged into a modern synthesis of what is considered beautiful: an almost unhealthily thin and bony frame, combined with a substantial bust.

Meanwhile, the gap between the size and shape of models and that of the average American woman has only continued to widen. As the average BMI of women has increased, models have remained significantly below this average, often with BMIs of a mere 15 or 16 – considered clinically underweight. The BMIs of celebrity women are only slightly better, most commonly ranging from 17 to 20. The result is that, for a growing number of American women, the image of beauty portrayed in media is simply impossible for them to achieve and potentially unhealthy even if they did achieve it.

Katie Willcox Says “Medium-Sized” Women Are Being Left Out of the Body-Positive Movement

Thanks to the body-positive movement, more women are embracing their shapes and shunning antiquated ideas that they should look like the size 0 models they were exposed to while growing up. Brands like Aerie have helped the cause by featuring a more diverse range of models as well as vowing not to retouch them. And models like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence are changing society’s standards of beauty by landing covers of Sports Illustrated as well as major beauty contracts. Finally, women are being encouraged to celebrate their curves, rather than being told they’re something to be ashamed of.

But according to Katie Willcox, the founder of the Healthy Is the New Skinny movement, there’s a whole group of women being left behind: Women who don’t fit the stereotypical label of “skinny” but wouldn’t consider themselves “curvy” either. These women who fall somewhere in the middle aren’t seeing their body types represented in media-and more importantly, conversations about body image, self-acceptance, and self-love haven’t included them either, she says. (Related: Katie Willcox On How She Made Space for Herself In the Modeling World)

Part of this stems from the fact that models have been encouraged to lose or gain weight so they can fit into a “straight” or “curvy” category-knowing they’d never find work as say, a size 6, 8, or 10. “So many fashion brands are now expanding to include plus sizes, but they still aren’t changing the models they use for their ‘straight sized’ or ‘sample sized’ clothing,” Willcox tells Shape.

Today, curvier women have such a strong and powerful voice on social media, and they’re appearing in ad campaigns because of it, says Willcox. These women are the go-to icons of body diversity that we like to point to and pat ourselves on the back for accepting-but no one really cares to hear about the millions of American women that fall in the middle, she says. (Ahem… Is the Body Positive Movement All Talk?)

“If a brand uses a size 2 or 4 model to advertise their plus sizes, people are going to immediately speak up and say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t represent us the right way,'” she says. “Considering that could make national headlines the next day, it forces brands to make sure they’re actually using fuller-sized models to advertise those clothes. But because people who are in the middle (between a size 6 and 10) don’t have that kind of power, they are still seeing ads with models that are a size 0 or 2 representing clothing that’s catered to them.”

And, from a business standpoint, there’s little incentive for brands to change that:”They’re just doing what they’ve always been doing, and it’s been selling for decades,” she says. “They aren’t hearing enough voices stand up.” (Related: These Women Are Embracing Their Stature In the “More Than My Height” Movement)

Part of the reason why there hasn’t been a push to include “middle-size” models is that almost all of the conversations about size diversity, body image, or self-love out on social media are geared toward more full-sized women, she says. “That type of messaging shouldn’t just be geared towards one size,” says Willcox. “We need to even the playing field and make sure we include everyone, even those who fall in the middle.”

The solution to all this seems simple: Brands need to add medium-size women into the media mix and stop limiting their messaging to straight-size or plus-size images only.

But Willcox also feels that as a society, we should look beyond the media, rather than letting it continue to dictate how we see our bodies. “It’s almost like an abusive relationship,” she says. “We’re never getting what we really need from them, but we keep going to them saying ‘please love me,’ ‘please tell me I can love myself.'” In reality, self-love is what gives you the ability to filter out these negative messages, she says. (Related: One Woman Proves Body-Positive Advertising Isn’t Always What It Seems)

At some point, you have to disconnect from that to truly accept yourself, says Willcox. “No matter what the media portrays, you have the power to consciously choose how you feel about yourself, about who you are as a person, and what you contribute to society,” she says.

In an ideal world, there would be no right or wrong way to have a body, all sizes would be created equal, and representation would be fair and equal. While we aren’t quite there yet, it’s dialogues like these-and people like Willcox starting them-that will continue to push the movement forward. (And this is why we’ve completely changed the way we talk about women’s bodies.)

