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Old 28th February 2009   #1
Join Date: July 2005
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Default Why designers ignore plus-size women

An article in the LA Times examines why designers continue to ignore plus-size women, despite the high profit potential:

"Plus-size has been a challenge for the industry for decades," said Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst for the research firm NPD Group. "When I interview plus-size women, there's really nothing [in the market] that the consumer says they like..." The longing for style is strong, but the hopes of finding it are low, and shopping is less fun than frustrating.

The message board at, the online incarnation of Figure, a magazine for full-figured women, reads like a laundry list of ways that brands and retailers aren't connecting with the demographic.

One reader [writes], "We have money -- why don't they want to sell to us?"

Another adds, "I don't want any more polyester, hip-hop gear, frumpy jeans and themed capris! I want the designers not to assume that I am a frumpy 55-year-old, middle-management employee. . . . Is anyone listening to us?"

It's a which-came-first scenario, Cohen said. Because plus-size women have been ignored for years, they've stopped actively looking for shopping opportunities. But when retailers bring savvy style to the plus-size game (as Gap Inc. did with its short-lived concept, Forth & Towne, which carried fashion-forward clothing for career women in sizes 2 to 20), they often shutter their efforts before they have a chance to bloom.

"Retailers don't have the patience to allow it to evolve," he added. "This is a market that's been underserved for 50 years. Customers are saying, 'For 50 years, you've ignored me and now you expect me to react to it instantaneously?' No."

At the crux of the inequity, according to some plus-size designers, models and retailers, is prejudice toward women the industry doesn't find particularly glamorous or sexy. Like fifth-grade girls who secretly live in fear of being ostracized from the cool clique, they don't want to be caught talking to the f-girl.

Full-figured supermodel Emme sells her own plus-size collection, me by Emme, on QVC, and will be debuting Emme Style, an online clearinghouse for plus-size fashion resources, this year under the same name. Top fashion magazine editors and designers, she said, are guilty of perpetuating the idea that full-figured women and fashion don't mix. "It really does come from very few edicts from a few people," she said. "You have to ask yourself why they are [defending] against this. Seriously, there are issues there.",full.story

Last edited by HSG : 5th March 2009 at 01:44. Reason: URL edited
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Old 5th March 2009   #2
M. Lopez
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Default Re: Why designers ignore plus-size women

Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing the link.

I think the comment in bold, from Emme, is dead on: "It really does come from very few edicts from a few people...Seriously, there are issues there." Absolutely true on both counts. First of all, the majority of people don't share this curve-o-phobia. But the tiny clique of individuals in Manhattan and Hollywood whom we've allowed to control our culture do. We've allowed them to impose their alien tastes on the rest of society, to let them dictate what's aesthetically right and wrong. And that's ridiculous. These are people whom we would never elect to be our representatives, whose drugged-out lifestyles most of us would abhor. Yet they are literally in control of women's minds. It's unthinkable.

And oh yes, they sure do have "issues" with actual femininty. If anyone has ever found themselves on a straight-size fashion forum, the attitudes there seem to have come from an alien planet. They are repelled by any girl with even a trace of a feminine feature, a hint of a hip or the tiniest vestige of a bust. Their prissiness ("Eek, womanly flesh") would be comical if the results weren't so devastating: that these weirdos get to work out their issues by infecting the majority of women with their anti-feminine neuroses.

I was also dismayed by what the article quotes one designer as saying:

"My sales team was adamantly opposed to me doing a plus-size line," said Pally, because they feared it would cause her signature line to lose cachet."
Cachet with whom? That's the other tagedy in this. Even women who don't personally have the curve-o-phobic issues of the people who run the media, even they still kowtow to those who do, because the fashion elites are seen as being "cool," as if their opinion matters somehow.

Well, it shouldn't.

What's needed is a complete turnaround in thinking: If Vogue or Elle or the fashion world dislike something (a style, a model, a shape of a full figure), that something is probably beautiful, and should be celebrated. A "cachet" from them should be rejected, and instead, their disapproval should be considered a badge of honour.
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Old 12th April 2009   #3
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Default Re: Why designers ignore plus-size women

On the topic of full-figured women and fashion, there was a fairly positive piece in The Times the other day. The author appears to have escaped conventional thinking about size, and some of her tips are worth taking to heart.


