Tim Gunn, of Project Runway fame, wrote an article for The Washington Post yesterday that is pure genius and sticks it to designers who refuse to make clothes to fit American women.
The plus-size clothing market is ripe for BIG business. As Gunn writes:
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.
As I have said before, the reason many designers do not design for plus-size bodies is fear. Now, there are two dimensions of this fear: a fear of fat itself and a fear of failure to create flattering designs for plus bodies. Gunn also finds there is an undercurrent of contempt towards fat in fashion:
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.
Ultimately, the burden falls on designers to reevaluate their bias and fix the problem:
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.
Fortunately, there are signs of change in the design industry. A couple of years ago, plus-size legend Emme started the Fashion Without Limits program at Syracuse University. The goal is to train students to design fashion for full-figured women.
So, in the words of Tim Gunn, “designers, make it work.”