Beauty is a social construction, but women are often not the ones in charge of its construction. In fashion, plus-size models must conform to an image created by fashion’s tastemakers, i.e., agents and designers. Ultimately, they must mold their bodies to fit an image, instead of being empowered in a way that allows them mold the image to fit their bodies.
As I wrote in Fashioning Fat:
I peeked behind the curtain and found women who yearned for a fashion authority to recognize their intelligence, confidence, and beauty. They wanted to change the way people thought about beauty, diversifying its definition to include curvy bodies. They championed for size acceptance. Ultimately, they remained voiceless dolls, dependent on agencies to direct their careers and clients to mold their image. Instead of challenge a social system that perpetuated preoccupation with the body, these plus-size models reified it. In order to succeed, they altered their bodies according to others’ specifications. If we want to seek out actors who challenge hegemonic beauty standards, we must look elsewhere. Instead of the objects in the billboards, we must look to the designers of those billboards.
So, who do you want in charge of beauty’s construction?