We've all grown accustomed to seeing super-skinny models on the runways, acting as hangers for designer clothing. But even off the runway, designers still don't seem interested in designing pieces for the average American woman.
A lack of fashion choices for the typical American woman, who wears a Size 14, can be attributed to a reluctance amongst major designers to expand their lines to suit larger women, according to an article by Emili Vesliind of the Los Angeles Times. "The relationship between the fashion industry and fuller-figure women is at a standoff, marked by suspicion, prejudice and low expectations on both sides," Vesliind writes, "The fear of fat is so ingrained in designers and retailers that even among those who've successfully tapped the market, talking plus-size often feels taboo."
The fashion industry's reluctance to design for the average woman has left many women with few options when it comes to stylish clothing; chain stores and online retailers provide some relief, but the frustration that many women feel when trying to find plus-sized clothing is only growing as the average woman finds herself surrounded by piles of fairly terrible clothing. "I don't want any more polyester, hip-hop gear, frumpy jeans and themed capris," one average-sized woman writes, "I want the designers not to assume that I am a frumpy 55-year-old, middle-management employee. . . . Is anyone listening to us?"
One designer bucking the trend, Rachel Pally, can't believe that more of her contemporaries don't provide designer options for all women: "Fashion-forward plus-size women have no options," she says. "They're so thirsty for the product. It's like, 'Hello? Don't you guys want to make money?'" Pally's design team was initially opposed to her plus-sized line, fearing that it would ruin her reputation, which appears to be a common theme amongst major designers. "There was a lot of resistance," Pally admits, "but I did it anyway. I used to say my brand was for everyone, but it really wasn't."
Many major designers feel that expanding their lines to accomodate the average woman will take away from the exclusivity of their products. As Vesliind notes, many top designers "worry that sallying into the market will dilute their brand's mystique and, ultimately, their sales. Prada designer Miuccia Prada may have had these concerns in mind when she stated that she would not sell clothes over a size 10."
Plus-sized supermodel Emme says these designers are to blame for the lack of fashionable options for most women: "Stores feel they don't want to give in to women with more flesh. There's this idea of slovenliness and all those stereotypes and myths that have been embraced since the '50s. It's ridiculous," she says, "It really does come from very few edicts from a few people," she said. "You have to ask yourself why they are [defending] against this. Seriously, there are issues there."
One wonders if the difficult economic times will cause some designers to reconsider their anti-plus-size stances and open their lines up to all consumers; there are millions of women who would love to drop a few dollars on a really great piece, providing someone is willing to give them the option.
Fashion's Invisible Woman [LA Times]