Crystal Renn is Effing Awesome


Plus-sized model Crystal Renn has been EVERYWHERE for the past few months. Girlfriend must be tired as hell by now. She’s been in Glamour, Grazia, Italian Vanity Fair, and countless other pubs that claim to be working toward a more diverse beauty ideal, and want non-skinny body types represented. And while I applaud these efforts, and truly believe that ANY attempts at change and opportunities for discussion are valuable, several interviews with Renn and incisive commentaries on her various high-profile spreads have led me to conclude that she is fast becoming the poster child for everything that’s wrong with the fashion industry.

For starters, Renn is “plus-sized” only by modeling industry standards. Much has been made of the fact that she’s a size 12, which is actually smaller than the American average, and many people are positively livid that someone of her size would be deemed a plus. So, there’s the fact that, in modelville, someone who is a size 12 is considered “big.” And then there’s the seemingly automatic stigma of even BEING a “plus size” and all the outrage that someone of Renn’s size and stature could be labeled with such a repellent term. Double-whammy of twisted yuckiness.

Then we’ve got the fact that photographers and editors actually want Renn to appear bigger than she truly is. She and other plus-sized models are occasionally asked to wear padding for photo shoots, and have reported that their fat rolls are focused on and exaggerated for effect. They get retouched nearly as often as slim celebs and models do, only the retouchers make them look heavier. And while it makes many of us feel more normal to see a little pooch on a woman in a mag, it seems strange to hear that plus-sized models aren’t plus enough. And the focus is on the pudge itself and not how amazing these women look in gorgeous designer duds.

Finally, although magazines have paid lip service to bodily diversity and many are making admirable efforts, it seems like the focus is STILL on weight. I am yet to see tiny little petites, or non-hourglass figures, or older women in fashion editorials or advertisements. And certainly not on the runways. In her book Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, Renn says, “When designers and editors choose one fat girl to salivate over, and revel in her avoirdupois, I’m not sure how much it advances the cause of using girls of all sizes in a magazine.”

And yet, if anyone is going to be the poster child for everything that is wrong with the modeling industry, I DEFINITELY want it to be Crystal Renn. Because I think her very presence will help move changes forward. As someone who spent years trying to be a “straight” model, she’s seen the industry at its body-bashing worst. In the past she fought hard against her natural shape, but realized that the battle was killing her and reached a place of contentment and self-love as a non-skinny woman. She knows that she’s being used – that she is at the eye of this fashion/body size storm and being used by both sides to frame arguments – but instead of getting furious or removing herself from the fray, she is wisely riding the tide. Sure, she stands to make some serious bank, but if her memoir tells us anything it’s that Renn is a quiet soldier in the battle for bodily diversity. She strikes me as smart, grounded, patient, focused and clear-headed. She knows that if change is going to come, it’s going to come in tiny increments, and believes that is for the best.

“I’m fighting for something,” Renn said to the New York Times. “I believe fashion can be a place of diversity. It’s not going to happen overnight, but do you want it to?”

What do you think of Crystal Renn? The various spreads she’s done recently? The plus-sized model controversy? Anyone read her memoir? Thoughts on that? Do you think her quiet efforts could help carve out a place for bodily diversity in the fashion industry?

Image courtesy NYT.

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  • Suz

    I don't really follow Fashion with a capital F, but wow, she's beautiful! Her body looks fantastic. She's definitely not plus-sized in my eyes but it's so refreshing to see a non-skeleton wearing designer duds.

  • Toby Wollin

    I'm pretty even-handed about fashion. It would be nice to see short women on the runway (was there ever a couturier who specialized in petites? – My memory serves that Jean Lanvin hated her height or lack of it), but don't expect it. The standard of beauty is height. I think it's silly to consider Crystal Renn as some sort of standard-bearer for fat – because at her height and size, she is not. But she does do one thing that I think is important. She doesn't look like Renee Zellwegger in this photograph: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/03/reese-witherspoon-renee-z_n_483626.html
    I am really really (!) tired of seeing bone structure that was last seen in photographs from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp inmates. This shows a level of lack of nourishment that borders on starvation. And not to belabor the point, but long term studies of camp survivors showed huge issues in terms of survivability, cardiac illness and so on. Starving oneself is not a good long-term health strategy. I'd like to see more models out there whose clavicles are nicely covered, thank you.

