Tim Gunn: Fashion industry fails plus-size women

As size 00 supermodels grace the New York Fashion Week runways this week, Tim Gunn wants to direct your attention elsewhere: to the average-sized American women who are being failed by the fashion industry.

The Project Runway mentor, author and fashion educator has written an editorial for Washington Post about "the baffling way (the industry) has turned its back on plus-size women." It's a powerful piece that quotes ignorant designers, cites sales figures showing there's a market for well-made clothing above a size 10 and recalls conversations with frustrated plus-size women.

"This a design failure and not a customer issue," he writes. "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."

Gunn even admits that his own design competition show, Project Runway, has failed in addressing the issue.

"Every season we have the 'real women' challenge (a title I hate), in which the designers create looks for non-models. The designers audibly groan, though I’m not sure why; in the real world, they won’t be dressing a seven-foot-tall glamazon," says Gunn. Last season, Ashley Nell Tipton won the show with a plus-size collection. However, he says that "victory reeked of tokenism."

On the other hand, Runway alumnus Christian Siriano scored a design victory when he dressed Leslie Jones — an actress who had trouble finding a designer to dress her larger-than-sample-size figure — in a red gown for the Ghostbusters premiere.

"Despite the huge financial potential of this market, many designers don’t want to address it," he writes. "I profoundly believe that women of every size can look good. But they must be given choices."

Tim Gunn's signature catchphrase has more meaning now than ever before. "Make it work, designers," because retailers are failing average American women.

It's worth reading Gunn's piece in its entirety.


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