Hullaballoons – how should fatshion be designed?

Flattering. Fashionable. Stylish.

It has been said more than once that fatshion is none of those things. Yeah, sure, the range of clothing in Australia (and many places internationally) has really improved over the past ten years – but is it where it needs to be? Hell no.  I remember being in high school and wearing t-shirts and jeans EVERYWHERE because my fashion choices were so limited.  And now? I have more clothing than I do closet space.  (Seriously, it’s an addiction.  i do believe i might be overcompensating for my lack of fashion choices when i was younger.)

But there is still a big hullaballoo (wow, my spellcheck recognises hullaballoo as a word, neat) about what should actually be produced in the world of fatshion. Some say that we should have the same styles available to us as those in straight sizes – “thin” designs sized up to a plus size. Others say that this technique isn’t going to work, and that designers should be working specifically with fats from the beginning, because what looks good on a six will not look good on a twenty-six.

What do I think?  As per usual, I am a little unsure about the whole thing.  I love the idea that I can wear exactly the same clothes as my thinner counterparts – the Jane Lamerton brand (Myer) actually does size their straight sized clothing up to plus. I’ve bought several of their dresses that have been sized up. But usually things seem a little wonky with regards to how they have sized up. For example, I bought an awesome swing coat for my mum for christmas and then saw it in my size and freaked out.  I mean, awesome, right?  I tried it on (though my mum forbade me as she didn’t want to have a matchymatchy mother daughter thing going on) and it looked HORRIBLE.  Their proportions had been sized up in such an unusual way; as though only certain body parts got bigger (breasts) while others stayed the same (arms).   It was not a great look on me, that’s for sure. Was this just because my proportions didn’t work with the company’s fit model?  Maybe. Ignorance on the company’s behalf?  You betcha. 

I’m torn.  I want to wear cute clothes. I want to have the same fashion rights as my smaller counterparts.  But I want them to fit properly. And I want to wear clothing that makes me feel fantastic; not just pieces that “hide” my rolls with garish polyester prints (TS14+, i am looking at you!)

A while ago a friend said to me that it isn’t feasible for plus clothing to fit people properly, because fat sits on everyone differently and no two bodies are alike. According to them, that’s why there are so many “loose” styles in fatshion. But aren’t different body types still an issue for straight sizes?  I mean, that’s where the whole Trinny and Susannah “dress for your shape not your size” thing came from.

Well, fat-o-sphere? If you were a designer, what would you do? And is there fashion you want that isn’t currently available in your size?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Simone Mersenne

    One place to start: there are lots of garment types that can be adjusted to fit different body proportions, while still being body conscious. I'm a huge fan of my endlessly-adjustable wrap skirts, guaranteed to have a graceful drape every single day. Shorts and pants that have one of those little tab-like things that you can use to cinch in the waist (damn, those things have to have a name!)

    As a plus-sized consumer, I would vote for buying less expensive clothes, and having them altered to fit. It may seem silly to pay to half as much to get a dress altered as you spent on the dress itself. But overall, it can end up costing less than a similar garment which actually fits right.

  • Tara

    If you know what the problem is and there is such a large market out there ensuring that there is much money to be made why not do it yourself?

  • ainomiaka

    yes, different body types is absolutely an issue across straight sizes too. As someone who wears straight sizes but just naturally has no going in at the waist/ not much hip/thigh action, pretending different body types only start at size 18 or whatever your plus size cutoff is just makes me want to hurt someone. That said I don't think there's one answer that will universally work-some fat women would love the same exact clothes, some wouldn't. I feel like if there was just more designers willing to pick one or the other of those and really work it and really do something, the problem would be less-the fats who want the exact same thing could have selection, as could those who don't. this is my dream world.

  • emilylzbth

    I don't think that we can just size up straight items and expect them to fit plus sizes. But you can still produce the same clothes in plus sizes using a plus size fit model and changing them to accommodate plus sizes. To me, it's just not all that complicated. A number of designers do this– I've seen it in department stores here in the US and it seems to work out pretty well.

