“Big” Models in Fashion Today: Nancy Upton and the American Apparel Contest

In class, we discussed Nancy Upton’s spoof photos she submitted to the American Apparel “The Next Big Thing” campaign for “plus” sized models. The results came out yesterday, and apparently she won by a long shot. See her response from The Daily Beast in Newsweek.

Nancy Upton


Post submitted by: Elena Solomon


6 thoughts on ““Big” Models in Fashion Today: Nancy Upton and the American Apparel Contest

  1. I’m glad you linked the article from the Daily Beast on here! It was interesting to look at more of the pictures that she took/submitted for the “contest” – especially to see how she played with the ideas people have about “plus-size” women.

    I really liked how, in the article, she states that when she was asked why she decided to make a statement about American Apparel and not other brands whose marketing campaigns have made a push to target “plus-size” women, one of her comments against them is that their campaign conveys “The insinuation that the only way a fat girl could win a “beauty contest” was if a company with American Apparel’s street cred deemed it hip or fashionable.”

    I found this comment to be particularly interesting in relation to some of the things we discussed in class, especially in regard to the processes involved in making “unfashionable” things “fashionable”. It is interesting to think of this in terms of bodies. Here, it is not only trucker hats (for example) that are being re-contextualized in order to become fashionable, instead, it is an actual body type.

    I suppose it is not an exact parallel to the examples from class, since it is more difficult, probably, to change the ideas our culture associates with different types of bodies, but I think it is interesting to consider.

  2. This American Apparel Contest is a definate example of what bodies are right and wrong within certain environments and contexts. Within the fashion industry a body that is not thin is often viewed as wrong or unacceptable. In the past American Apparel did not cater to individuals that are larger, but because they are lauching a new XL line they want to include those with larger bodies. The larger body of Nancy is accepted in the contest because of the context. Although Nancy’s intentions were meant to be humourous, the statement it makes is very significant. The larger body of Nancy is not significant within the norm clothing line offered by American Apparel. It only becomes a factor when it is placed in its own catergory. It is only accepted within its on catergory, but seperate from the normal thin body.

  3. Although I commend American Apparel for making more of an effort than most clothing stores to put the spotlight on plus-size models, I think it is unfortunate that it had to be done in this way. I think that in order for the fashion industry to finally get over the anorexic-looking models it needs to integrate real women into their advertisements and fashion runways.
    However, I think in order to have a real impact in the plus-size model world, it would have made a greater statement to have had a competition for plus-size models but in a more serious tone. I think that it is unfortunate that a plus-size model can only gain attention through humor. Although I think the model’s mockery of the modeling world is both amusing and spot-on, I think that the message might not have been completely absorbed by people who were not analyzing the competition. In order to put plus-sized models and the rest of the modeling industry on the same playing field, they should have promoted the beauty of every woman, including plus-sized models instead of using humor for the winning model. By differentiating plus-sized models from the rest of the models, it makes plus-sized models the “other” in the modeling world.

  4. I really like the concept of this shoot. This season on America’s Next Top Model, the models did a similar shoot. Of course it did not have the same meaning of subliminal message but it did challenge the norm of “pretty.” I think that this a very bold concept and challenges society and its norms head on! It is definitely a conversation starter.

  5. If the purpose of this article is to make plus sized women feel better about being in the industry, then this was definitely was not the way to do so. If i was a plus sized women, I would feel ashamed and embarrased. I think this is mockery at its finest. All plus sized women are not that way because they eat a lot and I think that it is offensice to depict them as so. I do repspect American Apparel for trying to give plus sized women a chance in the “spot light” but I feel like it could have been done another way. How often are skinnier models taking photo shoots depicting anorexia or bulimeia? I understand that this was suppose to be humorous more than it is to be a form of mockery, but personally to me, it’s offensive and I am not a fan.

  6. I really do not know how I feel about this article. I feel that there are many ideas that are right and wrong here. I commend American Apparel for attempting to include plus size models but I feel like this sudden attention placed on this women is not being done genuinely. I truly believe we are only doing this as many constantly attack (and rightfully so) the media that portrays women needing to be thin and to a certain standard.

    I think this idea of needing plus size women in the fashion industry to be almost politically correct is wrong. Jumping from double 0 dress size to a 12 or 14 is huge. I think America needs to phase in this idea that big is beautiful rather than forcing it in a manner that does not feel real. I wish they would take the time to adjust their advertisement and maybe feature people like Demi Lovato who for one have body image issues and publicly address them as well as she is an average girl that’s probably a size 6. When I look at her, I think of myself and many friends. We’re not perfect at a size 0 but we’re not what’s overweight either.

    I truly want the media to change but I wish it could be done it a phasing period and that the media acts like they really want to see average people.

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