Fashion guru Tim Gunn, who is also a mentor on Project Runway, wrote a piece for the Washington Post yesterday criticizing the fashion industry for its lack of options for plus-sized women.
“I love the American fashion industry,” Gunn wrote, “but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-sized women. It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University.”
Gunn’s article recounts his discussions with designers and why they don’t provide more options above a size 12 and receiving replies that the designers weren’t interested in larger women. At best, they were ignorant of the fact that more women today wear a size 16 or 18 than they do a size 2 or 4. At worst, they were openly contemptuous when it came to designing clothes for larger bodies.
Women who have ever tried to shop for stylish, affordable clothes over a size 14 will tell you that the struggle is real. The options have obnoxious prints. They’re in really unflattering colors. They’re oddly bedazzled (why?) across the chest or the back pockets (please stop doing this, designers). They have no shape or structure. The design is often terribly constructed (designers, please, please stop creating a larger shirt size with a regular sized sleeve opening). It’s hard to get excited about wearing something when you feel so frumpy and self-conscious about it. When you’re in clothing that fits well and looks good, regardless of your size, you feel more confident.
And trying to purchase plus-sized clothing retail is, to put it mildly, discouraging. Walk up to a rack of clothing. There might be half a dozen size 4 or 6 there, but then everything that was there is picked over because the demand is higher than the supply. As Gunn noted in his article, there is a great demand for stylish plus-sized clothing that is not insulting to the women who wear it — meaning that it’s designed with care and for different body types and sizes and it’s clothing that women actually want to wear. Women want to spend more money here, but designers continue to ignore them. Even many of the ones who do claim to offer larger size options have a pretty pathetic selection.
“There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them,” Gunn wrote.
Following Gunn’s article, Twitter users sharing the article had almost nothing but praise for him.
I love Tim Gunn so much. https://t.co/mpAVTSjAXp
— Kelly L Davis (@byKellyLDavis) September 9, 2016
— Allison Churchill (@Aloe9678) September 9, 2016
— Andrea Westaway (@awestaway) September 9, 2016
— Rachel Huber (@RachelHuberFL) September 9, 2016
— Anna Zornosa (@AnnaZornosa) September 9, 2016
…and Tim Gunn really hones in on why it shouldn't be that way and why it's so important for the fashion industry to change, not customers.
— Shannon (@shanlmck) September 9, 2016
— Marissa Goldberg (@MezuzahGoldberg) September 9, 2016
"Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing? It’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience." https://t.co/WdvGrcYOzA
— Kira Bindrim (@KiraBind) September 9, 2016
.@TimGunn You should do a plus-size spinoff of "Project Runway"! Get it into the mainstream, have fun with it.
— Kelly (@potterarchy) September 9, 2016
— Jennifer Petitt (@JenPetitt) September 9, 2016
— TeCuento (@ConModestia) September 9, 2016