This spring, both Target and Forever 21 are offering plus-size clothes for teens. This, of course, raises a whole host of issues:
First, what is a "plus size"? Forever 21's wretchedly named line Faith 21 (launching tomorrow) offers size XL and XXL. How… inclusive? Target's Pure Energy line will go up to size 30, which seems more like they're making an effort. (The article doesn't mention them, but Alloy.com goes up to size XXXL or 25; Torrid offers sizes 12-26.)
Second, CNN reports that the rate of obesity among adolescents age 12-19 has more than tripled in the last 20 years. So is accommodating plus-sized customers actually reaching out to overlooked teens? Or just a savvy business decision?
Third, and perhaps most important: Do plus-sized lines promote fat? MeMe Roth, president of the organization National Action Against Obesity thinks so: "When you look at the human cost, what we're doing is we're on the Titanic and rather than forcing our children into the lifeboat, we're telling them to join the band. Worrying about fashion rather than worrying about the food is a horrible message that we're sending these kids."
Some would argue that cool clothing only coming in smaller sizes could be a motivator for teens to lose weight. And let's face it: We're talking about two cheap brands; most upscale fashion designers don't produce beyond a size 10 (even though the average woman is a size 14) because that's not their vision — that's not the customer they want. They want the super-slim models and actresses, and that is their prerogative.
Plus-sized model Emme argues: "I completely disagree that these lines are promoting obesity. You need to wear clothes to look cool at school. You need to wear clothes to be present in life. And when everybody else has fashion, you should, too." She also says: "Could you imagine taking away all of the clothes for thinner women and saying, 'Sorry, you're too thin. You can't have that.' It doesn't make sense."
And maybe there is change in the air? Ben Barry, a 26-year-old PhD candidate currently a visiting student at Harvard Business School, not only has a modeling agency which represents women of all sizes (Dove came to him for the "Real Beauty" campaign) but is conducting research at Harvard that could "reshape" the modeling industry. Barry says:
"I learned that there was this narrow criteria of who was considered pretty. I was pointing out models who I thought were phenomenal and had great personality and energy. But everyone would just shake their head and smile. They'd say their hips are too wide, or they weren't tall enough."
Of his research, Barry explains:
"The idea is to see how women react to models who represent their size, age, and cultural background versus models who represent an ideal of Western beauty […] When I looked in the journals of marketing there was really nothing that addressed this. Right now it's just an argument that you can reach a wider audience. I'm trying to prove that with hard numbers."
Meanwhile, CNN speaks to a "full-figured teen" at a F21 in Manhattan, where the plus size stuff is not available yet. She's looking forward to it, though. She says: "I tried on something earlier that was totally cute and it did not fit my breast size, which is really frustrating, because I liked it."
Fashion Stretches To Fit Plus-Size Teens [CNN]
Can This 26-Year-Old Change The Shape Of The Fashion Industry? [Boston.com via Boston Globe]
Related: Faith 21 [Forever 21]
Earlier: How Do We Solve The Plus-Sized Clothing Crisis?
Alloy: The Secret Weapon Of The Broke & Plus-Sized
Designers Refuse To Cater To The Average American Woman
Fashion Designers Are Small Minded About Plus Sizes
Anti-Obesity "Activist" Tells Elle That Women Are Fat, Stupid
The Ann Coulter Of The Fat Police
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