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September 9, 2016 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Tim Gunn: Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women. It’s a disgrace.

In the fashion industry, plus-size refers to models who are US size 8 and above. But most clothing stores don't start their plus sizing until size 16 or higher.

Katelyn Lilly writes about the problem she has with the way the fashion industry labels and separates plus-sized clothing, saying, "Separating clothes by body type overtly continues a cycle of internal misogyny and pitting women against each other. The separation of clothes physically separates women when they shop, both online and in-store."

From RetailDive: Hana Ben-Shabat (a partner in the retail practice of global strategy and management consulting firm A.T. Kearney) says that the average size of women in U.S. is approximately 14; research from Washington State University assistant professor Deborah Christel suggests that number might be as high as size 16 to 18. Ben-Shabat says that the current U.S. population, size-wise, doesn’t resemble previously established standards, which is creating a dearth of options. “We’re finding ourselves in a situation where there’s a big part of the population that’s being ignored,” she said.

7 Plus Size Fashion Issues That Still Need To Be Addressed Because Inclusivity Doesn't Always Mean Equality

The 22 Most Frustrating Things About Being A Plus-Size Shopper


Are Plus-Size Women the Problem With Plus-Size Fashion?

Wikipedia entry on plus sized clothing, including plus sizing from around the world.

Related, previously:

Chubiiline

what happened when i wore a low-rise bikini

The Rise of the 'In-Between' Model

More Than Just The Next Big Thing


Marie Claire keeps it "real"

Real life invades fashion land
posted by cooker girl (134 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was totally going to post this, but was waiting out my 24 hours. Anyway, your post is much better than mine would have been.

Tim Gunn's article is EXCELLENT. I especially respect how he called out Project Runway, which is responsible for much f his fame and livelihood.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:04 AM on September 9, 2016 [32 favorites]


Truly inspiring. I love Tim Gunn.
posted by asavage at 8:16 AM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Tim Gunn's article is bullshit. It's an easy way to get credit without actually having to do anything or risk anything. If he cares so much, he should push for every week using models of average size instead of just the one episode.
posted by jeather at 8:18 AM on September 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Maybe Tim Gunn cares about additional issues, also.
posted by amtho at 8:21 AM on September 9, 2016 [40 favorites]


I'm sure he cares about a lot of things, but it's easy to say you care and hard to put yourself out and do anything. He doesn't have total control over PR, but he certainly has power.
posted by jeather at 8:25 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Done right, our clothing can create an optical illusion that helps us look taller and slimmer. Done wrong, and we look worse than if we were naked.

Clothing can be 'done right' and make people of any size and shape look and feel fabulous without the goal being to 'look taller and slimmer.'
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:26 AM on September 9, 2016 [46 favorites]


The reasons designers shun anyone who's not super-thin seem to be:

1. Fat women, ugh! So gross.
2. A woman with any curves or body fat whatsoever is tooo haaaard to design for.

Thus providing yet another case against the idea that capitalism can solve problems of discrimination. The women are there, they have money to spend and a desire to spend it.

But the prejudice of the people in the industry means that money gets left on the table.
posted by emjaybee at 8:27 AM on September 9, 2016 [46 favorites]


Tim Gunn has, in the past on PR, made some comments that were less than flattering to plus-size women. (Admittedly, that show is a body-image minefield.) So I'm glad if he's chosen to take up this position now, but I wouldn't mind a little more mea culpa in there.
posted by praemunire at 8:33 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thus providing yet another case against the idea that capitalism can solve problems of discrimination. The women are there, they have money to spend and a desire to spend it.

Very true. I'm a larger man, and my wife and I are built pretty similarly. There's a wealth of options for me, and I honestly love buying clothes. I can find stuff I like, that I like the look of, and which fits me well. It's not in a special store, it's not in a special section (this isn't true for all men, obviously) For her, finding anything that fits and looks good is a challenge and she hates it. It's awful for her. I spend A LOT more money on clothes than she does,* money that's basically being left on the table by stores that could have it, if only they tried, but they don't.

*Or did, pre-baby. I'm taking a little break from buying too much until I stop living with someone who'll spit up on stuff that needs dry cleaning.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:33 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Done right, our clothing can create an optical illusion that helps us look taller and slimmer. Done wrong, and we look worse than if we were naked.

but please avoid the cropped pants — always a no-no for any woman

Liiiiiike I respect the effort of this piece generally but even here, a double bind. Don't cropped pants make you look taller? They do. I'm wearing some right now. And I have an extremely uneasy relationship with dressing to look taller and slimmer! But I needed new jeans this summer and my choices were cropped or wide leg.
posted by clavicle at 8:34 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have never understood designers whose choice is to not make a ton of money? Clothing is mandatory, money is exchanged for clothing, why subtract yourself? It is difficult to understand contempt for women that exceeds greed.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:34 AM on September 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


I have never understood designers whose choice is to not make a ton of money? Clothing is mandatory, money is exchanged for clothing, why subtract yourself? It is difficult to understand contempt for women that exceeds greed.

Never underestimate Karl Lagerfeld's ability to be a hateful sack of shit.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:37 AM on September 9, 2016 [55 favorites]


The separation of clothes physically separates women when they shop

I agree that the explicit demarcation of regular vs plus size can be a problem, especially when what is actually typical (so-called plus size) is presented as unusual or, by implication, irregular. But there are legitimate reasons why some stores might only carry a certain size range, whether larger or smaller. Retail space is expensive, and if every store had to carry a full range of sizes for every product, either the shelves and racks would overflow or stores would only carry a narrow range of products, which would be a very risky inventory strategy.

There are also advantages for shoppers, who don't have to sift through endless racks or piles of clothing that is far outside their own size (in either direction).

The same phenomenon (size-based segregation of clothing for practical reasons) exists in men's clothing with big and tall sections or stores, despite men's clothing and sizing not having anything like the cultural problems that women's clothing and sizing do. This is part of why I think that (in some cases) segregating clothing by size is not necessarily a product of misogyny.

Clothing can be 'done right' and make people of any size and shape look and feel fabulous without the goal being to 'look taller and slimmer.'

Some styles of clothing can, but not all. Some styles, cuts, and fabric patterns look better on people with larger, smaller, taller, shorter, muscular, slighter, longer, leggier, etc, etc body types (with the caveat that what is considered "better looking" is of course completely culturally dependent in the first place).

(The ideal solution is for everyone to be wealthy enough to have our clothes made to measure by robots. Maybe in 20 or 30 years.)
posted by jedicus at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


hard to put yourself out and do anything

So true! I struggle with this every day. It's incredibly hard. I try to have compassion for every person who doesn't yet feel quite able to engage meaningfully, or who hasn't found the right way to work on a cause they care about, but I'm an emotional person who just gets angry sometimes, you know?

It's harder to be patient with people who are working hard, doing something, when that thing isn't having the positive effect they hope for, or when they are passionate but their passion is slightly misdirected. People trying to help but missing the mark makes me feel helpless and furious at every person who didn't take the time to educate them all the way, but of course it's nobody's _job_ to patiently explain how to interpret their own particular slice of the culture.

So, we all wander on in ignorance, saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, doing the best we can, hoping grace comes from somewhere.

And yet, somehow, some things do seem to be getting better.

It's incredibly important to realize that neither designers nor Tim Gunn nor anybody else is motivated mostly by money.

If someone tries to convince you that money is the main motivator of people, you can point them to behavioral economics research on meaningfulness. Once they're pretty sure they won't starve and their dependents are cared for, people just want to make stuff that's useful or beautiful.

(And smite those who don't treat them with respect, but that's not something I've seen in behavioral economics, not that I'm an authority on the subject, just a fan).
posted by amtho at 8:41 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was surprised not to see Gunn even mention Target's Ava & Viv line. It's far from perfect, but it's affordable, cute/cool clothing at a popular retailer and it isn't separated from the rest of the women's clothing. It's right in there to stumble into. The patterns, fabrics, and colors looks much like everything else in the store.
posted by maryr at 8:43 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think Tim Gunn shops at Target.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2016


You think he shops at J. C. Penney's?
posted by maryr at 8:46 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Picture me, kneeling in the street, arms out in Jesus pose, screaming "SLEEEEEEEVES."

I don't even have the privilege of worrying about actual "fashion" at this point. It's really difficult for me to understand - and I haven't seen it explained - why not even Target wants my money. They're down to two double-sided racks and eight wall pegs of clothes, in a new line that is significantly uglier and less interesting than the old Mossimo stuff. Last week I only found two styles of Hanes 5-pack panties that were "extended" size 11, they no longer carry Just My Size at all. They have that enormous Champion/yoga pant/pajama section, all regular sizes. They have a vast amount of floor space for all that very tweeny Juniors stuff that I'm not sure anybody's buying, not to mention their extensive ballcap, men's loungewear, and three-aisles-of-candy sections (so don't even talk to me about how they don't have room for clothes for me).

WalMart is also down to even less real estate than Target. And the whole reason I know this is that it's been my habit to go there every quarter for...two decades? Just to look at clothes. Their George label was pretty reliable for nice (and long-lasting) work trousers and a top or two.

Department stores - the old school kind like Dillard's, Macy's, Nordstrom, Penney etc - have always quietly had decent (not fashionable mostly, but business- and church-grade clothes anyway) Women's departments with recognizable labels, but I don't need every item of clothing I own to be $80+. Avenue and Lane Bryant make all their clothes out of that semi-waterproof polyester, and none of their t-shirts are cut to fit anybody right.

On preview: it isn't separated from the rest of the women's clothing

It's not? Every Target I've been to still has it next to Maternity, on two racks and the wall. Are you saying there's more of it mixed into the regular-size clothes, and they're only putting the really ugly stuff back in the plague zone?
posted by Lyn Never at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2016 [35 favorites]


The entire bullshit business of fashion, has finally set me free from concerns regarding fashion. I buy what is cheap, cotton or rayon, what is comfortable. I have for a long time thought fashion has either made bank on pedophilia, little girl clothes, or little boy clothes. The rest of us are not in fashion because of age, (over 12-16,) because of a family lifestyle, or just a healthy lifestyle where we are not a part of the rave and look at me crowd. I, at times, want to dress up a bit, it is not hard to do. After the news from Fox, you have to think about why you are being asked to dress in a certain way, and what you are being asked to say about yourself. Well, I have no F's left to give about what strangers think of me. It is my beloveds who matter, friends and family. The gaunt, cruel-shoed stick figures of fashion, are not me. I sometimes look to see what they have come up with, what I will be seeing. Sometimes it is interesting. I am only in a bracket to wear slavewear, anyway. I have no need to emulate Paris Hilton at Burning Man.
posted by Oyéah at 8:48 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, geez, I read the rest of Tim Gunn's article. He needs a trusted friend/collaborator to help him make his words a little more focused and powerful. Picking on Ashley Nell Tipton's stuff? What is that doing in there?

