A blow to size shame!

Until recently, rare was the ‘elite designer’ who made more than an occasional size 12; sizes 2 and 4 were preferred. It seemed to me, anyway. The idea sseemed to be that if you wanted off the rack high-end clothes, you either had skinny genes or you worked at it. If there’s a uncontrollable cause to your size 16, just forget it, the designers seemed to say. You don’t deserve our clothes.

This punishing attitude no longer has sway. If indeed that’s what was going on. At the Neiman.Marcus.com sale, along with many others, Michael Kors, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Escada are all making XL. AND the Gaultier goes up to XXL.

This is not an advertisement. The clothes easily within an academic’s budget tend to go when the sale starts, though you might still find some now. Similarly for the non-pretentious clothes which are just very well made.

BUT at least larger women, i.e., more normal sized women, are now recognized by the fashion industry. One possible cause for shame is at least mitigated.

14 thoughts on “A blow to size shame!

  1. I think it was three years ago that Saks became the first retailer to offer high-end designer brands in size 12 and up (in select designers; at the time, some still wouldn’t make anything above a size 10)–I didn’t realize that Neiman’s had followed suit in actually carrying stock.

  2. And wouldn’t it be a “plus” if the size designations XL, XXL, 1X, 2X, 3X were scrapped in favor of a simple numbering system? I resent being told I am queen-sized when I never asked to be a princess. Every time I buy clothing, I am reminded that society considers me extra large.

  3. Exactly! And why is a size12 XL, anyway? With my height and bone structure, anything lower starts to look too skinny. It seems to me that the industry is still punishing women for not being children.

  4. Gaultier has been pretty good about this for a while. In fall 2010, Beth Ditto opened and closed his show. http://nymag.com/thecut/2010/10/beth_ditto_among_the_plus-size.html

    Crystal Renn walked for him in 2005 when she was still plus-size: http://truthandfashion.tumblr.com/post/17489374444/crystal-renn-for-jean-paul-gaultier

    In 2009 he specially designed an outfit for Jourdan Dunn (decidedly not a plus-size model) to wear on the runway when she was 8 months pregnant: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/50-most-famous-pregnancy-moments-in-history/slideshow/2013/07/12/celebrity_pregnancies/jourdan-dunn-pregnant/

    If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy this video of the Rick Owens show in Paris for his spring/summer 2014 line. He brought some American step teams over and had them perform wearing his clothes, addressing both body shape and racial representation in fashion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-_glqAOFMg

  5. Wow! I’m learning a lot from the comments. A lot of confusion remains, I agree. There are several explanations on the NM site for what Gaultier’s sizing means. I confess I ordered tunic! From that experience I conclude that the XL is a 16.

    As far as I can tell the plus sizes (1X, 2X …) tend to have different proportions from their corresponding ‘misses’ sizes.

  6. Did you have to use such a value loaded term as “normal” to describe women who weren’t sizes 2-4? I was very happy to read everything in this piece up until that somewhat jarring and very unnecessary addition. I think I understand the point you’re trying to make, and it’s an important adjustment to the way we talk about different sizes and shapes, but saying “average” would be so much less…rude to skinny girls, including women who suffer from eating disorders and other illnesses, Asian women and other groups who tend to be smaller sizes, and women who are just plain skinny. I love FP and was really disappointed to see this strange and uncharacteristic jab from you guys.

  7. Seconding Alice’s point. That jab at the end is an instance of a broader issue I’ve seen in “body-positivity” contexts (I’m not suggesting that you had any of what follows in mind). One that makes it sound like the fat-shaming of the fashion industry isn’t wrong because it privileges one kind of woman’s body over others, but because it privileges the *wrong* specific kind of woman’s body. The problem isn’t that they’re normalizing a specific kind of bodies, its that they mis-identified the “normal” bodies they’re *supposed* to favor.

    The cry of “normal” is often accompanied by slogans like “real women have curves!” or other such toxic sentiments. This stance is really only available to women whose bodies are privileged along basically every *other* axis except size—i.e. it’s the cry of the able-bodied, usually white or white-passing, cis women who just happen to not be skinny.

    Disabled women, women of size well above the statistical norm, trans women, as well as various women who just so happen to have differently shaped bodies, don’t get to fall back on “normal”. They can’t say the fashion industry is that it’s ignoring “normal” women like them in favor of those “weirdly skinny” models. The skinny, able, cis, (usually) white women’s bodies that are the focus of the fashion industry are far more “normal”, on the common conception, than theirs.

    I’m a woman who would barely be able to squeeze into something in size 12, but I don’t have the privilege of claiming that my body is “normal”. I’d really like that to not matter to whether I get nice clothes that fit me. What we want are clothes for *all* women, no less.

  8. Sorry about ‘normal’. I actually thought it was safe because size 14 is statistically normal. I am surprised to see feminists assume a feminist meant normal in an evaluative sense of some sort. What is up with that?

    I guess in part there is such a need in my research to distinguish medical well-functioning from statistically normal functioning.

    , that I quite often point out that, e.g., normal eyesight may well need ‘corrective’ devices.

  9. But why is even statistical normality relevant to the problem of body-shaming and specifically fat-shaming in fashion? Would this shaming somehow be *less* of a problem if there were *more* skinny women?

    (I mean, there’s an obvious sense in which *clothing availability* might be less of a problem if there were more skinny women simply because there would be more people with the unfairly privileged body-type, but the *shaming* problem wouldn’t be alleviated!)

  10. Fun, I really think you should work out the answers to your questions for yourself. If you need help, i think you could get clearer by searching this blog for related topics, including topics re plus-size models

    I do find your tone quite adversarial. I don’t think that works as a winning strategy on this blog. Others, of course, may disagree.

  11. Anne, “normal” is heavily normatively loaded. I don’t think it’s fair to retreat and say that you meant it as “statistically normal.”

    Fun-nonymous: I know you were painting with broad strokes, but I think there should be an extremely important qualifier in front of your list in comment #7: “some.”

    Edited version: Some disabled women, some women of size well above the statistical norm, some trans women, as well as some various women who just so happen to have differently shaped bodies, don’t get to fall back on “normal”.

    This is important because some disabled women, trans women, etc. are able to fall back on “normal” in some ways.

  12. Anne, I’m not intending to be adversarial. However, I admit I asked because I don’t think statistical normality is relevant. I also found your “maybe you should read this blog and find out for yourself” response really patronizing, so I’m going to back out.

    Rachel, qualification well taken!

  13. Uses of “Statistically normal” can have normative implication because they imply ‘non-freaky, (for this, see blog below), non-anything-negative you want to attribute to the unusual. But these are implication carried by the ordinary idea of more or less being in a majority (to put it very loosely). That really shouldn’t count as normative; it is a matter of fact.

    I think it would be good to establish some ground rules for discussions of meaning. The connotations a word carries can vary greatly across and within cultural communities. I do think the OED is a good starting point, but it has its limits for interpreting others. Many, perhaps most, people don’t speak the Queen’s English. But unsupported claims about what a particular word means are not helpful. I think quoting ourselves, as I did above, at least provides a grounding in the discourse of our peers.

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