Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

August 27, 2008

So much wrong

Filed under: Accessories,Fashion,The Fat's in the Fire — Francesca @ 12:15 pm

So many things wrong with the world are expressed in this Wall Street Journal article, on so many levels, that Francesca hardly knows where to start:

I’ve spent months asking people in the fashion industry why large sizes are so rare. Designer Elie Tahari explained last year that it’s expensive to offer bigger sizes, which require more fabric, as well as special patterns and a separate “fit” model, a model whose standard proportions are used to fit the clothes.

Mr. Tadashi, however, says large women are willing to pay extra for designer duds. His queen-size dresses retail for roughly $350 to $800, about 10% to 15% more than his standard sizes.

Perhaps more important, fashion-industry people are often fixated on their own ideals of beauty. Many designers just don’t want to see their clothes on big people — and many stores are complicit, displaying tiny sizes and keeping larger ones in back. Paige Adams-Geller, a former fit model for many high-end jeans manufacturers, told me in March that she urged designers to consider how their clothes would look on a woman who wore, for instance, a size 10.

“And the designer would say, ‘Well, I don’t want someone who is that size,’ ” she said, ” ‘They shouldn’t be wearing my brand.’ ” Ms. Adams-Geller turned that into a profitable business, Paige Premium Denim, selling jeans for up to size 28 — or “4X.” “I’m like, there’s a lot of people out there that size with money to spend,” she said.


Let’s see. We have the fact that designers don’t want women like us wearing their clothes. But we knew that. It is bigoted and disgusting, but we knew about it.

We have the fact that large women often pay extra for their clothes, even though the proportions of the fit model, etc are often arbitrary; who decided that one body shape is normal and another is not? But we knew that.

We have the fact (later in the article) that “shoes and handbags” are the only items easy to fit to larger women. But boy, did we know that!

There is the implication (later in the article) that plus-size models actually do things like eat and smile during photo shoot breaks, making Francesca worry even more about the emotional and physical state of “normal” models.

There is the good news that some designers are seeing the $$$$ opportunities and making clothes for NORMAL PEOPLE LIKE US.

Francesca is grateful that the reporter, Christina Binkley, did not show any overt anti-fat sentiment in her writing. In general the article is respectful of the needs of women, and recognizes that MOST women are not being served by the fashion industry.

But it will be a much better world when even generally respectful people do not report that “gathers called ruching, darts and shutter pleats coyly masking all manner of flaws.”

Francesca knows it is a utopic dream, but would it not be wonderful if belly rolls, lumps, etc were considered simply “body shapes” and not “flaws”?


(Hat tip: Thanks to our friend Nancy for sending us the link.)


  1. “We have the fact that large women often pay extra for their clothes, even though the proportions of the fit model, etc are often arbitrary; who decided that one body shape is normal and another is not? But we knew that.”

    As a size 2 petite, I also pay extra for my clothes — about the same amount extra as they charge for plus sizes, apparently. I don’t have a big problem with that, if the petite and plus sizes are more expensive to make. The most outrageous thing about this article, to me, is the designers saying that big girls shouldn’t be wearing their brand. That is just disgusting.

    Comment by Cat — August 27, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  2. “the proportions of the fit model, etc are often arbitrary”

    You said it! Many many MANY years ago, I interviewed for a position as a size 18 fit model for Levi-Strauss’s new plus line. The winning applicant’s body would be used to develop patterns for millions of garments. They measured me, and told me that my waist measurement was two inches larger than they were looking for, but that they’d really like me to try to lose that and come back in, because I had a 17″ thigh, and they were having a terrible time finding a plus model with a thigh that small. It doesn’t seem to have ever occurred to them that if you can’t find proportions for which you’re looking, then maybe you should rethink your goals.

    Sure enough, when the new Levi’s plus clothes hit the market, I tried them on, and they were all very snug in the thighs. As I recall, the line tanked.

    Comment by Margo — August 27, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  3. Shame on Levi’s. Feel free to disagree, but it’s been my experience that most plus clothing is fitted for apples, not pears (and probably not any other profiles either). I thank god that SOMEONE got it thru their thick skulls that not all plus size gals are shaped the same, and now buy the Blue fit jeans / pants at Lane Bryant & now Fashion Bug.

    Comment by Jewels — August 27, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  4. I admit that I don’t have time to read the entire article, but I do have one pair of Paige jeans, and even with Paige’s attitude about size (which I appreciate) they’re still cut very small – I had to buy two sizes larger than I wear in Gap/Old Navy jeans. I thought that was kind of funny, given the reasons for that company’s inception.

    (I’m not knocking the company; the jeans fit really well – it just seemed ironic that someone with such an open mind about sizing would assign sizes the way she did.)

