I bet you read the title and thought this was going to be a whine about ill-fitting garments and styles not designed to flatter and blah blah blah. Wrong! This post is a cry for help. A cry of despair. A cry for proud, UK-based vintage reproduction brands to listen up and take note! P.S, the illustration above me is Hilda. She was the creation of illustrator Duane Bryers, and was one of the only atypical plus-sized pin-up queens to grace the pages of American calendars from the 1950s up until the early 1980s. Go and google her, she’s adorable!
The reason this post is focusing on British based vintage/repro brands, is because I know I can’t change the entire plus-size fashion industry. The vintage/repro business is relatively small but extremely popular. If these brands listened and took the next step to promote more diverse plus-size models, the success would be glaringly clear and hopefully show the high street/designer fashion industry a thing or two. As well as this, I find it almost offensive when brands use a non-alternative/pinup model to sell their rockabilly/gothic/vintage ranges. At the end of the day, their primary market is generally vintage enthusiasts, possibly tattooed, with wonderfully interesting hair and makeup. We deserve more than a plain blonde who’s had some red lipstick slapped on to make her ‘vintage’. It actually costs a lot of money to look glamorously alternative! Regular maintenance of hair, nails, makeup and skincare is how you achieve the pinup look.
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of plus-size love and celebration for British-based vintage reproduction companies. This is great, as these brands need this kind of feedback to continue to produce and expand their plus-size ranges. Most of them have fit models who provide feedback on the cut and fit on a larger frame, which is a very important job. A lot of plus-size girls will be able to tell when a garment has simply had 2 inches added either side: usually it won’t cover your bum! Companies have begun to realise that a larger frame often needs a longer length in the body or skirt to skim over voluptuous chests, bums and tums. Products are becoming better quality, with less of the dreaded elasticated panels and more tailoring. This is all a wonderful step forward.
Having said this…
The websites I’m going to mention in this post all feature more than one model. I appreciate that the use of different models can point to a variety of answers. Maybe they were shot on different days? Maybe the casting agent couldn’t choose between them? Maybe they choose a new model each season? Maybe they wanted more diversi…oh wait… all the models used are the same size and don’t give any more interpretation as to how the garment will fit on a body over a UK size 12. This might be acceptable for a brand that stops at a UK 16. But what about when that brand publicly advertise their ranges of plus-size clothing? What about when they extend their sizing to include a UK size 26? Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but a plus-size woman is not quite going to get perspective on an item modelled by a size 10.
Of course, there are some vintage reproduction brands featuring more diversity in their product shots. Specifically, brands that are using a plus-size model alongside their petite/standard size model to display how the products look on a more voluptuous frame. I’ve seen gorgeous photos of the more petite and plus size model together, proving that the design can flatter so many shapes and sizes. For me, this prevents the brand from alienating a large portion of their customer base. It also helps girls feel inspired and less afraid to try a new shape if they can relate to the model’s proportions. Here’s an example of Hell Bunny’s latest campaign where they have used non plus-size models alongside their plus-size model. Isn’t it gorgeous?
I absolutely love is when a website features a detail to the side of the photo such as ‘Our model Sarah is 5’8″ and wearing a size 16’. Even if those proportions are nowhere near my own, I’m immediately given an idea of the length of the item, how it sits on the body and even just using the model’s name makes the whole buying experience more enjoyable. Scarlett & Jo are a fantastic example for this. For many items, they have used at least 2 models of different height and dress size. They feature tall and petite models alongside their specialist ranges, and even introduced a group of bloggers in one of their collections, featuring women up to a UK size 32! Previous bouts of negative customer service have dented the brand’s reputation somewhat, but I genuinely feel they are turning over a new leaf. Their latest range of party dresses are to die for, especially this little slinky lurex number! This dress ticks all my boxes: sparkles, fitted waist, full skirt and that ruffle feature with the dainty sleeves. I would style this up with some art deco style dangly earrings and finger waves in my hair.
Here is what this niche industry is doing right at the moment: George. George is a UK size 18 and 5’6″ tall. I doubt any of you will not have heard of her or seen her, but if not, go check her out! She is beautiful, sweet, hilarious and talented. Her blog has touched thousands and her personality shines through on all her social media platforms. The thing is, she has incredible proportions and makes most designs actually look better. With her tiny waist and wonderful bum and boobs, she’s a true hourglass shape, which is particularly flattered by vintage styles. It’s great to see a plus-size model with personality. She also has visible tattoos and rocks the vintage look, so she’s been particularly popular with vintage/repro brands. She’s now modelled for Collectif, Hell Bunny, Lady V London (whom she collaborated with for Lady Voluptuous), Voodoo Vixen, Scarlett & Jo, The Big Tights Company and many more. She works very hard, and explains how in her post here. George is everywhere at the moment, and personally I love her!
George is proof that there can be success as an un-signed plus-size model when you can prove you are professional. There are many girls, including myself, that aim for that achievement. I understand that to be a model there needs to be a level of commercial interest in your look. George’s high standards and immaculate grooming prove that! She looks breezy and carefree in Simply Be, yet vampy in Hell Bunny. She’s a plus-size idol to so many girls, and she deserves that title. Like I said, I truly celebrate her success. Do not read into this post and think that I’m trying to boot George. I just wish she wasn’t alone in so many of the campaigns she works on.