(I mean, her style is not my style, but the fact that it's not Tim's style is of questionable relevance...and is Tim really an authority on what people should wear? Is nobody telling him either how to clarify what purpose he is serving by saying what is "good" or how to clarify that "good" is not absolute?)
posted by amtho at 8:53 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's not? Every Target I've been to still has it next to Maternity, on two racks and the wall. Are you saying there's more of it mixed into the regular-size clothes, and they're only putting the really ugly stuff back in the plague zone?

Yes, it's over by Maternity, but in both my local stores it's on an aisle with no physical barrier between it and the juniors/Mossimo stuff. And it's on the same sales racks as the other clothes. Maybe it falls into the "same stuff made bigger" trap of plus sized clothes, but more than once I've seen things from that line that I was sad I couldn't buy in my size. I've bought my sister clothes from that line (since there's no Target where she lives).

I think you're right that there's less of it than there used to be, though.
posted by maryr at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2016


Also, FWIW, if the fit in the Target stuff is shitty, that is consistent with a large percentage of their standard size clothing.
posted by maryr at 8:59 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Are you saying there's more of it mixed into the regular-size clothes, and they're only putting the really ugly stuff back in the plague zone?

Not disputing the rest of your (excellent) comment, but I have found sizes 18-22+ mixed in with all other sizes in the clearance racks at Target. Given the wide, wide range of size inflation/deflation there, it might be worthwhile to check those racks when you go. But all the sizes 1X, 2X, etc., seem to be limited to the plus section only.
posted by witchen at 9:00 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Picture me, kneeling in the street, arms out in Jesus pose, screaming "SLEEEEEEEVES."

I'm kneeling out there next to you. I cannot for the life of me understand why this sleeveless trend just. won't. die. Thanks (Michelle) Obama.

I actually do ok finding clothes that fit me. J.Jill has my back, and Talbot's, bless them, even has a nice shop just for me in the mall where I can try on work clothes and talk with nice ladies who treat me well. I've pretty much given up on Lane Bryant as being a little too young and trendy for me (I am a bit too conservative to be their target customer, I think). Even Old Navy has things for me. And I recently found, to my shock, that Forever 21 sells plus size things I don't totally hate.

But -- BUT -- except for Talbots I can't actually go in a store and buy things. I have to order them. Because god forbid you should put the most common size in the US in your ACTUAL STORE.

I appreciate Mr. Gunn's support, but I do find a lot of what he says in the actual article sort of questionable, particularly what feels like a fairly harsh and uncalled for attack (yes, attack) on Tipton, who is just out there doing her own thing and doing it pretty well.

Really, though, I'd like to see him put his money where his mouth is. I have to suspect that a Tim Gunn for Target (or even Macy's) line would do pretty well, and that they'd jump at the chance to have his name on their list, even if they were "forced" to do a wider range of sizes.

So, yeah. Full marks for intent, but lots of deductions for the execution, there, Mr. Gunn. Maybe next time.
posted by anastasiav at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


I once rode an elevator with Tim Gunn. We must've been quite a sight, the world's best dressed man standing next to one of the world's worst. He was very nice though. We talked about Goo Goo Clusters. We're both fans.
posted by jonmc at 9:07 AM on September 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


Clothing can be 'done right' and make people of any size and shape look and feel fabulous without the goal being to 'look taller and slimmer.'

GAH thank you for this. I attempted to argue this with some friends (all of them wear plus sizes, or a mix of plus and straight sizes) earlier and they looked at me like I had spoken in tongues.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2016


There are also advantages for shoppers, who don't have to sift through endless racks or piles of clothing that is far outside their own size (in either direction).

Maybe advantages for the shoppers who are catered to in mainstream clothing stores. Those of us banished to the oversized shops (which if you're a woman, seem to have forgotten that tall people exist as well as larger people) get to have less availability, fewer relevant shops, less choice, and a boatload more expense. I fail to see how this is more convenient than being able to find anything that fits me on the racks with the other sizes at normal clothing stores.
posted by Dysk at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ashley Nell Tipton, if you read this, I don't think Mr. Gunn was attacking you, really. He was just worried about and commenting on the judging process (which has never been and can never be about some measure of "best" since that's a squirrely concept, although probably none of the judges nor Tim Gunn has articulated that).

Sure, your execution may not have been 100% perfect, but again, it's not a contest of execution. And maybe your designs weren't perfect either, but you're out there trying to make stuff for an underrepresented group, so of course you don't have the same type of inspiration or models of previous designers to build on. That may sound like an excuse, but it's not -- being a kind of pioneer means operating under exactly this kind of difficult circumstance; you can't be as "polished" when you're busy inventing -- or even re-interpreting, or re-discovering -- everything you're doing.

Don't worry about what he thinks or says, or even if what the judges said or thought was a bit patronizing. None of that matters; you are building yourself bit by bit, and you have something unique and important to do, so keep doing it.
posted by amtho at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


One more thing, I recall a "perfectly sized woman" wearing wedge, ankle wrap, jute sandals. Purple short shorts, a small tank, matching purple. She wore dangly earrings with three 1/2 inch balls about 1 1/2 inches long. She wore a straw hat, with modest decor, carried a straw bag, in short, she was perfect for a hot day in southern California. She walked by me on a sidewalk, and she was at least 75 years old. I remember at first thinking, now I have seen it all, then I had to address my thoughts and realized she is absolutely comfortable in her world, and is owed no side-eye, or cat calls, or criticism of any kind for going about living her free life.
posted by Oyéah at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


I mean it wasn't like they thought it was absurd to not try and look thinner, they just didn't think the article was saying "it's best for clothes to make someone look smaller". WHEN IT LITERALLY SAID IT, MANY TIMES.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


amtho - unfortunately I think he was attacking Ashley Nell Tipton - and a pretty blistering one at that:

This season, something different happened: Ashley Nell Tipton won the contest with the show’s first plus-size collection. But even this achievement managed to come off as condescending. I’ve never seen such hideous clothes in my life

I get that he see's a problem - but he's got to frame it in a way that is solvable, rather than than take random shots at someone who is trying her best to change the lens with which we view women of different sizes. What Ms Tipton is doing may not be to your taste - but let's not crap all over someone else's achievements so that you can make a point.
posted by helmutdog at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2016


Clothing can be 'done right' and make people of any size and shape look and feel fabulous without the goal being to 'look taller and slimmer.'

I mean, I think this is honestly part of the problem - not, by any means, that it erases the real complaints here because lord knows I haven't shopped brick and mortar seriously in over 7 years - plus size women are still kind of split on the issue of "should plus size clothing disguise or emphasize"?

Like, me, I am on the side of 'disguise' - I want clothing that makes me look taller and slimmer! I want clothing that compresses my belly! I want clothing that hangs loosely and is made of thick material so it doesn't show shapewear! I hate that the swimwear direction is fatkini, but mostly because it means I can't buy swimsuits that are made for my bra size unless it's a two piece, and I do not want to expose extra skin for love nor money!

But alongside me are my other confident plus size ladies being "Fuck all that noise! I want loud, proud, belly-hugging curve-sexytown! I want men to follow me down the street drooling because of who I actually am, and if they don't, fuck them!"

And I don't think, as a designer, you can coherently design for both. Like I think the mental processes that go into one are entirely antithetical to the other.
posted by corb at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


was surprised not to see Gunn even mention Target's Ava & Viv line. It's far from perfect, but it's affordable, cute/cool clothing at a popular retailer and it isn't separated from the rest of the women's clothing

I actually really really want them to put "plus" with everyone else and "maternity" further away, because it is annoying as fuck to find a cute pair of pants and realize they have a tummy panel when I thought I was shopping a plus rack. Plus and pregnant are not the same, assholes.

And Target is not hurting for space. They could blend all the plus size stuff into the regular sized without any trouble at all.

I feel like the "women want to look thinner!"thing is a reflection of deeply embedded assumptions. Gunn probably hasn't run into many women of any size who don't think that is important.

I am fine with people not being quite at the Advanced Body Sizeism Expert stage yet, if they are urging people to do things like make more nice clothes for average women.
posted by emjaybee at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Plus and pregnant are not the same, assholes.

I also hate to see the grimaces on pregnant women when they find clothes they like that are plus.

Another argument for inclusiveness that designers need to think about: When my size 6 daughter shops for clothes now, she just wants to go to places where she's found things before. Guess what stores her plus size mom took her to the entire time she was growing up?

Also: I get what Tim Gunn was probably trying to say about Ashley Nell Tipton's collection. I suspect he isn't in the Plus Size Women's Clothing Shit deep enough to know there are several not-necessarily-aesthetic-based schools of thought about how the audience can/should dress. But I do he brushes against something that IS true: There's a fair amount of plus size Betsey Johnson equivalent out there, and not much, say, Tom Ford.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Luckily I'm really into that urban goth/art gallery chic/Rick Owens look. At a size 12, it makes it easier when all you want to wear is black leggings and various layers of flowing loose black over the top, with crazy shoes and wicked jewelry. But that look is not everyone's cup of tea.

You know where I've been buying a lot of clothes at recently? Eileen Fisher. She's really good if you like minimalism and a muted color palette.
posted by Windigo at 9:31 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Gunn probably hasn't run into many women of any size who don't think that is important.

I'm betting Tipton doesn't think its important, and he just spent quite a lot of time with her.
posted by anastasiav at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2016


Tim Gunn has, in the past on PR, made some comments that were less than flattering to plus-size women.

Say it with me now: "She's like an elongated marshmallow with Gumby legs." (And that was about a "standard"-sized model.)

Also: I get what Tim Gunn was probably trying to say about Ashley Nell Tipton's collection.

