While campaigns, catwalks and magazines used prescribe a certain body type, curve models have become more popular than ever before. With the shift of beauty ‘standards’, there’s finally room for models with different backgrounds, shapes, sizes and religions – reflecting a more realistic population. Let’s talk you through a quick lesson about curve models – from their sizes to how becoming one and the biggest players in the industry.
Cover photo: © Pexels
What is a curve model?
Agencies who used to work with ‘plus size’ models, most often refer to ‘curve’ models nowadays. Curve doesn’t only sound a little kinder, it’s also more inclusive. Curve can imply all types of bodies: from slim bodies with a bigger bust or bum to the formerly known plus size ones.
The term ‘inbetweenie‘ has been used a lot as well. It refers to models who aren’t plus size, nor ‘straight’ size (size zero to two or four). ‘Life’ sized is also used every now and then, to emphasize the fact that curve models are actually average sized.
Curve models of the moment
Being qualified as ‘plus sized’ sits below the average size of women in many countries. For example, the average clothing size in the US is 16 – 18. On the other side, Crystal Renn – among others – has been grateful for the term, since it has opened doors for curvier models. And with success. The recent Spring/Summer season showed how curve models can equally be part of runway shows as well as straight size models. Find out the most successful curve models of our time below.
Dutch curve model Jill Kortleve faced a bumpy start of her modeling career. Starting modeling at a young age, she always pushed herself harder to eat less and to become thinner. One day, she couldn’t do it any longer. She told her agent she wanted to stop modeling and things had to change. Her agency, Milk Model Management, reacted very kind and they decided to go on as a team. Since then, Kortleve’s attitude towards herself changed tremendously. Her appearance altered as well, when she started to eat whatever she likes. Clients noticed this positive change as well. Since Kortleve made the shift to being a ‘curve model, she did campaigns for big names such as H&M, Alexander McQueen and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. The cherry on the pie has to be the show she walked for Chanel, where she was the first curve model ever to walk the runway for this fashion house.
Headhunted by beauty guru Pat McGrath on Instagram, Paloma Elsesser has become a big name in the modeling industry. She has been modeling in campaigns for Proenza Schouler, Fenty Beauty and Glossier – among many others. The New York supermodel has made history at Lanvin and Fendi, being one of the first curve models to enter their runways.
London-born and New York-based model Alva Claire made fashion history at Versace’s Spring/Summer 2021 show and has been in demand ever since. However, until ten years ago – when she started modeling – the curve model always assumed the modeling industry wasn’t for her, due to the lack of diverse body types. In 2009, Mark Fast sent three curve models down his runway; quite controversial at that time. It gave Claire the confidence to make a move in the modeling industry as well. Since then she has walked shows for Savage x Fenty, Versace and many others.
Claire is a strong advocate of increasing size diversity within the fashion industry. “It shouldn’t be a gimmick, but part of every casting,” she told British Vogue. Seeing yourself represented within every industry, from fashion to politics, is important for self-esteem. Therefore, Claire isn’t afraid to speak up.
In 2016, Precious Lee made name by becoming the first curve model to appear in Sport’s Illustrated Swimwear Edition. Since then, she has been modeling for Zara, Skims, Marc Jacobs, Versace, Miu Miu and appearing on the cover of Vogue Italia – a true prestige.
Danielle van Grondelle
Scouted when she was a fourteen-year-old, Danielle van Grondelle was told she wasn’t small enough. A period of dieting and crying at her modeling agency’s measurement moments followed. Her parents always had her back, though. They assured her the fashion industry once would be centred around ‘bigger’ girls. And that became true; while ‘straight’ size is still the norm, there’s become much more space for models like Van Grondelle. Van Grondelle took her space at Marni, MM6 Maison Margiela and many magazines.
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Canadian curve model Ariish Wol took matters into her own hands. As she looked up curve model agencies, she choose a day of the week to go agency hunting. She started at Folio, which successfully became her mother agency. Soon after signing, Wol was booked by Vogue Italia. While super nervous, it confirmed she was “clearly doing something right”. And that’s true; since then she’s worked for American Vogue, Molly Goddard, i_D, Mugler and British Vogue. Her resumé only gets more impressive every day.
Crystal Renn is one of the most well known curve models. Starting as a straight size model at age fourteen, Renn had moderate success. When she re-entered the industry as a curve model years later, she soon became one of the best-paid plus size models in the industry. Renn made history at Chanel – being the first curve model to ever enter the runway for the Parisian fashion house in 2011 – and worked for Jean Paul Gaultier, Zac Posen, Vogue US and Harper’s Bazaar US.
Ashley Graham got her big break when appearing on Sport Illustrated Swimwear cover in 2016. Before this cover series, she had been modeling for over a decade, mainly as part of catalogues and teen magazines. She has grown to being the highest paid curve model of the moment, earning $5.5 to $10 million a year. She has walked the runway for practically every major fashion house around the world.