IT’S BEEN A fashion year of ups and downs. A chafing nadir came for me this summer when actress and comic Leslie Jones sent out a tweet of despair that no designer was willing to dress her for the red carpet premiere of the movie “Ghostbusters.”
Jones, well over 6 feet tall and what my Uncle Elmer would call “a healthy, strapping gal,” was supposed to atone for not hewing to the Hollywood norm—tiny and skeletal with fake boobs and a giant head—by wearing off-the-rack sackcloth and ashes to the glittering premiere of a movie in which she stars.
Yes, you read that right. Somehow, I can’t imagine a designer giving actor Jonah Hill or John Goodman the sniff and refusing to whip up a tux or an evening suit that accommodates their less than sleek physiques. It made me yearn for the days of Old Hollywood, when Edith Head or Adrian would mastermind a wardrobe for a star or ingénue constructed solely and specifically for their bodies and the images they wanted to project.
Luckily, designer (and Maryland native) Christian Siriano leapt at the opportunity and created a lipstick red couture gown with classic lines that caressed Jones’ curves and featured a high slit that showed off miles and miles of leg. She looked happy, she looked glamorous and the gown fit her like a silken glove.
Most importantly, Siriano didn’t slap her into a caftan or size up some schmatta meant for someone petite. He saw her. He dressed her. Not the unrealistically thin and wispy high fashion ideal.
That’s why women — including First Lady Michelle Obama — love Christian Siriano. He gets it.
Like with the shoes he designs for Payless, he knows that women want a little glamour and something pretty to wear. In an interview in The Guardian newspaper, Siriano is quoted as saying: “I grew up with a mom who is a size 16, and a sister who is a size 0, so I never thought that wasn’t normal – I just assumed you had to dress everybody.”
Dress. Every. Body. What a concept.
Another glint of hope for women like me—the non size 0s—came in September when Tim Gunn, fashion designer and cohost of “Project Runway,” blasted American designers during New York Fashion Week for not making clothes that fit the average American woman.
And, news flash, the average American woman is not a 2 but between a size 16 and 18, according to recent research from Washington State University.
Judging by the waifs wafting down the NY runways and the fashion spreads showing girls who look like they haven’t seen a carb since The Twilight Saga, you would never know that the majority of American women are rocking the double digits.
Gunn says he’s baffled and bewildered at designers’ reluctance—even outright distaste—for dressing plus size women, who are 100 million strong and uh, growing.
Try living it, Tim. I’ll bet my Spanx that whether you are your trim self or suddenly tubby, you can find a pair of pants or a suit tailored to your measurements and give the illusion of looking longer and leaner.
Not so for the plus-sized woman (a term I loathe but I’ll get to that in a future blog).
Many of the options available to us—and believe me, the racks are not bulging with choices—are clothes meant for the bendy straw-sized gal that are just sized up. No regard to proportion or silhouette. Just a bigger version of a trendy look and we’re supposed to be grateful for it.
At the very least, we want some basics that fit our bodies—not some model with hipbones that jut out like faucet knobs. Pants, tops and skirts that skim and flatter our shape instead of strangling it in a boa constrictor hug. Or worse yet, bivouac us in yards of fabric meant to discreetly conceal but make us look like a shower curtain.
Note to the fashion industry: Enough already with the giant patterns and teeny-tiny florals, which turn us into walking wallpaper. Same goes for ruffles, ruching, box pleats and my all-time favorite, gaudy bling piled around the neckline that is intended to draw attention upwards and away from “problem areas.” Instead, we seem at odds with ourselves: From the boobs up, cheap and ready to play bingo; from the boobs down, prim and fraught with shame.
At best, we want choices. We want to chase trends—not only be relegated to the lipstick color of the moment. Or maybe we want to embrace classics and good tailoring. What we don’t want is being stuck with warmed over fashion designed by people who deign to take our money (and as a rule, you pay more for plus-sized clothing) but wish we weren’t here.
When Jayne is not searching for the perfect length of black pants, she is reviewing theater in DC and Baltimore and writing about health insurance for a major carrier.