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Your turn: A call for plus-size

 The search for plus-size fashions Many readers responded to Emili Vesilind's piece last week on the difficulty women over size 10 have in finding stylish clothing. Here's a sampling of the letters. See more, and join the discussion below.

Editor's note: This dress is by Rachel Palley and available at Nordstrom.

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Jessica Simpson's crime of fashion

Forever 21 to launch a plus-size line this May

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

 
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I am the former editor in chief of BBW magazine (in the early '90s) and a former plus-size spokesmodel (under contract with the Spiegel catalog from '89-92).Thank you, thank you for pointing out the ridiculous snob mentality.

My company, Makeover Media, always recommends branching into plus sizes when manufacturers or retailers complain of slow sales, sluggish business . . . and they always refuse. One company, a swimsuit retailer, has spent ridiculous amounts of time and money "chasing new customers." But when I broached the subject of adding plus size swimwear to the website store only, the company refused. In the meantime, I buy most of my clothes online.


Here is a fact -- let's get this out there -- many real women are not curvy and hourglass-figured, like most plus-sized models I see. We have thicker waistlines in relation to our hips.

Even when I weighed quite a bit less than now, I was never curvy. I have always felt that most clothing designers have designed on the (sexist?) assumption that women have tiny waists no matter their size. Most larger sizes keep the same waist/hip ratio as smaller ones.

Do you know how many women out there cannot find a pair of pants that do not create the "muffin-top" effect so laughingly pointed to in fashion "do's and don'ts" photographs?

The first national designer/retailer combo brave enough to make and stock real fashion sized for the average American woman is going to make a fortune, and then hopefully the rest will begin to follow.

I'm 33, 5 feet, 10 inches, and wear an 8 or 10 depending on designer. Finding clothing that fits well is a nightmare -- it seems all of it is cut for anorexic 12-year-olds. Hopefully, those in the fashion industry opposed to clothing women who wear over a single-digit size will recognize that not all of us are built like Gisele Bndchen -- nor are we willing to spend our lives with an eating disorder so we can be "thin enough" for their clothes. While I'm on the subject, the model in your article is wearing a great gray/blue dress -- whose is it, and where can I find it?

Editor's note: The dress is by Rachel Palley and available at Nordstrom.

For whatever reason so many of us are overweight these days, it doesn't mean we want to dress badly and don't enjoy having fun, well-fitting clothes. When I was at my heaviest -- size 20-22 a couple of years ago, Wal-Mart was really the only place I could find clothes, and boy was that depressing. Lane Bryant was an option, but their prices are usually more than I want to pay if I'm looking for several outfits.

Now that I'm down to a 16-18 I still find Penney's to be the easiest, online or through their stores. It's not super-hip, but they have variety and good prices if you look hard and often enough.

It comes down to sexism. Male actors can be old and fat and get work (Val Kilmer, Vince Vaughn). But the women have to be fit and emaciated (Jen Aniston, Courteney Cox, etc) -- and it doesn't help that "curvy" actresses/performers/musicians come out and say they "love their bodies" but lose 50 pounds (Jennifer Hudson, Tyra Banks, America Ferrara, Jennifer Love Hewitt). I am waiting for Jessica Simpson to go on some master cleanse and be a size 2 again.

Maybe heavier (not obese) women wouldn't look like sausage casings and buy bigger clothing if they de-stigmatize sizes above 8 and make affordable big clothing.

I have resorted to "shopping in my own closet" rather than continue to tromp through Nordstrom, Macy's, etc. It seems as if even sizes 10-plus that are in the stores are all geared to the twentysomethings. Where are the cute, fashionable clothes for the 10-pluses and 50-pluses?

I was always on the thin side (size 10 or smaller) until a few years ago when I became really, really ill. Since then I have gained a considerable amount of weight, and I was shocked that I could not find any clothes that were stylish in the size that I “grew” into. Some retailers are getting better in their selection, but it is still so hard to find anything that is not something that my mother would have worn in the 1950s. I think it’s disgraceful to say the least. One other thing that really frustrates me is there is no set standard for sizes - one designer may make a size 14 that fits while a similar style by another designer is a size 16 or 18 that fits or when you get into the 1x, they are usually too large and rarely do you find one that is a 0x or smaller. I now have to either shop at Macy’s or Catherine’s but some of the styles are so frumpy that I get so frustrated that I walk out the store. I also read the section on "Larger Sizes? Fewer Options" which give a few alternatives so I will definitely check out those retailers.Your article was so informative and
Hopefully designers as well as retailers will take heed to your article and bring out more clothes that accommodate larger women that are stylish as well as flattering.
Thank you again.

