This week, H&M featured plus size model Jennie Runk wearing the new swimsuit collection on its homepage, seamlessly integrating her presence with that of her other, rail-thin counterparts.
While it’s no longer unheard of to see plus-size models in fashion shoots and spreads — three even appeared on the June 2011 cover of Vogue Italia — it is often done in a very loud, “we’re trying to make a message” way.
Even in Vogue Italia, the models only made the cover when posed seductively (and symbolically) over big bowls of pasta. Rather than appearing side-by-side with “straight size” models sans fuss, plus-size models usually appear in the “curvy” or “love your body” issue or special spread. Furthermore, American Apparel’s “Next Big Thing” plus-size model contest was a testament to the flippant puns often associated with, as the retailer put it, “booty-ful” models with “full-size fannies.”
Runk is no longer on H&M’s homepage, just the beachwear section. Websites need to stay fresh with new content. Now, voluptuous post-baby spokesperson Beyonce has center stage on the site. This normalization of a more substantial —normal — bodies shows a potential shift in the fashion world.
But it is a long, controversy-laden road with plus-size segregation, difficulties breaking into couture, and even stylists quitting over a designer’s decision to use plus-size models in runway shows.
Lane Bryant was one of the first retailers to specialize in plus-size clothing. The “Expectant Mothers and Newborn” line turned into the “For Stout Women” category in 1926. Its mantra? “Calling all chubbies!”
Until the mid-1950′s, Lane Bryant used illustrations to market its “stout” line. But even here, the women look slim.
The early 20th century has the reputation of embracing curvier women, yet the supposed “American Venus” based on Miss America 1926′s silhouette measured 34, 26.5, 37.5.