The thing is, if people were looking closely, it seems as though George is actually the only one of her kind. You could be forgiven for thinking a Collectif dress and a Voodoo Vixen dress were by the same company. It does beg the question: when are these brands going to use more models? To make the most of a model like George, I feel using someone taller or bigger in dress size alongside her would truly sell the garment to women who don’t believe they can suit the pinup look. For instance, check out that product shot of Hell Bunny I used further up on this post. Why were there two non plus-size models, then only one plus-size? There are many commercial size 22+ models available, and especially in the alternative/pinup market. I just hope that vintage/repro brands now broaden their horizons.
I feel it is fair of me to make these remarks. You may realise by now that most vintage/repro brands are not exactly cheap. If I am prepared to pay over £50 a dress, it’s time I was able to make these demands. My reasoning is also based on the brand that has got it right:
This website is kind of the holy grail for pinup girls. Based in the USA, since 1999 they have specialised in the highest quality vintage inspired fashion for women of every size. They have inspired body positive hashtags, magazine spreads, and truly live for their motto: Couture for Every Body!
If you click on the Plus-Size menu on their website, something magical happens. You are offered pages and pages of stylish, quality product shots. These feature women from a UK 16 right up to a UK 24 I believe. They use multiple plus-size models, all with unique and beautiful shapes. I’ve counted at least twenty models from their current selection. Twenty plus-size models. Twenty. Beautiful. Diverse. Interesting. Plus-size models.
Above is the kind of beautiful image I’ve come to expect from plus-size brands on their social media. Not because they have actually used a model over a UK size 18, oh no no. God forbid they actually had a fat woman selling fat clothes, proudly posing with her fat arms on her fat legs. This is because usually an accomplished plus-size blogger who is a size 22+ has taken some semi-professional pictures of a well-planned outfit, which has then been used by the brand and reposted all over their social media with empowering quotes like ‘isn’t our babe ___ rocking this look?’. Kind of a horrible catch 22, if you ask me. The only time I’ve seen UK plus-size brands actually use models over a size 20 is when they have a special campaign about ‘self love’ or ‘being yourself’, and this tends to use celebrities or bloggers rather than professional models. Don’t get me wrong, there are some hot as fuck plus-size bloggers out there who I feel could model, but only if it’s truly what they want and they are professional enough to be paid accordingly.
In fact, the above picture is an actual product shot from the website, featuring model Sydney Sparkles. This brand chose to advertise this dress on a UK size 24 model. It’s because she looks incredible, and she’s selling it to fellow plus-size pinups. If that isn’t empowering, I don’t know what is. To me, Sydney is a true pinup. A woman who lives and breathes this glamorous style. She makes me want to glam up, change my hair, adapt to this wonderful look she is living for. Look how sassy she is!
Here’s another Pinup Girl Clothing hottie: Teer Wayde. She is 5’8″ and a UK size 16.
Teer Wayde is an Australian based plus-size model and blogger. She’s blessed with out-of-this-world curves, and emulates that hourglass femme fatale look perfectly. I could stare at her pictures for hours, and she regularly inspires me. If Teer was used in every product shot on the plus-size section of the Pinup Girl website, I would feel that the clothes required an unrealistic set of curves that not many girls posess. Thankfully, this is not how Pinup Girl Clothing operate, and they feature Sydney Sparkles alongside size 16 Teer Wayde. This involves all the dress sizes the company provides. This is truly #coutureforeverybody.
While we are here, let me show you more of the Pinup Girl Clothing plus-size models.
Rhapsody Artajo, UK size 24. Feeling her oats. That VBO being proudly displayed will help thousands of women accept themselves and dare to try a product like this.
Kelsey Olson, UK size 18. Kelsey is regularly featured on the PUG website, and I adore that she doesn’t fit the bill of ‘hourglass’ shape. She often has visible backrolls just like mine, and shows that this style of clothing accentuates a shape you may not be born with. Shameless plug: read this if you are questioning your body shape!
Now do you see why I feel it is fair of me to want more? So listen up Hell Bunny, Lindy Bop, Voodoo Vixen and Collectif etc. This is easily achievable. I’m not saying that everyone has the budget to do location shoots with 18 models and multiple HMUAs. Many alternative models are in fact trained in makeup artistry and hair themselves. Too many years of practice go into professional pinup hair and makeup! Don’t waste this!
If you offer your clothing up to a UK size 26 or further, we deserve to see what it looks like. To me, if you don’t use a plus-size model on your website, it leads me to believe that you think your clothing doesn’t fit plus-sizes correctly. I hate to name a shame, as I’m a loyal customer, but Lindy Bop do not have any visible support for plus-sizes on their website. Bloggers have done their work for them. But we deserve those beautiful product shots. I do not feel a lust for this product when I see this:
I see a non-alternative model making a cute dress look boring. We are given no information about the model’s height and dress size, but it’s pretty obvious it isn’t going to look like this on size 22 me. A UK size 10 girl who is into the vintage/repro style pretty much knows how this dress will look on her already. We’ve seen this a thousand times! If you offer one dress in 8 colours and prints, why not feature some other models in the other varieties? We don’t need to see the same model copied and pasted with the same dress in different colours.
Lindy Bop have the UK plus-size pinup market in its grip. We love you! We love your new designs, affordability and regular offers. I will continue to be loyal, and will feature my Lindy Bop purchases on this blog very soon! But we will begin to slip through your fingers if you don’t take note of what we are crying out for. This goes for all the UK Based alternative/vintage/repro brands out there.
Help us represent this beautiful culture properly.
Love, your proud, size 22, plus-size pinup girl