What I got from it is that he doesn't understand the Latina aesthetic she's representing, where "cover and minimize" aren't the only important goals. Her point-of-view is body-flaunting and that's fine.
I’ve never seen such hideous clothes in my life: bare midriffs; skirts over crinoline, which give the clothes, and the wearer, more volume; see-through skirts that reveal panties; pastels, which tend to make the wearer look juvenile; and large-scale floral embellishments that shout “prom.” [...] I said they should be clothes all women want to wear.
I'm not a woman, but I'm going to venture that there is no look and no item of clothing that "all women" want to wear.
posted by psoas at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


there is no look and no item of clothing that "all women" want to wear.

I certainly wouldn't wear the vast majority of winning-designer looks from Project Runway.
posted by amtho at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


In agreement with many about the scattered nature of Tim Gunn's piece. I do appreciate that he is speaking out about a topic where many people's voices are ignored or shouted down, and I'm a bit biased toward Tim Gunn (he's one of those celebrities that I love to believe is an incredibly nice person and kind to children and animals and possibly even an adopted grandpa to a bunch of little tykes and makes vegan cakes in his spare time to give to people who can't afford vegan cake.)

BUT.

I do feel that a lot of the plus-size clothes that are available (particularly in brick and mortar stores) are not flattering to fat women, disrespectful of our interest in looking good/fashion, and generally cut like garbage bags. I am a size 20 right now, and for a long time I was a big enough size that it was extremely hard for me to find any clothes, especially pants, that fit me at all. About 3 years ago I started wearing leggings almost exclusively (with a dress or skirt over the top) and found that I was much happier just doing that instead of endlessly trying on pants at Target that have a crotch cut down almost to my knees yet are somehow always uncomfortably tight at the waist.

Since I've gotten older, inspired by a plus-size friend who is in the independent fashion community in Australia, I have started doing what we call "No Fucks Fridays," in which you, as a woman and a human, wear anything that speaks to your spirit, makes you feel fun or colorful or beautiful or badass, and wear it with the attitude that you make the best choices for yourself and you look amazing no matter how you choose to dress. For me that looks like crazy patterned leggings, pattern clashing to a remarkable degree, and bright colors. For someone else it might look like the most comfortable pants you could ever wear to work and get away with it, or wearing only black for months with huge winged eyeliner and referring to yourself as "the boss witch" (my Aussie friend). As I've been doing NFF for about 2 years now, I find that the philosophy is seeping into other parts of my life as well, and into the way I think about the opinions of other people, especially about my appearance and the way I choose to present myself.

I do believe that the fashion landscape for fat women is changing. I'd like to see it change more rapidly, but in the meantime, I'm just doing me and be damned to judgements and opinions and shame.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:44 AM on September 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


A couple of things from the vantage point of someone who (in a very small niche) designs clothing.

1) How do you design to a size?
Designing is based upon average body measures. Companies pay a good amount of money for these measurements. So, for instance, when I design a sweater in size XS, I know we are talking about a 28", 24" waist, 33" hips, crossback 14.5", 7" upper arm width.

2) How does this make designing plus-size clothes harder?
The slimmer the lady, the more we are talking skeleton + some fairly standard distribution of body fat. Now, as a plus-size lady myself, I know that fat deposits lodge in different places. I'm a US size 14, but my plus-ness rests on my bust and my thighs. Other ladies in my same size may find their own curves in the belly area or their hips. Broadly speaking, it gets much harder to easily achieve an average fit the larger the size, because the average silhouette no longer exists (in a way).

3) But why don't we see more plus-size fashion? It cannot be that hard?
It demands more effort. Sizing becomes niche with some companies focusing on so-called "apple shapes", others on "pear shapes" (I hate fruit based shapes, by the way). It simply means the company has a specific focus on how to upsize their clothes ..

4) .. upsize?
Most companies grade from a small sample size and upwards. Grading is when you make one design in a variety of sizes. You take base measurements and scale them to size. Fast fashion typically does not spend much money on grading because it is really freaking time consuming. That is why some plus-size clothes look like goddamn tents because whoever's done the grading doesn't get paid enough to care about if arms really get longer if you put on weight (spoiler: they don't). So, companies will typically get a fashion grad to go "oh, if the hips are 33" in size S, then we'll add 2" for every size we go up..." and unless done carefully and with an eye to which measurements change when, it can go wrong. Carefulness costs money that fast fashion generally don't have.

5) Let's talk marketing as well.
This is going to sound awful awful, but it's really hard to book plus-size models. Most agencies don't have a lot on their books, and I've seen magazine editors hit their head against a wall when they try to book models above a certain size. So, from a company POV, you have greater choice of models & looks, if you go with a standard sample size. This sucks and it needs to change.

So, that's where I start my conversations from. I make most of my own clothes these days, but I do that from a position of privilege (it is my job!). I would say that making my own clothes has given me a lot of food for thought regarding the idea of fit & my fatness - I like my clothes fitted and neat which I thought in my pre-design days was a terrible idea for anyone who was above a size 8. How the high street designs & deals with plus-size fashion is so damaging for how we think of our bodies.
posted by kariebookish at 9:51 AM on September 9, 2016 [44 favorites]


how about the part where even us average, short, straight sizes women with unusual proportions have like, zero options? I've made the pants rant before, but I find it incredibly irritating that finding pants and jeans that fit me properly (I have a small waist, big butt and thighs) means shopping in stores and sections that are carefully coded to dogwhistle at black and Latina girls. I'm neither, but that seems... not right to me?

that and the fact that as an over-40 woman I would LOOOOOOOOVE to find shorts that have a longer than ass-cheek revealing inseam, and I think I speak for everyone at any size here. I'm not 22, and nobody especially me wants my buttcheeks hanging out of my shorts.

The real issue is that fast fashion stuff is so shoddily made that it often falls apart in less than a year's time, which is even shittier for my plus-sized friends who are already limited in options, then they find stuff that fits well and looks nice... and it starts unraveling and looking ratty in less than a season's wear. Ugh.

In about ten years' time I'm guessing there will be an app for entering your measurements and ordering made-to-measure clothing in trendy cuts, but as with many other advancements it will cater to the ever widening privilege and wealth gap.

In sum: grrrr.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:03 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Stonkle,
I'm surprised you got a response at all from The Bay. I swear its goal it to alienate anybody who isn't a high-end (big bucks) runway-model-sized customer. While I always had better luck at Eaton's (RIP), the Bay used to offer a better range of styles and price points. These day, it seems that the brand is trying to become the "designer" label department store, and while I like fashionable, high-quality items as much as the next person, I can't afford them exclusively and I don't fit the body type of their preferred customer. As such, I find less and less options available, especially at their "better" stores like Yorkville or Yorkdale. As for their more "middle class/suburban stores" forget about trying to find basic (conservative) work wear (or suiting) if you're not built like a teenager. The Bay really just doesn't care about the average working woman anymore.

Like a lot of people here, I'm torn by Tim Gunn. His intentions are good, his execution doesn't always follow suit. I used to like some Liz Claiborne stuff (the tops were fine, the bottoms/pants never fit) but like a lot of shoppers I typically had to wait until the sales hit before I could really afford the prices.
posted by sardonyx at 10:03 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love what the plus-size Japanese magazine La Farfa (+Instagram) is doing -- showing bright, cute clothing for women. They even go over things like "when you go to the spa and you're plus sized, are they going to have spa clothes for people of your size?"

The only downside is that I'm in my 30s and the clothing is a little too young for me. :(
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:16 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


He calls this "puzzling" when it is the furthest thing from puzzling. It is simple:

Fat = Gross = I don't want my clothes seen on gross people.
posted by Cosine at 10:19 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


There are (somewhat interlocking) commercial factors here.

Designer lines are convinced, whether or not this is true, that the vast majority of women who will spend big money on clothes are size 12 and smaller, and on expressly youthful and fashion-forward looks, 6 and smaller. They view plus size women as not having big budgets, or spending their budgets on other things.

Designer lines struggle to make money from clothes at all. They make money from shoes, handbags, accessories, make-up, perfumes and jewelry. The point of the clothes lines are to be the focus of the aspiration and brand image ... which is conventionally sized.

The value chain is moved to Asia -- it's not just designers in the US faxing patterns to Hong Kong. The Asian designers and pattern-makers just don't have any context for the dimension (literally and market terms) of the American plus size buyer.

The economics on size runs can be just crushing. If you think you'll see 4 20s for every 20 size 8, it's very hard to make it work. This is also coming into play in men's. I remember when stores would typically have a run of waists of 28 to 44 and inseams 28 to 36 for trousers. Last time I was I was pants shopping in a mall it had collapsed down to 32 to 38 waists and 30 or 32 inseams. If you're 5'9 to 6'1 and 150 to 200 pounds you're in luck -- everyone else, sorry.

Online is sucking in the dollars for everything that is niche by any way of representing niche. Bricks and mortar retailers are desperate to hold inventory, occupancy and payroll costs to a minimum, and focus only on what they think will sell the most the fastest.
posted by MattD at 10:22 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I lived in South Miami Beach back in the 90s. I'm a cis guy and I looked better then, by the way.

Thing is, there's gonna be young hotties wearing skimpy bikinis or going topless, and people are gonna look at them. This applies to men also... South Beach back then was packed with young Adonis-type guys who were built beyond belief and wore slingshots. Also, a bunch of older fat guys, and me a skinny dude with a sunken chest. There were also a lot of older, normal sized to plus sized ladies (and men!) going topless, wearing little, etc. No one cared. It's a beach. Unless you are there to get hit on or picked up, nobody made fun of overweight people, or shamed them away.

Humans are sexual. But that doesn't mean anyone seen as not-sexy/perfect is considered horrible. Guess what I'm trying to say is, in the department store or advertising, this is made important. In the hot, sunny, sandy, blustery beach with the waves and water, it's not as big an issue.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I still love Tim Gunn, but this thread is really illuminating.
posted by asavage at 10:38 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tim Gunn can pry the cropped pants from my big fat hands. I have beautiful ankles and the world deserves to see them!
posted by theraflu at 10:41 AM on September 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


I have never understood designers whose choice is to not make a ton of money? Clothing is mandatory, money is exchanged for clothing, why subtract yourself? It is difficult to understand contempt for women that exceeds greed.

