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Sexy Size 16: The New American Woman Claims Her Curves

In the last decade, women’s body measurements in the U.S. have drastically changed. While the “average” size was a 14 in the early 2000s, the new average American woman is now a size 16 or 18, which falls at the low-end of what retailers consider “plus-size” clothing, according to a study in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education.

The new American woman is curvy, luscious, and fierce. I’m a size 16, but I don’t consider myself plus-size. Neither should you.

Here’s how we’ve taken back the runway and Hollywood.

Curves in All the Right Places

I started getting obsessed with size 16 fashion after realizing time and time again how hard it is to find stylish clothing when you’re a relatively tall and curvy adult female with an edgy, yet professional style.

Esquire
Esquire | Photo: James White

Back in the 1960s, American women averaged 5’3” at 140 lbs.; now the average height is 5’4” at 168 lbs. or more. But we’re not alone. If you’re curious what other size 16 women look like today, check out these pics.

To top it off, it turns out the Sexiest Woman Alive (as voted by Esquire in 2010) was “Mad Men” actress Christina Hendricks! That award has since been given to much more petite women, but I was excited that a curvier celebrity had her day as a cover girl.

It’s reported that Hendricks is 5’8” at 161 lbs. And as much as I wish I had her bodacious bod (her measurements are 38-28-37 inches), I’m an hourglass figure but with a slightly heavier bottom than top. That’s pretty common among adult women my age, but what about supermodels?

Role Models and Cover Girls

In 2016, American editorial and runway model Ashley Graham made global news when she was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue’s first plus-size cover girl. She had started her career years earlier as a Lane Bryant plus-size lingerie (a then-size 16 wearing a 38D bra). Now, she had been named Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year, one of Forbes’ coveted 30 Under 30, and one of PEOPLE magazine’s 25 Most Intriguing People of the Year.

At 5’9”, the gorgeous supermodel has 42-33.5-46.6 inch measurements (she’s a size 14) and wears size 10 shoes. As a former InStyle columnist (“Great Style Has No Size”) and a 2015 TED Talk featured speaker (“Plus Size? More Like My Size”), Graham is a spokesperson and a role model for curvy women to feel comfortable in our own skin. And now, she is launching her own women’s clothing line, BEYOND by Ashley Graham with DressBarn, for sizes 4-24, but focusing on sizes 14-22.

When it comes to Hollywood, other celebrities are following Graham’s lead. In fact, comedian and actress Melissa McCarthy is also launching a clothing line, Seven7, which will be sold in Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Lane Bryant stores and will feature a wide variety of sizes up to size 28.

Girls on Film

The recent trend of plus-size modeling is reaching further than just the runway and retails stores. It’s now also a focus of the film industry too. A Perfect 14, a documentary film about plus-size models, showing the need for diversity in the fashion industry and society’s distorted perception of body image, was released in international film festivals earlier this year.

While we may not have a better terminology for “plus-size” women right now, the truth is that there are more American women in sizes 14/16 and above than any other clothing size. And since we’re becoming the majority, my vote is to call us a sexy size 16. It’s time the fashion industry takes note!

While I can’t wait to watch this new documentary, you can watch the trailer above. And here is a fabulous takeaway quote from a model in the film.

“It’s important to love your body, because you have to live in it. It should be your world, your temple. It should be loved and respected and dressed glamorously.”

I couldn’t agree more!

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