Addressing Plus Sizes

tim-gunn1Tim Gunn, Fashion Design educator turned “Project Runway” co-host, recently wrote an opinion piece addressing the unfortunate lack of representation for a market that is 100 million strong and growing. He cites the common belief in the Fashion Industry that there is no interest; Interest from the designers and interest from the public. Gunn fires back that there is a lack of imagination and drive to design for Plus Sizes and he believes that this is not a problem with the customer, but a design failure within the industry.

We agree with his stance and also believe that there is interest for Plus Size representation and size inclusivity. Regardless of what fashion designers want to think and what body type they want to design for, there would be no industry without customer patronage. It doesn’t matter how lovely that size 0 ensemble looks on the runway if, ultimately, only a small percentage of people can fit in it and look good.

According to Washington State University, the average American woman wears between size 16-18.  A ModCloth survey further discovers that a majority of Plus Size women often feel frustrated and excluded when shopping for clothes. Many would gladly spend more on clothing, if they were offered more varied selection and trendier options. Despite this, the variety of styles available for Plus sizing is much smaller than what is available for sizes 2-4 and most retailers stop at size 12. By truncating size runs like this, you alienate a population that is spending money at an exponential rate ($20.4 billion, a 17% growth from 2013).

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Our designer, Diane Kennedy, understands this concept all too well. In an interview she gave Trusted Clothing this past year, she had this to say about the shopping experience for Plus Size women:

ReversibleOutfit_1_MG_9421“When I began research for my brand, I came across some very telling comments from women in our target market. It quickly became clear that Plus Size women wanted to shop for the same clothing and brands that are readily available in regular sizes. It was dismaying for them to have to shop in the back corner of the top floor of a department store. These women wanted the respect of not being treated differently because of size.

And so, it became my mission to focus on providing a fashion line geared towards great fit  on both plus and regular sizes.”

By ensuring we only carry our line through respectable retailers, in addition to offering our showroom to shop by appointment, we hope that we can give the Plus Size community a fashion brand that truly understands their needs. Which leads us into a couple final points in Gunn’s article that we wanted to reflect upon, regarding fit.

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Gunn believes that fashion should be about clothes that all women want to wear and we agree, too! He speaks of a harmonious balance of silhouette, proportion and fit, regardless of size or shape. He recommends that designs be re-conceived, not simply sized up. We absolutely love that he made this point because it has been the heart of Diane’s design process since the brand started.

As he goes on to mention, garments look best when they skim the curves, rather than hugging or cascading over the body.  Diane always keeps this in mind when designing her pieces. When creating garments with plus sizes in mind, it’s important to think about the curvier woman’s proportions. For example, she will likely have a much more ample bust and proportionately bigger biceps. From shoulders and forearms to calves and thighs, these areas will be proportionally larger. Body types need to be addressed, too.

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If she’s an apple shape, her stomach will be larger. If she’s a pear shape, her bum will be bigger. Something that few “regular size”  pattern makers think about is that the width (from the side) changes dramatically as well. In response to these specialised sizing needs, Diane always make a separate pattern for plus sizes. It’s important to do this for optimal fit!

In fact, while many designers design their line around Regular sizes first, we do the opposite. Here, once we have a design that addresses all fit concerns, Diane will move on to the smaller sizes. At Diane Kennedy we make two patterns for every clothing item that we design. One pattern that fits regular sizes and another that fits plus sizes. Each pattern is then fitted on a real person in each size range, to ensure the garment looks perfect on every size.

We love Tim Gunn’s opinion piece and it certainly validates that our brand is among the forerunners, supporting a growing community that the Fashion industry misguidedly disrespects in their lack of choice.

What do you think of Plus Size representation in the industry? Are you satisfied? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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