Isaac Mizrahi did a quick HuffPost Live segment the other day, in which he discussed the fashion industry's treatment of plus size women. When asked when, or if, Project Runway will feature contestants who specialize in plus sizes, Mizrahi responded that it's a "very good idea, I love that idea." Fashion, Mizrahi says, ought to be more integrated and less "condescending" when it comes to bodies above a size 10.
"I don't want to speak to a plus-sized woman differently than I speak to a woman," he says, recounting stories of his childhood when he was constantly "ushered off to the husky section," which had some long-term emotional effects.
Mizrahi then talks about the "right way" that the fashion industry should be embracing various sizes. "I don't like segregation, I like incorporation, I like integration," he says when it comes to clothing. "If you're going to do clothes, you need to do them in a whole size range."
Mizrahi loves working with QVC, for instance, because they don't split his brand up between "regular" and plus sizes—every garment is made from a XXS all the way up through a XXXL. (Pssst, Isaac: If you want to get even more radical—and helpful!—in sticking up for plus size women, go higher!!!)
Man, Isaac Mizrahi seems like a complete fucking dear and I appreciate this sentiment so much. "Condescending" is the perfect descriptor for much of the plus size shopping experience—like, here, weird monster woman, you can have this poorly-made, ill-fitting, garbage version of an old trend! You can't try it on—you can only order it online, so if you need something right now you're fucked. Also, I'm going to charge you twice as much for it as for straight-size clothes of equivalent quality, and pat myself on the back for being so enlightened and progressive as to deign to clothe the groveling, slightly-larger-than-some-other-people masses. Now THANK ME FOR IT AGAIN OR NO MORE COLD-SHOULDER CAFTANS FOR YOU. (And to all the amazing plus size indie designers and plus size retailers doing it right and the plus size online community making nonstop gold out of nearly nothing, all of my REAL thanks go to you.)
Fashion is so integral to self-expression—to figuring out who you are and communicating that to the world—and limiting fat people's access to on-trend, high-quality, diverse clothing options is a sad, oblique form of silencing. It says, "We don't care who you are."
That dividing line between "normal" and plus size—the idea that there are women and then there are these other thingies—is dehumanizing for plus size women, especially in concert with the other structurally-imposed gender expectations that shape all women's lives. For most of my teenage and young adult years, I felt very strongly that I didn't "count" as a woman at all. I was just a thing. I didn't fulfill any of my "duties" as a woman—being pretty, being desirable, being fashionable, being small—and none of the things that were "supposed" to happen to women ever happened to me. I was ignored, overlooked, pushed aside, mocked. So how could I presume to call myself female at all?
And plus size clothing, particularly at that time, felt like such a disdainful afterthought—as though the clothes only existed to forestall the horror of a world without them. Because the only thing worse than having to make clothes for fat people's bodies would be having to see us naked.
Now, of course there are some styling issues that disproportionately affect fat people (which, by the way, could make for a super interesting Proj Runway season!), and I think that self-identifying as "fat" can be an incredibly empowering breakthrough. It was for me. So I'm not arguing that fat people should abandon that part of their identity, and I don't think that simply sizing up straight-size clothes with no regard to proportion and fit is any kind of a solution. But we can talk about the ways in which every body is different—curvy here, flat there, long here, lumpy there—without creating this stark, artificial division between straight and plus sizes. "Fat" is a spectrum, and there's no reason why clothing sizes can't exist on that same spectrum. Clothes are clothes. Some people wear these clothes, some people wear those clothes. Some people identify as fat, some people don't.
So, for the millionth time: CLOTHING DESIGNERS. LET ME GIVE YOU MY MONEY. I AM LITERALLY BEGGING YOU.