Size 14 model Ashley Graham made waves after landing the cover of the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, drawing attention to two universal truths—more women in this country wear a size 16 than a size 6, and they are both proud and beautiful.
So why are the vast majority of plus-size clothes so ugly?
In a recent piece, Tim Gunn, co-host of Project Runway, wrote for The Washington Post, and he said it’s not about a lack of demand.
Women who wear larger than a size 12 ask again and again: “How can I dress this shape and not look like a fullback?”
Plus-size women are increasing their spending on clothes. It’s clear there is money to be made here. So, why do so many designers max out at a size 12?
Gunn stated the overwhelming response from the majority of designers is dripping with disdain. “I’m not interested in her,” they say. Why? “I don’t want her wearing my clothes.” Why? “She won’t look the way that I want her to look.”
Others don’t even bother to hide their contempt. In 2009, Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld said: “No one wants to see curvy women” on the runway.
Plenty of mainstream retailers weren’t any more enlightened until fat shaming hurt their bottom line. Abercrombie and Fitch didn’t offer anything larger than a size 10 until their stock dropped for seven straight quarters.
CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jeffries, was forced to apologize for his statement explaining why A&F doesn’t offer clothes larger than a size 10.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely,” Jeffries said.
So if you’ve ever longed to buy one of Abercrombie’s shrunken polo shirts, micro-miniskirts or low-rise distressed jeans in anything larger than a size 10, you’re in luck. But you’ll have to go online to do it.
“Apparently, Abercrombie has standards. The ‘fat, uncool’ women cannot go into the stores. They can shop online, where they belong,” Huffington Post blogger Tony Posnanski quipped.
Abercrombie isn’t the first company to get into hot water for discrimination. Remember the Lululemon sheer-yoga pants recall? In 2013, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson went on record to say “some women’s bodies just don’t work” for his product.
After a backlash, he issued a wishy-washy apology.
Read on for more issues plaguing the “plus-size” fashion industry.
“Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing?” Gunn wrote. “Based on my experience shopping with plus-size women, it’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience.”
Consumers agree. Check out these eye-opening infographics put together by online retailer ModCloth based on a survey of 1,500 U.S. women aged 18 to 44.
All women agree that plus-size women are ignored, under-represented and excluded in the fashion industry as a whole.
In-store shopping is harder for plus-size women who describe the feeling as “frustrating.”
According to ModCloth, its plus-size shoppers place 20 percent more orders than its straight-size customers.
JC Penney launched a private label plus-size brand for women called Boutique+ earlier this year.
“The plus-size woman today is proud of who she is, and she wants a beautiful place to shop; it’s amazing the increase we got in sales during pilot tests by just making those changes,” said Siiri Dougherty, who oversees women’s apparel.
Gunn’s go-to retailer for women size 14 and up is Lane Bryant. “While the items aren’t fashion with a capital F, they are stylish,” Gunn said.
Some customers beg to differ and expressed their grievances with the brand in a Twitter chat with the hashtag #AskLaneBryant.
Tumblr blog “WTF, Plus Size Manufacturers?” is chockfull of both questionable and seriously ugly clothes and includes a plus-size Bingo board. Squares include “shapeless sack,” “elastic waist” and “online only.”
Curvy and looking for a better choice? Head over to http://www.eloquii.com for on-trend apparel in sizes 14-24. The over-the-knee boots with extended calf sizes were a big hit in 2015.
Gunn concludes curvy women’s bodies aren’t the problem—it’s the lack of choices and designers unwilling to expand their lines.
“I profoundly believe that women of every size can look good,” Gunn said.
But one size does NOT fit all.