  • Casey

    I have to admit, I haven't ardently followed Crystal Renn and her career, but have seen a lot written about her on fashion blogs and the like. I really adore how she looks, and that she's getting modeling gigs, despite being labeled "large" or "plus size" by the industry (which just kills me!). However, I worry that the current fixation with "plus size models" is a fleeting trend in the fickle world of fashion. Case in point: do you remember the "alien/exotic look" trend that was big among models in the early to mid '00s? Gemma Ward and Devon Akoi were big time models at that point (and probably still are; I just don't pay much attention any more 😉 because of their "otherworldly" faces. However, the shift in more recent seasons has been back to a more "standard" model. So I wonder how much staying power the push for diversified models has? Is this just a flash in the pan? I would love to think that it's the sign of a deeper shift within the industry and our culture, but if I were a betting woman, I wouldn't bet hard money on it. The industry's past actions reveal too much their penchant for novelty and anything that grabs the public's attention as "new". Not only does Renn (sadly) fill the novelty quotient, but she also allows the fashion world (which is hellbent on starving women into oblivion) to deflect the criticism in recent years over the thinness of models and let them say "see! we embrace plus sized women too!". When the sad reality is they really don't.

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  • Rosie Unknown

    I don't really read fashion mags, but damn, she is beautiful!

    The main reason I don't read fashion magazines is because I find them rather depressing. Not because I can't afford a single item in them, but because the models in them make me want to mass produce chocolate cakes to send to them. And frankly, the plus sized spreads are practically worse. I know I'm a fairly slim, somewhat curved girl who occasionally gets comments like "I wish I was as skinny as you!", but when I see a grown woman no bigger than me labeled plus sized, it's just plain confusing.

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    What drives me insane is that fashion magazines will focus on her fat rolls and make her look bigger, but they will still airbrush the photos so she doesn't have cellulite on her thighs. So it's okay to be "plump" and "curvy" or even (gasp!) a size 12, but it's not okay to have veins or cellulite?

    And even as Renn gets gigs as a size 12, where are the women who are a size 6, 8, 10, 24W? She has gotten some gigs, but if we stop and think about how many fashion magazines and runway shows there are, we might compare the current amount of bodily diversity in the fashion industry to a whale consuming a tic tac.

    Sorry for my rant, but this really pisses me off.

  • La Belette Rouge

    I had never heard of her before. She is gorgeous, no matter what size she is. It would be nice if fashion magazines really embraced diversity. I'm not holding my breath as I think fashion magazines intention is, on some level, to make us feel inadequate. They show airbrushed perfection that is impossible to achieve and then fill the magazine with products that promise to get us closer to this absurd ideal. If they showed more realistic beauty we would feel less inspired to buy more products/clothes/shoes.

  • Twills

    You must excuse me, I read every day but this is my first comment; I came here from You Look Fab after your wonderful post about tattoos, and I've been enthralled ever since.

    I've been following Renn for quite a while now, and have always admired her. Though I had absolutely no idea until now that she had written her memoirs! I am excited now to learn more about the woman inside that hot body. 🙂

    Also, I love you blog; it's easily becoming one of my favourites.

  • GB73

    Honestly, I've never been able to relate to the "fashion" industry so haven't ever paid much atention to them. I discoved the world of style bloggers last year and have found them refreshing- they provide me with all I need/can handle. cliche but very true- give me the "real" women anyday over airbrushed, made-up, stylized babes any day.
    That said, I find the world's fixation with body size extremely intrusive. I have to say that I hate labels more than anything and plus-size is an extremely offensive example. As far as I'm concerned Crystal Renn should just be called a model. period.

    I feel however, that we can rant and rail all we want, the industry is there because it feeds some need in its audience, there are people who buy these magazines precisely because they meet their tastes!! So its not just the industry that is "creating" stick figures to model clothes, its also the resposibility of the target audience- and its not as if they don't have options- there are plently of style blogs out there for inspiration.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is that the fashion industry wouldn't exist if there were no takers….

