By ROSIE WATERLAND
There are sacred rules in fashion. One can find them handwritten on an expensive piece of crisp white paper, locked in a glass case surrounded by candles in Anna Wintour’s office.
Some of the many, many rules include ‘Thou shalt mould one’s body to fit the clothes’ and ‘Thou shalt always wear sunglasses inside’, ‘Thou shalt not actually put ones’ arms in the arms of the jacket’ and ‘Thou shalt never smile when talking about anything, ever’.
You get the idea.
But the most important rule, the one underlined several times in fancy Calligraphy pens, is this: ‘At no time shall any influential designer ever create any fashion for plus-size women that isn’t laughably hideous.’
Designers, intent on only selling their clothes to one kind of woman, have embraced this rule with about as much gusto as someone who isn’t allowed to smile can manage.
Nobody in fashion is interested in going against these rules unless it’s for some kind of condescending ‘diffusion’ line, usually made with the same fabric old-timey drifters put all their stuff in and tied to the end of a stick they carried over their shoulder.
Which is why we should be jumping for freaking joy that somebody in fashion – and a very respected person in fashion at that – has spoken out against the assault on the eyes that is plus-size clothing.
Tim Gunn, most well-known as the design mentor on the US version of Project Runway, was chair of fashion design at the respected Parsons School of design for 25 years and is now chief creative officer at fashion brand Liz Claiborne. So, you know, he has some serious clout. Fashion people listen to what he has to say.
So it caused quite a stir when he recently said this to Huff Po:
“I’ve had my own moments in front of designers when I’ve actually said, ‘You know, there’s a market here for expanding your work, and here it is. And frankly, there are two markets: The women who are larger than the 12, and then there are women who are petite. And most designers that I talk to have absolutely no interest in addressing either of those populations, which I find repugnant.”
Tim Gunn just used the word ‘repugnant’ to describe how designers treat women who don’t fit a certain standard (and loving that he referred to petite women as well, who so often get left out of the diverse fashion debate).
And he wasn’t even finished! There’s more:
“Go to Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, I think it’s the eighth floor, and it’s just a department called ‘Woman.’ It’s rather devastating. You’ve never seen such hideous clothes in your entire life. I mean, it’s simply appalling. Thank God there are no windows on that floor, because if I were a size 18, I’d throw myself right out the window [after seeing those clothes]. It’s insulting what these designers do to these women.”
I’ve been to the Aussie equivalent of the ‘Woman’ department. It’s always hidden in the section with factory-seconds and orthopedic shoes, like the store is only offering it because Mum said they have to. Basically, a few animal/flower prints are stuck on a few t-shirts and plonked on a few coat hangers. Bam: plus/petite section.
Here’s a taste of what it’s like for bigger women, when they dare to go clothes shopping:
It’s depressing. And unfair.
Women under a size 6 and over a size 16 are people too. They deserve to take part in fashion just like everybody else. And, duh – this should be crazy obvious – THEY HAVE MONEY TO SPEND! If I found a real-life store that had amazing on-trend, good quality fashion in my size, I could easily keep that business alive on my own. Imagine what it would be like if all the fat girls turned up. Just sayin’ … $$$$.
Hearing that someone in fashion understands what it’s like for women who don’t fit into the very limited range of sizes deemed worthy for inspiration by designers…. Well, it’s bloody fantastic. It’s made my day.
Bravo Tim Gunn. Let’s just hope the right people take notice.