I imagine it's the same ugly reasoning as Abercrombie and Fitch. They think their brand will be more successful and command a premium price if it's only worn by "beautiful people" (using their own narrow standard of beauty, of course).
posted by straight at 10:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like, me, I am on the side of 'disguise' - I want clothing that makes me look taller and slimmer! I want clothing that compresses my belly! I want clothing that hangs loosely and is made of thick material so it doesn't show shapewear!

Here's the thing, though--the "disguise" style of loose-hanging clothing does not make you look thinner. How could it? It is literally adding extra volume to the silhouette (and usually making it more shapeless, too). I'm not quite in the category the public would consider "plus size," but it's evident that the slimmest look (always assuming that's what you want; there is no reason anyone has to prioritize that) involves what Gunn calls "figure-skimming" clothes, that is, neither so tight as to be spilling over with flesh, nor billowing shapelessly about you like Ole Golly's Things. The problem is that, given that every person's proportions are different, whether you can achieve this look off the rack is already mostly pure luck, and it's harder for plus-size people.

Tipton's "flaunt" aesthetic is going for sexy curve appeal, which to my personal eye tends to work best for people like her who are young enough that the bits you expose are still basically firm and with smooth skin, but, either way, I agree it's definitely a different aim (probably not one widely shared by the kind of women Gunn spends time with, so he has trouble understanding the kind of personality that really feels confident and flourishes under that aesthetic). And "disguise," well, I totally understand why women picked on for their bodies their whole lives or just exhausted by the relentless and unsatisfiable demands of femininity would feel more comfortable or safe in that style. Feeling comfortable or safe in your clothing is a completely valid primary aim. But it doesn't tend to produce the silhouettes most associated in this culture with conventional attractiveness.

Yet, sadly, since the "range" of each size gets bigger as you go up (the difference in size between a 4 and a 6 is much smaller than between a 14 and a 16, usually), the hope of getting "figure-skimming" clothing for larger sizes is often in vain. Basically, it's a nightmare for everyone who isn't a size 4 and doesn't have their clothes tailored.
posted by praemunire at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Don't cropped pants make you look taller?

Well, they certainly make you look too tall for your pants, like you've suddenly had an extreme bout of puberty since you put them on.

(Which is perfectly fine, and in fact I personally prefer a bit of ankle myself. It's one thing to choose clothes that are flattering to your particular body type, but don't kid yourself. People measure height relative to themselves, and that isn't something the length of your trousers can do a whole lot to change.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:52 AM on September 9, 2016


They think their brand will be more successful and command a premium price if it's only worn by "beautiful people"

I don't want my clothes seen on gross people.

This may be true for a few cases, but not most, I think. It's incredibly important to understand that people design and actually make things because they _want to make things_, and that this motivation is something that comes from seeing other things, wanting to improve on them, knowing how, and a lot of other factors; it's incredibly easy to _destroy_ this motivation by just making things sliiightly harder or less fun. People aren't going to fashion mines every day because it's what their daddies did; they are venturing out, taking risks, because they are moved to do so by something _positive_.

If they aren't seeing existing models in this area, or if there aren't preexisting patterns, mentors, media, or outlets, all those things make it less likely that a) people will have specific visions for this kind of clothing; b) when they have visions, they will have the opportunity to realize them without stupid life details killing their motivation; and c) there will be enough people clearing condition 'a' and 'b' that are actually skilled and gifted enough to make something that's not lame.

We tend to treat this kind of creative endeavor as though it's our right to have beautiful non-boring stuff, generally; maybe it is, in a way, but also every single beautiful or even very functional thing that's created represents the outcome of an incredibly large chain of events, all of which take resources, time, and intention to create.
posted by amtho at 10:55 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree that the explicit demarcation of regular vs plus size can be a problem, especially when what is actually typical (so-called plus size) is presented as unusual or, by implication, irregular. But there are legitimate reasons why some stores might only carry a certain size range, whether larger or smaller. Retail space is expensive, and if every store had to carry a full range of sizes for every product, either the shelves and racks would overflow or stores would only carry a narrow range of products, which would be a very risky inventory strategy.

There are also advantages for shoppers, who don't have to sift through endless racks or piles of clothing that is far outside their own size (in either direction).


Come on. I am a size 12-14 and I already have to sift through sizes 0-10. I shop all the time and I guarantee it will not put me out in the slightest if a few more numbers are added at the other end.

Also, within the last ten or so years, some stores have had no problem with adding size 00 (that's double zero, as in smaller than size zero) to their line-up, space be damned. Space is not at that much of a premium and even if it were, most of the stores I shop at (which includes almost all of the chain stores) would probably do much better just increasing the number of items they carry in larger sizes, if the excessive number of size zeroes and twos I see languishing on the racks (with no 12s or 14s anywhere in sight) are any indication.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:56 AM on September 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


My point is that it doesn't take actual enmity to lead to "what I need doesn't exist."

Assuming enmity where none exists is more than just a waste of time; it means that, when people do try to pay attention or help, we're primed to treat them as enemies, which hurts their feelings. Hurt feelings do not help the creative process.

Hurt feelings kill the creative process.
posted by amtho at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have never understood designers whose choice is to not make a ton of money? Clothing is mandatory, money is exchanged for clothing, why subtract yourself? It is difficult to understand contempt for women that exceeds greed.

I'm going to be a bit of dissenter in some of the responses to this question because of a phenomenon that is discussed a bit in the "Are Plus-Size Women the Problem With Plus-Size Fashion?". There appears to be data showing that plus size women are as a group less willing to spend a large amount of money on clothing. When Target (I think with Marrimeko) introduced a plus size line, there were a lot comments complaining of the high price.... on a Target collection. (We can go into the appropriate cost of clothing separately, but suffice to say, if you think Target is expensive, you not in the market for a Chanel. And I say this as someone who is also very much not in that market financially.)

The linked article doesn't go into why terribly well, but one of the more compelling psychological arguments for why this is goes as follows:

1. You feel overweight; aren't accepting your body as it is.
2. You plan to diet and lose weight.
3. Therefore, why spend a lot of money buying expensive clothes for you body as it is now, if there's a chance you'll have a smaller body in a few months.

Then, a designer/company sees the market data and concludes that it is not worthwhile to do very high-end plus size fashion, which while shitty and probably contributes to #1 above, it still a fairly rational business decision.

Even with a lot of body acceptance work, (part of which is aimed at the fashion industry), #1 is a hard thing for most people to overcome. And if you internalize #1, #2 and especially #3 then become rational consumer decisions, too.
posted by Kurichina at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


I saw this article on Twitter, and the thing I agreed with most was his scorn over designers who think designing for any bodies other than runway models is too hard.

Uh, yes? That’s why designing clothes is a skill and a craft and an art? Why you go to design school and learn how to do it?

One of my favorite thing in mid-20th century novels is all the discussion about powerhouse genius modistes (designers) who use their transcendent powers of needle and fabric to make women of any size and shape look gorgeous and/or striking. It was only a service offered to wealthy women, of course, but it was a mark of true artistry to be able to make any woman look stunning, and sometimes breaking the rules to do so.

Where is that drive in designers today? Almost nowhere, because “it’s too hard”. SERIOUSLY?

I’m not as big as I used to be, but I’m still curvy, and the thing that baffles me the most is how often clothes technically fit in that they are the size of my body, but they don’t ACTUALLY fit in the sense of “staying where they are supposed to be on my body for longer than 25 minutes of wear”. I can sometimes find clothes that look fine in a dressing room, but it is a true rarity to find clothes that will fit comfortably for a full day of living, breathing, and occasionally moving. My drawers are full of clothes that kind of fit, but that I hate wearing, because they won’t stay where they are supposed to once I’m wearing them.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:59 AM on September 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


This is definitely not the first time Gunn has expressed dismay that designers avoid designing for plus size ranges. I think the first time I saw him lament it was at least 5-6 yrs ago.

I know he's asked for entire seasons of Plus models:

“I would like to do a season of ‘Project Runway’ where every model is larger than a size 12,” Gunn told The Hollywood Reporter during a reality TV roundtable.

While this may not be the ONLY topic of discussion for him, it's not one that's NEW to him.
posted by taterpie at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


>Designer lines are convinced, whether or not this is true, that the vast majority of women who will spend big money on clothes are size 12 and smaller, and on expressly youthful and fashion-forward looks, 6 and smaller. They view plus size women as not having big budgets, or spending their budgets on other things.

well, no. they're banking on people who set trends as being size 12 and smaller. they view plus size women as not being the target because plus sized women aren't perceived as at the top of the status chain.

fashion brands live and die on status signaling, and being fat is associated with low status. to produce plus size lines is hence to 'lower' your brand. you can wail and gnash as much as you'd like, but (for the very high end, at least) it's like asking sports car companies to produce $12k sedans.

i'm not defending it one way or the other. it's not fair or considerate. but at the end of the day, people want to feel like they have status, and status comes at the expense of those below you.
posted by p3on at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


It sounds like fashion itself is the problem. I do not mean "how people do fashion", but fashion's existence as a "thing many people feel matters".

It's fine if certain people wish to wear clothing that hide certain body features, but maybe the people designing the clothing should focus more on being more rigorous about addressing insecurities, as opposed to this bullshit of a model dressing up and strutting around.

I'd think the formula might be to honestly attempt to address possible insecurities and explain exactly what you are doing : You start with an idea about people's insecurities, maybe run a survey asking your target demographic about their insecurities to kinda get a prioritization. You attempt to make clothing that simultaneously addresses several of the possible insecurities on that list. Finally, write up a big ass tag for the clothing documenting exactly what you think you've achieved and even why you think it works. Online, you might even let shoppers browse merchandise by insecurities and/or desired effect.

Anyways, "fashion" was seemingly designed around rich people looking at beautiful people with the market coming from the intersection. It just sounds silly to try to fix it when you can just do something different and likely far more profitable.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another addendum, as I haven't seen it mentioned yet.

Fast fashion also struggle with sizing due to the mode of production. Some people have already noted much garment production now takes places in (South East) Asia - many companies have their clothes manufactured there and then ship the items into the domestic market to have them finished so you can have the marketing gold "Made in [Domestic Market]"labels attached.