  • myedit

    My biggest issue with magazines using 'plus sized' women in a fashion spread is that they seem to do it for brownie points. The title of the spread often indicates that 'bigger' models were used and the magazine feels like it needs a pat on the back for being so open-minded. The only way the super skinny body type will be combatted in the media is when women in a spread are not labelled by their size. Just do a photoshoot with Crystal Renn and publish it, make no mention of her size…after all the focus is fashion, right? We wish…

  • angie

    Crystal Renn is stunning! There is no doubt about it. She makes a fantastic ramp model and photographs beautifully. Even as a size 12 model it does help though, that she is very tall, small in the waist, long in the leg, perfectly proportioned and very pretty. The irony of it is that size 12 is theoretically not a plus size! But it is the most bought size in America. Oh well. At least the fashion industry is trying. Good stuff!

  • Jane W.

    I think she's pretty great. But I would love to see a world where models were not categorized according to dress size.

  • Sara @Soulspackle

    Just found you recently (I think via You Look Fab) and I am totally adoring your blog.

    I've awarded you with a Beautiful Blogger award, to do with what you please. 🙂

    http://vbook.blog.soulspackle.com/?p=1527

  • GreatCanadianBeagle

    There have already been so many insightful comments made here that I'm not sure I'll be contributing much, but this issue is a real trigger for me, so I have to put my two cents in:

    I agree with myedit that the use of a more diverse set of models would ring more true if the magazines didn't make such a huge deal of the fact that they were doing it. By hyping up the fact that "plus-sized" models were used, or what have you, I think magazines may actually be doing harm. As Rosie said, looking at a picture of an average sized women and reading that she is "plus-sized" is only going to make average sized women feel large, which is definitely not a message the world needs.

    I don't like the term plus-sized to begin with, as it sets women who are curvier or bigger boned and so on apart as somehow "different" than other women, a "special" category. That can't be good for self-esteem, especially for younger people, who are in the process of forming their identity and don't need a weight related label pushed on them.

    I think if we make it to a place where Ms. Renn is a model, plain and simple, and poses in spreads that are about the beautiful clothes and inspiring photography rather than her size, we may actually be getting somewhere.

  • Colleen

    I am conflicted about what "plus size" should be in reference to – i.e. "plus size" compared to what?

    Compared to the average person, she is not plus size. But does it ever make sense to compare models to regular folks? Aren't they supposed to be the tall, perfectly proportioned, aspirational versions of regular people? I do think that perfectly proportioned does not have to mean tiny/emaciated, but proportions are key in garment fit and I understand the industry need for standardization.

    Compared to models whose job is to fit a sample size 0, 2 or 4, she is plus size. Compared to an average woman 50 years ago, she is also plus size. But how do we choose the point of comparison?

    I deal with this myself as a hobbyist model, who has gone from regular person plus size (16) to modeling world plus size (8). It is definitely weird to lose 50 lbs. and STILL be called plus size. But when I see how samples are cut, or how most vintage (my preferred style) is cut, I understand that the reality is that a smaller person is easier to fit. When I do styling gigs, I prefer a smaller rather than bigger model, because it's easier to pin something in than let something out. There's a genuine practical issue there. I think the fashion industry takes it way too far in terms of how tiny girls must be, but I do understand the need for a reliable body shape and size when creating garments.

    It's a tough issue. But one thing I do know is that Ms. Renn is gorgeous and smart and I'm just glad I get to oogle her regularly :).

  • Denise

    "If they showed more realistic beauty we would feel less inspired to buy more products/clothes/shoes." I do think LBR is right in that this is what publishers of magazines believe: people want something to "aspire" to. In fact, this reason has been cited by Graydon Carter (editor of Vanity Fair) as the reason that "plus size" fashion magazines aren't successful: people do not aspire to be fat.

    But I also think that we've been trained to think this way. Recently I went to a fashion show put on by a local boutique, and as model after model went by with her very thin arms and legs, I couldn't help but think that if we were shown another type of body as relentlessly as we are this one, we'd think that that was the one to covet, no matter if it had some heft or weight to it.

    As for Crystal Renn, I'm sure she's lovely, but she's just this year's Kate Dillon, who was last year's Sophie Dahl. Or, as LHdM put it so well, these crumbs being thrown to us are like tic tacs to a whale.

