Tim Gunn Stands Up For The Plus-size Woman

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!

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).”


photo: David Torcivia via Flickr

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!”

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.

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