My book, Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling (New York University Press 2015), examines the standards of work and image production in the plus-sized model industry. Fashioning Fat takes us through a model’s day-to-day activities, first at open calls at modeling agencies and then through fashion shows and photo shoots.
I show us that the mission of many of these models is to challenge our standards of beauty that privilege the thin body; they show us that fat can be sexy. Many plus-size models do often succeed in overcoming years of self-loathing and shame over their bodies, yet, as I show, these women are not the ones in charge of beauty’s construction or dissemination.
At the corporate level, the fashion industry perpetuates their objectification. Plus-size models must conform to an image created by fashion’s tastemakers, as their bodies must fit within narrowly defined parameters of size and shape—an experience not too different from that of straight-sized models. Ultimately, plus-size models find that they are still molding their bodies to fit an image instead of molding an image of beauty to fit their bodies.
An Instructor’s Guide is available here.
“At once a sociological adventure and a moving personal voyage, Amanda Czerniawski’s striking study of plus-size modeling shows the intense aesthetic labor that disciplines the body and shapes the self. Engagingly written, Fashioning Fat addresses the sociologies of work and the professions, of gender and the body, as well as the emergent field of fat studies. Like all good ethnography, this one takes us to a new world and insists upon its connections to the worlds we know.”—Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, author of Word of Mouth: What We Talk About When We Talk About Food
“We need, she suggests, not models of different size and shape, but a more fundamental questioning of the fashion industry itself and its current domination of our conceptions of beauty, especially the beauty of women.”—First Things
“Sociology professor Czerniawski goes undercover as a plus-size model in this expose to find out the truth: is it empowering or exploitative to strut one’s size-14 (and up) self in front of the fashion industry’s cameras? The answer is as complicated and obscure as our relationship to food and our weight, since, as the author states, ‘Frankly, fat means different things to different people.’ […] The book’s personal asides and insider information are enlightening.” —Publishers Weekly
“Fashioning Fat is an excellent book and will make important contributions to fat studies and sociology…. an extremely interesting read.”—Esther Rothblum, co-editor of The Fat Studies Reader
“[H]er book is…honest, thoughtful and insightful.”—Pacific Standard
“Fashioning Fat is one woman’s courageous attempt to redefine beauty. It is a readable indictment of the American Fashion Industry. It is very well-argued and beautifully written.”—The Washington Book Review
“[…] Fashioning Fat is absolutely worth reading.”—XOVain.com
“Fashioning Fat does a great job at showing you how the gears work in the plus size modeling world from the model’s perspective”—PLUS Model Magazine
“Fashioning Fat is a well-written and thoughtful book that offers an interesting contribution to feminist understandings of the body. Czerniawski’s narrative writing style is engaging and accessible, making this book well suited for both undergraduate and graduate syllabi. It will be a valuable resource for scholars of gender, work, embodiment, sociology of culture, and the emerging field of fat studies.”—Kjerstin Gruys, author of Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year, for Gender & Society
“As consumers, we often do not get a chance to peek behind the scenes, but in sociologist Amanda M. Czerniawski’s book, Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling, she presents the front and backstage view of plus-size fashion in an industry that balks at structural change, especially when it affects the body. Czerniawski provides a fresh, often funny, and relatable dialogue through her ethnographic study… Her fresh and thoughtful writing goes beyond plus-size fashion into body politics, specifically in relation to agency and regulation.”—Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society
“In one of the first longer works about plus-size modeling, Czerniawski ‘goes native,’ using ethnographic methods to explore the meaning of ‘fat’ and ‘plus size,’ while also deeply outlining the ‘aesthetic labor process.’ The author interrogates the lives and actions of plus-size models, agents, and designers to assert that what happens behind the scenes is just as, if not more, important than what happens onstage… Fashioning Fat is a notable work that gives readers an inside look at the plus-size modeling industry. The author succeeds at giving the plus-size model a voice and offers some fashion alternatives.”—American Journal of Sociology