One of the most cringe-worthy moments in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, happens in the cafeteria of the building where the protagonist is working. The 2006 film is all about the struggles and success of an aspiring-journalist/secretary Andy Sachs, played by actress Anne Hathaway.
She is working as a secretary for a magazine (fictional magazine Runway) editor Miranda Priestly, played by veteran actress Meryl Streep. Andy told art Director Nigel (played by the fantastic actor Stanley Tucci) that all the models even the girls working for the magazine do not eat anything.
Nigel says, “Not since two become the new four and zero becomes the new two”, The protagonist answers that she’s a six (about her body size), to which Nigel jokingly says, “Which is the new fourteen.”
Shame on the industry that promotes fat-shaming
That right there is all you need to know about how the fashion world views their plus-size customers. People on the bigger side does not just fit in their world. The average American woman wears clothes between sizes 15 to 18, that’s according to research conducted by Deborah Christel, an assistant professor at Washington State University’s Department of merchandising, textiles, design, and apparel. Psychologytoday.com also run an article about plus-sized women is the new average American women today.
She made it her mission to show the fashion industry what happens when it comes to fat biases by teaching classes to expose the social justice issues of weight discrimination. The longtime chairman of fashion design at Parsons New School of Design, Tim Gunn, also one of the mentors in the reality modelling show Project Runway, said that “Most designers refuse to make clothing that fits American women. It is a disgrace.”
Demand for an all-inclusive sizing
The fashion industry has been slowly learning the lesson when it comes to fat shaming. A lot of prominent personalities in the fashion world take Gunn’s message seriously. Nordstrom, one of the biggest luxury items, department store chains, is now expanding its plus-size collection to include at least 100 brands and merging them with its “Woman’s” department, where consumers are constantly reminded that they do not belong where the real fashion is.
Despite this development, the company is still maintaining a separate department for their plus-size clothing line for the consumer’s convenience. Nordstrom’s size-inclusive initiative gave size 14 consumers access to the same clothes and styles as their size 1 or 2 companions.
According to the company, plus sizes and petite should not be considered as special clothing categories. Now, Nordstrom shoppers can enjoy from different sizes, offering from inclusive clothing lines like Rag & Bone, J. Crew’s Madewell, and Topshop.
Specialty fashion retailer, express, is also expanding their range of cloth sizes from 00 to 18 under their campaign, “Express. Your Rules.” While they have offered extended online sizing for some time now, they are now bringing the campaign in their stores for walk-in shoppers to enjoy. Initially, they are launching a wide array of sizes in their 130 stores and planning to expand it across their 600 factories and full-priced stores.
The company said that what they always hear from their consumers is the lack of styles in the sizes that their customers needed. They said they are excited to make the first step in the journey towards an inclusive shopping experience.
With women’s clothing sales on a steady decline since 2012, from $41.8 billion, it dipped 5.6% or $39.4 billion two years ago, according to the Monthly Retail Trade Survey report. By contrast, Plus-size women’s fashion market is steadily on the rise, gaining 38% increase in their sales size 2017.
The demand for plus-size fashion is one of the fastest-growing markets in the United States fashion industry. Despite that, it only accounts for 1.6% of the total market, which is puzzling if you consider that 67% of women in the United States wear a size 14 and above clothes.
Women today know what they want to wear, they do not need fashion designers or models to tell them
It is unfortunate as well as alarming that the fashion industry needs to be dragged screaming and kicking into the size inclusiveness revolution. The majority of women in the United States that are plus-sized are demanding size inclusivity.
It is a kind of changes that the fashion industry should respond proactively if they are willing to embrace the changes modern woman want. For many years, the fashion industry has been blinded by the fact that customers can more than the usual plus 1, 2, or 3 and can be very passionate about high-end clothing and designs, as well as having money to buy those products.
Social media also helped fuel the discussions when it comes to acceptance, size inclusivity, and challenging the old stereotypes about the fashion world. Generation Y and Z customers are more inclusive and open-minded compared to other generation before them.
Their impact on advertising, beauty, and luxury has been and will continue to be immense. The increase in body positivity the consumers are creating, is finally keeping up with the fashion industry. Fashion designers like Coco Chanel or Ralph Lauren, big fashion brands like Versace or Gucci, or even modelling agencies like Modeling Grand Rapids or New York Models, are now in a foreign and uncomfortable position to follow rather than guiding their beloved customers.
Fashion designers, as well as the people behind them, are no longer able to push their agendas onto consumers. Instead, the consumers are the one pulling the industry forward, towards a much better world of size-inclusivity.
Plus-size puts new demands on fashion designers
Aside from the fact that women on the plus-size side don’t look like women a lot of fashion designers want to dress. Designing bigger sized clothes requires a lot of expertise as well as awareness on how to dress the woman’s body, not the designer’s favorite size 00, 6-foot-tall models.
It is a design failure and not a consumer issue. There are no reason plus-sized women can’t look as fabulous as other women in the runway. The key here is the actual balance of silhouette, fit, and proportion regardless of shape and size.