    It makes me crazy that some companies size up garments with NO concept of how proportion changes for plus sizes, and then they discontinue their plus size lines and say that fat women just don't follow fashion. It makes me crazy! They don't seem to understand that we make up a huge portion of the market, and if we're not buying it… you're doing it wrong.

    Companies need to start with plus size fit models (and perhaps in a variety of body shapes, but nothing will look good on EVERYONE, or at least that's rare.) And then they need to use quality fabrics (please God, no more polyester!) I don't think it's that tricky and it makes me laugh that companies look at the plus size market as such a puzzle.

  • rewetzel1

    I used to wear a size 26 US and I'm a size 10 now after HAES lifestyle (go figure…). Anyway I have more fit issues NOW than I did when I was larger sizes. The amount of room given across the back armpit-to-armpit for most brands is way too small (I'm 177 cm tall so my ribcage is large) and the waist is something like 6 to 8 cm above where my actual waist is on every garment. And my thighs fit a size 12 pant but my waist fits a size 8. I also cannot buy any blouses with “fixed armholes” because apparently my upper arms aren't “to regulation according to my bust size”

    All in all I would say this isn't a “fatshion” issue so much as a “pret-a-porter sucks” issue.

  • http://pocketrocketfashion.com Lauren

    This is the 64 billion dollar question, I think. I agree that this issue affects straight size ready to wear, as well. No two size 8s are the same, neither are two size 34s! But, when it comes to fit models, I can bet that the type of body used for plus size is basically the same as a straight sized one, just taller, with bigger boobs and wider hips. I'd love to see better fabrics and fitted garments in plus size but I'm not holding my breath.

    In the meantime, I think it's a great idea to befriend a tailor!

  • http://www.definatalie.com definatalie

    I can actually sew, and draft patterns too, but overwhelmingly the simple factor of time precludes me from making any headway on my “DESIGN PLUS SIZE FASHION LABEL” dream. It's a good dream. It's one of many dreams. But there are a lot of obstacles, not to mention my current career that I'd have to shelve.

    It's not just a simple matter of DIY, even when you can.

  • bs7

    I think like you I'm now compensating for a lack of fashion when I was younger, cuz I have way too many clothes now.. As far as choices, I'd love to see more of the same fashions for all sizes, I think stores like Fashion Bug and Coldwater Creek are proving it can be done well. I sew and have sewn things for myself as plus-size and for my sister-in-law who's tiny.. there really isn't much different in how clothes are constructed, it's just a matter of remembering to size up proportions properly (is a basic sweater for smaller people really any different than one for larger people?)… my biggest thing is that I'd like to see some consistency in sizes.. there's no real reason when getting clothes from 5 different locations, I should fit 5 different sizes.. otherwise why even have size numbers that are used everywhere? All in all though, I'd say the worst thing isn't polyester and bad fabrics and things that don't fit you right.. you'll find those in any size.. but I hate when I'm at the mall seeing something absolutely great in a store and knowing I can't get it because they can't be bothered to make it in my size.. cuz my money isn't valid?.. I'd also really like to know when almost no shoes are made in 1/2 sizes past a size 10…

  • http://thecurvyfashionista.mariedenee.com Marie Denee

    Love this question… as a newly dubbed online boutique owner of Mariedenee.com, I have noticed the same, and have researched the same issues… to ensure fit, I ask the designers about the fits models or I am aware of their sizing, to try to mitigate these frustrations…
    What I find more interesting is the “willingness” and “openness” most straight sized designers are willing or adamantly opposed to offering these options for us… Some, who I have approached are hesitant, or only willing to experiment should you buy an astronomically insane amount of garments, making it impossible to test out the success or failure of a garment.
    I try my best to source out those who are intimately aware of and familiar with the sizing and styles that are body conscious and flattering to the curves! I am proud of them, and like you, I do not want to hide or suppress my inner fashionista!
    What do I wish for? A sick leather bomber jacket!

