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Tim Gunn Just Dragged the Fashion Industry for Failing Plus-Size Women

Tim Gunn poses backstage at the Project Runway fashion show during New York Fashion Week.

Tim Gunn poses backstage at the Project Runway fashion show during New York Fashion Week; Image: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In Thursday’s Washington Post, Tim Gunn (design educator, author, Project Runway co-host, tFS guest editor and newly-anointed mic dropper) penned an essay entitled, “Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women. It’s a disgrace.” As you may have gleaned from the title, Gunn’s candid, acerbic observations on the fashion industry’s mishandling of the plus-size consumer are the best thing you’ll read all week.

Framed in the context of New York Fashion Week, wherein plus-size models rarely grace the runways, Gunn called out the many “baffling” ways in which the American fashion industry has turned its back on the country’s 100 million plus-size women.

Gunn’s thesis is the following: the average American woman, who wears between a size 16 and a size 18, suffers from a lack of options when it comes to dressing. For this, he unequivocally blames the designers: “Many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them.”

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Gunn even offered a few appalling, unapologetic quotes from his colleagues. “I’ve spoken to many designers and merchandisers about this. The overwhelming response is, ‘I’m not interested in her.’ Why? ‘I don’t want her wearing my clothes.’ Why? ‘She won’t look the way that I want her to look.’ They say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult, that no two size 16s are alike.”

He then dragged the designers and retailers that do pay (limited) attention to the plus-size consumer, noting that these plus-size sections are usually hidden away, offensively labeled and sparsely stocked: “Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing? Based on my experience shopping with plus-size women, it’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience. Half the items make the body look larger, with features like ruching, box pleats and shoulder pads…Adding to this travesty is a major department-store chain that makes you walk under a marquee that reads ‘WOMAN.’ What does that even imply?”

The fashion insider took no prisoners in his assault on the industry, not even Project Runway, his bread and butter. He calls curvy contestant Ashley Nell Tipton’s win for her plus-size collection condescending. He reveals that “one judge told me that she was ‘voting for the symbol’ and that these were clothes for a ‘certain population.” By the way, he hated the line as well. “I’ve never seen such hideous clothes in my life… I wouldn’t dream of letting any woman, whether she’s a size 6 or a 16, wear them,” he stated in no uncertain terms. Empty sentiments of inclusiveness do nothing to right the real problem, i.e. plus-size women’s lack of attractive clothing choices.

Christian Siriano x Lane Bryant Runway Show

Ashley Graham models Christian Siriano’s most recent Lane Bryant collaboration; Image: JP Yim/Getty

That said, in his essay, Gunn did more than simply bash the industry. He offered advice to designers: “The key is the harmonious balance of silhouette, proportion and fit, regardless of size or shape.” He pointed out the ways in which the retailers can improve: “[A survey by ModCloth showed that] nearly 90 percent [of plus-size women] said they would buy more if they had trendier options.” He even complimented a few industry movers and shakers for their work, including Christian Siriano, ModCloth and Lane Bryant.

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, all women are beautiful, the plus-size market has billions upon billions of dollars in spending power and fashion exists to help individuals express their tastes and identities. In the words of Tim Gunn, “Designers, make it work.”

(Also, how about you help us out with a no-bullshit Project Runway featuring only plus-size designs, Tim?)

[ via The Washington Post ]