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Why is the fashion industry resistant to change?

Marianne Wisenthal

Posted on July 18 2019

Mature, full-figured, big boobs- it’s no secret that the fashion industry tends to ignore any woman who doesn’t conform to a certain predetermined (young, thin, able-bodied, small-busted, did we mention thin?) standard of beauty.

Sure, there have been a few sparks of change. Nike recently introduced plus-size and para-sport mannequins at its London flagship store (though some complained that they were too plus-sized), Maye Musk (age 71) is a spokesmodel for CoverGirl, and last year Ashley Graham worked the Dolce & Gabbana runway in an animal print dress.

 

 

But has the fashion industry truly changed? Not really.

While 70+ women like Musk are having a bit of a moment in beauty and fashion campaigns, those aged 35-69 are still largely ignored. Despite adorning the cover of Sports Illustrated, bathing suit endorsement deals, and a $10 million net worth, Graham is still pegged solely as a ‘plus-sized model’. And, recently, astronaut Anne McClain missed out on the world’s first all-female spacewalk because NASA didn’t have a suit in her size (medium, if you must know).

If NASA (NASA!!) can’t get its shit together, it’s hard to believe that the majority of fashion labels will be expanding their design priorities any time soon. Here’s why:

 

1) The fantasy factor.

 Karl
The Local


Karl Lagerfeld (RIP) once famously said, “No one wants to see curvy women”. While we’re not knocking Karl’s creative talents, we couldn’t disagree more.

Sure, it’s in a designer’s best interest for their pieces to look as good as possible on the person wearing them, but who decided that person needs to be a clothes hanger, i.e. tall, size 2, with boyish hips and a flat chest? The average American woman fits a size 16 dress and wears a D-cup bra. If she wants something pretty to wear, she’s probably not going to find it at her local Banana Republic.


2) Men run things. 

Harpers Bazaar
Harper Bazaar 

 

Did you know that women lead less than 20% of major fashion labels? That means that 80% of what we’re wearing is made by someone who has no clue what it feels like to actually wear it.

Props to designer Christian Siriano who enthusiastically created dresses for a whopping 11 non-coat-hanger bodies, but for the most part what we see being sent down runaways and red carpets would never fit the average hard-working female.

 

3) Designing clothes for real women is considered selling out.


QVC

 

Let’s face it. Fashion is a tough business. After his company went bust in the late nineties, designer Isaac Mizrahi started making clothes for Target and then QVC because, "I don't want women to feel like they are too fat or too poor for my clothing. " Fashion snobs were aghast. Designing for the masses (aka most women) will never be haute couture, or get you the cover of Vogue magazine.

 

4) Tailoring pieces for boobs and hips is expensive.

fashion runway models

Back when our grandmothers were gadding about looking young and hot, most of their clothing was tailored. Pieces took longer to make, but they lasted longer too. In the 1940’s, clothes started to be sold off-the-rack. This meant that the average women had to fit into the clothes, instead of the other way around. And so it began.

In today’s era of throwaway fashion, taking time to design pieces that are crafted using quality fabric just isn’t considered profitable. More fabric costs more money, and why spend hours on good, well-fitting design when you can mass-produce at a factory in Bangladesh and sell for a mega mark-up? Unfortunately the loser here (aside from the low-paid factory worker with zero rights and Mother Earth) is any woman who isn’t the size of a fit model. 

Fashion is a $2.4 trillion industry and it wants to stay that way.

 

5) Real bodies are a novelty act.

Picture this scene: 

Designer sends non-size-0, white-haired, or non-able-bodied person down runway.
Designer hailed by media as “trailblazing” and “cutting edge”.
Said-model is called “brave” and “inspiring”.
Everything goes back to how it was before.
The end.

 

Kudos to any brand that moves away from gender and body normative clothing, but after all the token fawning has died down, most designers go straight back to focusing on size 00 to 6, ‘nude’ tank tops, and bondage-style dresses sold as workwear.

"I’m so excited that (plus-size women are) finally getting a seat at the table, but it’s exhausting to have to always talk about how 'brave' you are for getting into a bikini because your cellulite is hanging out." – Ashley Graham

Celebrating body diversity in fashion shouldn’t be big news, it should be old news.

Sure there’s been a little shift, but we’re pretty sure Sisyphus found it easier to push that boulder up the mountain. When 99.9% of female consumers are not fitting into or feeling good wearing the clothes being presented by the fashion industry, this isn’t just a problem, it’s an insult. And one that this industry, with all its billions and influence, has more than enough power to do something about.

 

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