GREAT story. Thank you so much for writing it (and your editors for running it). I’m a 14 (albeit working on returning to former 10-12 size), willing and able to spend money on fashion, and there’s nothing to buy.
The first national designer/retailer combo brave enough to make and stock real fashion sized for the average American woman is going to make a fortune, and then hopefully the rest will begin to follow.

I felt like you have said everything I have always thought. It is humiliating to go into a store and try on a size that doesn’t fit and that’s the largest they have. Depending on the store, I can be a 14-18 size. If you met me, you would never think of me as “slovenly obese”. I am only able to buy clothing at Target, Old Navy and sometimes the Gap. I never go to Torrid, the Avenue or Lane Bryant because their prices are horrendous. They look like big girl clothes. Thankfully, I have chosen a clothing style (hippie/70’s) that fits my body type. Good luck finding jeans or anything else. And, if I find something that fits, you buy one in each color. Also, when you buy Target/Old Navy, the quality of the material isn’t the greatest. Oh, Ross also has big girl clothes at good prices.

It comes down to sexism. Male actors can be old or fat and get work (Val Kilmer, Vince Vaughn). But the women have to be fit and emaciated (Jen Aniston, Courteney Cox, etc) — and AND it doesn’t help that “curvy” actresses/performers/musicians come out and say they “love their bodies” but lose 50 pounds (Jennifer Hudson, Tyra Banks, America Ferrara, Jennifer Love Hewitt). I am waiting for Jessica Simpson to go on some master cleanse and be a size 2 again.
Maybe heavier (not obese) women wouldn’t look like sausage casings and buy bigger clothing if they de-stigmatize sizes above 8 and make affordable big clothing.

I’ve been a professional wedding planner for more than a decade in New York (Long Island to be specific). I’m also a published author of BBW fiction and nonfiction. I try to stay connected to everything in the plus size/full figured world. for Your article in the Los Angeles Times about Fashion’s Invisible Woman it struck a chord.

