Tim Gunn: “Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing? It’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience”

wenn21408014 - Tim Gunn: "Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing? It’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience"

On how fashion doesn’t love plus-sized women:

“I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women. It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them.”

On what designers think:

“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. Some haven’t bothered to hide their contempt. “No one wants to see curvy women” on the runway, Karl Lagerfeld, head designer of Chanel, said in 2009. Plenty of mass retailers are no more enlightened: Under the tenure of chief executive Mike Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch sold nothing larger than a size 10, with Jeffries explaining that “we go after the attractive, all-American kid. This a design failure and not a customer issue. There is no reason larger women can’t look just as fabulous as all other women. The key is the harmonious balance of silhouette, proportion and fit, regardless of size or shape. Designs need to be reconceived, not just sized up; it’s a matter of adjusting proportions. The textile changes, every seam changes. Done right, our clothing can create an optical illusion that helps us look taller and slimmer. Done wrong, and we look worse than if we were naked.”

On the fact that it is depressing to shop while plus-sized:

“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. Pastels and large-scale prints and crazy pattern-mixing abound, all guaranteed to make you look infantile or like a float in a parade. 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? That a “woman” is anyone larger than a 12, and everyone else is a girl? It’s mind-boggling.”

On how plus-size collections are all dated:

“Despite the huge financial potential of this market, many designers don’t want to address it. It’s not in their vocabulary. Today’s designers operate within paradigms that were established decades ago, including anachronistic sizing. (Consider the fashion show: It hasn’t changed in more than a century.) But this is now the shape of women in this nation, and designers need to wrap their minds around it. I profoundly believe that women of every size can look good. But they must be given choices. Separates — tops, bottoms — rather than single items like dresses or jumpsuits always work best for the purpose of fit. Larger women look great in clothes skimming the body, rather than hugging or cascading. There’s an art to doing this. Designers, make it work.”

… says Tim.


40 thoughts on “Tim Gunn: “Have you shopped retail for size 14-plus clothing? It’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience””

  1. In my experience shopping at stores like Nordstroms and Neiman Marcus, the bulk of the clothing they carry is for overweight people actually, I go shopping and see something I like and 75 percent they only have large and extra large and above. Im not gonna get into the social implications of anything, but if you want to look good you should probably work on being obese first. a woman with a great body would look good in a pile of rags, and a cow in chanel is still a cow. It doesnt matter what you put Tess Holiday in she will look revolting. But Gisele Bundchen would look like a goddess in a trash bag

    • I partially agree with you. And with Tim.
      A healthy body will always look better than an obese one, but it’s not to say that people shouldn’t dress as nicely as they want, regardless of their size or funds.
      However, often the items they design for models with “perfect” bodies look much worse than an overweight person in “plus-size” clothing.

      I think we put too much emphasis on fashion and cosmetics industry. They don’t help solve any of the real big-scale problems, they just contribute to them.
      Fashion comes and goes, style is eternal 😉

      • People who feel good about themelves are more likely to take care of themselves, IMO. I think if a woman “loves herself” unconditionally and can wear clothing she feels good in, then she may make better choices in other areas of life which combat obesity. Someone who hates their own body won’t take care of it. Someone who feels frustrated in dressing their body and bad about themselves for it may resort to more emotional eating. Etc. I think more and better options for larger women is not about condoning the obesity epidemic, but acknowledging these are real people with feelings and needs and that marginalizing them doesn’t help, but can actually compound the problem.

    • What he says is the basic truth that larger bodies detach more from the always-same proportions of the typical hanger-skinny model, fat and muscle actually go in places, so to dress those bodies is not about sizing up things but about reinventing designs and sews/cuts on purpose. Which I did in fashion school. People looked at me weirdly and all snobbish. And I told them that I would not draw sketches with 1/4 longer legs and unreal anorexic thinnes(even for a model) to display my designs on paper, because that would confuse me and not show how they would actually look on a model at all. They went crazy.
      My sketches were beautiful and I drew 4 collections (it was a short 1-year class). The women I drew before adding the clothing could be real women of 175cm and 60kg. They looked obese on paper compared to the stupid idiotic sketches that you are supposed to do to show your designs. Imagine with real runways.