Anyway, the manufacturing factories deal with such high number of items made that they cut the pattern pieces in huge stacks. The nature of fabric being what it is, the stacks of fabric will shift as the pieces are being cut by machines. This is why one pair of (relatively cheap or affordable) jeans can fit great, but the next pair along will sit very differently even if you are trying on the same size.
posted by kariebookish at 11:03 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I have never understood designers whose choice is to not make a ton of money? Clothing is mandatory, money is exchanged for clothing, why subtract yourself? It is difficult to understand contempt for women that exceeds greed.

I'd love a chance to shame designers to their faces. Oh, so sorry that you're so utterly useless at your chosen field that you can't actually handle the challenge of dressing my perfectly average body. Too bad, maybe if you'd worked harder in your career you'd have the skills necessary to do the job.
posted by palomar at 11:04 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sorry jeffburdges, but your comment reads as extremely condescending. I'm a plus-sized woman who's into fashion and I am not inane, full of shit or insecure for wanting clothing that fits my damn body.
posted by mynameisluka at 11:06 AM on September 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm equally annoyed that all of the Plus Sized models that the industry "allows" are actually larger ladies with VERY nicely proportioned bodies.

I'm 5ft3 and when I'm bigger, I'm bigger all over.... arms, legs, boobs, waist, hips.
I don't look like a 6ft plus sized model with the classic hourglass figure, big boobs and butt but TINY waist.

I hate fashion, I hate buying clothes and I'm sick that a bunch of men (many of whom don't even fancy women) get to constantly dictate what they think a woman should look and dress like.
posted by JenThePro at 11:07 AM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


When Target (I think with Marrimeko) introduced a plus size line, there were a lot comments complaining of the high price.... on a Target collection.

Right. Did you actually look at the plus size Marimekko line? It was utter shit. The line was a failure across the board, not just in plus sizes.
posted by palomar at 11:07 AM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


I don't understand who is buying all the maxi dresses. I also don't pretend to know what clothing challenges tall women face, but I swear most of the maxi dresses I see are made for women who are 7+ feet tall. Who on earth did they have in mind when designing all these impossibly long dresses?!
posted by raztaj at 11:07 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Here's a thought: the paths into "fashion" as a job seem mainly suited to people with a kind of flashy/showy/dominance aesthetic; the whole runway model attitude seems to be about being alpha (tall, grim, healthy, sharp), and the designers and magazines that seem to constitute most of the industry not only market to the wealthy and aspiring wealthy, they draw their employees from that world too.

The school I attended was an engineering school; at the time, it was juuust barely possible for me to pay my own way through. People wanted to go because they were fairly assured of a job after graduation, and the application process wasn't mysterious or "taste" based. You didn't have to impress anyone to get in; just do well on a standardized test, get certain grades -- not easy at all, but not mysteriously opaque either.

If there were a similar path for people to become designers, and to become those-who-create-stuff-that-people-can-buy, I wonder if we'd see a very different marketplace.
posted by amtho at 11:09 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't have the option of not buying cropped pants. A regular length pants don't come down to my ankles. That's one of the reasons I prefer to wear skirts. I actually like long skirts, but again they're not available to me commercially. I have to sew them myself. My choices were either learn to sew or be rich enough to have someone sew for me. It's not like I'm a giant or anything, but the broad shoulders and long limbs kept me out of small sizes even when I was clinically underweight.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:09 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, plus-size models have been a thing for decades now. Emme was really famous in the 90s and right now the most famous plus-sizeed model is arguably Ashley Graham (though there are actually too many to even mention), who was just on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Clothes absolutely can look great on all kinds of bodies and if designers refuse to acknowledge that, they're being willfully ignorant. For anyone looking for inspiration of cute clothes on different body types, head over to Rebdolls, which carries sizes 0-32 without fanfare. Jibri also has cute stuff.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:09 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Speaking of fast fashion and Asian sources. I shop a ton at Uniqlo online because I find their clothes to be pretty well-made and cute for the price and good for office wear that is not frumpy. I still wear things that I bought over a decade ago. They've been pretty good about adding plus sizes and they even offer modest clothing for their Islamic (I presume for Indonesia/Malaysia) market in their store.
posted by nikitabot at 11:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seriously, here's one of the items from the plus line from Marimekko at Target. Does anyone think this is flattering? Would they want to spend upwards of $50 on it? I would not. I wouldn't pay for this thing if it was on the clearance rack for $7.94.

It's utter bullshit to blame plus size women for the failure of plus size clothing lines when this is what they offer us.
posted by palomar at 11:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [45 favorites]


I'm going to be a bit of dissenter in some of the responses to this question because of a phenomenon that is discussed a bit in the "Are Plus-Size Women the Problem With Plus-Size Fashion?". There appears to be data showing that plus size women are as a group less willing to spend a large amount of money on clothing. When Target (I think with Marrimeko) introduced a plus size line, there were a lot comments complaining of the high price.... on a Target collection. (We can go into the appropriate cost of clothing separately, but suffice to say, if you think Target is expensive, you not in the market for a Chanel. And I say this as someone who is also very much not in that market financially.)

"spend a lot of money" does not have to mean "spend quite a bit on one specific item" though. I think about my admin, who is just out of college and comes in every week with new items she's bought over the weekend. None of these items are expensive -- on the contrary, she's buying fast fashion in the $10 - $15 range -- but because of her frequency she's spending a lot of money over the course of a year.

Now, as a size 20, I simply don't have that luxury. And what fast fashion items (and, frankly, non fast fashion items) are available to me in plus sizes are always -- ALWAYS -- priced higher than the exact same core size counterpart (for no good reason. And yes, I know about grading. But if a size 2 is the same price as a size 14, there isn't any good reason the 14 shouldn't be the same price as the 20).

If I could walk into Old Navy every weekend and buy a shirt or dress in my size, I totally would. But I can't. They won't let me. I have to buy online, and to make my online purchase "worth it" I have to buy more items (because of where the free shipping kicks in). And so I'm pickier, because returns are a hassle and now I'm investing $50 instead of $20. Or, frequently, I just don't order, because I can't find enough stuff I want to hit the minimum order value for free shipping. Plus them shipping me the things costs them money.

I don't care about Chanel. I don't care about high end fashion. I just want to be able to buy a few t shirts and some jeans and maybe a nice sweater every now and again. I just want to look like the other moms at the bus stop. I don't really think that's unreasonable.
posted by anastasiav at 11:18 AM on September 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


Did you actually look at the plus size Marimekko line? It was utter shit.

No, Target had just finished destroying a perfectly fine chain of department stores and leaving a bunch of empty retail spaces and unemployed associates across my country at that time in one of the worst planned retail takeovers/expansions we have ever witnessed, so I did not have the opportunity to peruse it. However, that wasn't my point. The point was people were bitching about the price of cheap plus size clothes, even as it was first released.
posted by Kurichina at 11:21 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


At home, Ms. Window and I are watching The Great British Sewing Bee (we happened to find the episodes in a parking lot where they'd fallen off the back of some truck and didn't want them to go to waste). One of the things that's great about the show is that every episode has a Made-to-Measure section of the competition, and the models are all regular-size-and-up people (when they're not children). Those amateur sewers make those ordinary people look good.

The other thing that's great about the show is how much camaraderie there is between contestants. They are there to make friends.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Edit, to be fair, the Marrimeko line look like stuff I'd buy for $5 at a Value Village/Good will for use in extensive alterations.
posted by Kurichina at 11:24 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, "to be fair", this is usually what is offered to plus size women. We're given shapeless garments in loud, ugly, infantilizing prints. Or our shit is all bedazzled to hell and back with studs and glitter and grommets and ruching. And for what we're being offered, yes, it is actually expensive. And it's insulting as hell to be told we're just being too precious about it, we should take whatever is on offer because, I don't know, I guess maybe we don't have the right to vote with our dollars the way thin people do.
posted by palomar at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2016 [37 favorites]


Marimekko was indeed pretty terrible, but I've found some things I really like in Target's new Who, What, Where line, which seems to offer a wider range of sizes (as opposed to being the dreaded plus-size-only line, though I'm not exactly sure how they're doing their sizing with this one).
posted by triggerfinger at 11:29 AM on September 9, 2016


It's really difficult for me to understand - and I haven't seen it explained - why not even Target wants my money.

I know quite a few people (friends and friends of friends) who are independent fashion designers. (They design for women, period, no limits.) Recently one told me that designers now basically design clothes that fit best and can be packed most efficiently... in shipping containers. Explains all the sleevelessness and sheer fabrics and teensy-tiny sizes.

I recently tried on some "brand new sizing!" at a major sports retailer here, for some running tights. I've shopped at this particular store for 20 years and have always taken their L in leggings. Always. Every type of legging ever. Their "new sizing!" proclaimed that it was waist measurement and length. For instance: 28:31, 31:31, you get the picture. My waist being 28, but usually needing a waist in 31 due to hip proportions, I tried on the 31:31 which was helpfully sub-labelled "L" and it did not. get over. my thighs. Okay, I shrugged, I'll try on the XL, a 34:31. That's three friggin' inches more in the waist. It did not. get over. my thighs. There was nothing over XL, when this place has always carried XXL and XXXL, for women and men. They've got a good range - XS to XXXL.

First time in my life I've written an incendiary email to a clothing company. After twenty years you get a sense of loyalty that's pretty rare and that felt entirely betrayed.

I went and bought a bunch of McCall's sewing patterns for leggings, but damn. When it comes down to being forced to sew your own clothes just to be able to dress yourself, it's like, WTF are designers thinking.
posted by fraula at 11:31 AM on September 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


Plus sized people aren't a monolith it's a big leap to say that just because some people who happen to be plus size find a collection at Target too expensive that all plus size people won't spend on clothes. Especially considering Target is a low end retailer, I would think that anyone shopping there is looking for cheap clothes.

I'm sick of hearing the justifications of the lack of plus sized options when clothing manufacturers make such a poor effort with their plus size offerings. No one is going to buy ill fitting, dowdy clothes made of cheap fabric in horrible prints, hidden either online or in tiny Ill designed pockets of stores that aren't advertised properly.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:31 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


I am not saying the plus women being precious is the single root cause of anything. (Just as "designers hate women" is not the single root cause of anything.)