I ignore all the patronising style edicts directed at size 16s and refuse to wear boring black tailoring in the vain, ridiculous hope that I might “look slim”...My ethos is to enjoy fashion.

- Be convinced of your own intrinsic fabulousness and stylishness, whatever size you are.

- Never wear saggy old tracksuits — apart from when you are going to the gym.

- Take pleasure in colour and pattern — dress yourself like an art exhibit, not to be slim or invisible.

- Pay attention to your hair and make-up — I get my hair done once a week and I never leave the house without interesting make-up.

- Don’t be afraid to stand out. This season’s brights will make sure your shift looks not the least bit sensible.

Not a perfect article, but the basic premise - rejecting the idea of choosing black because it is supposedly "slimming", and more importantly, rejecting the idea of "slimming" as a goal in the first place, is noteworthy.

The idea of trying to dress to be "slimming" is an approach based on shame, and that shame will always be evident. Reject that! Instead, dress to look curvy, to emphasize curves, to look as curvy as possible. Then you will feel confident and sexy - because you will be sexy.
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Old 27th July 2009   #4
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Default Re: Why designers ignore plus-size women

The initial article in this thread is both enlightening and horrifying. That the fashion industry displays an outright hatred of curvaceous women is obvious and indisputable, but the writer deserves credit for openly identifying it as "prejudice"--for that's exactly what it is.

The comparison to a high-school-clique mentality is extremely perceptive, as it identifies the maturity level (or lack thereof) of the designers, editors, etc. who perpetuate this prejudice. Emme is right--they have "issues" galore (issues that have been discussed on this forum). These individuals would be merely pitiful, except that they foist their warped, marginal aesthetic on society, and as a result, all women end up suffering because of the diktats of these fringe personalities.

By creating a fashion world that is antithetical to the well-endowed womanly figure, the same "freak" individuals who were understandably ostracized in high school end up taking (either unwittingly or subconsciously) a bitter, lifelong revenge on the curvaceous goddesses who once bested them. And in the process, the majority of women end up suffering.

This resentment-based anti-feminine aesthetic must end.

There is definitely something to the following idea:

Originally Posted by M. Lopez
What's needed is a complete turnaround in thinking: If Vogue or Elle or the fashion world dislike something (a style, a model, a shape of a full figure), that something is probably beautiful, and should be celebrated. A "cachet" from them should be rejected, and instead, their disapproval should be considered a badge of honour.

Very true, except that one wouldn't want the reaction to be reflexively oppositional. True, 95% of the time, every rule or approach that the straight-size industry takes contradicts timeless beauty, but there is that 5% of the time when it gets it right. In those cases, there is no reason to reject trends that actually suit curvy women (for example, the romantic "new femininity" of several seasons ago, which was perfect for full figures), just to maintain a contradictory stance.

But apart from those rare instances of congruence, one can definitely adopt an "anti-Vogue" approach to full-figure design:

Where minus-size fashion is androgynous, plus-size fashion should be feminine.
Where minus-size fashion is grimly urban, plus-size fashion should be natural.
Where minus-size fashion is minimalist, plus-size fashion should be opulent.
Where minus-size fashion is modern, plus-size fashion should be timeless.

And when straight-size fashionistas offer "rules" or "advice" for full-figured women, those edicts must invariably be turned on their head:

Rather than loose and shapeless, curvy fashion should be as closely fitted and figure-embracing as possible.
Rather than dyed a boring, make-me-invisible black, curvy fashion should be richly hued (or white).
Rather than modern, curvy fashion should be Old World feminine.

A perfect curvy-model test image: one that is shot in a gorgeous natural location, and displays a figure-embracing, abbreviated, vibrantly hued dress that hugs the wearer's curves, and shows off the sensual swell of her hips and abdomen:

(Model is Victoria Lewis, Wilhelmina NY)

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