    So, the question lies with us: do we really want to see diversity in beauty (and some might argue that there is NO beauty without diversity: remember Francis Bacon said "There is no beauty without some strangeness in its proportion") or do we want to "aspire" to be concentration camp thin and keep calling it healthy?

  • Barb

    As someone is a real plus-size, I've seen Crystal for years in advertising for Lane Bryant stores.

    She's beautiful because she isn't chicken-feet skinny. Sad that well-proportioned and not looking gaunt means "plus-sized."
    Unfortunately, I don't think we're making any long-term progress in seeing models and actresses who are allowed to be normal sizes.

  • Tina Z

    It does seem like it's becoming a novelty to feature this particular view of "real women". And don't mistake that it's anything but a restrictive view.

    I think of the fashion world's view on size as being eerily similar to racism or other forms of xenophobia. And this movement is more like a token act rather than one reflecting a genuine industry-wide push for change but hey, that's how it starts, right?

    It's hard to remember that the goal of fashion ultimately is to sell fashion. Not for everyone at all times, sure, but like all art, is it really art if no one wants it? That hard truth might ultimately explain the reluctance of fashion to change the use of rail thin models that highlight the clothes rather than themselves.

  • efitzo

    well i don't really care about the fashion industry, after all the vision of every designer is something rather personal, a form of personal expression or even some kind of art, so they can choose the way they present it.. when a model is unnaturally skinny walking a runway in designer clothes doesn't make her attractive, after all. however, our perception of beauty is certainly influenced by our environment, so a healthier attitude of the magazines and the fashion industry wouldn't hurt. Personally, being a bigger girl myself ( 5'11'', size 10-12), it's nice to see that other people find that size attractive too, it's not that i don't feel good with myself but there are moments i feel like i'm a giant 🙂

  • goingungracefully

    Thank you for articulating what has bothered me so very much about the Renn buzz. I don't wish to take anything away from her beauty or talent as a model, but she is NOT a plus-sized anything. To call her that is just downright offensive to me.

    I'm tall and slim, but apparently – according to the fashion industry – I am a giant, disgusting blob of fat at 5'9.5" and 140 pounds. What sort of twisted message is that?

    I've also seen the "plus sized" model photos where it is obvious to me that the model has either been padded or the photo distorted. I see plenty of truly beautiful, truly plus-sized women all around me. Why would they have to be so dishonest in the portrayal of women of all sizes?

    I don't understand it. I don't understand why people in that industry believe that emaciated figures show clothing better. I don't think they do at all.

    I understand that models are to represent an ideal – symmetrical features, hourglass figure, taller than average, and perhaps even slimmer than average. What I don't understand is why they are at such an extreme end of the spectrum and why that is considered better.

    I'm really pretty out of the loop on this. I'm not much of a fashion magazine consumer. I read InStyle and More, and the ads are often surprising and bothersome to me, but I've trained my eye not to see them. I tend to focus on the articles talking about trends, colors, accessories, and silhouettes.

    I've started to post a comment on this subject on your blog a number of times Sal, and I always give up because I start to ramble (as I am here) and I become so incredibly frustrated!

    I am 40 damn years old and I am ANGRY that it took me almost 40 years to be able to see my body in a mostly positive way.

    I am ANGRY when I see posts talking about "real" women that imply that very slim women with straight figures are somehow not real women.

    I am ANGRY when I see posts whooping it up about plus-sized super models who are NOT PLUS SIZED!

    I am ANGRY when I see posts that say that one simply can not wear X, Y or Z because they are a certain dress size or a certain age.

    I am ANGRY when I read that a male sportscaster publicly disparages a colleague based on her clothing choices.

    I am ANGRY when I see a designer cavalierly commenting that no one wants to see curvy women and that it's "… fat mothers with … chips … in front of the television" complaining about thin models.

    I am ANGRY when I read in the same article that a German magazine announces that it will only publish photographs of "real women," as though women with certain body types are NOT REAL WOMEN!!!

    I'm ANGRY Sal! I'm angry and I don't know what to do with this anger.

  • Denise

    "but I do understand the need for a reliable body shape and size when creating garments."

