November 1, 2016

God bless Tim Gunn.

In the three decades of my adulthood, I've been many sizes. In my early 20s I was a size 00, which for a 5'6" woman, meant that I weighed 98 pounds. I also suffered significant health issues from being that size. At my most pregnant, I tipped the scales at 200 pounds, causing most people to ask me if I was carrying twins (I wasn't). I'm probably the heaviest I've ever been in my non-pregnant life right now, a combination of middle age, hormonal fluctuations and the auto-immune disorder I've been battling for the last five years. I watch my diet, I exercise daily, but I do not lose weight. But I still am just slightly smaller in size than the average American woman, who wears a size 16-18.

But you know what? I can't find clothes that fit at many stores. Forget about high end designers. Even stores like Lululemon and Abercrombie & Fitch literally don't want my body advertising their clothes. Teen and twenty-something favorite Brandy Melville advertises a "one size fits all" sizing that apparently doesn't apply to anyone with boobs. If you're larger than a size 14, your choices become fewer and fewer and generally, they're just larger versions of items designed for much smaller girls (and I use the term "girls" specifically).

But why does it have to be that way? Longtime fashion instructor and Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn says it's nothing but laziness on the part of fashion designers.

Would it surprise you to know that the average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18? She is what the industry calls a plus-size woman, a term that I would like to erase.

There are more than 80 million of these women in America, and for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. But many designers refuse to make clothes for them. They pretend that they don’t even exist.

I have spoken to many people in the industry about this, and the overwhelming response is, “I’m not interested in her.”

Maybe this isn't the most pressing issue in the nation, but imagine how it feels to 80 million American women to be told that our business isn't wanted, that our needs aren't important and that appealing to us isn't interesting.

It's dispiriting in the same way that girls find themselves the sole focus of dress codes in school, even when clothing manufacturers make complying with the dress code nearly impossible.

The message we're sending to females in this country (and guys, I hate to break it to you but we ARE the majority) is that there is a narrow window of acceptability through which you may pass and be listened to, but no one else matters.

And if you don't think there's a political component to that, look no further than our Republican presidential candidate and how he values women.

Surely, we can do better than this from everyone, including designers.

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