With Myla Dalbesio as a face of Calvin Klein, Candice Huffine appearing in the 2015 Pirelli Calendar, and Ashley Graham designing lingerie, the fashion industry seems to have realized that models who are bigger than a size 6 are a positive, powerful force.

Even as they become a more significant part of the fashion world, these so-called “plus-size” models are still subjected to certain body requirements. Though curvy models carry the message of body acceptance and self-love, even they are asked to alter their appearance for the odd job. As Inga Eiriksdottir of IMG Models and ALDA puts it, “A few times, clients have preferred me bigger, but we have always worked it out either with padding or in post” — meaning, with photo editing.

Clearly, plus-size models are still often told they’re “not plus-size enough.” Here’s what 10 models have to say about it.

1. Ali Tate

Eamonn McCabe

“Many plus-size models live in fear of being told, ‘We really like you, but you’re just not big enough.’ My whole life I was insecure about being bigger than most of my peers, but in this industry, suddenly I was too small?

“My first year or so when I was told I didn’t look ‘plus-size’ enough for some clients, I felt such conflicting emotions. The part of me that had suffered insecurities about my weight and my body felt secretly pleased that someone thought I looked small! I felt like I had been waiting for society to tell me I was skinny, because that, in my mind, was the only way to be attractive. The other part of me felt upset because I knew I would not book jobs if clients thought I looked too small, which meant financially I could be in trouble.

“But when I started seeing more and more amazing plus-size models, my perception started to shift. My body image changed from one where I was constantly judging my own body to one where I thought, you know what, this is my natural body size — and it’s hot! I actually like my curves.”

2. Jessica Lewis

Heather Hazzan

“I was right on the cusp of being what is known in the industry as an ‘in-betweenie’ — a size 8 to 12. Oftentimes if I did book the job I would be told to pad up … or, even more extreme, wear a ‘fat suit.’ At the time, I did it. I don’t think I would have the same reaction now. I might even talk to the client about how this is a dishonest way to promote their brand, especially when honesty in images is such a hot topic right now.

“The irony of the plus-size side of fashion is that they wear a facade that promotes positive body image yet are just as keen as the ‘straight-size’ — size 0 to 4 — side of the industry to alter the shape of the body in the clothes. They still want those sharp cheekbones and small wrists for ‘glamour’ purposes, but they feel the need to put emphasis on the fact that they are plus-size. It’s hard. We’ve built a society that feels the need to categorize and label everything — from food to music to bodies —and many brands come under heat from people for using a girl who isn’t ‘plus-size enough.'”

3. Iskra Lawrence

Rafael Clemente

“Absolutely every time I’ve ever met anyone and I’ve told them I’m a plus-size model, without fail! Even when I’ve booked jobs and I’m on set, stylists and hair and makeup artists have commented that I don’t look big enough to be a plus model.

“I try to reeducate them about what a plus-size model means. Many of us lead healthy lifestyles, train in the gym regularly, and are in great shape. We represent a huge range of not only sizes, but also shapes, which I find really beautiful. I’m very proud to say I’m a plus model. I’ve learned to love my body and be proud of all my curves, and I’m so, so grateful every day to be able to work in the industry I love at my natural size.

“It’s frustrating that society is so set on categorizing everyone. But in the fashion industry it is difficult — most samples of straight-size are a 0 to 4 and plus is 14 to 16. It costs more to produce a range of different sample sizes. It would just be nice if everyone could accept a range of different size models without having to label them all — we are models, not numbers.”

4. Katy Syme

Heath Latter

“I’ve only been told directly that I’m the ‘wrong size’ a couple of times, but fairly regularly, I’m asked whether I’ve lost weight or I’m asked to take my measurements, which is often followed by a pursed lip or raised eyebrow, so I suppose the message is the same. So often, it feels like clients have to tick boxes in terms of the girls they choose to represent their brand. I’m often dismissed over an inch or two that I don’t have around my hips. I found myself scrolling other models’ Instagram feeds and asking myself: Are my arms bigger or smaller than that? Am I the same size as her?