    If one is creating garments, couldn't they be created for any shape or size? Where is the law that says that garments must be created on this one body type only? Because it's easier? Smaller? Less challenging? Additionally, this comment implies there is some sort of standardized sizing going on, which we all know is absolutely not true.

    I might could agree with the argument that those designing haute couture can choose whatever models they like: very few, if any, of their clothes will ever make it into the average woman's closet. But if you hope to sell to the average women, you'd better know how to fit the average woman's body, size issues and challenges included.

  • futurelint

    This is why I read fashion blogs not fashion magazines… it's so much more interesting to see real, beautiful women wearing clothes than some airbrushed model… I like to see the runway shows, but I realize they are a fantasy world… the outfits, the ladies, they are not real world things (well, at least not in my world, I'm 5'3" and don't buy $3,000 dresses.) I hope the fashion world will accept more diverse sizes and ages, but it seems like it will be a long, slow process if it happens at all…

  • Rad_in_Broolyn

    I love Crystal Renn too. I think she might be the most beautiful woman in the world right now (but I am partial to brunettes for my girl crushes). Part of the reason why I think she's so amazing is she is obviously incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, conscious, and political in her approach to her career. And so honest.
    I feel similarly uncomfortable about the whole "plus sized" thing. The "Fashion" industry can be really sick sometimes, so I generally ignore it, but I do love all the attention that my girl Crystal is getting.

  • Christina F.

    Crystal Renn has been on my radar for a while now — that gal is smart and gorgeous,and I am thrilled that she is speaking out about size bias in the fashion industry.

    If Crystal is plus size, then I'll gladly count myself in. From where I sit, clothing sizes are just numbers and I've come to terms with that. I'm 5'5" and several years ago I wore 4s and now I'm usually a 12-14 on top and a 10 on the bottom. I'm older, I've had two kids, and I'm now shapely. I'm a Y shape with a tummy but I'm also able appreciate my lovely bosom, my cute tush and shapely legs.

    I watch what I eat and exercise but guess what? I've learned that it's unhealthy to beat myself up about how I look and I also need to set a good example of what a healthy body image is since I'm a mom. I say buy clothes that fit, be kind to yourself, project self-confidence and the gorgeousness will flow from there.

  • What Would a Nerd Wear

    hear hear! i think crystal renn is rad and absolutely gorgeous!!

  • Anonymous

    I am a 57 year old, 5'4", 160 pounds and a size 12,maybe a 10 on a good day, sometimes a 14, depending on the brand. While I agree that Ms. Renn is absolutely gorgeous, I also am a big fan of fashion magazines. I just simply do not consider the models to be "reality" but an art form, a vehicle to show the clothing and accessories. The fact is that skinny works with the clothes that are being produced by the designers. In a perfect world, maybe us normal women would be featured, but I suspect that's not going to happen. As an aside, I have never been thin, have always been curvy, and have always received compliments on my body and style. I do not think it is the responsibility of the fashion industry to validate us; it is our own responsibility to be happy with our own bodies. Sure, it's a challenge to find clothes that fit sometimes, but it is possible to look great no matter your size or shape. Celebrate who you are not your dress size – we are all beautiful!

  • Sal

    goingungracefully: I wish I had answers for you, lady, or recommendations for where to direct that anger. But I just don't. I feel like this issue is developing now into more of a conversation than an untouchable problem. But there's still a lot that needs to be hashed out.

  • Kat Astrophe

    I adore Crystal Renn too.

    But I think that it's important that celebrating women of all different shapes and sizes really becomes a celebration of EVERYONE. The current unrealistic beauty standard is very damaging, nobody will argue with that. Unfortunately, at the same time that there is overt hatred against bigger women, there is a huge backlash against thinner and smaller women.

    In my adult life, I have ranged from a size 4 to a size 16. When I eat an appropriate diet and get the recommended amount of exercise, I'm a size 6-8. When I was bigger (size 14-16), I would routinely be the object of hateful commentary, mostly from young men. They would hang out the windows of their cars, making moo-ing and barking sounds, or just yelling obscene slurs at me — especially when I was exercising! This is just unacceptable behavior.

