More Plus Size Please

This weekend was long, tiring, fun and full of revelations. One of those revelations was that Africa is too fixed on western standards. Let’s take fashion for instance.

I was at an amazing fashion show featuring some of Kenya’s most outstanding fashion designers. The set up was beautiful and the designs were vibrant, sexy, fun and stylish and the models did an amazing job. One question kept popping up though “Why aren’t there any plus size models?” Why indeed.

Modeling in Africa is one of the industries fashioned after that of Europe, with skinny/slim models at 5’7 minimum strutting down runways or posing for fashion spreads. Why haven’t we set a standard suited for Africa? African women are curvy or well endowed, like me. I’m not going to look at a fashion spread with a reed thin model and think “ooooh I’d look great in that!” The message sent is that big women don’t deserve fashionable clothes and must settle for whatever items the gods of fashion deem adequate. I should add that saying a size 12 model is plus size is mildly (very) insulting.

plus size - V MagazineI want to see a woman come down the runway looking absolutely delish, and showing off her curves! The same for magazines, having a section for the ‘fuller woman’ with tips and tricks of where to get gorgeous garments and how to figure out the right look to body type ratio would appeal to a greater number of women. That’s what would get me interested in all these fashion shows and magazines. Otherwise, it’s just a constant reminder that I’m too big to be accepted into the realm of the bold & the beautiful.
There are several designers that do outfits for plus size women but aren’t given opportunity to show off that side to their design as models selected during casting are size 8-10. This limits them. It also means plus size models don’t get a lot of gigs. Speaking from personal experience, getting a gig was frustratingly hard! There’s the issue of the cost of material, body shape etc and I understand cost implications are a serious issue but it’s all about risk and returns.

Think of it this way; Audrey is seated in the audience at a fashion show and this beautiful plus model comes out in a to die for outfit, Audrey thinks “wow, I could actually use that at Ciru’s wedding next weekend”. She’ll get in touch with the designer because she knows it’s someone who understands how to make garments suited to voluptuous frames. Audrey will then tell her friends, and you may get one or two more people to add to your list. You took a risk and got paid for it.Pluse size - V Magazine

We need to see images and shows that we can relate to, a kind of reflection of ourselves. “Models are meant to be living hangers” is what my friend said when I brought it up. That makes sense to an extent, but do they ALL have to be small? Can we not continue to promote anorexia because let’s face it some models meet the body mass index physical criteria for it. All I’m asking for is in a set of 15, 5 are plus size; that every other fashion spread in this or that magazine features a plus size model.

Forget the rules Milan plays by, let’s set our own! Embrace how diverse women and men are in terms of height and size and push to see more plus size
models and designs in this industry. Let’s encourage healthy living and unique African fashion through our fashion shows and publications. PLUS SIZE BABY!

Last two images from V-Magazine’s Size Issue, photos by Terry Richardson

3 thoughts on “More Plus Size Please

  1. memoirsofabikerer says:

    .i do absolutely agree…of course my jumping onto this boat of plus size campaigners is based purely on my own personal fetishes but heck I shall hold a placard, rant and rave to see more beautifully endowed African women who shall come out of this shadow cast by “the Milan rules”…I mean think of this absolutely yummy voluptuous “sister” ( clearly my calling description of her and then calling sister…hmmm) rocking an exquisite mshono wa Khanga or Diira….wait I just posed and smiled…darn mind…. anyway we do see these ( you included) fine African women in our mitaas but it is time that we see more of them strutting down the aisle with draping that we want to buy for them wakiwa mtaani

    ….biker out


    • behinddoublelenses says:


      Thanks for the support. It’s nice to know so many men are actually for plus size.
      Things will change.



  2. Zubi d'Nova / Melissa de Blok says:

    Hi namesake,

    I agree and disagree.

    Agreement: Women are constantly pressurized to look different according to what men’s standards have been for centuries. Whatever men found attractive during a period in time, women applied to themselves, because we have been seen as nothing more than our appearance for too long. Our value stemmed from our superficial aesthetics, and we continue to perpetuate this trend with our willingness to show skin to be sexy, and change who we are to fit a standard that is only possible for those whose entire career revolves around their looks. We forget that the women in magazines have not only been airbrushed, but also spend most of their day focusing on their looks as this is what earns them money. Normal women cannot afford to spend all this time on looks, but the mass media pushes us to believe we should. This deeply rooted and dangerous belief is apparent in obvious things like constant articles about being a desired size, but also in the popular idea that one needs to “get one’s body back” after pregnancy (why?!!?).

    I could go on for days. I suffered so much due to all this objectification of women, but I digress.

    I disagree with the fashion model part. Clothes fall well on skinny girls not because they look good on them, but because it is akin to a walking clothes hanger – as your friend said. You can say that you do not identify with a skinny girl wearing clothes, but an hourglass size 20 girl will not identify with a pear-shaped girl of size 14, and a size 14 not-so-curvy- girl will not either. Straight and skinny provides a standard that is easy to replicate and shows viewers what the clothing does on a rack (literally), so that we can use our imagination to decide what it will look like on us.

    Unfortunately, although the fashion industry knows this very well, the mass commercial media has somehow taken this as an aesthetic standard, which I don’t think it is (except to designers and fashion obsessors, because the clothes fall on the person as they were designed apparently). Unfortunately, this has led to shaming of skinny girls and the skinny aesthetic in general, which leads to – yet again – the idea that a certain standard makes one less beautiful or womanly if they don’t match up.

    I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing the first blog post I’ve seen about plus size models, that doesn’t make me feel bad as a skinny girl, or make me out to be less of a woman because I wasn’t born with big hips/breasts. I will be sharing this. ❤


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