Too Fat for Fashion?

Not everyone can be a size two, not everyone can even be a size ten, so how is it, in this world of excessive consumption and larger proportions, do so many women get shut out of the world of fashion? If you’re too large, you seem to be herded off to the oversize sweater and sad saggy pant department, instead of experiencing the glories of high end fashion. But as pointed out by Christina Binkley, in a style article for the US’ Wall Street Journal, the tides may be turning.

Most designers only size their lines up to a size twelve, but the average American woman’s size is a fourteen, so clearly, there is a disconnect. Some designers however, are beginning to offer larger, ‘queen size’ garments up to a size twenty-four, opening up a whole new market that had essentially been outcast from the fashion community. Labels such as Tadashi Shoji, Anne Klein, Ellen Tracy, and a few others are recreating their ready-to-wear clothing for larger women, although this is hardly a trend embraced by the big-whigs in the community (would Kaiser Karl ever deign to dress a very curvy woman, no).

There are two looming questions that seem to swirl around this news: a.) when is fashion art and when is it commerce, and b.) when should fashion be inclusive, if ever? The first one seems quite easy; Martin Margiela‘s work is indeed wearable art, and like so many of his intellectual contemporaries (save except perhaps for Rei Kawakubo who is bridging the gap with H&M), their art has no concern for commerce. So few designers make any real profit from their work, that this question seems to divide many just starting in the industry: who wants to make money and who wants to love what they do? When funds are scarce, it’s difficult to balance the two ideals.

The second question; however, proves more difficult. One can argue that fashion should be egalitarian; that everyone should be able to participate; it is after all one of the most enjoyable forms of self expression, and everyone should certainly be allowed to express their style and personality. On the flip side, fashion stalwarts argue that certain things will only ever look good on a size two, and that fashion must remain an exclusive art form; after all, if we could all afford a Gautier dress (or fit into one for that matter) would we hold them in such high esteem? But what sort of message is the industry sending young girls when heavier figures are deemed ugly and unsuitable for such elegance?

What do you think? Is there such a thing as too fat for fashion?


  • Kelly says:

    True, some things will only ever look good on a size two. So leave them for the size twos. And give other women other clothes – I don’t think it’s that everyone needs to have the same access to the same exact clothes and patterns, but that everyone should have the ability to be stylish. That means I’ll wear a different dress than my stick-figure friends, but we should both have the means to look our respective best.

  • E(ileen) says:

    I remember trying on dresses in Calvin Klein some time ago. I was thinner then than I am now, but I wasn’t confident about the sizes and so asked about a dress. This was the exchange:

    Me: Hi, do you have this dress in a larger size?
    Gorgeous gay sales assistant: It IS a larger size dahling, it’s a 10.
    Me: What about a 12?
    Gorgeous gay sales assistant: (looking very severe) Calvin Klein does NOT make dresses in size 12.

    As it turned out I fit into the 10 and even an 8… but I wasn’t ready to pay $700 for a dress then (or now). I can find many gorgeous vintage for a fraction of the price, because they were mostly tailor made for real women.

  • Chen says:

    On the topic of seeing fashion as art I’ll analogise an item of clothing to a painting.

    If the beauty of the painting is in it’s miniaturised but still detailed form, reproducing a larger version of it will certainly diminish its beauty. The same thing applies to shrinking an enormous painting known for its size.

    On the other hand if size is not what gives the painting that special something, then changing the size will have no impact or an insignificant impact.

    Relating it back to clothes, if the whole point of a haute couture look is the size/shape that cannot be transferred into a larger article of clothing then understandably the designer will not want to make that look for larger women because it will be pointless.

    At the same time that woman will probably (hopefully) know this and not want to wear that look.

  • Chen says:

    … But the designer is not in control of what the consumer does with the item after the sale. It’s like the painter not being able to dictate how the audience interprets his work.

    Sorry just sounding out some ideas :S

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