  • corinnajune

    I have the classic PCOS fat in the middle/skinny legs figure, and I wear a size 28 or so (depending on the brand/type of clothes). Some of my persistent problems with plus clothes:

    - HUGE GAPING arm holes in sleeveless shirts/dresses (so the whole world can see my armpit, side-boob, AND mid torso simultaneously)

    - persistent empty fabric in the butt area of pants/skirts (because I have NO butt), combined with a crotch area so enormous that to wear the item I'd have to tuck it under my bra.

    - tiny waist size, because apparently my body is supposed to be SMALLER at the waist (aah, bellies… in order to get pants big enough to go around my waist, I have to size up to the point where I could fold the mile-long cuffs over my feet as shoes)

    - shirts are WAY too short (can't they make sexy stylish non-old-farty shirts that are 35/40 inches long? is it so hard to do?)

    I wish I knew how to make clothes, because I know a lot of people with a similar body shape as me, and they all have the same problems. It is really hard to look presentable in clothes that are designed for a completely different body type.

  • Oriana

    As someone who makes clothes I think it is difficult to make to clothes for EVERY plus shape. I myself am a typical pear shape. In order to get clothes to fit my upper body the bottom won't fit and visa versa. I am quite small around the ribcage and bust but have large upper arms – like I said a typical OLDER pear. Younger pears don't tend to have the upper arm problems. Often when buying something that fits in the body, it won't fit the arms….you get the picture. I think potentially there is a case for plus sized clothing for apple and pear shapes…could help.

  • Elizabeth89

    My main problem is with coats and jackets. Everything else takes a little more effort but I can usually find something. I'd like to see some acknowledgement that not everyone has a teensy waist – something without belts, for instance. And something for people with wide shoulders – I'm kind of sick of something fitting me there and on the belly, but hanging off other areas.

    Like it or not, fatter women aren't built exactly like thinner women, but on a bigger scale. We have different needs, so just working up from the regular sizes probably wouldn't work. But then again, it might just be that clothes makers just aren't doing their jobs, to the point where I can't even see them cleaning up their act. .

  • http://caterpillarpeacock.artfire.com Lindsey

    Oh how this question has plagued me! It's kept me up nights, I've cried over it. There's really only one solution and it's to make clothing that comes in not just one size, but a size and a body type. There are jean companies out there that are already doing this I believe.

    I've wanted to start a fashion label that was all about this concept, for plus sizes only to start. While I do agree that all women have fit problems when buying clothing, I really do think that plus women have it worse. It's a lot easier to just try another store, or even just another rack if you're a straight size having fit problems. Us fat ladies (and gents) have the short end of the stick simply because we have significantly less choice to begin with, so if you're having fit problems you're kinda screwed.

    I want to offer clothing in plus sizes and shapes. So you would buy a 24 apple or 18 pear etc. Everything would be graded(sized up or down) appropriately. This is really the only way to get around fit problems. Sure the clothes would cost slightly more, but it would be worth it for a better fit.

    So, thanks for the inspiration, I'm off to my sketch book.

  • http://www.definatalie.com definatalie

    Oh I LOVE your dresses!! LOVE LOVE!
    I wish I had money, there are a few I have my eye on (like the Flapping Grace dress… VAPOURS!!)

  • Kate

    I think the problem is about computer programs are doing the sizing and clothing company’s employing fit models to those measurements.

    I have studied fashion and textile design specifically knitwear design and used computer design programs and the amount of space they add that isn’t needed such as in the shoulders or the sleave is incredible. Why do larger women have to have huge shoulders? Like our bones expand as our weight does. And I actually had a program tell me that my boyfriend’s actual measurements didn’t exist!

    Maybe improved computer programs? or more human control? or as previously mentioned other types of fit models?

  • http://nonplusmag.com/ NonPlus

    I say: It's not rocket science. Designers and brands throwing up their hands and playing the “we just can't figure it out” card is, politely, “bull”. Many brands already create size xxs thru L or xl. If clothing can be adapted to fit this broad size difference, why do compasses start spinning and scissors start veering off track at xxl? The most egregious offense past this, of course, is the fact that if they have taken a stab at the xxl, it costs at least $30 more…….

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