Thursday Trends: Plus-Size Models in Mainstream Media

Tess Munster (Bustle)

Tess Munster (Bustle)

It’s safe to say that plus-size models are having a moment in the spotlight right now. The fashion industry has finally cottoned on to the fact that most women are not a size -2 (which is rarely found in nature), but that more “normal”-sized women representative of the American public might want to see themselves depicted (and desired!). And the inclusion will also sell more for said fashion companies, so it’s a win-win all around.

We can trace this development to late last year, when the Pirelli calendar unveiled its 2015 edition. Candice Huffine made history as the first plus-size model to grace the legendary calendar’s pages. She broke a tradition stemming from 1964 of using the usual thin models to usher in a new year and a new outlook on beauty standards.

Speaking of beauty standards (more like #effyourbeautystandards), plus-size model/retro bombshell Tess Munster (now Tess Holliday) recently became the first plus-size model to sign with the U.K.’s MiLK Model Management. She’s now the first plus-size model signed to a mainstream agency, in the Curves division, and the first one within Curves above a size 20 (she’s a 22 and stands at 5 ft. 5 in.). Munster cuts a distinctive figure, with bright red wavy hair, alabaster skin and lots of tattoos. She’s been around for awhile, and was named a top plus-size model in the world by “Vogue Italia” in 2013. That same year, the “body positive activist” began the aforementioned hashtag to encourage women to love their bodies at any and every size. She also participated a video in which she and other plus-size models recreated Beyoncé’s music video for “***Flawless,” called “#everyBODYisflawless.”

Fashion blogger/model Nadia Aboulhosn was one of these models. She’s gained attention and press for her fashion prowess that’s all about the street style. The half-Lebanese stunner first drew notice when she won American Apparel’s XL Model Search in 2011.

Perhaps the most mainstream seal of approval, “Sports Illustrated” selected a plus-size model for this year’s Swimsuit Issue: Model Robin Lawley is a size 12. Lawley had previously been on the cover of Australian “Vogue,” as the first plus-size model, and was the first plus-size face of Ralph Lauren in 2012. But even though she’s plus-size by fashion industry standards, she still looks…well, like a normal tall, curvy girl. Like a model.

Let’s hope that plus-size women gaining visibility in the fashion world isn’t a one-time trend, and eventually becomes an unremarkable norm encompassing diverse shapes and sizes.

Thursday Trends: Elderly Fashion Models

Joan Didion's Celine ad (AdWeek)

Joan Didion’s Celine ad (AdWeek)

Ladies of “un certain age” (as the French say) are currently having a moment. High-fashion houses are looking to elderly women to represent their wares to a wider market.

Last week, French fashion house Céline unveiled its newest cover girl: 80-year-old acclaimed essayist Joan Didion. Didion is best known for her collections of essays, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” (published in 1968) and “The White Album” (published in 1979). The writer, who replaced model Daria Werbowy, already has casual experience in modeling: An old photo of Didion lounging in her Corvette Stingray adorns the cover of “The White Album” paperback copy.

Two days later, Saint Laurent revealed their latest model to be 71-year-old singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. And the elderly-woman-as-fashion-model concept went from an outlier to a trend.

These are just the latest in a larger trend of older women becoming more visible within the fashion industry. Céline’s new campaign follows on the heels of Dolce & Gabbana’s spring 2015 promotions, which feature elderly ladies decked out in black dresses, red carnations and gold tiaras.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2015 Campaign still (Daily Mail UK)

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2015 Campaign still (Daily Mail UK)

The trend has been picking up steam over the past couple of years. In 2013, eyewear designer Karen Walker used models between the ages of 65 and 92 to model her “Forever” collection. (Within that campaign, Walker juxtaposed the elderly ladies with young girls for maximum effect.) Designer Marc Jacobs used 64-year-old actress Jessica Lange for his beauty line in 2014. Sixty-two-year-old Jacky O’Shaughnessy modeled for American Apparel in 2014, and 93-year-old Iris Apfel is modeling this year for jewelry designer Alexis Bittar.

French women seem to have this one lock: Jacobs cast a then-70-year-old Catherine Deneuve in his final campaign for Louis Vuitton in 2013, and 68-year-old French actress Charlotte Rampling modeled for Nars in 2014.

We’ve also been seeing more older women appear in street style photography. Photographer Ari Seth Cohen runs Advanced Style, where he documents the unique ensembles of elderly ladies. He’s parlayed the blog into a book and a recent documentary.

Hopefully, we’re starting to respect, and revere, the elderly population more than we’ve been worshipping at the fountain of youth. There’s certain historical precedent for young women taking sartorial cues from previous generations: Women in 17th- and 18th-century France used to powder their hair and wear white wigs to emulate their esteemed elders.