Fashion Model's tattoos of a coat hanger. Top: Nicole Trunfio, bottom: Chanel Iman. Chanel was quoted as saying, "It symbolizes me being a model. Because you can hang clothes on a hanger and you also hang clothes on a model."
I have found a calling amidst the experience of my own despair. I have come to realize that the designer in me was born of nececity. For if I had been created thin and petite, I would have at my disposal every design and creation known to woman that I could afford. I would have been content to shop and aquire goods from stores and this would be my sole relationship to the fashion world. It would be simply a means to an end or as the leisure women of our day contend a recreational sport from which I would delight in my plunder. But because I am tall, large breasted and now in my older age "fat." it has become necessary that I create my own vision of beauty, and fashion in order to avoid over priced and dowdy, garments with little attention to details, quality or fit. And so I proclaim to you once again that all women despite their size deserve accsess to clothes that are affordable and beautiful.
In the begenning it was enough for me to simply create clothes to fit my own body. But I have met and continue to meet dozens of women with the same look of disapointment on their faces as they sift through fashion magazines and store racks looking for their size and asking, "where are all the clothes that make me look beautiful and feel special?" It is the same question that drove me to design and seek out dressmakers to assist me in creating my own clothes. From this I have begun to search for the answers.
A thought occurd to me, perhaps it is not that the magazines are telling us that thin is the only beautiful body type. The magazines are news books that simply report fashion trends and news. The images are of models who are the size of the clothes they have to fit in order to be employed. These clothes are created by designers. Before I begin to deduce the issue here, I will say a few words in loose, defense of the designer. Now that I am a designer I understand some of the percived constraints. For months before I created my first line I worried about the size of my samples. If I made the samples in sizes 0,2,4 it would be easier to go with the industry standard. It would then be easy to find models, and my clothes would be accepted into the fashion discourse as legitamate fashion. I would also save money on fabric. However this went against my original purpose and mission of my clothing line. in addition if I never found buyers for my clothes, I would have invested too much time and money into clothes I could not enjoy myself. So I decided to make my samples in sizes 20, 22, and 24 so that I could keep true to my original mission statement and if all else failed enjoy all my hard work by "rockin" my own designs.
the first problem I came across is that dress forms only come in one shape- the hour glass. In addition they rarley come in sizes above a 14. If I want to design clothes for plus size women I have to have access to the tools I need to design for their various unique shapes and sizes. There are various types of plus size bodies. The circle (generally round all over), the triangle (larger up top and smaller on the bottom), The rectangle (a larger version of the average woman with the same measurements up top as down below), and the egg (thinner up top and wider on the bottom). There have been no advancements in the ingenuity of the dress form, that I am aware of, since french corsetry was the normal attire for fashionable women. The corset as we all know was designed to cinch the women's waist and force her body to take on the hour glass shape. The dress form therefore follows this same shape which has become the standard for what a woman's body should look like. However if we look at drawings from ancient civilization such as the Greek. We find that the standard for a woman's body was much more organic.
Secondly designers make sample sizes in size 0, 2, 4 because these clothes are test runs for their new designs. This is probably inspired by the desire to save fabric and any consequences are probably not intentional, however because of the way the industry works our visual consciousness of beauty has been altered over time. The industry works this way, first, the designer makes samples, these are the clothes that are seen on the run way. Next, the buyers choose clothes from the run way that they want to sell in their stores. These are the same clothes that are then photographed and put in magazines. While simultaneously being mass produced in various sizes. Therefore whatever size the samples are determines the size of the models and therefore determines the images we see in the media.
Here is where I challenge this process. A designer could challenge beauty image just by choosing to make their sample garments in larger sizes and there fore use lager models. I have done this with my first line. Kudo's to the growing list of famous designers who are also doing this. Designers don't need to design for plus size women to make a difference. By changing the sample sizes to fit size 6, 8, 10 one could erase the impossible standards set by the fashion industry and encourage healthier body images.
If designers can make even this small concession we would see a n increase in healthier models on the runway, and more realistic images in the meda which inturn would create a healthier body image and more attainable beauty standards for all women.
Now that I am a designer I know that the asthetic of the garment changes with the shape of the body it rests on. Many designers defend their refusal to produce plus size clothes by saying that "it is not their chosen aesthetic." They simply choose not to do it because they say, "larger bodies do not inspire them."
It is the designers who drive the fashion industry and the insatiable need for models to be thin. And yet, if a designer makes clothes for plus size women they are then seen as a plus size designer and as so are dismissed from fashion discourse as a legitimate contributor. Just as a plus size model is not a "real model" a plus size designer is not a "real designer" and therefore it follows that plus size clothes do not push the envelope to become a wearable art form known as "real fashion." No wonder fashion revolves around tent shirts. There is no inspiration to be cutting edge, to experiment with new cuts, and techniques to attempt new feats of design.
I have heard it said that "the model is nothing more than a hanger for the clothes." This is a horrible pretense to begin creating from. I also find it moraly implorable. Women are people and clothes are objects. But in this statement women become the objects and the garment takes on life.
If we truly valued women in all that the word "value" entails and elicits than our views about fashion would change. We would as designers work to fit the clothes to women's bodies rather than forcing the bodies of women to fit the clothes. We would challenge the boundaries of visual aesthetic. We would challenge the science of garment construction.
A designer friend of mine always says "its easy to make clothes for skinny women because they are basically boys with bumps." this may be the root of the problem. Like all facets of society every venture has been systematically ruled by men, for men. Noting the historic examples of science and medicine, deduction and reason, the legal system and our moral climate, public policy, education and literature. All have first been geared toward men. Where there have been advancements to educate women, serve the needs of women or include them in discourse, these advancements have come from the hard labor and struggle of a few dedicated and persistent pioneers- The Feminists... The Revolutionaries.
I always wondered why a philosophically trained, sociologist would take such an interest in fashion. I questioned why I was "wasting" my time and intelligence on such a "frivolous" and "shallow" a matter as this, but now I see it is part of the struggle. I am fighting for the emancipation of our voice, our choices, of our self esteem. I am fighting against the oppression of our self worth for the emancipation of our body image.
I want to be a fashion revolutionary. Though this endeavor started out as a means to an end for my self. I see the necessity for other women to be served, who perhaps do not have the passion or creativity that I have. I have been given a gift that if I pursue will help other women stand tall, so they can go on to pursue their own gifts. Whether my name is ever known matters very little. I never sought to be rich and famous, I sought to make a difference. If I can be the one that makes the clothes or if I can inspire other designers to make a conscious effort. I know I have done my part.