    As a result of having made it a priority to eat a healthy diet and get adequate exercise, I now wear a much smaller size. Men don't yell stuff out their car windows at me anymore — now I find myself being verbally attacked by women, like the nurse at the doctor's office who looked at my medical chart, saw that my weight had decreased, looked at me and said "I hate you." Or how about the car-load of women larger than me, who screamed out of their car window "Eat something, skinny bitch!" and hurled their fast-food litter at me? Or my co-worker who told me that my lifestyle made her sick, that exercising and eating a healthy diet was anti-feminist, and that unless I got fatter "like the rest of us" I was a traitor to all women…. For the record, I am 5'4" and 135 pounds — not a waif by any means.

    For this reason, Toby Wollin's comment above disturbs me. What makes it okay to celebrate Crystal Renn's beauty while bashing Renee Zellweger for having visible clavicles? You can see my clavicles, too, and I'm certainly not starving or weak — I'm a well-nourished endurance athlete. If I was undernourished, I wouldn't be able to race in triathlons. Only she and her doctor know if she's clinically underweight or otherwise unhealthy. Women are in a double bind — we can have "a little meat on our bones" as long as we aren't "plus-sized," but god forbid we become "too skinny," because otherwise we aren't "real women" and become objects for pity and/or scorn. Why can't we just accept each other and all our different varieties of beauty?

  • Katherine

    I love Crystal Renn, but I think that they're overusing her in adverts and such for specifically plus size clothing. Lane Bryant, for instance, doesn't even sell size 12 clothing–they start at size 14–so, generally speaking, Crystal Renn doesn't really fit into their clothing line. Nevertheless, she's a "plus size model," so they want her on the front page of their website and catalogs. They end up clearly pinning back the clothes, etc. until they basically look nothing like the cut that you'll get in the store. At that point, she's not really modeling the same clothes that I'm buying, so why is she modeling them at all?

    I think that Crystal Renn is a fantastic model, and she should absolutely keep doing what she's doing. However, as a straight size 12 (plus sizes are cut completely differently, so she probably doesn't fit correctly into a 12W), she fits more into straight sizes–at least, here in the United States–so why on Earth is she being marketed as "plus"? I want to see the clothes I buy on someone who can actually fit into the clothing line, as well. Whitney Thompson's another example. She's great and seems like a lovely girl, but she barely fits into plus clothing without alterations, if at all, and I'd much rather see the clothes as they'd be in the store!

  • Anonymous

    This is my first time leaving a comment here. First, I love your blog- it is usually my morning break at work.
    Next,I enjoyed your post and all the comments here. I do like fashion and usually make sure I get the big mags in September and March. I mean no disrespect to anyone who commented here- many shared very personal things and I want to thank them for trusting us with it.
    But, with that said, I guess I'm too stubborn and Independent. I look at the magazines not to find myself represented there- but to see what's new. I'll look to see the trends, the shapes, colors, etc. Then decide if any of it will suit me- my coloring, body type, etc. I see it as a guide- certainly not real life. I can incorporate it in my wardrobe or not (although not the ACTUAL designer items). I refuse to have anyone but me define my normal.

  • pretty face

    I think she's amazing and sexy and fabulous. But you know what I think about her most recent career move. xx

  • Una

    Great post, Sal. I think the ultimate problem is that Fashion is, by definition, about exclusion and about constantly shifting the paradigm. For something to be "in", something else must be "out". After all, there's no financial gain in keeping the status quo. Thus, today's trends are destined to fall by the wayside, even as we embrace them.

    And this approach, sadly, applies to bodies as well. Not all of the things that are "out" or "in" at any given moment can be changed by a shopping trip. Being from India, I will never be pale-skinned or a blonde or tall, no matter how of the moment that look is. It's why I look at Fashion with a wary eye; I take what I like and leave the rest. I wish it could be different and hope the "plus-size" debate opens a door to that change.

  • Sal

    So many eye-opening and varied perspectives here, ladies. And, as always, HUGE thanks for being respectful and thoughtful when expressing your opinions about this decidedly emotional topic.