You see I entered this world big from the beginning. I weighed in a few ounces shy of nine pounds, and then I spent the rest of my life trying to live down a tiny three lettered word “big.” I hated being the big girl. At one point in my life I had so much black in my closet I thought I’d hear the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader at any minute. Despite the fact that the average woman in the United States wears a size 14, finding fashionable clothing was like searching for a fountain in the desert. Many of the clothes available were unattractive to say the least. It was like the world said well you’re fat anyway, so here’s some elastic waistbands and shapeless tents, cover up.
Looking back now I realize my body was smoking back then, but the fact was I was bigger than most of the girls I went to high school with, even though I had a nice body. However I thought at 5’8” I was supposed to be 115 pounds despite the fact I was the second to shortest woman in my family. I spent so much of my teenage years hating my body and feeling bad about myself that I didn’t know I was beautiful. The funny thing is, we live in a country where bigger is generally better. People don’t usually want a small raise for their hard work, they want a big raise. When it’s time to buy a home or do some improvements most people go bigger. Television and producers don’t want to hear about svelte ratings or a thin box office. And while Mr. Lagerfeld may design for slim people, I’m sure he and his investors wouldn’t be too happy if his bottom line went on Nutri System. What’s even more amazing to me is that most of the women who buy Vogue can’t wear anything featured in the pages, including me and I’ve been reading it since I was 12 years old. As a result the pursuit of the “ideal thin” body remained a focus for me for a long time.
Then my life changed. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer at 23 years old. I underwent six years of chemo, biopsies and more surgical procedures than I’d like to remember. To top everything off I was a divorced working mother and sole parental supporter of my sons, so I spent many days going from chemo in the morning straight to work with a supply of Compazine, airsickness bags, crackers, ginger ale and a very understanding boss. I can’t tell you how many days I spent lying on the bathroom floor green with nausea wondering how on earth anyone could want to make themselves sick just so they won’t gain weight.
For the first time in my life I wasn’t focused on losing something, I was focused on gaining. I wanted more minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years to spend with my children. I was desperate to see my toddler sons grow up and to make it to my 30th birthday. It took a diagnosis of cancer to make me realize what truly counted in life and it wasn’t size. It’s love. However through chemo I met couples going through the depths of illness together and the love they showed one another touched me in the deepest part of my soul. It was then I decided to forget my obsession with size.
As a result of cancer I lost a lot. In 1995 I had a hysterectomy after battling the disease in my uterus for years. Yet in a strange way I’m thankful for the lesson having a catastrophic disease taught me. I gained a new respect for life, refocused my life and I followed my dream to become a wedding planner. I decided to focus on another one of fashion’s invisible women, the full-figured bride. I wanted to bring the insight I learned to my clients so I made it my mission to communicate to brides to be that losing weight was not the key to happiness or being a beautiful bride. The key to feeling and looking beautiful begins with self love; a love that includes body acceptance, setting realistic goals for your body and living a healthy lifestyle, which is how my book “Down That Aisle In Style A Wedding Guide For Full Figured Women” was born so to speak. I was tired of listening to women berate themselves as second class brides for not being an ideal size.
“Down That Aisle In Style” was nominated for Foreword’s Book of the Year 2007, and although I didn’t win I had the chance to bring full figured brides to the fore on The Insider/Entertainment Tonight, Get Married with David Tutera, NBC Today in New York and Eyewitness News Sunday Morning. I’ve written freelance articles for Wedding Dresses magazine on the subject and I have a wedding column on Venus Divas plus size community.
Once the bridal book was out I decided to do more to take plus sizes from co-starring roles in romance novels to center stage. My novels feature full figured female characters as the object of desire and not just the jolly chubby friend. In “Not His Type” I stepped into an arena where skinny women generally rule, that of professional sports. Most high profile athletes are expected to date models, actresses, beauty queens and thin women in general as they are held out as the standard of beauty. I decided to flip the script (a saying courtesy of my twin 21-year-old sons) and have a high profile baseball player fall for an average plus size woman, hence the title “Not His Type.” In April of 2008 I was honored to receive the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best African American romance. In 2008 “Bliss Inc.” and “The More Things Change” were released by Indigo Books and I continue to receive e-mails and letters from women who are happy to see a full figured character in the pages of a romance novel, where the thin archetype generally rules. I even occasionally find a blog about the books . http://spoonfork38.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/book-review-chamein-cantons-size-positive-romance/
In the end I’m thankful to say that I’ve been cancer free for almost 14 years and I’ve been able to live successfully with multiple sclerosis for the past 13 years. It’s not easy but I embrace every day so I make it my business to acknowledge everyone who is playing a role in helping full figured women feel good in their own skin. I truly appreciated your article, it presented our side of the story. I long for the day when size will no longer be an issue and fashion realizes that their survival depends on consumers (even plus size ones) buying their products. I’ve often compared fashion to a corporation and if there was a group of shareholders that represented over 60% of their common stock, they wouldn’t be so quick to ignore them. Here’s hoping they wake up.
Thank you for writing the article.

MYSHAPE.COM

I've been advocating for more plus size fashion choices online since 2000. Not just in terms of size range, but colours and style options.

Every fat woman wears an abundance of black not just because they're told to 'look slimmer' but also because colour options are so limited that black may be the only choice that might possibly suit.

Plus size maternity stuff is non-existent about size 12, as if fat women couldn't POSSIBLY attract someone enough to get pregnant, or require maternity/nursing bras or more flattering maternity wear.

Plus size women are stuck between choices of cheap and crudely made fashion or very expensive clothing. Very few options are available for work (ie suiting) or daywear that are good quality, nice up to date styles and take into account that we usually (but not always) have larger breasts, bigger arms, bigger thighs, and so on.

I want to wear fashion clothing! Im frustrated, angry, perplexed and desperately want to spend my money on fashion that fits. Its ignorance and disgust that stops fashion designers from catering to our needs. Its a lack of skill and understanding that stops them designing clothing that is properly done.

Enough is enough. Fashion industry, stop the wasteful practice of overcatering to the minority of women, start using your *gasp* creativity and business senses instead of your prejudicial crap.