    • I agree that clothing is more available in larger sizes these days, especially at the stores where most regular people shop (stores not selling $5000 designer dresses etc). I struggle to find clothes to fit me and I’m slim but not tiny, 5’4″ and 110-115 lbs. I know there are plenty of women slimmer than me and I always wonder where they’re even able to find clothing locally.

    • Thank you for the common sense & fact. Since when is there a LACK of plus size clothing? I have to spend tons for a designer dress that fits me decently, as I’m slim model-sized. All I see is clothing for overweight people. Tim G should know how fashion economics work & should know better than to demand Chanel make clothing for overweight & obese women. Firstly, their clothing already come in larger sizes. Very obese women tend to be of an economic bracket that won’t buy designer clothes. There are plenty of fashionable choices for bigger women. He’s exaggerating. If you’re uniquely proportioned, plenty of stores do alterations. Men have this issue as well. And whatever happened to people thinking they should lose the bloody weight, rather than demanding a designer waste time & money making something that cannot be sold for a price you can afford?

        • And my point is that his ridiculous request in impractical & childlike. That so many silly women agreed with his rant makes me think he wanted to troll them because he knew how petty & immature they are. It is NOT time efficient nor economically beneficial for HF designers to do this. There are already plenty of specialty plus-size outlets that make great clothing for overweight ppl. When you’re obese or carry extra weight disproportionally in one area, that’s when you need a seamstress, & a good doctor & dietitian.

  2. “The average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18” That can’t possibly be true!? Has it come this far? Sorry, he has good points, but this is all I can focus on.

  3. Or we can change the food and diet industries in the US and get rid of Monsanto. Obesity is not healthy and we need to consider future generations. I understand that people should wear what they like no matter what size they are. But if we keep accommodating this issue then we will reap the consequences. It’s time for a change.

      • And another downside is that even if you can buy organic produce it’s not 100% natural. I think everyone should try to make it a priority the best way they can so they can support local farmers and such. I don’t see good things for the US. :/

  4. I know exactly what he’s talking about, not as an overweight girl, but as a pattern-maker.
    Population should slim down? Absolutely. But fashion is another thing and with regarding of people who are fat from eating disorders, having the possibility to dress better and express beauty in a personal way would actually contribute to make them lose weight.

    • Exactly. Having comfortable clothes that you love and look forward to wearing helps SO much with self esteem and confidence. People who like themselves are far more likely to take good care of their health than those whose hate themselves and their bodies.

  5. I absolutely do not agree with the glorification of obesity that seems to be going around these days. However, I completely agree with Tim’s quote. Yes, people should be encouraged to lose weight, however, the lack of proper clothing will not stimulate anyone to do that. I used to be slightly chubby in my young years (definitely not obese and maybe not even overweight) and shopping was so, so depressing because most store would not even carry bigger sizes and if they did, they just looked plain wrong when you put them on. Yes, I did lose weight after, but this was not what made me do it. Acutally after every shopping round I would stuff myself because I was sad. The desire to lose weight should come from a need from within to change your lifestyle and improve your health.

    Just because people are obese/overweight does not mean there shouldn’t be clothes they can wear or that we should constantly make life more difficult for them. And he makes a great point – there is a lot of money that can be made in that industry, and we all know that money makes the world go round nowadays so…

  6. Spot on! I agree on both fronts. Generally I think this conversation is reeling too much towards the moral side. As in what kind of clothes plus sized people “deserve” and is designing flatyering things in big sizes a rewarding or glorifying having being big, people are too fat, skinny people (or at least Gisele) look goos in anything so this isn’t a problem, because even if you can’t buy clothes you can always get thinner and whatnot. This line of conversation to me seems stale and not only because it’s typically filled with silly arguments and people not willing to discuss the same subject.