  • poet

    Great post, thanks for addressing this issue! I have to agree with commenter Rosie Unknown – a lot of those supposedly plus-sized models don't look much heavier than me, and I consider myself as curvy yet slim. (You probably have to take into account proportions, since I'm quite petite overall, but I wear a size 2 or 4 on most modern American-made vanity-sized clothes, size 7 or 8 on vintage stuff.) So they're basically just worsening the gap between reality and the Fashion world by labeling underweight models as the norm and slightly-slimmer-than-average models as plus-sized. Really?!
    On the other hand, (Toby Wollin, who should really think twice before making Holocaust references – I admit that some of those underweight models have reminded me of that, too, but as a commentary on the example photo it's clearly a misfit, and the subject as such should not be tossed around lightheartedly) "just" skinny doesn't necessarily equal underweight. My clavicles are showing too, and as I said, I'm healthily curvy.

  • Steph

    Crystal Renn is absolutely gorgeous. Her proportions are perfection, she has a classical beauty, and a definite presence. I hate the term "plus size" in general, but especially the way it is used in the fashion industry. I agree with so much of what others here have been saying, that I won't repeat or belabor the point. I'll only say that the industry's rabid and vicious "preference"–that's the only word I can come up with right now–for models who are essentially just walking clothes-hangers with the sole purpose of displaying a garment without interfering with its drape or fit (not to take away from their humanity) only showcases the laziness of fashion designers. It takes no talent or skill to design something that looks attractive on a stick-figure. You simply cannot be a very good designer if you can't fit a range of sizes and shapes. Period. This preference of the industry should not be a reflection on the value or beauty of the full range of natural female shapes and sizes, but because high fashion is so aspirational and because these designers who create aspirational garments prefer extremely thin models, it all gets mixed up in our sensitive minds. Instead of longing for the gorgeous designs (made to fit our real bodies), we long instead for the body that would allow us to wear those gorgeous designs, regardless of whether that is possible on an individual level. Now I love a good historical garment, and I own many corsets and enjoy the ease with which my body is made to conform to certain historical clothing styles. But things are different now. Styles are much different, and in general are designed to follow the body's natural lines, not mold the body into geometric shapes. Clothes should be made to fit the body. The body should not be made to fit the clothes. And we as modern women need to start putting our money where our minds and hearts are, and stop feeding the laziness of untalented designers. The high fashion world stopped being relevant in my eyes a long time ago, simply because I could never conceive of ever being able to wear any of the clothing I saw. So I stopped buying magazines that featured those kinds of fashion spreads or features. Instead, I now rely on wonderful style blogs like Sal's, Audi's and Angie's, as well as on my favorite shopping magazine Lucky (because the focus is on shopping and the fashion spreads are less esoteric).

  • Kristin

    Clearly, this is a touchy topic. And much like one or two other commenters, I've returned a couple of times while pondering my own take on the situation. I agree, Crystal Renn is fabulous, and she should not be pigeonholed as "plus-sized" … much like the runway models shouldn't be excluded from the realm of "real women". I have no experience with Fashion or the modeling industry, but I do know a share of healthy, vibrant women who possess the requisite height and measurements to be models who hate being repeatedly told to eat something. Labels are a dangerous territory to rely upon, and it's impossible to pass judgement on anyone's worth, value, or health based upon a snapshot image or their measurements. Increased presence of different body types on runways and in fashion mags point toward a more "realistic" representation of women in fashion, sure. Diversity is the key to the evolution of many a thing, just ask Darwin. But nothing's going to change quickly. I look forward to the day, however, when any person who is modeling a design, in print or on the catwalk, is referred to solely as a "model" – no other qualifiers necessary.

    As far as Fashion designers' choice in models go … I understand the "models as walking hangers" theory. I understand that cutting and styling smaller sizes might be profitably prudent. And I've also seen collections of designers who choose to diversify their models, not just cutting larger sizes, but actually designing for a different body shapes (I believe the Project Runway designer Korto Momolu is a great example) – so it's happening.

    It's only been through recent conscious effort when I look at photos of fashion collections that I've been seeing the clothes as pieces and ideas, rather than the glorification of the woman wearing them. Fashion designers, much like artists, musicians, writers, politicians, the guy talking to you on the bus etc. etc. can only control what they present to us, their audience. They cannot control how we react to what they put out. And so, I think the culmination of my ramblings here (sorry, thanks for sticking with me if you've made it this far), is that maybe we as the audience/consumers/society should learn how to view Fashion in a new way. As ideas and creativity to be taken as a representation of the designer, not as a reflection of how we're the wrong size, wrong shape, or being otherwise attacked and bombarded. Images are images, what we choose to think about them is entirely under our own control.

