I’ve always loved him. In fact, there’s a point in my life where I literally had to repeat, “make it work. Just… make it work.” to myself in order to get through.
In fact, the first time I walked through Mood Fabrics, I had a total tourist moment and snapped photos, much to the annoyance of the store’s employees.
Here’s Parsons’ very own Tim Gunn, showing why I like him so much:
As the guiding mentor of “Project Runway,” Tim Gunn oversees the show’s many design challenges. The toughest of these challenges each season seem to be the ones where contestants must design for women with “normal” — rather than model-esque — bodies.
And the difficulty the “Project Runway” contestants always seem to have with this, says Gunn, points to a larger problem industry-wide. “When I’m working in the real world with real women and we’re shopping, we find that fashion seems to end when you get any larger than a size 12,” Gunn told The Huffington Post. “How ridiculous is that?”
“I’ve had my own moments in front of designers when I’ve actually said, ‘You know, there’s a market here for expanding your work, and here it is,'” Gunn told us. “And frankly, there are two markets: The women who are larger than the 12, and then there are women who are petite. And most designers that I talk to have absolutely no interest in addressing either of those populations, which I find repugnant.”
It’s a problem that extends far beyond the “Project Runway” workroom. As many have attested, the fashion industry generally assumes larger women have no interest in style or trends — as plus-size designer Kenyatta Jones put it, many companies operate using stereotypes, like “Fat people don’t need clothes, all they do is eat Twinkies.” The in-store offerings for plus-size women are limited, forcing women to turn online; and what is in stores is often wholly unstylish.
Gunn illustrated for us:
“Go to Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, I think it’s the eighth floor, and it’s just a department called ‘Woman.’ It’s rather devastating. You’ve never seen such hideous clothes in your entire life. I mean, it’s simply appalling. Thank God there are no windows on that floor, because if I were a size 18, I’d throw myself right out the window [after seeing those clothes]. It’s insulting what these designers do to these women.”
The challenge, said the former Parsons professor, is not simply to make clothes bigger, but to rethink the entire design process. “It’s not a matter of sizing up or sizing down from a size six,” he said, “It’s a matter of re-conceiving things altogether. There are just some things that you can’t or shouldn’t do [design-wise].”
“There is what I like to refer to as the lying, deceptive show-game of vanity sizing. I’ll use as an example a size 8 dress form. When I was at Parsons, we had dress forms from the 1980s and the early 1990s, and when I was there, we bought new dress forms. The difference in the waist size of the 1981 size 8 dress form and the 2001 dress form was two inches — the 2001 being bigger. So what would have been a 12 in the 1980s is in fact an 8 today.”
This fluctuation not only confuses shoppers, but also increases the stigma against larger sizes. We’ve become less familiar and therefore less comfortable seeing larger sizes sitting on the shelves — sizes 12, 14, 16. Women don’t want to buy themselves clothing in these sizes, and thus designers are only less likely to design clothes whose tags bear those sizes. “I think we should just be honest about these sizes and not try to pretend they are something that they’re not,” Gunn argued.
A while back, I read an interesting article that talked about the “challenges” of making plus size clothing, where it basically said that, the larger the size gets, the less of a “standard” you’ll see in the body shape. Two size 8s are more likely to be built the same than two size 18s – different arm sizes, different thigh widths, different breast sizes, and while I understood… I still can’t help but think about the fact that I, in my current size, can’t actually fit certain clothes because my arms are too big or my shoulders are too broad or my thighs are too muscular and the fabric cut is unforgiving. I quit shopping for size and started looking for proper fit a long time ago. It makes me think of all of us who are blessed in the booty area who have to buy pants that are far too large because its unfathomable to designers that booties come in that size on that kind of a frame. At this point, screw vanity sizing. Can I get a variation on sizing? Dang.
But even still, that’s a privilege – if designers are “afraid” to even style for your size, you don’t have that option. It just feels like laziness on the part of the designer. Of course you can design for someone with no hips:
“I mean, there are so many models walking the runway who haven’t even gone through puberty, and this is not real world.” (Nowhere is this more apparent, said Gunn, than the phenomenon of Andrej Pejic, a male model who walks women’s runway shows. “The designers love him because he doesn’t have any hips,” Gunn lamented, “and women aren’t going to look like that.”)
Design for someone with more curves than a lil’ bit, though. Let me see you really work.
We talked about this before, too – he mentions the plus-size clothing being in the “Woman” section (and isn’t that a little weird?) – how certain sizes are always put up, away and out of sight. It’s just frustrating at this point.
What did you think in reading this?