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Fashioning Fat

Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling

Amanda M. Czerniawski
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Fashioning Fat
    Book Description:

    For two and a half years, Amanda Czerniawski was a sociologist turned plus-size model. Journeying into a world where, as a size 10, she was not considered an average body type, but rather, for the fashion industry, "plus-sized," Czerniawski studied the standards of work and image production in the plus-sized model industry.Fashioning Fattakes us through a model's day-to-day activities, first at open calls at modeling agencies and then through the fashion shows and photo shoots. Czerniawski also interviewed 35 plus-size models about their lives in the world of fashion, bringing to life the strange contradictions of being an object of non-idealized beauty.

    Fashioning Fatshows 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 Czerniawski shows, 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. A much-needed behind-the-scenes look at this growing industry,Fashioning Fatis a fascinating, unique, and important contribution to our understanding of beauty.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6007-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 From Books to Looks: Journeying into Plus-Size Modeling
    (pp. 1-34)

    As the elevator doors opened, the onslaught of hip-hop music and refracted spotlights reminded me that I was far from my ivy-covered home in Morningside Heights. With a quick breath in and a slight adjustment of posture, I headed straight to the reception desk, where a young man tethered to the desk by a telephone headset greeted me. In between answering calls, he shoved a clipboard into my hands with a terse “Fill this out, and give me your photos,” and pointed toward the waiting area to my right.

    When confronted by a predator, wildlife experts recommend that you stand...

  5. 2 How to Become a Plus-Size Model
    (pp. 35-50)

    A week after the call from the assistant, I boarded a downtown subway to the modeling agency. As the subway car zipped past station after station, I clutched my bag in nervous anticipation of the meeting. My bag held the additional snapshots the agency had requested that my roommate took of me in a haphazard photo shoot in our living room a couple of days before. A flurry of thoughts filled the darkness of the underground—Will this meeting end like the last? Was this a foolhardy idea doomed to fail?

    When I emerged on street level from the depths...

  6. 3 Models of All (Plus) Sizes?
    (pp. 51-70)

    This work presents the changing nature of the plus-size model as produced by the cultural producers of the fashion industry. A major complication that needs to be addressed, though, is the existence of a vast range in meaning inscribed in the physical presence of “plus size.” Let us first examine the case of photographer and plus-size model, Velvet D’Amour. How is it that I, barely considered plus size by contemporary standards, fit into a plus-size category inhabited by a nearly three hundred-pound, size twenty-eight model? Was Velvet an outlier, or were the bodies of plus-size models dangerously “out of control”?...

  7. 4 Disciplining Corpulence through Aesthetic Labor
    (pp. 71-100)

    I arrived at the photographer’s New Jersey studio for my test shoot promptly at ten in the morning. I lugged bags filled with what I had deemed to be the most flattering and fashionable clothes from my closet and newly purchased shoes with “sexy, thin heels,” all hopeful contenders for the four outfits to be captured on film. The photographer, who also served as stylist and hairstylist, and her assistant greeted me with a smile and a hot beverage.

    While we waited for the makeup artist to arrive, I hung my clothes on a rack, carefully arranged into proposed outfits...

  8. 5 Agents as Gatekeepers of Fashion
    (pp. 101-128)

    When my proofs from the test shoot arrived, I was eager to choose which shots would be printed for my modeling portfolio and composite card. Originally, Bobby expressed his plan for choosing the images on his own; however, I was eager to see the results of my long day of posing and dressing up and insisted that I join him. I wanted my voice to be heard in the deliberations.

    Upon viewing the images through a photographer’s loop, I marveled at the results. As Bobby summarized, I photographed well—I successfully engaged in affective labor during the shoot and it...

  9. 6 Selling the Fat Body
    (pp. 129-158)

    Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” caused a stir in the summer of 2005 when it used real women who showed their curves in simple white bras and underwear to introduce its line of firming products. On billboards across the nation, the morning news program circuit, andThe Oprah Winfrey Show, these women flashed their pearly whites while showing off their rounded bellies and bottoms. Media critics heralded these unaltered and un-retouched images of women ranging from a size four to a size twelve (and not the typical size zero or size two of the fashion model) as a progressive move...

  10. 7 Stepping Out of the Plus-Size Looking Glass
    (pp. 159-172)

    I walked up the steps of “Fashion Hall” in midtown Manhattan. As workers literally rolled out the red carpet in preparation for the night’s main event, I scampered up the steps to seek shelter from the gentle drizzle. Once inside, I found myself in a gilded hall amidst a process of transformation, echoing one that I, too, was to undergo that afternoon. In four hours, I would walk down a fashion runway.

    As production staff dashed around, setting up chairs along the constructed runway, I headed to the rear of the hall toward the makeshift backstage area. Behind the partitions,...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 173-182)
    (pp. 183-196)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 197-204)
    (pp. 205-205)