There's certainly nothing "precious" about a society wide fat phobia inducing anyone to not accept their own body. That shit is real and I have experienced it.

I sew a great deal of my clothing, either to alter it or make my own, because my shoulder and arms do not fit into anything commercially made with sleeves.

I am saying that any analysis that ignores that fashion is not only a cultural production but also - and primarily - a business that is chiefly concerned about making money is probably inaccurate.
posted by Kurichina at 11:33 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, here's the thing. Somehow, when I've paid amateur designers <300-400$ for an outfit to wear to a fantasy/SF convention, I look fucking stunning. Like, insanely gorgeous. I can't move without getting hit on.

Then if I go to shop for 300$-400$ clothing in a nice store, I look like a frump.

If I'm going to drop 300-400$ on clothing, I want it to not make me look frumpy. And if amateur costumes who taught themselves to sew can make it happen, how can professional designers not do this?
posted by corb at 11:34 AM on September 9, 2016 [25 favorites]


If the business were concerned about making money, they wouldn't keep producing the shittiest clothing possible for women like me. Seriously. Tapping into my market would be a fucking GOLD MINE if they'd just offer us things that weren't a complete waste of money.
posted by palomar at 11:35 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


And it's not just "oh this was made to fit you". I buy corsets in standard sizing, from people who have never seen me before. My corsets, collectively, probably cost about 1000$ over some years. They still look and function great. The shitty expensive lingerie I bought in plus sizes is falling apart and never looked that good in the first place.
posted by corb at 11:37 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I mean, look at ModCloth. They're the most inclusive clothing company I can think of. So many garments there are offered from XS to 4X, and they don't exactly have the industry clout of a department store like Target. So how come they can pull it off, and no other department store can seem to get their shit together enough to accommodate this demographic with millions of dollars to spend? Seems like if money were the driving factor, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.
posted by palomar at 11:37 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I can't believe WalMart is leaving money on the table intentionally, or because they dislike certain people. If they're under serving a market it's because they crunched the numbers.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't understand who is buying all the maxi dresses

Me! I am buying all the maxi dresses. I own few dresses and no skirts which are not maxi. My body accumulates fat mostly on the below-the-waist areas, and I have a scarred-up knee from where they inserted a metal rod into the tibia I broke when a police car hit me in Rome back in '97. Also, my legs are short in proportion to my torso, so I like the lengthening effect of a longer skirt.

At a guess, I'd say that maxi-dresses/skirts are often cut overlong because it's easier to hem them, but adding extra is harder.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Re: Uniqlo

They've been pretty good about adding plus sizes and they even offer modest clothing for their Islamic (I presume for Indonesia/Malaysia) market in their store.

1. Really? I've never been in one with plus sizes for women, ever.

2. Even if such a Uniqlo does exist (and I truly hope it does), are these two observations that should go together?
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wal-Mart's plus size section, as I have observed in local stores, is actually pretty plentiful and matches up in quality with the garments from the straight size section.
posted by palomar at 11:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not saying that markets are independent of society/socialization, but the assertion that any business is purposely forgoing a revenue stream, in the face of data letting them know it's available, is absurd.

There's certainly nothing inherently impossible about making haute couture (I am referring to garments that price in the thousands of dollars, to be clear) for any body type: they are already using ridiculous amounts of fabric and creating elaborate structures. If it can be shown to have earning potential, it will be done.
posted by Kurichina at 11:45 AM on September 9, 2016


i went into a jcrew the other day, looking for a pair of brightly coloured chinos in a 40x32. The manager said she would email online opitions, but of course there are none.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:46 AM on September 9, 2016


(Re: Wal-Mart... Maybe it's like how some Targets in other parts of the country apparently have really great plus size sections and all the Targets by me have two racks of stuff.)
posted by palomar at 11:47 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Even if such a Uniqlo does exist (and I truly hope it does), are these two observations that should go together?

I think the point is that the two observations point to a trend of paying attention to underserved markets.
posted by anastasiav at 11:58 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thank you palomar for this! "We're given shapeless garments in loud, ugly, infantilizing prints. Or our shit is all bedazzled to hell and back with studs and glitter and grommets and ruching. And for what we're being offered, yes, it is actually expensive. And it's insulting as hell to be told we're just being too precious about it, we should take whatever is on offer because, I don't know, I guess maybe we don't have the right to vote with our dollars the way thin people do."

I am over 50 and size 20-24 and petite. I have clothes that I bought ten+ years ago because I spend good money when I have it. And I make a very concerted effort to take care of the clothes I really like so I can keep wearing them a long time. But good money to me is buying quality brands on sale because I refuse even when I am doing well financially to spend $60 on a t-shirt or $100 on a pair of pants.

I want well-made things that last, are classic and will not be dated next week. I need professional items that I can wear at work and I want fun stuff that I can wear away from the office. I need things in both cases that have color but are not full of annoying patterns and sequins and fringe and flounces. Plus size "fashion" tends more toward busy which I guess the designers think disguises what they perceive as flaws. That bright pink peasant blouse with the Eiffel Tower scattered all over and the word "croissant" embellished with sequins along with puffed swirls and glitter rosettes just makes me: angry, cry out in despair, want to eat a croissant. It does not inspire me to buy the clothes supposedly geared to me.
posted by narancia at 12:10 PM on September 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


What I got from it is that he doesn't understand the Latina aesthetic she's representing

Absolutely for sure. I said this in the fanfare thread back on Ashley's season, but her clothes are the much fancier version of clothes I see every day on teenage girls in my Mexican neighborhood. Skinny girls, chubby girls, long marshmallow gumby leg girls, doesn't matter. Crop tops are in. Lace crop tops you can see a bra under are in. Bare midriffs are in. Barfy pastels are in. Wildly patterned tight tight leggings are in. Short shorts are in. Lace short shorts are in. All of it mixed together, in. I see it on my street all summer long. (Moreso two summers ago, this stuff seems like its on its way out, but that's beside the point.)

I get that Tim probably has limited experience being a 15 year old Latina, but these girls look cool and happy and thoroughly unconcerned with appearing taller and thinner, and honestly the more cool happy people we have in the world, the better.
posted by phunniemee at 12:11 PM on September 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


I am on the lower side of the plus-sizes, but while most stores carry my size it is rare that they have ANYTHING I want to wear. A Torrid opened up by me and I cried after I went shopping in one for the first time in years. It was the first time in years of clothes shopping that I haven't hated myself completely after. I actually felt good and couldn't wait to wear clothing for once. They even have CUTE bras in MY size.
posted by Catbunny at 12:18 PM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


"Or our shit is all bedazzled to hell and back with studs and glitter and grommets and ruching. "
I call this the 'almost perfectly nice shirt' syndrome. As in, this would have been a perfectly nice shirt if you'd just stopped throwing shit on it about four design elements ago.
posted by BlueNorther at 12:29 PM on September 9, 2016 [19 favorites]


Exactly, BlueNorther. It's just like when you spot a great article of clothing on the rack, like a shirt dress, but when you actually get up close to it you can see that it's made of impossibly thin and flimsy material that not only shows every miniscule detail of one's undergarments, but will also fall apart the first time it's laundered. That's my favorite! And it looks like about a third to a half of the Who What Wear line at Target is made of that kind of fabric. I liked the looks of a "drapey trench" that I saw there, until I realized it's almost transparent. I can't bring myself to spend $55 on a piece of outerwear that's actually just a really long open slightly sheer blouse that I'll get to wear maybe twice before it snags on a fingernail and gets shredded.
posted by palomar at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes. This kleenex-shirt sheer thing needs to die. Especially in hot climates, where I'm not layering shit. I just want to wear one shirt and have it cover up my bra/bellybutton enough that I can wear it to work. That's getting near impossible.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


I will also say that practically speaking there is a huge difference between someone who has a stockier or larger body type and is not signifcantly overweight (ie has a waist) and someone who has a thinner body type and is overweight (has a midsection that is wider than their shoulders, like a reverse waist) Tim Gunn is completely missing that point and thinking that all plus size women are thinner built and fat but a lot are simply broad shouldered and hipped and not significantly overweight. It's impossible to make clothing that fits and looks good on both groups, each group has the kind that looks best on them. Sorry Tim, usually I agree with you but you're wrong on this one. There is a market for clothiers that make clothes for different body types and not every clothier can make clothes for every body type. Plus not everyone wants to wear the same clothes, culture has a lot to do with how we dress.

I'm ridiculously tall and broad shouldered and NOTHING fits me so I am very qualified to speak on this topic.
posted by fshgrl at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2016


I remember attempting to do recreational shopping with my girlfriends. It always turns into all the rest of us making the one woman who is small enough to buy clothes, act as our Barbie doll, and pretending not to care.

I don't understand how clothing stores survive. Most clothing stores have NOTHING WHATSOEVER for most women to buy, so why is recreational shopping even a thing?
posted by elizilla at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think you just have to find the stores you know fit your body type and only shop there or you'll go mad. That's what I do anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 1:53 PM on September 9, 2016


I get that Tim probably has limited experience being a 15 year old Latina,

I think it's important to note that "Latina" is a really big word that doesn't cover everyone, and certainly not fashion.

"Teenage Mexican fashion" isn't going to be "Argentinian fashion" or "Nica fashion". As a Hispanic woman in my thirties, her lines are...not to my taste, or the taste of women in my or my family's cultural environment.

And I mean, that's honestly yet another part of the problem I have with current plus-size designs. I don't know Tipton's ethnicity, but most of them seem to be designed by white designers for the ethnicities they think are most likely to be fat and the styles and colors they think those ethnicities like to wear. And it just feels really exploity, like they're laughing at us behind their hands. Like they're like "Hey, you people like bold shit! Have some fucking zebra stripes!"
posted by corb at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think you just have to find the stores you know fit your body type and only shop there or you'll go mad. That's what I do anyway.

Yeah, that's why I shopped at Old Navy. Unfortunately they seem to have changed their fit model, and they've also discontinued about 75% of the stuff I used to buy from them.
posted by palomar at 2:19 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Teenage Mexican fashion" isn't going to be ...
... I don't know Tipton's ethnicity, but most of them seem to be designed by white designers for the


Ashley is Mexican American and in her early 20s, I think she probably knows her demo pretty ok.
posted by phunniemee at 2:29 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think you just have to find the stores you know fit your body type and only shop there or you'll go mad. That's what I do anyway.

