Ask a Fatshionista: Hey, Tim Gunn, Fashion Doesn’t End at Lord & Taylor

Lately the internet has been abuzz with something Tim Gunn said: that fashion ends at a size 12. Here’s the quote:

Go to Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, I think it’s the eighth floor, and it’s just a department called “Woman.” It’s rather devastating. You’ve never seen such hideous clothes in your entire life. I mean, it’s simply appalling. Thank God there are no windows on that floor, because if I were a size 18, I’d throw myself right out the window [after seeing those clothes]. It’s insulting what these designers do to these women.

He makes some good points. If you only go to Lord & Taylor or Macy’s or any of those department stores, then yes, the prospects are bleak. But “fashion” goes far beyond a few stores.

There’s no denying that the plus size market is lousy. Many designers flat-out refuse to make them, and the stores that do (like Old Navy, Forever 21, ModCloth, and, more recently, H&M) do so in a way that seems half-hearted and begrudging. They’ll make the lines only available in select stores — or nowhere in stores, forcing fat women to shop online. The clothes will be a sad comparison to the rest of the store’s collection, and usually cost more with fewer options.

Even on Gunn’s own show, Project Runway, when designers are asked to make clothes for “real” people (not always plus sizes; this just means “not models”), they lose their minds. They have no idea how to design for people with breasts or hips, and usually shed lots of tears before throwing them into some shapeless sack and then blaming them and their horrendous bodies for making the clothes look bad.

That’s a pretty good analogy for the mainstream fashion industry, really.

I’m not denying Gunn’s assertion that the pickings get pretty slim (ha) above a size 12. Things are even worse — nonexistent, really — if you go above a size 24. He’s totally right about that.

However, equating the eighth floor of Lord & Taylor with all of fashion bothers me. It ignores the many designers who make excellent plus sized clothes, and the boutiques that sell them. Lines like Kiyonna, Igigi, Domino Dollhouse, Lucie Lu, Monif C, etc. Stores like Re/Dress or Lee Lee’s Valise. Let’s not discount them and the great things they do.

I love to see someone like Gunn on our side. But I think it would be good to acknowledge that fashion goes outside of a few big stores with the same big designers; that it can be and is coming from independent labels and shops. It would be great if mainstream designers put more than a passing thought (if any at all) into their plus labels. But since they don’t, let’s give some credit to the people who clothe us when throwing ourselves out a window isn’t an option.

This post originally appeared on my blog, Reluctantly Adultish. If you have a question for Ask a Fatshionista, email it to liza@persephonemagazine.com

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[E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

5 thoughts on “Ask a Fatshionista: Hey, Tim Gunn, Fashion Doesn’t End at Lord & Taylor”

  1. I dunno-I think that it’s hugely problematic that mainstream stores don’t stock decent plus (or petite) clothes. Boutiques and independent stores aren’t going to solve the problem, for a lot of reasons (going into list form now in order to avoid writing like a middle schooler)…

    1. If someone lives in a place where a mall is their only shopping option.
    2. Boutiquing can be way more time consuming than going to a department store.
    3. Boutiques can be scary and intimidating.
    4. Boutiques are EXPENSIVE.

    I’ll go to boutiques and independent stores if I’m looking for something special or I’m shopping because I want to add something new to my wardrobe but there’s no immediate need. But if I need a new pair of pants cause I put a giant hole in them, I’m heading to the mall so I can try on lots of pairs of pants as quickly as possible.

    So I agree that it’s great to give credit to indies, but for many people, department stores are where clothes are got.

    1. Oh, I know all of those things. Though many of these indies are online only, so you’re not at much more of a disadvantage based on location (at least, within the confines of where they ship).

      It would be helpful if more of the mall stores with plus lines (H&M, Old Navy, F21, etc) would be consistent with keeping them in stores.

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