“I understand both sides of the story: Brands have to toe the line between creating aspirational images and keeping customers happy, but I’d obviously be delighted if I didn’t have to keep my waist-to-hip ratio at the front of my mind in order to keep doing the job I love. There have been some amazing examples lately of in-betweenie girls working with non-plus-size brands without being picked out as something different. Myla Dalbesio for Calvin Klein; Naomi Shimada for Monki; Denise Bidot, Kailee O’Sullivan, and myself for Chromat at NYFW. I hope that the industry gets enough positive response from those incidents that they feel the desire to continue to push in a similar direction, and we can stop labeling people as ‘not enough’ of something and start honoring ourselves for the way we are.”

5. Bree Warren

Kane Skennar

“I have experienced the negative side of it more so on social media because the wider population has a hard time understanding why I am considered plus-size. I do my best to explain that while I may not look plus-size to some people, I am still four sizes bigger than the average model. I think most people don’t understand just how tiny some models are in real life, which is why plus-size models are also usually smaller than expected. I may not be as plus-size as some people are hoping for, but what I stand for is a step in the right direction.

“I think the term ‘plus-size’ is so dated. It was a term given to women long ago, and it doesn’t really have a place in fashion anymore. There should be a range of shapes and sizes represented across the entire industry — not just one or two. In-betweens are really just bridging a gap that should never have been there in the first place!”

6. Georgina Burke

Lily Cummings

“Every time someone asks what I do for a job, they laugh that I am considered plus-size in the fashion industry. Client-wise, I have never been told that I am not plus-size enough recently, but earlier on when I first started, I was a 10 and, yes, they thought I was too small. As my body grew and filled out with age, I haven’t been asked to pad or gain weight. I don’t react. You want me for who I am or not. I now refuse to pad or make my body bigger except wear a padded bra. Who doesn’t want bigger breasts?

“I think clients want to show a variety of models and what sells their clothing. What does make me upset is when a model is padded and her face is out of proportion to her body. That’s when the job should go to someone who is healthy at that size.”

7. Inga Eiriksdottir

Cass Bird

“A few times, clients have preferred me bigger, but we have always worked it out either with padding or in post. When I switched from straight-size to ‘plus-size,’ used to like a lot bigger girls than I. I had decided never to change my body for a client after struggling with losing weight as a straight-size model. I’ve been so lucky to be able to work this whole time at my size.

“I understand that plus-size women want to see models that really reflect their size. It varies on the brand if it’s better for them to go bigger or smaller plus, and the sales reflect what the client likes to see. I’m so happy to see the rise of the ‘in-between,’ as there are so many amazing models that don’t fit into the category of straight-size or plus-size. Eventually, it will just be about models at every shape and size and no labeling.”

8. Danielle Redman

Knut Wörner

“I’m told on the daily that I’m not plus-size enough, not big enough, not really plus-size. But then I get to a job, put on the clothes that are made for plus-size women, and they fit. At the end of the day, I love my body for what it is, and in return, people tend to accept it as well. My body frame is larger, and I am somewhat toned, so compared to a size 0, I’m going to look bigger. I love all my curves and thickness, but I feel like I am constantly defending my size. It’s either I’m not big enough or I’m too big.

“I’m not a fan of labels in general. There is a much-needed demand for the in-betweens. I’m naturally this size, I work out and eat healthy, my bone structure is in my genetics and I wouldn’t want to change them. Baby, I was born this way, as Lady Gaga would put it.”

9. Katherine Howe

Cosmopolitan UK

“Since I began modeling, I’ve been told countless times that I wasn’t big enough for a job, sometimes even in terms of specific body parts that were ‘too skinny.’ It’s frustrating because I know I don’t really fit in at straight-size castings either. Naturally, or maybe unnaturally, I started to entertain the idea of gaining weight to book jobs. In the end, I decided that would probably be as bad for my mental health as starving myself to be a straight-size model. At times, I’ve felt like maybe there isn’t a place for someone like me in the plus-size world and that I’m essentially banging my head against a wall, but then where do I belong? Should there be no models my size?

“I’m torn because I understand that plus-size women want their bodies to be represented when they shop for themselves. But that’s a hard thing to do; everyone is different. Even a size 16 plus model isn’t going to look like the average plus woman. And though I may not necessarily shop for plus clothing, I’ve still felt left out by the fashion industry and been told clothes didn’t come in my size. My body certainly isn’t represented by straight-size models. I think the prevalence of ‘in-between’ models is increasing because there are lots of women who feel just like me. I hope the rise of the ‘in-betweens’ is a step toward bridging the gap between the extremes that the fashion industry most often represents.”

