When I first read the headline for Tim Gunn’s op-ed on plus-size women and the fashion industry in The Washington Post yesterday, I nearly screamed for joy.
“Tim Gunn: Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women. It’s a disgrace.”
Hell yeah it is.
Gunn goes on to point out all the statistics that most plus-size women know — such as, the average American woman wears between a size 16 and 18. But my favorite stat, the one I can’t believe the majority of the fashion industry ignores — the money!
This is why I nearly screamed for joy reading this article because it’s high time someone besides a plus-size woman stood up for us and made these points clear. I would think that with that kind of money burning a hole in our pockets, waiting to be spent on clothing that’s as cool as, shaped as nicely as and with materials as luxurious as other straight-size women, that the industry would perk up and say, “ooh! They want to spend money on my styles!”
Gunn wrote: “There are100 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 as Gunn points out, most of the fashion industry still looks at plus-size shoppers with “disdain” — ugh! If that’s not the most snobby word ever, I don’t know what is! But that’s exactly how it feels. It feels like we are judged to be so not cool, that even though they’re missing out on a pile of money, they simply don’t want us wearing their clothes (Gunn reminds of the lovely Abercrombie & Fitch executive’s attitude about fat people, which I wrote about a while ago.)
Thankfully we do have brands that think highly of plus-sizes — such as Modcloth, Eloquii and Lane Bryant, though Gunn and I can disagree about their cropped pants because I love ’em. But it drives home his point that plus-size women need separates — we need skirts and pants and shorts and tops and blazers and outerwear. Dresses are great! But we need more than that.
I may disagree about Gunn’s taste here and there; I haven’t watch “Project Runway” in years because of the lack of representation, so I sadly missed Ashley Nell Tipton’s win — but what I’ve seen of her designs, I like. I think they’re fun! But as Gunn pointed out: “Simply making a nod toward inclusiveness is not enough.”
And this is the main point here. So some magazines have “body issues” and have one curvier woman who is probably still a size 8, not even plus-size. And once in a while a curvier model will (gasp!) walk on the high-fashion runways.
But this just is not enough. All women deserve to dress in a way that makes them feel confident and beautiful. We should have just as many options as other women do. Our money is the same as theirs — let us spend it!
Gunn ends his piece by noting that designers need to learn how to work with women of all shapes — it takes more than just sizing up, they have to consider fit for plus-size bodies just like they would for straight-size bodies. I applaud him for pointing this out — anything I have worn that was just “sized up” is usually boxy, unflattering and goes right back on the rack.
So thank you, Tim Gunn, for sticking up for us plus-size women. As the fashion world’s attention turns to New York Fashion Week, I hope your words will resonate with some.