Ever since I was asked if I would consider designing a line of “plus-size” clothing for professional women (and anyone else who can’t seem to find what they like and / or what fits), I’ve been doing some research on the topic of fashion for that customer group. Well . . . did I ever think there would be SO much to say on a subject???
My friend and business coach, Christie Browning, was actually the first person to encourage me to jump into this project, although it was something I had been thinking about for quite some time. She always says she recognizes that society has frequently loved women with an “hour-glass” figure, and then she says she doesn’t mind having an “hour-and-a-half” figure. But she DOES mind not being able to find clothing that fits her body shape and size AND her lifestyle.
Of course, I had no clue, not because the size clothing that I wear, but because for me, clothing has always been something that is a necessity to provide modesty and warmth when it is snowing. Probably as a result of growing up in a time and place when fashionable clothing was no big deal (good thing, because we couldn’t afford it anyway so all of my “fashion” adventures took place either at a local thrift store or I would just make something for myself – that was the only way I was going to get a “new” outfit!) – I haven’t really noticed fashion trends on any level.
But since I like to sew, and I have a pretty good eye for design, when I make my refashion clothing, I sell lots of stuff. And when I design and create children’s boutique clothing, I sell lots of that stuff, too. So this whole “plus-size” journey has been a bit of a learning curve for me.
Here I am, in the midst of figuring all of this out, and every time I talk to anyone about what I am working on, I get lots of women whose eyes light up and they enthusiastically declare, “Great! It would be nice to find something in my size that I LIKE and that FITS!” Apparently that’s a pretty big deal, and I feel rather intimidated about my ability to deliver on that expectation. But I will give it my best shot and see if I can figure it out.
At first I was puzzled. “How can there be millions, and trillions, and gazillions of garments in stores on every corner in every town in this country, and these sweet women STILL can’t find what they are looking for?” So I started looking to see what was already available (no need to re-invent the wheel, or polyester stretch pants or shapeless t-shirts) . . . . and I found TONS of cute stuff. “So what’s the problem?” I wondered.
Apparently even when we can find something that LOOKS like what we want, often times when we order it online or try it on in the store it either:
1. Is made of cheap fabric that shrinks, fades, or stretches out of shape
2. Does NOT look like the picture on the website when I put it on MY body
3. Does not fit correctly (tops not long enough, slacks too long or too short, skirts and dresses that are too big on one part of my body and too small on another part of my body, etc)
4. Is not well-made and seams, buttons, and hems come undone after one or two wearings and washings
While recognizing the ongoing debate about this issue, which always includes a discussion about obesity, health, nutrition, weight loss, and all the other things that perhaps everyone SHOULD take more seriously, the truth is that there ARE in fact, millions of women who are simply not built to fit into a size 0 or 2 (or 4, 6, 8 , 10 or whatever). And they also like to look nice, be fashionable, and feel comfortable in their clothing.
Image found at Plus Size Modeling
After many discussions with women who were rather frustrated with what they could find when shopping for clothing, I decided it might make sense to give this a try. After researching, it became apparent that there is actually a movement among some fashion designers to address this need. And since I am not a trained fashion designer, but a self-trained artist and designer of all kinds of fun stuff, this might actually be bigger than me. But if I can even come up with a few designs each season that meet the needs of a few women who have not been able to find what they are looking for, then it will be worth it!
One website where I found some interesting observations stated: “To understand what fashion for plus-size women is, it’s important to understand what it hasn’t been—which is fashionable. At Full Figured Fashion Week, people often asked me to imagine a typical department store. Upstairs, above cosmetics and accessories, is the elaborate layer cake of women’s apparel: juniors, sportswear, swimsuits. There are sections for “accessible luxury,” celebrity lines by Jessica Simpson and Kate Moss, power suits, ten-thousand-dollar wedding dresses, designer jeggings. But these clothes typically come in sizes 0 through 12. To find anything bigger, you have to go to the top floor or the basement, “a hidden little grotto,” . . . . “Like it’s the dirty secret, hidden between the tire department and home goods.”
Another website quoted a study that “proves what we already know about retail plus size clothing . . . . it is horrible.”
This article mentioned a survey in which “. . . 1,500 U.S women, between the aged 18 to 44 (were surveyed) and found that more women reported wearing a size 16 than sizes 0, 2, and 4 combined. Duh. Even more unsurprisingly, the survey also found that 65 percent of all women agree, that the retail industry ignores the needs of plus size women. Likewise, 74 percent of plus size women describe feeling frustrated and 65 percent described feeling excluded during their in-store shopping experiences. And only 31 percent agree that plus size models accurately represent the plus size community of women . . . . “
GREAT article HERE!
So what makes me think that I can figure this out, if all of these huge companies can’t seem to get a clue? I don’t know but I’m sure going to try! With input from several women who have given me their suggestions, I’m working on a line of summer garments that are fashionable and modest; comfortable and customizable so that we can adjust to different body shapes and types; and offer designs that are perfect for professional / career wear, as well as garments that are fun for casual wear.
If you have an “hour-and-a-half” shape and would like to have input on this new line of plus-size clothing, please contact me. I would love to hear from you! Oh, and I actually need to know . . . . is it “plus-size” or should we go with “Curvy Girl” designs? I’m off to the sewing studio and I’ll post pictures when we are ready to launch this new summer collection from Gossamer Threads Shop.
Visit the Gossamer Threads Summer Launch Party page on Facebook and get all of our updates on our summer collection!