This.

And I highly recommend taking advantage of any e-commerce site that has a) your sizes and b) a very liberal return policy. I much prefer ordering things in multiple sizes from my preferred vendors, and when the package arrives, I light a scented candle, put on some tunes that make me feel happy, pour a glass of wine, and check out what I'll be keeping and what I'm sending back. It's a far more pleasant experience, from both sensory and emotional perspectives, than nearly any retail experience bar "I booked a personal shopper at Nordstrom's."

I should note that this works for me because a) I don't find the ritual of going into a store and appraising clothing to be particularly relaxing, delightful or recreational, b) I am of an age (early 40s) where I already have all Be Prepared clothing for job interviews, weddings, funerals, holiday events, camping, etc. and c) I have a credit card so I can afford to charge purchases and deal with returns.

There's a lot of privilege in trauma-free shopping, any way you slice it.
posted by sobell at 2:34 PM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think you just have to find the stores you know fit your body type and only shop there or you'll go mad.

I don't think my city has any such stores*, so I just buy a bunch of random shit at Target, try it on at home, and return most of it.

*Granted, I'm picky about fiber content and have strange aesthetics along with being plus sized.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:40 PM on September 9, 2016


It does take some time to find your stores but as noted above Target clothes fit super weird. Like, wtf? weird. So it's worth investing some time in checking out other stores. Which I mostly do by stopping other women my height and saying where did you get that??
posted by fshgrl at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, I have lived here since 1983 - I've been in all the stores.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:09 PM on September 9, 2016


I should note that this works for me because a) I don't find the ritual of going into a store and appraising clothing to be particularly relaxing, delightful or recreational, b) I am of an age (early 40s) where I already have all Be Prepared clothing for job interviews, weddings, funerals, holiday events, camping, etc. and c) I have a credit card so I can afford to charge purchases and deal with returns.

Not to mention d) you have a way to accept packages (at least somewhat) painlessly. My height means that most of my clothing has to be ordered, and online ordering is really hit and miss (sometimes no problems, other times wait 2 hours at the post office) since I live in an apartment, am not home during the day and don't have a doorman. I have returned home with nothing the last 5 times I've gone shopping for jeans and can't find online even one pair that I like enough to deal with the order-3-sizes-send-back-2 hassle.
posted by matcha action at 3:11 PM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just want to be able to find wrap shirts more than once a decade. Actually, that's not the only thing. There are three plus size dress shops in my local shopping centre. Not one of them has a dress with an adjustable waist tie to it, so that I can get rid of the tent look without having to use a belt. It's a really simple design option for making a garment look more tailored. There are no V neck shirts (what? Are you crazy?) And many of the tops don't reach hip length, stopping at the waist which - i don't even. And button downs where the buttons are sufficiently far enough apart that they WILL gape. I also like singlets (its hot here) but why do the armholes have to be so large that you can literally see half of my boob? And these are plus size stores. PLUS! These clothes are supposedly designed for women over size 14. I just can't help thinking the designers are stupid.

I'd like to see a range of adjustable clothing that you put on inside out and adjust little fabric ties (or drawstring seams) to fit your body, and put back on the right way, and voila - tailored clothing! Also swimming costumes with proper bras in them. Seriously - anyone who thinks H-cups will stay up by themselves is mad, and putting a couple of cups in without the hook/eye band is just inviting the boobs to wander around madly.
posted by b33j at 4:11 PM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am a 26/28 and tall. I am a 43-year-old stay-at-home-mom and very rarely have to dress up, so for the past four years or so, I have solidified my options: Lands End sport knit pants and crops, and starfish pants for dressier wear; Old Navy for tall-plus jeans and men's 3XL solid and striped v-neck t-shirts. Every year I buy one or two pair of the pants when they are on sale, and 4 of the men's tees when they are on sale. That's it. And I have a black cardigan that I throw on when I have to go yell at the school board for rezoning us every couple of years. I gave up on in-person shopping when I got too fat for the Dress Barn (stops at size 24) and Lane Bryant stopped carrying basics (sometimes you just need a plain white shirt or khaki pants without jewels across the butt). Eileen Fisher would totally be my jam if I could afford it.
posted by candyland at 4:17 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Damn, those starfish pants look cozy as hell.
posted by palomar at 4:24 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


For my compatriots in the Work From Home mines, my uniform store is Woman Within. Perfect V-neck Tee (I prefer the 3/4 sleeves but they come in long and short too; available up to Size 38W), mine have been washed a ton and gotten sunscreen on them and oil disasters and they are still perfectly black. Plus their bike shorts (I like the cotton stretch non-athletic ones) in the summer. I like Lane Bryant's Livi Active leggings for the rest of the year.

I'm always irritated when I put together an order because their free/cheap shipping is 5-day, but the order usually goes out the same day and rarely takes longer than 3 days.

Completing my workday look is Torrid's Bandeau or Bralette. I have 9 of them and buy more every time they have a clearance and hoard them for fear of them being discontinued.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:45 PM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


God, the plus size Tom Ford knock offs. Sign me up if they ever go on offer.

I'm 14/16(US) and pear shaped so I can sneak in on straight sizes depending on the cut. But damn. I want tailored, beautiful, architectural clothes. I want a lined black shift dress in a decent fabric that fits beautifully. ModCloth/Boden/etc fulfills my twee. Sometimes I want simple and elegant. I will pay for silk and wool and linen. Stop trying to trap me in endless floral sparkle polyester!
posted by thivaia at 5:50 PM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


To quote Tim again, "I profoundly believe that women of every size can look good. But they must be given choices."

-The slimmer the lady, the more we are talking skeleton + some fairly standard distribution of body fat. Now, as a plus-size lady myself, I know that fat deposits lodge in different places.

As a thinner/smaller person - I also have fat deposits that lodge in different places. My ribs and shoulders and arms are shaped differently than others in my size. I have a large butt for my size that hates pants. Being dismissed or described as skeleton-like or a "hanger" or whatever is disheartening and hurts.

"Slimmer ladies" also are NOT a monolith all with the same body shape and fat distribution.

The entire clothing industry is super annoying and fucked up. And while I TOTALLY advocate for inclusive sizing and getting rid of that "plus" marking - I also advocate for inclusivity on both ways. Because shit, lots of JC Penny stuff only goes down to a 4. Lots of Target stuff doesn't come in a 0 or XS in tops. And I can't wear petite stuff because it's always too short on me. I can't ever find a bra in-store because they don't go below a 32 band. I mean, there's tons of women designing plus size clothing and I too say "oh my god I want that too!!"

And agreed, if Modcloth and PinUpGirl Clothing and other places can run from XS to 3X then regular retailers can do it too. I think it's bullshit to hide behind "what customers they are attracting" because if they don't carry a size in the first place then how are they to know they would bring in those customers. Even things that market toward "juniors" excludes people of larger-than-juniors sizing. That sucks. The same way lots of "women's" lines are too large for me on top.

Creating more inclusive design and style goes to both sides of the spectrum. Each woman is a different size and shape. The same way there shouldn't be shaming and immature designing for people on the larger spectrum, the same can be said for people on the smaller spectrum.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:44 PM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Oh man, this thread speaks to me. I'm in my 30s working in a fairly conservative field. There is basically nowhere for me to shop that satisfies my desire for non-frumpy, but fairly preppy/conservative/femme clothing. I have money to spend and would kill for Anne Taylor to actually do plus sizes. I would buy basically every single piece in the Vera Wang budget line at Kohls, but... nope! Huge huge Vera Wang display that taunts me everytime I got to their tiny plus size section to paw through polyester nightmares that essentially stock the seasonal equivalent of Ugly Christmas Sweater year round.

(That said, my fellow plus size ladies: the Kohls workout line is sized really well and is good quality! I get all of my yoga/workout clothes there now!)
posted by TwoStride at 7:06 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I'm also so, so bitter because for a while I had a good thing going with the Lands End A-line dresses, but then this year they decided to put fucking PLEATS at the (high) waistline, so now their goddamn dresses make me look like I'm carrying twins or possibily that parasite from Aliens.
posted by TwoStride at 7:09 PM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I work in a conservative corporate environment. The plus-size collections available here (Australia) are a wasteland of frumpy, pleated, frilly, ruched, sequinned, no-sleeve "shirts" and "skinny" pants that look shit on every body type and look like they were made for pre-schoolers. I regularly try on 10-20 items every couple of months, and I end up buying perhaps 1 item each time. Maybe. If I'm lucky. $50 for a tshirt with sleeves is not unusual so when there's a sale I buy 6. Usually all black.

If I shop in department stores that cater to the "older" demographic (ie, over 20's), then I also have to run the gauntlet of thick, heavy fabric (Australia, motherfuckers!!! I can't even!), and a queer combination where everything is either super sheer with no sleeves at all, or full length sleeves (usually in a heavy tweed), roll necks and/or giant lapels with randomly placed faux zippers to off-set the odd asymmetric ragged-ass cuts.

Needless to say, nothing has pockets.
posted by ninazer0 at 8:12 PM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


People are giving Tim Gunn a bit of a hard time here. I think his basic message is that women in the U.S are larger on average than a size 2-8, are ready to spend money on clothes, but most designers are too lazy/short sighted to create more designs to fit a larger variety of body types and weights. I've been a size two and a size twelve, and while I could basically dress off the rack at a smaller size, I've found it darn near impossible to find clothes with any sensible darting or fitting at a larger size. I feels like I am either wearing a tent that flows off of my chest or cramming myself into some top/dress that is a carbon copy (but larger) of a cut that only looks flattering on someone with a flat stomach and small chest. When I do find a shirt that has a shape that is flattering, I buy a couple of them. I like my body, but it is so frustrating to not have clothes available that are designed for someone like me. I get that it is cheaper to base designs off of one body type, but I also know that the fashionista in me has been very squelched because of the lack of good clothes, and so also the money I would otherwise spent.
posted by branravenraven at 8:28 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Question for any who might've shopped there recently: has the quality of Modcloth gone up? I tried a few dresses with them but was disappointed in both the quality of the finishing (they're cheap but I didn't think they'd be that cheap) and that all of the dresses were too short for me to feel comfortable wearing to work.
posted by TwoStride at 8:33 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]



Question for any who might've shopped there recently: has the quality of Modcloth gone up?