10. Naomi Shimada

Lily Cummings

“It’s never a nice feeling to find out that you didn’t get a job in any industry that you’re in, but especially in modeling, you have to learn to let it go because you just can’t make everyone happy. It’s impossible! I used to take it so personally, but learning to brush it off is the only way to survive.

“I’m frustrated the existing mold. I’m exactly the size and weight I’m supposed to be; I just wish there were more brands willing to take a ‘risk’ and use more girls like me. It’s so hard to fit into the categories that exist today. There is a huge size gap that isn’t being represented out there. Why can’t we make the average size a beautiful thing?

“More variety can only ever be a positive thing, and I actually believe that it would only increase popularity and worth to a lot of ‘normal-size’ clients out there if they decided to make it the new normal. I want to live in a world where we bridge that gap!”

Follow Lauren on Twitter.

(Picture: Vix Meldrew)

The average size of a woman in the UK is now a 14-16 but we are a dress size and body shape that’s poorly represented by celebrities and online influencers and often forgotten.

This representation issue is something I have struggled with.

The narratives around female bodies are centered around the two ends of the spectrum.

You have the plus-size community, which is represented in the public eye by influencers and models have who paved the way for the body-positive movement.

And then you have the slim, thin, athletic or modelesque bodies, like most celebrities shown as the ‘ideal’ to us.

The problem, for the average woman, is two fold.

We’re shown models like Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham, both hailed as the ‘plus-size’ holy grail by the fashion industry.

It’s worth pointing out that the term ‘plus size’ used to mean ‘plus what is already available in the usual size range’ and is now defined as over a size 18 in the UK today.

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But like me, they’re both actually ‘mid’ size – around UK 12-14 – respectively. So when they should be representing ‘mid’ size women like me, they’re being misrepresented as plus-size instead – an error that doesn’t help women of any size.

Another issue I have is, do they really represent the body shapes of the average women of this size?

Unlike Ashley and Iksra, women like me have arms that just won’t fit into most of the blouses that certain high-street retailers make, and we’ve got natural hip dips that aren’t gained from six hours a day in the gym. And while our bums are more Kim than Gigi, people are not going to be commenting on them with the peach emoji.

The average woman isn’t photoshopped to perfection but we rarely get to see that.

Who even knows where they stand when it comes to dress sizes anyway, when we live in a world where size 12 women can’t fit into size 20 items in shops like H&M?

(Picture: Vix Meldrew)

Misrepresentation and labelling of bodies is a real problem for women and it’s perpetuated in all areas of the media. And it leaves those of us who don’t identify with either ends of the size spectrum feeling lost and uninspired.

But times are changing – more women, like myself, are beginning to show their figures online as a way to represent people like ourselves, because we feel under represented.

When I first logged onto Instagram, to see an influencer who had knees like mine (an insecurity I’ve developed) wearing a mini-skirt, I suddenly wondered why I was always hiding in jeans. And when I saw an ASOS model with rounded upper arms, I was annoyed at myself for always wearing long sleeves.

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The impact of seeing a body like your own, online and in the media, is an overwhelmingly positive feeling.

Seeing more regular women who are ‘mid-size’ (or ‘in between’ the established communities) showing off their bodies, in clothes and out of them, makes you realise that you’re not all that different. That you too can be confident sharing your style and in loving the skin you’re in.

This is an important movement for future generations.

Young people need to grow up and see a range of beautiful body types represented online, in the media and in the creative industries, so that they feel like they have a place to be themselves.

And that starts with us – the more we represent our differences in the public eye, the more those looking online or to the media for their inspirations will feel represented.

No longer will young women have only the one ‘ideal’ body type to aspire to. They will begin to see inspiration in women who are sharing their lives online by confidently showing their body types, and enjoying fashion for all shapes and sizes. And that can only ever be a good thing.

MORE: Vogue Arabia’s first plus size cover features Ashley Graham and Paloma Elessor

MORE: Plus-size model shuts down troll who used her photo in a body-shaming meme

MORE: Why some fashion brands don’t make plus size clothing

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The daily lifestyle email from Metro.co.uk.

