Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The One Where I Discuss Being Plus-Size

Today, I saw an article Upworthy had posted about Tim Gunn calling out the fashion industry for essentially excluding "plus-size women" from runway shows, clothing stores and, frankly, from fashion entirely. This is a conversation I feel like I am FOREVER having, so as soon as I started the article, I immediately knew I might have to blog it out. I highly encourage you to read his original op-ed, because he really does an incredible job pointing out the flaws of the industry and being an advocate for those of us who do not fit Society's "mold". But, for the sake of anyone who ends up reading this, I'll be quoting some of it below for context.

Let me start this by saying that over the last year, Ryan and I have both lost about 60lbs each. Subsequently, we have both dropped 3-4 sizes. And even 4 sizes smaller, I am STILL plus-size. And, in an effort to maintain my usual 'open book' blogging style, I'll just straight up tell you that I wear a size 16. I am officially "an average woman", according to statistics. So, if 16 is the average, why are we still being pigeon-holed into our grandmother's Mumu's?

Tim Gunn addresses this in his op-ed as well, stating: I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women. It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them. 

So, here's where I start to get mad. Yes, I am a size 16. But I still have a SHAPE and its a shape I've worked very hard for! I don't want to hide it under ill-fitting clothes simply because designers cannot be "bothered" to create items that will fit a size 2 as well as a size 22.

I will no longer be ashamed of my size 16. And designers shouldn't be either!

Tim goes further, explaining that many (read: MOST) designers brush over us curvy girls because: They say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult, that no two size 16s are alike. Now, correct me if I'm wrong here, but can that not also be said about a size 4? Or 6? Or even the runway-ready 2? For most of high school, I was a pretty tried-and-true 6/8. I was also 5'10. One of my best friends was also a size 6, but she was 5'5. Her size 6 and my size 6 were different. Yet somehow, designers dressed us both just fine. (Well, mostly. I still generally required a "tall" or "long" option.) By my senior year, I was a size 10, and things started to get more complicated. Yes, when I was 18 years old, I was already hitting a wall when trying to buy the same clothes as my smaller friends. (I talked about this a few years ago, too.) I think part of the problem, honestly, is that sizing is not consistent EVER. In my closet right now, I have sizes ranging from a Medium to a 3X. And they ALL fit!

Which segues perfectly into Tim's next point: Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing? Based on my experience shopping with plus-size women, it’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience. Okay, but, have you? Because it really is that terrible. Do you want to know how many dressing rooms I've cried in? It's a large number. Larger than the largest size I've ever worn. Essentially, I am forced to purchase about 3/4 of my wardrobe online because most stores stop at size 10 or 12. Anything over that, and you are re-directed to the "WOMAN'S" section. (Something Tim also beautifully shames. So, seriously, read the article.) Because of this, I dressed much older than I wanted to. That was all that was available to me. Mumus and tunics and garments shaped like a potato sack. But I LOVE clothes!! I love trying new styles and trends, when given the option.

And sometimes I AM given the option. Online. Thanks to stores like ASOS Curve and City Chic, I have expanded my plus-size wardrobe with shapely, flattering, trendy pieces. But, again, I cannot walk into those stores. I can only shop them online. And there are a few great plus-size stores in malls across America. You have Lane Bryant - mostly great but sometimes they lean too far into Mumu territory. Or Torrid - cute and youthful but also cheap and doesn't usually stand the test of time. (Okay, so I can think of TWO. Cool.)

The real game changer for me has been Gwynnie Bee. (Nope, I'm not getting paid for this.) It's a clothing-in-the-mail service similar to Stitch Fix (which does not carry my size), but its for sizes 10 and up. They have amazing brands, and both trendy and timeless options. And you know what? I've had FUN learning how to dress my size 16 body. There ARE options, if designers would just make an effort. To quote OutKast, big girls need love too. And that includes love from the fashion industry. So, I'll wrap this up the same way Tim Gunn does: There’s an art to doing this. Designers, make it work. Please?


1 comment:

  1. Rachel, I so admire your courage and determination. You speak to the frustrations of clothes shopping for so many women. Being unusually small I have struggled all my life to find petite clothes that did not make me look like a 13 year old or frumpy granny. I hope that voices like yours and Tim Gunn's will be heard so that women of all shapes and sizes can feel beautiful in their bodies and express their individual style. God bless you and Ryan as you continue your journey.