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Plus-sized photo shoot shows us how wrong we are

Fashion can change.

A series of shocking images featuring a mainstream model and plus-sized model posing together have been making the rounds on the Internet lately. The images were first published in PLUS Model Magazine, which is devoted entirely to features on plus-sized models.

The images show gorgeous, size-12 model Katya Zharkova with her arms around a tiny mainstream model, essentially dwarfing her. The photographs are captioned with a series of frightening statistics about the modeling industry, including the far cry between it and real world women.

Unlike most mainstream depictions where bigger women (and Zharkova is by no means big) are the brunt of jokes or pitiable figures, the “straight-size” model in the feature appears pathetic, like a breakable child compared to Zharkova’s womanly strength.

The captions that accompany the images remark about the departure of both the mainstream modeling industry and the plus-size modeling industry from the bodies of average women. For example, one image of Zharkova posing nude with pearls and heels features the caption “50% of women wear size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to women size 14 or smaller.” The caption for the image featuring Zharkova and the mainstream modeling embracing says “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.”

These are not surprising statistics. In mainstream fashion, it seems that models’ bodies are supposed to look as much as hangers as possible without actually being made of metal or plastic. Unfortunately, too-thin models don’t exist in a vacuum; actresses and other celebrities need to fit into model-sized clothes so that they can buy and wear sample sizes. As a result, women begin judging themselves and their bodies off of a system of “perfect” sizes, which is created completely arbitrarily for ease in constructing clothing. Certainly, clothing should be created to flatter a woman’s body; a woman’s body should not be constructed--or rather, deconstructed--to flatter clothing.

More surprisingly than the statistics about the mainstream models are those about plus-sized models. The magazine says that the average plus-sized model used to be between a size 12 and a size 18, but in recent years have averaged between a size 6 and a size 14. This different breed of body confusion—that a plus-sized woman may wear a size 6!—has furthered misconceptions about healthy bodies and made even very thin women perceive themselves as plus-sized.

PLUS magazine’s feature is brave—what do you think?