Before becoming a journalist, I worked retail for a harrowing seven years.
I saw the crestfallen look on women’s faces when they were looking for that medium shirt and size 6-8 pant that was sold out.
“It’s a common size,” I’d say. “We get a shipment in soon! Come back then!”
But there was a different look when my reply was a wince and a, “Sorry, we don’t carry that size,” to any woman above a size 12-14.
It’s fairly common that retailers don’t sell sizes, either in store or at all, above a size 12 or maybe a 14, which is puzzling because, according to International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, the average modern woman is a size 16.
But, one local Jacksonville designer is taking on mainstream fashion one curve-flattering bathing suit at a time.
Karel Danzie’s fashion line is called Curves Below and she is setting out to make size-inclusive bathing suits that are comfortable and flattering.
“I’m no longer the size 4 I used to be… and I wanted to be in my swimwear the entire day and I did not see anything that was available that made me comfortable,”
Danzie gets it; the Struggle with a capital 's.' It is so hard to find things that fit the body in a flattering way if you wear above a size 12.
When you’re 5’3” and 40-36-38, bust, waist and hips respectively, and a spunky size 14 -16 like me, I can tell you, it’s a jungle out there. I suffer from the horrors of all horrors -- the inbetween body. It’s the kind of body that is sometimes plus-sized sometimes not, but guaranteed to always be frustrating.
On a good day, I can find clothes like anybody else, in the normal sections (sometimes the petite because, well, I’m short) and my size is right where I expect it to be. Other days, I have to venture into the plus-size section of the store.
It feels a lot like traveling into Narnia, except a weird alternative-Narnia where tents go to die and the labels all lie about respecting your “curves.” I, like other women, deserve clothes that are flattering to my size, nay, demand it!
The thing about plus-size clothing is that it hasn’t seemed to grasp that every body is different, and curves end up in different places for each woman.
Even with a recent body-positive focus on body size inclusion women in ads for companies like Dove, Lane Bryant, H&M, etc, there are still struggles.
Tim Gunn, noted fashion educator and co-host of Project Runway wrote an article for the Washington Post about how the fashion world is just straight-up leaving plus-size women out to dry.
He says when he asks fashion designers why they don’t make clothes for women above a size 12 their response is: “They say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult, that no two size 16s are alike.” Some designers just plain don’t want to dress a plus-size woman, like Karl Lagerfeld lead designer at Chanel, who said, “No one wants to see curvy women” on the runway, in 2009, as Gunn points out in his article.
“This is a design failure and not a customer issue. There is no reason larger women can’t look just as fabulous as all other women,” says Gunn in his article.
However, that doesn’t mean that plus-size women don’t suffer the consequences of a narrow-minded fashion world. When there are clothes available, they’re hidden in the back of the store under a big sign that might as well say “fat stigma section” and if you’re not the right kind of curvy, forget about it.
"I mean, there are 100 million women in this country who are larger than a size 12," Gunn says. "If I were a retailer, gee, I would certainly like to help corner that market.”
Gunn even speaks out against the winner of Project Runway, Ashley Tipton, who designed for plus-sized models. Gunn says, “But even this achievement managed to come off as condescending. I’ve never seen such hideous clothes in my life: bare midriffs; skirts over crinoline, which give the clothes, and the wearer, more volume; see-through skirts that reveal panties; pastels, which tend to make the wearer look juvenile; and large-scale floral embellishments that shout “prom.””
He said her win was tokenism and trust me, that’s not what plus-sized fashion needs.
And yet, companies like Urban Outfitters, who used plus-sized models to seem inclusive when they don’t even sell the size the women would wear, are using plus-sized women because it seems trendy.
Maybe even worse is the idea of using a plus-sized model who isn’t even plus-sized to further misrepresent appreciating diverse bodies. These things happen because plus-sized fashion just isn’t there yet.
“You don’t have to cover everything up,” says Danzie. She creates looks that allow women to choose how much of their bodies they want to show off and she promises to accentuate their curves. But it is important to note that Danzie's creations are size-inclusive. She is encouraging women to love their curves and feel comfortable showing as much or as little of their bodies as they like.
This local fashion designer will be featured at St. Augustine Fashion Week, which occurs March 22 - 24.
Grassroots efforts by thoughtful fashion designers like this are commended, should be celebrated and honestly give me hope.
Plus-size fashion is being spoken about more and that’s positive, but this inbetween-body-gal is interested to know how long she will have to wait before body-inclusiveness is mainstream.
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