'Real Life' Models Boost Fashion Mag Sales


The narrative of “plus-size” (translation: “normal-size”) models in the fashion industry has built to a fever-pitch in the past few years. Weight has been a powerful force for fashion magazines in particular, showing the ability to boost — or harm — major titles. There was the overwhelming reaction to Glamour‘s inclusion of model Lizzie Miller, shown happily nude at 5’11″ and 180 pounds, in the September 2009 issue.  Then 2010 brought a tempest for Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly, after she openly criticized overweight people on her blog. The retribution was harsh and swift.

At first, the presence of plus-sized models in magazines was dismissed as a gimmicky one-off.  But now, curvier models are making serious inroads in fashion publications — and their presence is bringing in dollars.  The British weekly magazine Look began regularly featuring heavier models five months ago, and watched their circulation drop a mere .5% in the second of half of 2010 (a period during which magazine sales in general fell precipitously).  The Guardian notes that Look, as well as two other women’s magazines that have chosen to permanently include non-models, all show successful numbers:

  • Brigitte (Germany) – up 4% in overall sales after discontinuing use of models altogether
  • Look (Britain) – down .5% in circulation
  • Essentials (Britain) – up 12.7% in circulation after instating only non-model covers (first non-model cover up 25% in sales)

The editors of these magazines stand behind their choice to use models who look like their readership: the readers love it, as do advertisers and retailers of mainstream fashion, says Ali Hall, the editor of Look.

Still, persuading high-end designers to change their ways remains the hard part — Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, once complained that the sample clothes she was given were so small that the magazine was forced to find rail-thin models just to fit into them.  And there was that nasty blind rumor making the internet rounds about a modeling agency that refused to let its so-called “good” girls be photographed with their plus-sized counterparts.

Money has a way of changing attitudes, and magazines — which are already feeling the pain of the recession and the transition to online media — are looking for ways to keep their product fresh.  French Elle, V magazine, and Glamour have all done much-lauded special issues using size 12 to 16 models.  And the designers Mark Fast and Jean-Paul Gaultier have had plus-size girls on their runways.

Most tellingly, The Guardian looks to Cambridge Ph.D. candidate Ben Barry’s study of 3,000 women, which showed that “the vast majority of women significantly increase purchase intentions when they see a model that reflects their age, size and race.” We’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

21 Responses to “'Real Life' Models Boost Fashion Mag Sales”

  1. Casey

    What about the in between. Magazines are featuring women who are a size 2 or a size 12, neither of which is a particularly healthy size for a woman of average height. So, what about sizes 4-10? Women, who, by any standard, would be considered to have a healthy physique. Why is this demographic being overlooked in favor of the extremes?

  2. plussize4you

    I am so glad to see a more accurate display of a womens natual “body image” shape and size being shown in the media and fashion industry.

  3. Blue

    I have a feeling that regardless of the weight of these models, they are all very tall. I am now a size 6, but I have been a 22, and at all sizes, the models are all tall. I agree with Casey, a range of healthy sizes, and heights (being short is not a health hazard as far as I know) is currently overlooked in favour of extremes.

  4. teresa

    I am happy to see the curvy wemen more in the public eye. Im also happy to see that more of the men are comming out there curvy closet. The curvy girls have more confidence in there selves. we been put down and talked about so much. Its our time now..

  5. josie

    Its a shame they even have to be labeled plus size. gorgeous any size I would love to see.

  6. Tina

    Great article, looking forward to seeing more plus size models and plus size models who are larger than a size 16. Let the curves continue to grace print magazine and high fashion!


  7. Alicia C

    It has been a lifelong dream of mine to model. To be able to have some sort of career would be the career equivalency of winning the lottery. Throughout my life I have been given very generous comments stating that I should look into it. I was unable to model while younger, as well as discouraged. I am a bit older now Yet I still look pretty damn good! toot toot! In addition I still have the natural body of a runway model. In the recent past the top agencies were pretty much Only looking for younger talent. I do believe that they are going to begin utilizing models that are older and many other individuals that do not fit the mold (so to speak!) Wishful thinking? quite possibly, yet I am pretty confident with stating that designers will be wanting an older more classic look in addition to the beautiful girls that fill the industry currently. Another plus for myself in the industry is forecasting trends. (I’m on a roll) My intent for writing this was with all honesty not to list all of my talents, yet to try to get someone, anyone to give me another shot at modeling. I live in the suburbs of Detroit which does not have any offerings for modeling that are even remotely legitimate. Any act of random kindness, a little bit of Industry power, if there is anyone who would be willing to do me this one favor, I would forever be greatful and in return will do whatever it is that I can do to help you out. I realize that I sound quite desparate, possibly pathetic, in addition to many other things that I will probably question after pressing the Submit Button! However, I actually would be quite a good fit. I am quite attractive, tall, thin, have a classic look and a pretty extensive knowledge of the Fashion Industry! I suppose you have to go out of your normal level of comfort and then some in order to get something that you truly want. I have been writing, contacting,etc. etc. yet to no avail thus far, so here is another attempt! To any designer, I will unquestionably be a huge commodity modeling your designs! Contact me ASAP before I am fully booked! Alicia email- [email protected] I Look Forward to hearing from all of you!!!(or someone.) Thank You!!!

  8. LUVV...Moment

    While it’s great to see bigger models getting work, when I look at fashion magazines, I look for a story a beautiful fantasy that takes me away. If I wanted to see “Real life” women I wouldn’t pay for a magazine I would just walk down the street it’s not that interesting, sorry. And I have been a size 6 before and hated it, because it just felt average.

  9. Joline Settlemire

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m making my way to the top as well. I definitely liked reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the tips coming. I enjoyed it

  10. Basler

    It’s great to see that larger women have a better place in the ‘spotlight’ now, placing a focus on super skinny models is unhealthy and causes too many young minds to turn away food in order to ‘look good’.


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