    I like what Tim Gunn is saying because it’s taking the focus from what ought to be and putting it to what is. Which is a lot of plus sized consumers ready to spend money on well-designed clothes. Economy isn’t great, brands in both haute couture and basic retail are struggling. Why ignore a huge (no pun intended) market? To me that’s just bad bisnes, no discussion needed.

  7. He makes dressing larger women seem like an artistic challenge, in terms of reinventing a design to accommodate different proportions. And I imagine that out of financial necessity more and more designers/clothing retailers will produce plus size clothing, if that market continues to grow.

    But I don’t know if high end designers will need to make that jump. Statistically, poorer people tend to be more overweight and people without much money are likely not buying a lot of Chanel clothing. Each subset of the industry has its own niche, I guess.

    • It is a challenge only because noone did it for many years. It wouldn’t be a challenge if it was considered since a while. As Georgia Armani said, an older woman can pull off shiny or full color fabrics better than a young one,without resembling a clown. (See his collections,of course…not frumpy horrors).
      In the same way a bigger body has different peculiarities… to say the most obvious one, there is more surface and space to show fantasies and details.
      Anyway being overweight is not ok.

    • Many retailers for regular people (read: not wealthy people who buy Chanel) often do knock-offs of high fashion. Forever 21 has even been sued for it, I think. The higher end of the fashion industry has influence beyond its immediate customers. I am pretty sure Tim Gunn is referring to that, and many runway trends don’t work for anyone who is not 5’10 and rail thin, something women have complained about for a long time, even slender, fit women. I get that designers are artists and put their vision first, but they are pretty stuck on tradition for artists.

      • Designers are also business people. And if they find it in their financial self interest to adapt their designs to a wider range of body shapes/sizes, then they will. And if not, then they won’t. I’m not saying it’the right attitude, but that’s the way business works most of the time.

  8. if you’re anything else than 5ft6, 120 pounds, with a B çup, aka standard measurement, NOTHING is gonna fit like it’s tailor made, FFS.

    Women need to wake up and understand mass market does not çater to every speçial snowflake, for retail priçes

    You want tailor made, get a tailor, and pay a real wage.

    • He’s talking about high fashion, it is tailored, did you even read?
      Anyway designers are not snowflakes either.
      When you are creative, a challenge is something you get to like.

    • Exactly. He’s encouraging delusion. I wonder if people understand how much it costs to make couture & other HF items? A similar issue was explained when crybaby Leslie Jones complained about lack of runway dresses in her size (she wouldn’t take an off-the-rack item). And there are HF items available in larger sizes up to a point. I don’t know why Tim is encouraging this nonsense.

    • Real wage, so true. We should be talking about what fast fashion means on a world wide basis, not just the end result of the purchasers.

  9. LoL, this is too dumb but he tried I guess. When a thin geriatric man couches his concern for plus size shoppers in fatphobia, why would anyone care what he has to say about the plight of being a fat woman while shopping? The lack of self awareness rarely surprises me but always disappoints!

    Like, here’s a novel idea…pull quotes from women that are *wait for it* fat women that have issues finding stylish, well-made, affordable clothes.

    Who knows, maybe even take a risk by listening to fat women & find out that not all of them hate their bodies or want to “slim their silhouette” in their clothes…they just wanna look cute & feel confident in their clothes like women who aren’t fat.

    • the point is that beyond a certain weight of a very small margin, unless a woman has a very large frame, a body just will not look as good as one of a smaller weight. That is, one needs to lose a certain amount of weight for clothes to fit properly. Not even a fairy godmother will be able to find you a great fitting outfit if there are rolls at your stomach & torso & you are short. Regardless if you fall within a “healthy” weight. And he is lying; there are plenty of good clothing choices for fat folks, even more so than thin ones.

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