    Comment by Esther — August 27, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  5. And yet, if you actually look at a pattern in the fabric store… They’re lying through their teeth about it being so much harder. First off, once that pattern is in mainline production, it can be scaled up with a computer. Second, take this simple dress as an example.

    Note on the yardage that a size 24 only take half a yard more of fabric than the size 8 of the same view. Yup, 3 times the size is only 18 more inches of fabric in LENGTH. the width of the fabric doesn’t change! And they wonder why I get pissed about paying that much more for a larger size? The only time I’ve made a pattern that cost a significant amount more than a smaller size was a Civil War hoop skirt.

    So they admit they don’t want someone who looks like me wearing their brand? That’s fine. I’m sure there’s someone out there who wants my money. Reminds me of the old line “I wouldn’t want to join a club that wouldn’t have me as a member.”

    Comment by Mo — August 27, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  6. I actually think the line is “I wouldn’t want to join a club that WOULD have me as a member”… It’s Groucho Marx.

    Comment by Jenny — August 27, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

  7. Very, very well said… and a topic very near and dear to my heart — and my pocketbook. I wish that department stores wouldn’t segregate “Plus Size” clothing to a separate, hidden department in the back corner of the store. As if it were something to be ashamed of! Some designer labels actually DO offer larger sizes, but they’re displayed in a different department.

    Comment by GradualDazzle — August 27, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

  8. To the poster on Paige, they had to redo the jeans. The first run of Paige plus had ridiculous-fitting legs. In most plus jeans, I take a 16. I had to go up to 22 in the first Paige run because I have pretty muscular thighs.
    Overall, I liked the article. I did chuckle, though, because Binkley used Queen Latifah as the celebrity archetype of plus. I think that’s because Latifah still has a positive image and is fairly well known in the wider society.

    Comment by OCCaliAKA — August 28, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

  9. Actually, though Esther, Gap and Old Navy are rather renowned for their “vanity sizing”, so they’re not really a good yardstick. I still fit into a certain pair of size 10 Old Navy jeans. And I’m sorry, but at 5″8 and 210lbs, there is no freaking way that I am a size 10. In most everything else, I’m a 14/16.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — August 28, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  10. I’ve been getting increasingly irritated with Old Navy’s “vanity” sizing. I want to know my real size, dagnabbit! It makes shopping elsewhere difficult because I’m not really sure what I wear.

    Comment by teteatete — August 28, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  11. I usually put the refusal of “high end” designers to make clothing in larger sizes down to laziness and lack of talent. On a stick thin body, the clothing tends to hang from the shoulders and [what there is of the] hips. Easy. You’re designing for a nearly two dimensional form; not much more complicated than designing for a coat hanger. Design for a larger woman with curves, you have to consider how the fabric will fall over breasts and belly and ass and thighs. Much trickier.

    Comment by SaraDarling — August 28, 2008 @ 10:36 pm

  12. “Utopic” is not a word.

    Comment by verelle — August 29, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  13. I love pedantry as much as the next girl Verelle, but the fine folks at the Oxford English Dictionary seem to respectfully disagree with your assertion.

    Utopic, adjective
    That embodies or proposes utopian ideals.
    1952 B. WOLFE Limbo ’90 438 All such writing is essentially satiric (today-centered), not utopic (tomorrow-centered). 1972 Biblical Theol. Bull. Feb. 44 A pre-history, preliminary to the ‘utopic’ history of tomorrow. 1975 Aviation Week & Space Technol. 13 Oct. 15/1 The document we have prepared is certainly audacious, a bit courageous, and probably utopic.

    Comment by Plumcake — August 29, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

  14. I’m going to have to play devil’s advocate here. A friend of mine is at Parson’s right now working in fashion design. As a part of her program, she has had to make various types of clothing and accessories. We’ve chatted several times about the work she has had to do and one day, she told me that she was trying to make a dress for a plus-sized figure. However, when she went to buy the fabric, she learned that she would need to buy more and would have to spend much more money than she had budgeted for the project. As a (very) poor students–she has no job–she realized she had to choose between lower quality fabric and the plus-sized dress or the higher quality fabric and the smaller-sized dress. She went with the latter because her instructor would rip her apart for shoddy construction and poor choice of fabric.
    The well-established fashion houses can easily absorb the cost of the outfits for plus-sized women, but for smaller, newer designers, they have to worry about the cost of the materials.

    Comment by me — August 29, 2008 @ 8:44 pm

  15. It’s also not true that they can scale up the models on computers. People gain weight in different ways and, for instance, your shoulders’ width will change, but not by as much as your waist will. Plus-size fit models are a requirement if you’re going to be doing plus sizes.

    To me, it makes no sense for a mass-market retailer to make clothing that does not fit the average clothes buyer. It’s not “aspirational”; it’s plain dumb.

    Comment by raincoaster — August 30, 2008 @ 3:31 am

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