May 20, 2018
Living Latest News | Poll Questions | Concussions | Maine Media College | Boston Red Sox

Can plus-size and high-end designer fashion meet in the middle?

By Debra D. Bass, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Pardon the pun, but New York’s Full Figured Fashion Week has doubled in size and shows no sizes of shrinking.

The organizers of last weekend’s event are celebrating, and plus-size models are rejoicing, yet mass opinion probably will remain mixed for years to come.

This is the third year that former plus-size model Gwen DeVoe has produced the show, which featured 15 designers from the United States, Canada and Europe. In interviews with various media outlets, she’s said she was inspired to launch the event because prestigious New York Fashion Week designers weren’t creating clothing for women like her.

Full Figured Fashion Week showcases models with dress sizes that start in the double digits and clothes that fit women who wear sizes into the 30s. This makes a sharp visual contrast to typical size zero to 2 runway models, who tend to be improbably tall and thin.

DeVoe has said that she intends to show designers the plus-size market that they are missing out on. Statistics continue to document the widening waistline of the U.S. population, making her focus on full-figured fashions even more relevant.

The controversy, of course, is that many people believe that celebrating large-size women, many of them obese, will encourage them to continue tipping the scales.

Phyllis Brasch Librach of Sydney’s Closet in Maryland Heights, Mo., sells special-occasion clothing from size 14 to size 44, and she has no qualms about the service she provides. In fact, she proudly waves the plus-size flag. On her website, she declares that the majority of women are larger than a size 12.

And each of those women, she writes, “should be able to find a dress for a special occasion that makes her look — and feel — as glamorous as a movie star.” Who’s to say we should discourage that?

The irony in the condemnation of the plus-size shows is that typical runways have been vilified for encouraging women to starve themselves into a low ideal weight.

The truth is probably less black and white. Women whose self-esteem is based on an image in a magazine have bigger problems than what to wear.

Webster Groves, Mo., boutique owner Natalie Woods of Daisy Clover said that people “have to learn to take responsibility for their choices.” She said she’d never be a size 2 because she hates to exercise and enjoys fried foods, but that doesn’t mean she gets to blame lithe models. She said that most of her business is equally distributed between size extra-smalls and extra-larges.

With that in mind, she greeted news of the new fashion week with a shrug.

In contrast, outspoken plus-size model Fluvia Lacerda, who was named plus-size commercial model of the year at Full Figured Fashion Week, issued a rant (her words) on her blog about why plus-size or curvy fashion needs more respect.

She wrote: “Although it might sound astonishing for some, looking GOOD doesn’t necessarily equate to looking THIN/SMALLER to a lot of us plus size women. Curves aren’t an embarrassment that we need to wear pieces to disguise ’em or use accessories to divert people’s attention from noticing my wide hips. They are there and I find no reason to disguise them (I probably wouldn’t be able to even if I tried, LOL).”

I know the kind of vitriolic condemnations many of you are thinking in response. You’re not wrong, but neither is Lacerda. The question of how big is too big is valid, but I can’t condone the idea that we should teach women, men, children to be ashamed of their size. Health should prevail, and I’m betting that Lacerda hits the gym more than most of us.

What drives me crazy in the plus-size vs. ectomorph argument is that women who are in the middle weight classes are ignored. Instead, we choose sides and everyone typically heaps undue blame on a group of women who are usually and naturally thin.

Where’s the middle ground? I wonder. What’s so unappealing about sizes 8 to 12. Seriously.

Those sizes are in a no-man’s land as far as the fashion world is concerned. Someone in the middle is not large enough to be plus-size or small enough to be a traditional model. Yet she’s most likely to have an acceptable body mass index and, therefore, is probably eating relatively balanced meals. I’m guessing some will argue that fashion is about fantasy and that’s best embodied by extremes, not the average.

Still, it seems odd that no one champions the women in the middle, when common sense should tell us that that’s not a bad place to start.


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like