The Washington Post's Robin Givhan takes issue with the calls for designers to feature more women of various sizes, from 2 to 20. Gabourey Sidibe's designer Kevan Hall illuminates the reason why many designers don't: they're egotistical and lazy.
He tells Givhan:
The most significant difference in creating a dress for a larger size is that often a designer has to tamp down his ego. He can't as easily force his vision onto the woman since she doesn't have the physique of a hanger. "But at the end of the day, it's always really about the client," Hall says. "Let's be realistic, after all. What is the end-use of these clothes?"
What Hall is saying is something many women, regardless of the size, already know about fashion (high and otherwise): designers aren't designing clothes to make women look good, they're picking women to make their designs look good.
If a designer wants to design a pair of formal, satin shorts with pleats and pockets because for some godforsaken reason he thinks that's cool, then he's got to find a rail-thin model to wear it, or else his design is going to look as ugly and unflattering as it actually is. If he wants to design clothes for women to wear, then he might actually be forced to take into account the women who will be wearing them — many of whom are not rail-thin — and adjust his creative instincts, work harder to find Hall's "right silhouette" and produce something that takes more time and effort and is some combination of the reality of the body who will be wearing it and his vision of what he wanted to create.
And it doesn't matter if a woman is a size 2 or a size 16, "you're always treading lightly. I've had actresses who are a size 2 stand in front of me and weep. I've had young girls who want to cover their arms and older women who want to cover their arms," he says.
When a size 2 actress is weeping at the site of a piece of clothing that is unflattering, then too many of us have bought into the idea that we have to fit the clothes, rather than the clothes fitting us.
Givhan can talk all she wants about how "the fashion industry's accepted stats for the average woman" is to be 5'4" and a size 14: I am 5'4" and I've been a size 14, and I can damn well tell you that the day that a item of clothing was designed for a woman who is a size 14 and 5'4" and then sized down for everyone else would have been the day that I bought it in every color and didn't wait for the sale. Anyone who isn't a small size knows that the industry designs things for smaller sizes and then, more often than not, sizes them up or down regardless of whether those proportions look appropriate bigger or smaller.
Sidibe had a dress designed because most of the dresses available for larger women are just copies of the ones you see for smaller or, worse yet, formal wear designed for the matronly mother-of-the-bride. And she looks gorgeous in it, more than just for how she's beaming — but it wouldn't look at flattering on someone a completely different shape.
Hall tells Givhan that he hopes that society's view that you need to fit into clothes rather than them fitting you, and that there's only one way to be beautiful, is changing. He's probably disappointed reading Givhan's article, then, since she manages to squeeze into it the opinion that "statistics" tell us "certain sizes are unhealthy." Because, obviously, every woman who is a size 4 is healthy, and every woman who is a size 18 is going to die of a massive coronary at the age of 46.
Is it so hard to think that women's health is as individual as what silhouettes are flattering on her?
Robin Givhan Zeroes In On Debate Over Plus-Size Women In Fashion [Washington Post]