Yay for Rachel Pally. I think that if more manufacturers followed her model, they'd be successful. She doesn't make every piece in plus sizes so the exclusivity factor is there for those who feel they need it.

I also like the fact that the clothes are made from jersey, which looks good now and won't look too big if I should lose some weight. I, like a lot of women who wear plus sizes, avoid paying a lot for clothes because I don't want to wear these sizes forever. But the reality is that I want to look fabulous right now and weight loss is a slow process.

My pet peeve with a lot of places that sell plus-size clothing is that they think their customers can't put together an outfit, selling sweaters with the shirts sewn in or everything in dull, dark colors. Plus sized gals are neither dumb nor dull. Check out fatshionista.com for proof (and more places to shop)

Plus-size modeling is becoming more and more mainstream in the modeling industry. While it's still considered an "underground" division of modeling in the fashion world, it is slowly but surely being recognized and respected. I see more curvy women in magazine ads and many of them are beautiful. It's time that we realize that not all women are built like Gemma Ward or Kate Moss. Most of us come in all shapes and sizes, and limited clothing sizes shouldn't limit bigger ladies from wearing potato sacks.

WOW was I heartsick to read the article in the Image section of the LA Times this morning.

Forever 21 is now offering a junior “plus size” collection!

While initially it sounds like a good thing that the trendy clothes will now come in ALL sizes, it is a very sad statement to say that these “extended sizes” are really a 12-18 or jeans to a 14/16. How sad for these teens who are getting labeled as “plus size” so early on, just because they are not tiny. It appears the message is “if you aren’t a small size then you are a plus size!” Whatever happened to an accurate x-small –x-large?

Then to actually compare this new line to that of Lane Bryant, a truly plus-size retailer, adds insult to injury.

Couldn’t they have some up with a more user-friendly name for the new line or sizes? Really, life can be hard enough if you aren’t the tiniest of your friends. It’s nice to have the clothes available but let’s make them feel good to be buying them not ashamed!

It's somewhat ironic that this column comes on the heels of last week's...

I am much too old for Forever 21 or Faith 21 (as I am 40), so their plans don't really matter to me. However--

When a 2x is a 16/18, then a XL must only be a 10/12.
When the largest size of jeans is only a 14, you are not really changing anything.

This is why so many women, both adolescent and adult, shop on-line or via catalog. Check out Alloy.com--they carry jeans for young women up to size 40, which would translate to 18/20-20/22. Or Newport_News.com for women in their mid 20s to 40s.

And I am ALWAYS successful at Target.

In addition to having a hard time finding plus-size clothes, is the added frustration of finding plus-size clothes for short women. Designers/manufacturers of plus-size clothes MUST realize that just because a woman is large(r), does NOT mean she is proportionately taller too. I am 5'2" and wear a size 20. Because the clothes are almost always cut for taller women, I tend to avoid long sleeves because they are usually 5 inches or more too long, and must hem or alter almost every dress, skirt or pair of pants that I buy. If the retailers, designers and manufacturers ever come to their senses, they'd realize there is a huge (no pun intended) untapped market of women out there who are looking for clothes that fit in AFFORDABLE prices.

Even when I had a narrow waist, it was hard to find "age-appropriate" clothing---they were designed for high-schoolers! Now that I am an "average" sized middle-aged woman (12-14), I face a different challenge---finding ANYTHING that fits right.
I HAVE found 2 stores that now fill up half my closet----Coldwater Creek and Chico's. For the first time, I feel comfortable ordering items online. Both of these companies have generous return and "price adjustment" (when an item goes on sale after purchase) policies. Both carry classic clothing yet in current colors and comtemporary styles. I love their jackets and print shirts and tees. They have colorful and fun clothing, often organized and color-coordinated with different items on the racks, making it easier to choose matching pieces. The stores have the look of a high-price boutique, but the prices are quite reasonable---and, they have great sales!
Chico's has a unique sizing system that takes the sting out of "plus" sizing, a term that I think is inherently insulting. Their sizes run from 0 to 3 and virtually everything I have ordered in my size (2) fits not only size-wise but proportionately as well.
No, I am not nor have I ever been an employee of either store. I am just a happy customer. Hope this helps other ladies in my situation.

