You know Ouroboros, don’t you? He’s the mythological lizard curled up and eating his own tail. He looks a bit like this:
There’s another place where I think I have met Ouroboros. He seems to be a permanent fixture in the world of plus size fashion.
For instance, take a look at this article and soak up the inability to logic. Go on, I’ll wait for you. That’s right: it’s all our fault that nobody wants to give us nice clothes because we don’t really want nice clothes. Never mind that retailers give us next to nothing to choose from; refuse to advertise what they deign to offer us; charge us a great deal extra for the privilege of wearing unattractive, poorly made clothes in fabrics that do not breathe; stop manufacturing clothing lines that have been in place for a mere three months when we didn’t stampede the store to buy ugly clothes we didn’t know were there in the first place. Nope, it’s our fault.
We’re fat. That means we’re all stay-at-home-moms with a martyr complex, apparently. There’s nothing wrong with being a SAHM, of course. It’s a worthy thing to want to mold the minds of your children. It’s just that not all of us are staying at home with the kids, and those who are still deserve to have some nice clothes available at a reasonable price.
Me? I have no children. I work from home. My income does not allow me to drop $150.00 on a whim every other day. I still want to look good. I want to walk into a store that carries clothes I can fit into and that follow the trends in both cut and color. I’m tired of the combination of black, baby pastels, and eyeball-melting big prints that are such staples of the women’s section.
And the problem does not appear to be being solved in the education of a new generation of fashion designers, either.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching The Fashion Show on Bravo. It’s no Project Runway, by any means, and is sadly lacking in Tim Gunn (call me, Tim!), but it’s been filling in that bleak, lonely space while I wait for Tim and the gloriously deranged Heidi Klum to be back on my television again.
This week, the challenge was the infamous ‘Average Woman Challenge’ that typically throws designers for a loop worse than designing for drag queens or pro wrestlers does. Why? These women are sooooo faaaaaaaaaaaaat!
In the inimitable words of Col. Sherman T. Potter: mule fritters!
The ‘real women’ of this challenge – as opposed to the apparently fake women who usually model because, hey, models are some kind of robots, right? – were office workers at the modeling agency that supplies them robots every week. I would say that most of them ranged from roughly a size 6 to a size 10. In a country where the average size worn is a 14, that’s not precisely humongous.
Back in the workroom, most of the designers spent half their first day padding their mannequins to represent their ZOMIGODSOHUUUUUGE clients and complaining about the measurements they had to work with. One wails that her client has 43″ hips. Daniella immediately counters that that’s nothing. She’s expected to dress someone with 45″ hips!!! Oh the humanity!!!
Psst! Baby designers! Yeah, over here in the dark corner. Honey, I remember 45″ hips fondly. There are people out there whose hips have never been as small as 45″ in their adult lives. And you know what? We still need clothes and we’d still like pretty ones.
It’s also interesting to note that while most of the clients for the challenge were pretty clear in letting their designers know what they did and didn’t like, Daniella’s model – the largest woman in the room, incidentally – either couldn’t or wouldn’t articulate her needs or her desires. I have to wonder how much of this is because she doesn’t know/care, and how much of it is because she works in an industry where women two inches taller than her and ten inches smaller around are being warned that they are getting too fat for fashion assignments.
And of course someone trotted out (with a straight face, I might add) that annoying cliche about how models are supposed to act purely as hangers for the work of the designer. More mule fritters, kids.
Clothing design – at it’s best – is an interactive piece of art that works with the body it covers. When an outfit looks best on a moving person who is breathing, bending, stretching, and cavorting, that’s a successful piece in the truest sense. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have forgotten that fact. New designers are being taught that their work is an art entirely separate from its purpose, they want to put their art on something as close to a walking hanger as possible, women who are actually considerably smaller than average are told they are too enormous to wear these beautiful clothes, and those of us who are significantly bigger than average are informed that we couldn’t wear these things if we wanted them…and by the way, dears, you don’t want them, anyway.
The serpent swallows its own tail. The generously proportioned woman is told not to go naked, but not to try to look good while covering her (hah!) shame.
People, it’s time for a revolution. Not a dreary one nor a bloody one. We need a revolution of fabulousness. I want each and every one of you to stand up and do something about this. We are not a tiny minority. We are a mighty community and we are not being served.
I want every person reading this blog – fat or thin, tall or short, male or female, every color of the rainbow and all stops in between – to refuse to be invisible. Write to a retailer or manufacturer and say that you want clothes in your size. Wear something down the street that makes people stop and stare in wonder. Laugh in the face of someone who tries to shame you into ‘slimming’ colors or ‘weight appropriate’ cuts.
We. Deserve. Nice. Clothes.
And baby designers everywhere, I hate to break the news but in the longrun you are working for us. Get your tail out of your mouth and start recognizing that bodies are part of your work.
They’re all beautiful.