What does “Plus Size” mean? Let’s discuss!

Ralph Lauren plus size model

I read a story today applauding Ralph Lauren for hiring its first plus size model: a 6’2″ tall, size 12 Australian woman named Robyn Lawley. When I first saw the story, I was excited to share another example of a model who looks more like the average woman, but after looking at the photos of Lawley, I’m left wondering what’s plus about her size.

As many of you have pointed out – and I agree!  – there is no such thing as a “real woman.” Real women come in all shapes and sizes, and I’m all for embracing them all. What bothers me about the modeling industry is that it almost exclusively showcases the smallest end of the spectrum as what’s beautiful.

So, what does plus size mean?

A savvy friend on Facebook suggested that maybe the “plus” refers to any time you’d add an X. So, since a size 12 woman would wear an XL-sized t-shirt, she’s considered plus size. That’s practical, but I think that the fashion and modeling industries need to think beyond practicality and consider how their imagery is affecting women’s self esteem.

I think that if we’re going to truly stop the culture of poor body image, the fashion industry needs to start showing clothing on models of all shapes and sizes. I’m glad that Ralph Lauren is showcasing a size 12, don’t get me wrong. Now, let’s see a size 20 looking fab in their new line!

This might feel a little bit nit-picky, but when I read about girls as young as eight years old developing eating disorders and hating their bodies, I can’t help but look to these images. As someone who struggled with body image issues for many years, I know first hand how seeing page after page of women with the exact same size 0 body can harm your self image and affect your happiness.

Should we call any size a “plus size,” if doing so is hurting women? I’d love to hear from you guys about this!

Photo via The Daily Beast

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .
  • As an independent fashion designer disgusted with a lot of the fashion industry’s basic values, I am so happy that the industry is starting to realize it has a problem when it comes to size and weight issues. It is true, this gorgeous lady hardly looks like someone I’d call “plus size”, and you bring up a good point on whether “plus size” is even an appropriate term to use. Nonetheless, good job, Ralph Lauren!! Now let’s keep taking more steps in this direction!