    And the cadence of the evolution drum rattles on …

  • Audi

    Well I hate to be contrary, particularly with you, Sal, but I feel I need to chime in with a slightly different viewpoint. While I agree that Renn is stunning and I am 100% supportive of fashion mags showing a variety of body types, I just have to wonder what's so terrible about being called a plus size if you are, in fact, plus sized? Why is it any more awful than being a petite size? It just is what it is.

    Just because Americans keep getting heavier isn't any reason to change the standards for clothing sizes or how we define terms such as "overweight" or "obese". As a scientist, I have to point out that those are standards created by the medical industry for what is considered healthy for an AVERAGE person. And while MANY people are perfectly healthy (and moreover, attractive and beautiful) even when medical science technically defines them as overweight, it doesn't mean we should throw out how we think about weight and health in general.

    Getting back to Renn, she is clearly not average by any stretch of the imagination. An average American woman is 5'4", whereas Renn is 5'9". A size 12 on her obviously looks a lot different than it would on an 'average' American female, and yet because a size 12 more frequently translates into someone who is proportionally a lot heavier for their height, she qualifies as a plus size. What's the problem, I ask? Do we really want clothing sizes to be on some sort of wacko sliding scale, making them even more mystifying than they already are?

    The problem, I think, is not the definition of Renn as a plus size, or even the fashion industry's wanting to make her appear bigger than she is; it's the fact that being called a plus size is somehow akin to being called a monster. We need to get over our outrage at definitions; obviously they're not accurate in every single case, but they're still a reasonably useful tool that allows, for instance, me to walk into a store and know that items with a particular number on the label are likely to fit me.

  • lisa

    @myedit: Crystal Renn appeared in an editorial spread in January 2010's Elle Canada. The magazine received a reader letter praising the fact that they just featured Renn point-blank and didn't feel compelled to point out she was a plus-sized model. And honestly, she looked GORGEOUS in that shoot! That face and those curves…

    Slightly off topic, but I find it interesting how there is so much focus on body diversity in popular media but not as much focus on facial diversity. I was watching an episode of the Tyra Banks show a couple weeks ago and she had little elementary school-aged girls on the show who were unhappy with their noses, their round cheeks, the shapes of their eyes, their skin tone. Tyra comforted them by finding examples of celebs and models who had similar features and were lauded for them. Watching the episode, I was reminded of how when I was younger it wasn't my body I was insecure about, but rather the shape of my mouth and my nose and the size of my eyes. While the fashion industry still has a long way to go in terms of body diversity, I do find its increased facial diversity to be a positive thing. What's considered a beautiful face is moving away from rigid cookie-cutter definitions (a nose must be shaped so, a mouth can only look like this), and I think that's so amazing. Let's hope bodily diversity will catch on!

  • wife2abadge

    I did read her book, and found it very absorbing. I think she is much more beautiful now than she was when she was underweight. The thing is, she is an acceptable fat person. One who is not too overweight (heck, does she even have an "overweight" BMI
    ?), and has a shaply figure. What if she had the same gorgeous face but wore a size 20 and had a large tummy? I doubt she would be the same sensation.

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    I have somewhat respectfully disagree with Audi. A size 12 is not a plus size. It is only "plus size" on the runway. I wear everything from a size 8 to a 14, but I have a BMI in the healthy "normal" range. Do most size 0 women? Many of them are in the underweight range. I have also seen several studies that suggest that much of our thinking about weight is flawed, that it is the people with slightly "overweight" or the upper end of "normal" BMIs that are healthier and happier.

    I am also cautious about assuming that weight is the best indicator of health, as it does not take into account muscle mass or bone structure.

  • Denise

    Steph, Nicely put!

  • A-C

    Late to the party again. . .

    I find quite funny that she's a size 12 but is a "plus-sized" model. Are these designers aware that clothes go well beyond a size 12? I mean REALL!?!?!