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Size 16, a 36DD and a 34 inch waist – how Mrs Average 2017 shapes up

Modern women are busting out all over as boobs have become bigger, along with waistlines and feet compared with 60 years ago.

The changing shape of British lasses is revealed in research which found in 1957 they were a petite 5ft 2ins tall but had classic hourglass figures.

For on average busts measured 34B, waists were a waspish 28ins and hips were around 38ins while shoes were a childlike size three.

And with no mod cons such as washing machines and dishwashers to take the strain out of household chores, elbow grease to get jobs done meant women were more active weighing a trim 9st 10lbs.

They slipped into size 12 dresses and could expect to live for 73 years.

But in just six decades, the typical British woman has added two inches and three cup sizes to her chest with the average bra size now a buxom 36DD.

The biggest change is to waistlines which have thickened by six inches to 34ins sending dress sizes up to an average size 16.

Natalie Wood embodied the shape of the 1957 woman (Image: Mirrorpix)

Hips have also widened to around 40.5ins and feet have grown to size six with today’s women dwarfing typical Fifties housewives and career girls from top to toe.

But the good news is modern women can expect to live to the ripe old age of 83 – ten years longer than their Fifties counterparts.

And they earn much more – £530 a week compared with £10 a week in 1957, according to research by lingerie firm Bluebella.

Back then screen legend Natalie Wood who made the iconic Hollywood movie Rebel Without a Cause with cult hero James Dean embodied the womanly shape of the era with her nipped-in waist and slender frame.

Experts say pop diva Beyonce and reality TV star Kim Kardashian are typical of today’s curvier female shape.

Yet Miss Average 2017 is more health and body shape conscious than 60 years ago, exercising twice a week.

However, modern eating habits mean women today are consuming 500 more calories than 60 years ago with meals and snacks totalling 2,300 calories while three square meals a day meant women had just 1,800 calories.

Kim Kardashian is more representative of how women look in 2017 (Image: PA)

Bluebella chief executive Emily Bendell said: “It is extraordinary how much Miss Average has changed over the last 60 years.

“She has gone from being quite petite with what would be considered quite small breasts by today’s standards to a much more fuller figured silhouette.

“That has presented real challenges for designers and lingerie brands.”

Bluebella has designed bras for larger breasted women with cup sizes up to 40G and Ms Bendell said: “Today’s women see lingerie and nightwear as fashion crossover pieces, a trend not seen back in the 1950s.

“This is reflected in the size of her lingerie collection which is twice the size of 1950s woman. She now has an average of 12 bras compared to just six in the 1950s.”

Women are now more curvy like Beyonce (Image: Getty)

How they compare

Height: 5ft 2ins

Weight: 9st 10lbs

Bust size: 34B

Waist: 28ins

Hips: 38ins

Shoe size: 3

Dress size: 12

Daily calories: 1,800


Height: 5ft 5ins

Weight: 11st

Bust size: 36DD

Waist: 34ins

Hips: 40.5ins

Shoe size: 6

Dress size: 16

Daily calories: 2,300

How we lived in 1957

Just 33% of households had a washing machine

Only 10% of homes had a telephone

Average woman’s wage was £10 a week

Life expectancy was just 68 years for men and 73 for women

Biggest female movie star in the world was Marilyn Monroe

How we live in 2017

98% of homes have a washing machine

78% of us have smartphones

Average woman’s wage is £530

Life expectancy for men is 79 years and 83 years for women

Biggest movie star in the world is Jennifer Lawrence

(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Nearly 40% of the world’s adult population is overweight and by 2045, we’re on track for almost 25% to be obese.

At the same time, we’re becoming more and more obsessed with #bodygoals and #fitspo, and programmes like Love Island shame us for not having six packs or being a size eight.

Never has having the ‘perfect body’ been more important…and out of reach for many of us.

What we don’t realise is that in the eyes of others, we already have a supreme body.

According to new research by Bad Girls Bible, both men and women overestimate how slim and/or muscular their partners would ideally like them to be. They asked 1,000 Americans to use a 12-point visual scale to reveal the body sizes and shapes that best represent them and their romantic partners.