Depends on the garment. If I'm honest, my favorite ModCloth pieces are summer sundresses of the the sort that when they last past one season I'm thrilled. On the other hand, I've lucked into the occasional awesome find. On the plus, they source from a bunch of different designers. I bought a dress from a boutique brand on ModCloth that I loved a couple years back and then bought another dress from that brand's website (because ModCloth didn't stock it).

I have a close friend and she's more or less the same size as I am (though we're proportioned differently). When they have those giant ModCloth sales, sometimes we'll go in on one order and get a bunch of dresses and trade out what doesn't work. Inevitably we end up with a thing that doesn't work for either of us, but that's what consignment shops/Ebay/Clothes swaps are for, right?
posted by thivaia at 8:46 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I actually do ok finding clothes that fit me. J.Jill has my back, and Talbot's, bless them, even has a nice shop just for me in the mall where I can try on work clothes and talk with nice ladies who treat me well.

I recently looked at the Talbots web site for the first time in years (link is to the 'Woman Plus' new arrivals section). I was surprised to see that they have pictures of plus-size models of varying sizes, including women who are much larger than I am used to seeing modeling clothes. Maybe this isn't a new thing, I haven't shopped for clothes much in years. It made me really happy to see women of different sizes and shapes looking good and happy modeling clothes. Then I got pissed off that being able to see how clothes might fit on different women's body types is so unusual.
posted by medusa at 9:22 PM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know some people are saying that it must not make financial sense to carry more and better plus sizes or else shops would do it. That sounds logical, but I honestly think the root cause is just hatred of fat people and the feeling that they don't "deserve" fashion. I find it hard saying "they" instead of "we" and this is an interesting subject to me right now because I've lost over 50lbs in the last year. The experience of clothes shopping has changed so dramatically for me that while it has been great, it makes me really angry for how upset shopping made me for all of my adult life up to this point. I can lift so many things now that I had to automatically ignore before, I can order cheap clothes online and know they'll fit. I can try on cute dresses FOR FUN and not even buy them and leave the shop feeling good about myself. And I think of trying to find an outfit for my MA graduation and crying in changing rooms because nothing fitted. I worked so bloody hard for that and trying to just get a frigging outfit to wear to collect my degree was as stressful as some parts of the course. I should not have been forced to feel shit about myself that day. I think of all the weddings, family parties, nights out that should have been fun to shop for and attend and instead I was forced to hate my body in badly lit dressing rooms trying to get badly cut clothes over my calves, my thighs, my ass, my arms. I think of how blatantly and openly designers and clothes shops have pretty much shouted in my face "we don't want you. this isn't for the likes of you. go away" by only stocking a few ugly, stupid items that are supposed to make me disappear into the background to let the thin, pretty girls shine front and centre. I feel guilty that I've been given the keys now to the dressing up box because now I conform, when I'm exactly the same person I've always been. Now I'm good enough for them and I feel like throwing the keys back at them, but at the same time I have looked longingly at this experience for 20 years and I really, really want nice clothes but I did when I was bigger too and they wouldn't let me have them. I'm just so cross that they deliberately deny joy to women who don't or can't or won't conform. Maybe economics plays a part but God, misogyny directs the whole show.
posted by billiebee at 10:54 AM on September 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


I live in dresses from Asos, Modcloth, City Chic, Hell Bunny, Cherry Velvet and other dressmakers with plus size lines. And I am one of those driving sleeveless dress demands because if a dress fits in the waist/boobs/shoulders it usually doesn't fit in the sleeves as i've got fat arms proportionately I guess.

I'm so glad for mailorder from these companies (and gwinne bee) but it sure would be lovely to have a local store to shop for clothes in other than Talbots, Lane Bryant, or Torrid.

Here's my fashion pet peeve- lingerie stores online that NEVER show their lingerie on fat bodies. Even their plus size models are hourglass shaped and nobody has rolls or droopy boobs or hanging tummies or any of that. It's hard to imagine what the items will look like on a non-hourglass, non tight body.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 7:59 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not saying that markets are independent of society/socialization, but the assertion that any business is purposely forgoing a revenue stream, in the face of data letting them know it's available, is absurd.

This is an incredibly naive opinion. I mean, have you honestly never heard of companies letting prejudice get in the way of the bottom line???
posted by lunasol at 9:59 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Or had a boss determined to make bad decisions in spite of the evidence presented by experienced staff? The free market pretends to be coldly rational but it's just as impulsive and biased as any other human endeavour.
posted by harriet vane at 4:58 AM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ninazer0 and other Aussies, you might find nice plus-size clothes at Birdsnest. I'm petite so I can't speak from direct experience, but they seem to avoid the bling and scribbles I see in bricks & mortar store windows for plus-sizes. I've found the user reviews on each item quite useful and they have a good returns policy. They do stock some tissue-thin items, but this is always mentioned in the reviews so it's easily avoidable.
posted by harriet vane at 5:07 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Christian Siriano seems to be getting some good buzz for the models who walked his runway at New York Fashion Week.
posted by sardonyx at 2:24 PM on September 11, 2016


I was just at a local JC Penney (Briarwood Mall, Ann Arbor) this weekend and viewed it with this discussion in mind. All the "fashion" is on the ground floor, nicely displayed, several multi-stall dressing rooms, etc. Unless you are a "womans" size. Then you have to go upstairs to the household goods/furniture floor, where you get an afterthought area with a few halfheartedly organized racks and one makeshift dressing room.

Talbot's and some of the other clothing stores in the mall don't even carry anything above 16 (but half the Talbot's is given over to petites).
posted by Preserver at 3:51 PM on September 11, 2016


I was just at Kohl's this afternoon and had to share this.

Both pictures are of items from the Chaps brand. The second picture is from the straight sizes section, which was neat and well-lit. The shirt I took a picture of is cute and well-made for the price point, with subtle darting on the sides to give a slightly feminine silhouette without being overly girly. It's something I could see lots of different kinds of women wearing and enjoying.

The first photo is from the Chaps "section" of the plus-size department, which was in a poorly-lit, messy corner. The shirts, well, honestly, they look like something my 72-year-old dad would wear in Florida to barbecue in. They are boxy and I can't imagine a shape that they would be flattering on besides "male retiree." The material was also much flimsier than the other shirt pictured and the print looked cheap.

In a vacuum, the shirts would be fine. Other women might like the prints, and not everyone wants form-fitting clothes. But in comparison with the cute, decently-constructed tops from the same brand in a different part of the store, it was so disheartening.

I walked out of there without even trying anything on. I don't know if I'll ever go back.
posted by lunasol at 6:27 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Discovering GwynnieBee a couple of years ago was a revelation for me. It's a clothing subscription, essentially, for sizes 10-32. I used to think I just didn't care about clothes, but now that I have access to ample well-made clothing in different styles and patterns, it turns out that I'm actually kind of a "fationista". I guess not having to dig through the obviously neglected plus racks in the back of The Bay helps, ha ha ha ha ha.

And, lo and behold, once I started getting regular access to cute clothing that fit well, my monthly clothing expenditures increased tenfold. If a storefront made cute, professional clothing in plus sizes and presented it as though they gave a damn, I would have probably been spending my money there before now.
posted by jess at 11:03 AM on September 13, 2016


I kind of both love and hate Gwynniebee. I ran through it like a kid in a candy shop for the first few months, and then realized that while it has a few nice things, most of the clothing is also cheaply made and unflattering. It doesn't do me much good to take out 7 pieces of clothing, and only 2 look nice. The worst suspects were the coats and dresses. I canceled my subscription.

But I would have stayed forever if they were higher priced, but well made.
posted by corb at 1:08 PM on September 13, 2016


I've had this tab open for a while, because I have a lot of thoughts about a subject I need to discuss very sensitively.

I am a plus size woman who works for a major fashion brand in a tax role. So I'm at the same headquarters where a lot of decisions are made. And sometimes my complaints almost fall on influential ears, but mostly they're dismissed for lack of expertise.

As I see it, there are a few competing problems that mostly boil down to sexism, sexism everywhere, and not a thing to wear.

1) Women's fashion is still based on the idea of external validation. There are plenty of women who participate in feminist fashion, and play with their looks for internal gratification. But menswear started in an effort to give men the clothing they need to do the job. Levi's is an iconic brand because they wanted to give miners clothing that would hold up under those working conditions. Comfort and utility are primary concerns. And while the range of acceptable aesthetics is more limited than women, that's because there's a larger spectrum of who is allowed to inhabit that aesthetic. This unconscious sexism is baked into so many assumptions, from product design to advertising to product assortment. And unfortunately, it hits hardest on women who live outside the realm of "acceptable femininity".

2) Women's fashion is relatively conservative because it is a market filled with giants. The larger a company is, the harder it is to change. So even when change is potentially good and profitable, there's also the risk that they will fuck it up (the thread on the failure of Target Canada did not sound unfamiliar to me). Big Business is pretty equivalent to Big Government. Done right, it can achieve amazing things by having access to capital that isn't available to smaller organizations. But the larger it is, the harder it is to get it right. This makes them risk averse, and all waiting for someone else to do it right, so they can mimic their success. This is why success is coming from smaller companies. My favorite examples are Adore Me, which found that women respond better to relatable models, rather than aspirational models. And that a larger size range increases sales for straight sizes, disproving the stupid idea that plus size will weaken a brand's desirability. For better or worse, people like knowing they're not the largest person wearing that bra. And ModCloth has been making great strides with forcing their suppliers to offer plus size options. Though the downside is that not all of their designers are great about grading. So the fit can be.... uneven to be generous. It says a lot that Eloquii failed under The Limited's leadership, and has thrived as an independent company.
posted by politikitty at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Agreed that the shirts in the first Kohl's photo look frumpy, but they are Croft & Barrow (one of Kohl's cheap store brands), not Chaps.
posted by superna at 6:33 PM on September 14, 2016


I mean, have you honestly never heard of companies letting prejudice get in the way of the bottom line???

Not ones that remain in business for decades.

Alternatives pop up and out compete them if there's a market. If Sirisano does this, then the rest will be forced to follow suit just to get a portion of the market.
posted by Kurichina at 6:29 PM on September 15, 2016


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