Why Elle Spain's Plus-Size Cover Girl Gives Us Hope

Haven’t heard of model Tara Lynn? Brace yourself, because the plus-size “it girl” just landed the November cover of Elle Spain, rocking black short-shorts, a black leather jacket, and a “hell yeah” attitude.

The cover line accompanying the image reads, "Mujer Real," or “Real Woman” in English. Shot by photographer Xavi Gordo, who has snapped celebrities such as Helena Christensen and Poppy Delevingne, Lynn is also featured in a seven-page inside editorial, modeling fall 2013 basics. She is shown sprawled on the floor wearing a little black dress, perched on a stool in a fitted trench coat and stilettos, showing leg in just a long-sleeved black shirt, and revealing her wild side in a leopard-print blouse.  

She's certainly not new to the world of fashion mags. Once dubbed “The Body” by French Elle (the magazine featured Lynn on its April 2010 cover and in a 20-page editorial spread), the Seattle-born beauty's résumé is impressive. While she’s never landed the cover of an American magazine, Lynn fronted H&M’s 2012 spring plus-size swimwear line “Big Is Beautiful” in which she lounged poolside wearing leopard-print one-piece bathing suits and sheer cover-ups. She's also graced the covers of Vogue Italia (June 2011) and V magazine (January 2010) and scored a blue jeans editorial in the August 2010 issue of Glamour.

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“The Elle Spain cover is a coup for curvy women, who are often excluded from the American fashion world or regulated to a special ‘curvy’ section,” Alissa Wilson, a fashion blogger at Stylish Curves, a plus-size fashion website, tells Yahoo Shine. “It’s in part, a business decision — the European fashion world has received lots of flak for using too-skinny models in the past, so their media has become more inclusive.”

In 2006, after public protest, Fashion Week Madrid imposed a ban on too-skinny models, turning away 30 percent of women who had participated in the previous year’s event, and even hired medics to monitor the women backstage. The ban received support from England and the mayor of Milan, Italy, considered following suit. Earlier this year, Israel instituted a similar ban. Vogue has made similar efforts — in May, 19 editors at Vogue editions around the world signed a pact, vowing to project a healthier image of models.

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“Lynn’s Elle Spain cover is a step in the right direction — she looks sexy and shows skin, but the stylists could have experimented more with bolder colors,” according to Wilson. “Lynn looks beautiful in leopard print, often considered a lazy, go-to pattern for designers who don't know how to dress curvy women. The truth is, leopard print can have a slimming effect."

Could the European fashion world set a firmer precedent for the United States? When it comes to plus-size fashion, there’s been muddled progress. This fall, Elle magazine featured curvy actress Melissa McCarthy on its annual “Women in Hollywood” November issue, which aims to highlight the year’s buzziest female celebrities. Unlike fellow cover stars Shailene Woodley and Marion Cotillard, who were clad in bra tops and swimsuits, McCarthy was wrapped in a wool and cashmere blue Marina Rinaldi coat, revealing only a glimpse of flesh on her décolletage. The cover triggered backlash from fans who claimed the magazine had tried to cover up the funny lady.

In June, Kate Upton landed the cover of Vogue — indicating that the fashion world was adopting a men’s magazine philosophy (fleshy, healthy-looking models), but the publication largely devoted the inside article to Upton’s exercise and eating habits. There have even been rumors that Vogue editor Wintour has approached actress Lena Dunham about appearing on the cover of the fashion bible. But we’ll have to wait and see.

“There’s a good chance that the fashion world will fully embrace the larger community if there’s a real demand for change,” says Wilson. “The blogosphere is exploding with plus-size fashion columns, and we’re seeing more role models like Robyn Lawley, Kate Upton, and Tara Lynn. However, only until the  industry works with more plus-size designers and fashion schools incorporate courses on designing for fuller figures, will we see true progress."
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