I am relieved your finally exploring, and exploiting, plus size clothing problems in our ever-narrow minded fashion industry. I'd like to point out that the dullness, lack of imagination, style, options, etc. is also a problem for the 39 year old stylish professional who wears a size 2-6, depending on the brand, like myself. My friends an I in this category whether size 2 or 18 find there seems to be two extremes of clothing available in our ever-shrinking availability of stores in this already troubled economy: cheap teen trends to total dork frump woman. Nothing in-between! We wander the teen section, and into the women's section...and nothing unless you like the dull colors and ugly geometric prints of Simpy Vera Wang at Kohls. What gives?And is it just us or is the fashion industry kind of "stuck" right now? They seem to be hooked on one kinds of sweat outfit the past 5 years (velour matching ones), printed graphic stuff, and odd shaped uncomfortable cropped sweaters and tops with strange sleeves. What is going on lately? We have never seen such ugly and boring choices to date. What happened to pretty clothes? Nice clothes? Different options? Well sewn clothes? Not-cheap-looking clothes?Nice colors? Cotton fabrics? Do not talk to me about online stores. If I cannot feel it, touch, try it on AND have to pay a delivery charge-forget it. No cigar.

How true is this posting. I have found a great website that has fashionable plus size clothing and shoes (love the selection of wide calf boots) that has high end designer clothing to very reasonable priced trendy clothing.

The site is all about being plus sized and embracing the fashionista in us all I think. :) I bought a few items recently from it and what I love is how it combines some of my favorite brands and stores all into one.

FashionFitsMe.com - check it out!!

Great article, Emili. I'll add another group of consumers completely ignored by the fashon industry: tall women. They may dominate the runway but finding clothing for the 4 million of us over 5'8, is an absolute chore. As a 6'2 female with a size 14 shoe, I can totally relate to the pain of my plus-sized friends. If you're not deemed "average" by the fashion industry, finding anything remotely stylish can be a chore. I finally got so sick of searching for contemporary clothing that I started my own site: www.katclothing.com. We carry Rachel Pally and having met the designer, I can tell you, she gets it. She realizes we're not all size 4s.

I cannot tell you how glad I am to read this article! At least I know that I am not alone. I, too, have always been frustrated by the lack of stylish, fun, young options for women over size 10. I wear anywhere between an 18 - 22.

I started a retail clothing business last year to try and solve this, but I cannot even find clothing to buy for the business. So, I have decided to design my own line. It will launch early next year.

Please visit me at www.azzurraclothing.com to stay up to date with the progress, or just let me know what your frustrations are. I know what mine are, and most of my friends, but would still love to hear what you have to say.

I have just found a plus size dresses website having fashionable plus size clothing at very reasonable prices

I bought few dresses recently from that site, hope u will also like the collection they have!

visit: http://www.plusizexl.com

I found this article on Digg. I wear a size 12 in pants and a size 10 in dresses. I think I look really good in my clothes now that I've figured out where to shop and more importantly, what sort of cuts look good on me. A previous commenter is right that nicely fitting pants seem like the Holy Grail for plus-sized women. In America, my favorite stores are Ann Taylor's Loft and Express. They both sell high-waisted dresses that accentuate the breasts, but flow down the waist without hugging my (big) hips. Sadly, Express do not sell the "short" cut of their size 12 slacks. So I have to buy Regular length and have the pant legs hemmed. :-P

I was just in England and I was really happy to see bigger sizes in most stores I went to. There were at least two sizes past my size available most places I went that were either boutique or chain stores. Having said that, I think it's easier for me to find clothes because I know what type of clothes fit with my body (empire waist dresses mostly) and for some reason Express cuts their pants in a flattering way (except I have to hem them). I would suggest to any women having difficulty finding clothes to analyze what sort of body she has to find the sort of clothes that will look good on you. At least it's a start!

I was so pleased to find this article. I am a 16/18/20 petite this is depending where you shop but I am only 4ft 11in tall. Every pair of pants I buy has to be shortened.

It should be mandatory that every clothing item sold in the United States have a universal sizing chart. When you are forced to return an item and pay for the shipping charges the only one makeing money is UPS.

Now they want to tax us for buying on line !what's next?

bonnie a24



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