The Word “Plus-Size” ~ Guest Post by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano of The Beheld.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano writes about how we form our concept of personal beauty, using essays, histories of words we use to describe women (like “plus-size”!), interviews, experiments, and analysis of economics, sociology, and media at The Beheld.

Here is Autumn…

We use the term “plus-size” so frequently now—plus-size clothes, plus-size stores, plus-size women, and, of course, plus-size models—that it’s hard to remember that not so long ago, we didn’t even have the vocabulary handy to discuss wearing anything larger than a size 12.

“Plus-size” was first used as a technical fashion industry term for sizes 14 and up in the 1970s; plus-size clothing existed before then, but was referred to as “stout sizes,” “larger sizes,” “junior plenty” for Lane Bryant teen sizes, or simply listed by number. The phrase quickly spilled from the fashion world into the modeling industry. As early as 1976, modeling agencies began signing “plus-size” models and calling them just that.

Still, it was an insider term, along the lines of “go-see” and “comp card”—recognizable to people within the fashion and modeling industries, but not to the people purchasing the clothes those models might be wearing. Consumers were referring to “women’s sizes” through the 1980s, and in fact the euphemism for larger clothing sizes still occasionally causes confusion when shopping at the handful of stores that still use the term. (Did clothing retailers only figure out in the past 10 years that a woman with 34-inch hips and a woman with 44-inch hips are both women?)

It wasn’t just consumers who were coming up with weird terms to describe ladies of size. Women’s magazines in the 1970s gave style advice to readers who were “chunky,” “bigger,” “broad,” “big-boned,” “heavier,” and “fat.” Even a lifestyle and fashion magazine devoted to plus-size women, Big Beautiful Woman, didn’t embrace the term until after its 1979 launch. By the 1980s the word choices had become a tad more complimentary: “round” and “full-figured” began cropping up, along with “curvy all over,” particularly a favorite in annual June swimsuit roundups.

In 1989—the earliest instance of mainstream usage I could find—New Woman called out to “plus-size” readers, with Ebony following suit in 1990. From there, the term truly took flight: Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and other major players started using the term in the 1990s. Unsurprising, given the enormous surge in awareness of the needs of 14-and-ups at that time: Pioneering plus-size model Emme was named one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1994 (and again in 1999!), Lane Bryant went full-on fashionista in 1995 with celebrity endorsements, and Mode magazine launched in 1997.

But some feel that the term might have done all it can. “ ‘Plus-size’ is a word we need to bury at this point,” Queen Latifah told WWD in May when talking about her fashion line, which has a wide range of sizes. “The truth is, we all would like to wear the same clothes. We all want to wear beautiful, fly clothes no matter what size you are.” (Sing it, sister!) Similarly, model Marquita Pring said in an interview this March with New York Magazine, “I think we need to phase out the category ‘plus-size models.’ I’m a model… People are finally starting to embrace us, and we aren’t just being seen for our tits and ass, but for our overall beauty and ability.”

There’s a power in naming a need that’s gone unfilled—like, say, a cute size 18 tank top!—and in relabeling terms that are rather unhelpful. (“Junior plenty”? Really?) As Gloria wrote in 1979 about the progress of feminism, “We have terms like sexual harassment and battered women. A few years ago, they were just called life.” Having the term “plus-size” out and about in the world makes it clear that women over a size 12 aren’t  going to quietly sit on the sidelines in navy blue smocks ever again.

Plus-Size Models Unite originally used the term “plus-size” because it made sense at the time of the site’s creation. But the work that is being done here is toward a recognition of all women, in all their diversity, as being whole and beautiful.” The concept of plus-size? Love. The word itself? Eventually, maybe, we can let it go. For wouldn’t it be nice if someday, plus-size clothes were just called clothes, plus-size models were just called models—and plus-size women were just called women, as empowered, confident, and beautiful as they feel?

*Thank you, Autumn!

You can find out more about Autumn Whitefield-Madrano at her website: The Beheld, Twitter at @the_beheld, and on Facebook here.


8 Responses to “The Word “Plus-Size” ~ Guest Post by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano of The Beheld.”

  1. Awesome Article.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this article.You added many types of information in your page.
    Reading this article has been a enjoyable experience.

  2. Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I’ve read stuff
    from. I appreciate you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this blog.

  3. It’s not my first time to pay a visit this site, i am browsing this website dailly and take
    fastidious data from here daily.

