Over the last decade or so, due to the storm whipped up against the size zero culture that dominates cat walks across the world, the phrase ‘big is beautiful’ is not only heard more widely in the fashion industry but also with greater conviction. The significance of the phrase lies in the attempt to open our minds to alternative and more diverse conceptions of beauty. This has led to a gradual escalation of appreciation for the looks of curvier women, evident both in high-street shops – as well as specialised retail outlets like the burgeoning Heavenly Bodies Bridal – and major fashion houses.

Despite this, the fashion industry is still in the grips of the belief that skinnier is automatically prettier. On billboards, in adverts and on the front pages of magazines, slim women continue to dominate the world of beauty. There remains small opportunity for plus-sized models with the top fashion houses of Europe, however much they claim to be avant-garde. Similarly in high street shops the plus size section is often hidden in a distant corner of the floor.

Plus Size Fashion Week

There are however concrete signs of change. Winter 2013 saw the first ever London Plus Size Fashion Week. Both local and international designers and fashionistas descended upon the city in what became a larger event than both organisers and the media had expected. The week returned this year bigger and more beautiful. Split into four central focuses – retail, bridal, lingerie and slim wear, focusing on size 14 and up – true to form the week was once more celebrating diversity in size. Columnist and presenter Laura Puddy hosted discussion panels on diversity in the fashion industry and Hayley Hasselhoff opened the week calling for a greater respect and appreciation of non-skinny models.

Big Girl, You are Beautiful

The perception of beauty as innately slender is firmly ingrained in our culture. Trying to shift this was always to be a long slog. Women were wearing corsets for centuries and as recently as the 40’s and 50’s, iconic beauties of the silver screen such as Marilyn Monroe and Doris Day were wearing bodices to hold in their stomachs and accentuate their busts.

Gradually however, due to the sprawl and accessibility of the internet, previously underground or shunned trends are emerging into the light. As fashion site and distributor Peter Hahn write on their blog in response to Berlin Fashion Week, today, ‘current fashion trends have a more individual character. Previously there were rigorous fashion laws à la “The Devil Wears Prada”, but now, owing to the popular blogger culture, an exciting dynamic with a philosophy that really appeals […] is emerging.’

This can only be good news. By embracing a wide variety of figures, events like the London Plus Size Fashion Week are taking bold steps in shaking up the status quo of the fashion world and promoting bolder and more engaging conceptions of beauty.