That revealed that people with ‘apple’ and ‘pear’ shaped bodies have the lowest confidence, with women with ‘perfect’ bodies having roughly the same level of body confidence as the typical, overweight man.

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Average women’s actual body vs her ideal body

Average actual v average ideal

Weight: 172lb v 124lb

BMI: 29.5 v 21.3

Average self-confidence out of 10: 6.1 v 6.9

% of men who think this is visually ideal: 9% v 36%

% of women with this body who want to lose weight: 91% v 65%

That’s a 48lb weight difference between the average woman’s body and the body she’d ideally like to have – based on answers from 500 women.

The average woman weighs 172lb and has a BMI of 29.5 which puts her on the border of being ‘obese’, while her ideal body falls within the ‘normal’ range. The ideal weight is actually identical to Kim Kardashian’s when she married Kayne in 2014.

So 91% of women with the average body size said they’d like to lose at least a little weight. But, worryingly, 65% of those who already had the ideal size said the same – and that’s something that other studies in other countries have found too. A 2015 Australian poll found that while 90% of overweight Aussie women wanted to lose weight, half of the women who wanted to diet weren’t overweight at all.

And when it comes to body confidence, size doesn’t seem to improve things for women. At the ideal size, women are just 0.8% more confident.

Average men’s actual body vs his ideal body

Average actual v average ideal

Weight: 197lb v 186lb

BMI: 29.1 v 27.5

Average self-confidence out of 10: 6.8 v 8.2

% of men who think this is visually ideal: 12% v 23%

% of women with this body who want to lose weight: 67% v 35%

The average dude has what we’d probably call a ‘dad bod’ – technically pre-obese but looks-wise, carrying a little extra padding. So it’s no surprise that 67% of men want to lose a bit of weight…but that’s the same number of wannabe dieters as women with the ‘ideal’ female size. So that tells you all you need to know about how messed up slimming culture has been toward women.

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Men with the average (overweight) body have the same body confidence score as women with the female ideal…despite only 12% of women believing that the average man has the visually perfect body (compared to just 9% of men who think the average woman is perfect).

If they had the option, men would drop 11lbs and swap fat for muscle.

So, on average women want to lose a lot of weight; men want to lose weight and gain muscle; and – based on people already at the ‘ideal’ size – men would enjoy a bigger boost in confidence if they could achieve their idea of perfection.

What our (heterosexual) partners think

That all being said, we’re way more harsh on ourselves than our partners are on us (if we’re dating the opposite sex).

Each gender was given a private opportunity to say how they’d like their partners’ bodies to change, their desires didn’t match their partners’ own expectations for themselves. People overestimated how slim or well-built the opposite sex wished they were.

The research found that men and women tend to find partners with similar BMIs most attractive to them (at least when in relationships). When you consider that many people find their own weight creeping up as their partner’s does, that might make sense. It’s called ‘assortative mating’ – finding people who are similar to yourself more attractive.

Both sexes were asked to select the body they’d most like to have before researchers then got their partners to choose.


When women selected the body they’d most like to have, the average was a slim figure weighing 124lb. Only 8% of women surveyed already matched this appearance. When men used the same parameters to build the female body they’d most like their partners to have, the average weighed 20lb more. More than twice as many women (20%) had this appearance than the slimmer version the women collectively chose.

When the men selected their ideal body, the average weighed 18 lb and was pretty muscle-bound. 7% of men said they currently looked like this. Women’s average ideal male figure was muscly, but 12lb lighter – ripped, but a bit less jacked than what men preferred.

Still, only one in 10 men said they looked like this, which makes the body that women most want their male partners’ to have twice as uncommon as the men’s ideal female body.

So it looks like it’s actually women who have more unrealistic body standards for themselves and their heterosexual partners than men.

Given that we’re incessantly being warned about the obesity crisis, it’s no wonder so many of us want to lose weight. And it’s also no surprise that women’s body confidence is lower than men’s – even when they look what men consider to be ‘perfect’ (proving that self-worth cannot be sought externally).

But the interesting and reassuring thing about this study is that our partners don’t want us to be tiny waifs. People overestimate how slim or well-built their partners wish them to be.


Proof that not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder but that there’s no ‘perfect’ body shape.

You can read the full study here.

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