  4. There is a piece of good news for all Prom dress shoppers this festive season. Lady Wishes has come up with a grand sale on clothing and accessories for every occasion. The wide range of products, affordable price range and availability of latest fashion trends are what make the Lady Wishes Prom dress sales 2014 so appealing. From wedding accessories, wedding dresses, shoes, daily wear, winter wear, to bags, hats and apparel, the sale has it all to entice the fashionista within every woman.
    Lady Wishes is offering a grand sale on the occasion of Prom dress, Lady Wishes, Prom dress sales 2014, where every female can find something or the other that they crave and that will suit them. The sale that has commenced from earlier this month will continue throughout march to the run up to Prom dress. Shoppers can log onto the official site and browse through the assortment of dresses, accessories, wedding dresses and accessories, bedding and the like and seal deals of their choice.
    With the chilly winds setting in, it sure is time for the Prom dress bells to start ringing and for shoppers to line up in front of various stores to stack up on goodies and gifts for one and others. Lady Wishes Prom dress sales 2014 has come up with grand discounts of up to 80% on everything from dresses, shoes, accessories, bedding and the like for the Prom dress shoppers. The sale is sure to be a perfect haven for all shoppers as they can avail the best deals at the best price. Lady Wishes has everything that could possibly please the fashionista within every woman.
    The “Daily Deals” section of Lady Wishes has an amazing collection of products ranging from clothes, shoes, accessories and the like that not only comes handy as far as the daily requirements are concerned but also adds to the fashion quotient. Shoppers can also browse through the exquisite wedding collection in “Wedding and Events” that is being offered by Lady Wishes at unbelievable rates and choose gifts for the couple whose wedding they want to attend or select something for them as well if it is their wedding bell that is soon to ring.
    The accessory zone also has an eye popping collection of everything that one could possibly want from scarves, hats, lingerie, and jewellery to bags, wedding accessories and the like to wear on wedding or any other occasion. With unbelievable discounts of 50% or more on every product, the collection brought to the fore by LadyWishes Prom dress sales 2014 is sure to find favour with shoppers from all over. The best part about the sale is that shoppers are spoilt for choice between the wide range of products available for specific occasions and at a price range that is wide enough.
    More information please visit

  5. joan brueggemann Says:

    seriously,…… why do we continue to use the term “chubby” or
    “plus size” ??? of course they are offensive – they suggest
    that certain sizes are not “normal” !!!! Why not just use
    numbers for sizes ?? No need for any LABELS

  6. EmbacheBace Says:

    А также, шедевры мирового искусства и Yellow Submarine.
    Здесь использованы финифть (ручная роспись по эмали) и филигрань (скань, зернь) в сочетании с обработанными полудрагоценными и поделочными камнями: лазуритом, янтарем, родонитом, яшмой, змеевиком, нефритом, обсидианом, чароитом, амазонитом, лунным камнем, кошачьим и тигровым глазом, авантюрином, малахитом.

    [url=]работа для студента дистанционно через интернет[/url]

    преподаватель английского языка ищу работу
    контрольная работа на тему международное торговое право
    газета камелот город воронеж объявления работа найти

    [url=]ищу работу в нижнем новгороде медицина[/url]

    ищу работу в тюмени с личным автомобилем
    работа на косметике
    работа в челнах для мужчин

    [url=]работа для химика-аналитика в нижнем новгороде[/url]

    Косметика и бюстгальтер – ведь тоже обман?
    В 2005 показана первая коллекция женской одежды, состоящая из курток, блейзеров и платьев.

  7. I wouldn’t mind letting go of the term “plus-size” if and when true acceptance of a wide range of body sizes really happens. That said, I think “plus-size” currently names a previously unrecognized need.

    Right now, when I see “plus-size” in a store — whether it’s a section or the store’s focus, I get to breathe a small sigh of relief. It’s not just a store where clothes will fit me. It’s a store where no one will sneer at me for holding a shirt up to my chest, estimating how it might fit or look on me. It’s a store where no one will scoff and ask me, “What made you think you could shop here?”

    Essentially, it’s a public space where my body is accepted as a meaningful part of society.

  8. Great post!! Sewing patterns for plus-size girls used to be called “chubbies.”
    Lane Bryant used the term, too— see it here:

    My family read Mode magazine while it lasted. It was lovely.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: