Tim Gunn is my dream husband, and I mean that in the old-fashioned marriage-of-convenience way, like the women who used to marry their gay BFFs. Tim and I would happily stay in and watch Game of Thrones (he would be upset about the violence, but he would stay for the dragons) and we would go shopping together all the time. We would make brunch and have the same taste in novels. It would be amazing. So, I’ve always loved Tim Gunn and whatever he has to say, it’s always going to be the truth. Gunn wrote a long-ass op-ed for the Washington Post to honor the beginning of New York Fashion Week. Well, “honor” is the wrong word. He’s actually slamming the sh-t out of all of the American designers showing their collections at NYFW because they’re consistently ignoring tens of millions of women just because those women are larger than a size 10. You can read the full piece here. Some of the best parts:
Fashion has turned its back on plus-sized women: “I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women. It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them.”
What designers say: “I’ve spoken to many designers and merchandisers about this. The overwhelming response is, “I’m not interested in her.” Why? “I don’t want her wearing my clothes.” Why? “She won’t look the way that I want her to look.” They say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult, that no two size 16s are alike. Some haven’t bothered to hide their contempt. “No one wants to see curvy women” on the runway, Karl Lagerfeld, head designer of Chanel, said in 2009. Plenty of mass retailers are no more enlightened: Under the tenure of chief executive Mike Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch sold nothing larger than a size 10, with Jeffries explaining that “we go after the attractive, all-American kid.”
How to change: “This a design failure and not a customer issue. There is no reason larger women can’t look just as fabulous as all other women. The key is the harmonious balance of silhouette, proportion and fit, regardless of size or shape. Designs need to be reconceived, not just sized up; it’s a matter of adjusting proportions. The textile changes, every seam changes. Done right, our clothing can create an optical illusion that helps us look taller and slimmer. Done wrong, and we look worse than if we were naked.
How demoralizing it is to shop while plus-sized: “Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing? Based on my experience shopping with plus-size women, it’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience. Half the items make the body look larger, with features like ruching, box pleats and shoulder pads. Pastels and large-scale prints and crazy pattern-mixing abound, all guaranteed to make you look infantile or like a float in a parade. Adding to this travesty is a major department-store chain that makes you walk under a marquee that reads “WOMAN.” What does that even imply? That a “woman” is anyone larger than a 12, and everyone else is a girl? It’s mind-boggling.”
Everything is dated: “Despite the huge financial potential of this market, many designers don’t want to address it. It’s not in their vocabulary. Today’s designers operate within paradigms that were established decades ago, including anachronistic sizing. (Consider the fashion show: It hasn’t changed in more than a century.) But this is now the shape of women in this nation, and designers need to wrap their minds around it. I profoundly believe that women of every size can look good. But they must be given choices. Separates — tops, bottoms — rather than single items like dresses or jumpsuits always work best for the purpose of fit. Larger women look great in clothes skimming the body, rather than hugging or cascading. There’s an art to doing this. Designers, make it work.
Is there such a thing as a Size-Ally? Because I think Tim Gunn is it. This issue has been discussed by celebrity women before, from Leslie Jones to Melissa McCarthy to Bryce Dallas Howard to Ashley Graham. And for the most part, those women were given some attention as oddities, as the exceptions to the rule. But no. This is how 100 million American women are treated by the fashion industry, and Size-Ally Tim Gunn is calling out those fashion bitches right and left. Bless him. I cosign everything he’s saying too – because of the size of my bust, I often have to look at plus-sized blouses/coats/etc and the choices just aren’t there. The fashion industry looks at 100 million American women as “not deserving” of cute clothes. And it sucks.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Fame/Flynet.