14 November 2012
Ralph Goes Plus
I can't imagine most people would consider size 12 to be "big" per say -- or maybe I only think that because I'm bigger. But these days, size 12 and up is what's considered plus size. I don't really have a problem with this; it's a step in the right direction really. You start calling things "plus size" or label sections of your store "12 and up" and people might get the memo that it's ok not to have hips the size of a 10-year-old boy.
I started thinking about this recently when Ralph Lauren announced they'd hired their first plus-size model. Ok, so maybe it's not that recently. It was September; but time doesn't have much meaning when you're in university. Semesters are your time clock, so half a semester ago doesn't really seem very long ago. Anyway, my time-managing skills, and lack there of, aside, Ralph hired Robyn Lawley, the Aussie hottie, as the summer was coming to a close, and thus far she seems to have done pretty well for herself -- from being written about in the Huffington Post to being Australian Elle's cover girl. I'm pretty pleased with good old RL. Though it may not be my brand of choice, it's definitely my 50-year-old sister's. This isn't an insult or anything. I'm not saying Ralph Lauren is ONLY appropriate for 50-something year-olds. My big sister is, at times, decently stylish. And on occasion I find a RL top or two that sparks my interest and could easily be paired with the more 20-something skirt from Urban Outfitters or H&M.
But back to the gorgeous, sun-tanned Robyn. A friend of mine was recently going on about how awful it is that Robyn is one of the new faces of the plus-size world. Where are her hips? Where are her tree trunk-esque thighs? Why didn't they pick someone with breasts? She went on and on about how offensive it is that someone who is tall and a size 12 could ever be considered "big." It occurred to me that she was discriminating against Robyn in the same way my fourth grade nemesis discriminated against me because I couldn't shop at Limited Too. And to me, that is certainly not what being a BBW is about.
Robyn Lawley is undoubtedly beautiful. I find her more beautiful than any of the Victoria's Secret angels, or anyone I've ever seen on America's Next Top Model. And her body is damn fantastic. She goes in at the right places, and comes out at the perfect ones too. She isn't "skinny" nor is she "fat." She's pretty average size wise, and what the hell is wrong with that? Ralph Lauren did something many companies and brands are still afraid to do -- they catered to the average-sized woman. Most women aren't a size 0, and most aren't a size 20. While I may love being bigger, I can still appreciate beautiful women of all sizes. I can still appreciate Robyn's stunning facial features and her unfairly long legs.
If you ask me, and though you're not necessarily asking I will tell you anyway, what more brands need to do is this. Weight acceptance isn't going to happen overnight. Sure, a few centuries ago, bigger women were a status symbol -- royals with dozens of suitors who found their fat to be emblematic of their wealth. But it's 2012 and things have changed. We've had increases in eating disorders worldwide because women are striving to be skinny. If more models like Robyn become the faces of well known brands, the message that being average-sized is ok will spread. And eventually, if more models like my beloved Plump Princess make it big, the message that being plus-size (REALLY plus-sized), might spread as well. The civil rights movement didn't happen overnight. Gay marriage didn't happen overnight (and it hasn't even fully happened yet). One can't expect the stigma of being fat to dissolve overnight either. But slowly, I hope, it will dissipate. And as long as women who look more like your best friend and less like a photo shopped mannequin come into the social spectrum, we might be ok after all.