The fashion industry continues to discriminate in designs


Graphic by Savannah Reeves

Story by Lara Bockenstedt, Op/Ed Editor

I am wearing dresses throughout the month of December to celebrate the inherent dignity of all women. However, there are some women for whom dresses aren’t created with the same care and attention, if the garments are created at all.

Tim Gunn, the Emmy-winning fashion guru who co-hosts Project Runway wrote in a recent opinion piece for The New York Times that the American fashion industry has been a let-down for plus-size women.

“Many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk,” he wrote, “still refuse to make clothes for them (plus-size women).”

Gunn proceeds with clear data on how the industry is missing an obvious margin of profit by disenfranchising the national average, size 16, and up.

Several celebrity figures have addressed this digression, including Melissa McCarthy, who began her own line of (adorable!) clothing. The line goes from size XS-4X.

Designers shouldn’t retreat from the artistic, and frankly necessary, opportunities in designing for the full spectrum of sizes. The same artistic ingenuity should be spent creating dresses that use techniques meant to allowing the wearer to feel empowered

If the national average means anything, if women of a smaller size who are given the label of “0” or “00” says anything about our sizing system, it’s time for the blinders to be taken down from the eyes of many fashion designers.

When tunnel vision entails avoiding creative challenges, can designers really call themselves artists?

I’ll be sporting a dress each day this month. However, I’ll be on the lookout to support brands that provide options celebrating the strength, size and irrepressible beauty of all who don dresses.

— Lara Bockenstedt, Op/Ed Editor

It strikes me as odd that all women don’t have the opportunity to walk into a store and find an article of clothing that fits them perfectly, but sadly, this is the reality.

As a participant in Dressember, I have been and will be wearing dresses every day for all of December. Doing this has caused me to think about not only the victims of human trafficking, but the victims of implicit and explicit fashion discrimination based on sizing.

Personally, I struggle to find dresses that fit my long frame – since I have a long torso and long legs, every dress looks short on me, which my mom has been pointing out for years.

While other women struggle with similar issues, by far the worst problem in the fashion industry is the discrimination against plus-sized women. For years, high-fashion brands have been designing for tall, wispy women, completely neglecting real-world women who wear an average size of 16. Brooke Erin Duffy, who is an assistant professor at Cornell University, said this ideal was born out of “classism and racism of the 1920s.”

Almost 100 years later, the standard remains, leaving plus-sized women in the dust.

However, progressive fashion brands like Torrid cater to solely a plus-sized group of women, giving them a place to find stylish clothing that will actually fit.

The president of the company, Chris Daniel, said there’s a specific reason the company is successful.

“There are a lot of retailers dabbling in plus-size offerings, specifically some big box stores, but we have the experience to understand that selling plus-size clothes isn’t about the size, it’s about the products,” Daniel said. “We stay focused on fashion-forward products we know our customers love and have learned we can’t be all things to every plus-size shopper.”

Hopefully, with the increasing demand for products in the plus-size range, more women will find accommodations that work with not only their sizes, but also their personal styles.

— Erica Jones, Staff Writer