One of the more cringe-worthy moments in the 2006 movie, The Devil Wears Prada, about the struggles of aspiring-journalist Andy Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway, working for Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), editor of fictional Runway magazine, happens in the office cafeteria.
Andy observes to art director Nigel, played by the amazing Stanley Tucci, that all the other girls at the magazine don’t eat anything. He says, “Not since two became the new four and zero became the new two.” Andy answers that she is a size six, to which he quips, “Which is the new fourteen.”
Shame on the fat-shaming industry
That in a nutshell is all anyone needs to know about how the fashion industry views its plus-size customers: She simply doesn’t fit. The average American woman wears between a size 16-18, according to research from assistant professor Deborah Christel, at Washington State University’s Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles. She has made it her mission to wake the industry up to its inherent fat biases by teaching a class to expose “weight discrimination as a social justice issue.”
Tim Gunn, long-time chair of fashion design at Parsons The New School of Design, who went on to Liz Claiborne as chief creative officer and then gained famed as mentor on Project Runway, took the industry to task back in 2016 in a Washington Post op-ed. “Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women. It’s a disgrace,” he wrote.
Demand for all-inclusive sizing
The industry has been slow to learn the lesson, but finally it is taking Gunn’s message to heart. Nordstrom is now expanding its plus-size selections to include 100 brands and integrating them in with its core size range, rather than segregating it into a separate “Woman’s” department, where the shopper is reminded that she doesn’t belong where the real fashion is.
The company, however, said it will still maintain a separate plus-size department for convenience, but its “size-inclusive” initiative will give size 14 shoppers access to the same styles as her size 2 shopping companion. “In our opinion, petite and plus sizes shouldn’t be considered special categories. They’re just sizes,” a company statement said. Now Nordstrom shoppers can select from extended size offerings from inclusive brands like Topshop, Rag & Bone, Theory and J. Crew’s Madewell on the same rack.
Specialty fashion retailer Express is also broadening its range of sizes from 00 to 18, but only in 130 stores out of its total base of 600 full-priced and factory stores. “What we hear constantly from consumers is the lack of fashion styles in the sizes they need. We are excited to make this first step in the journey toward a more inclusive shopping experience,” the company said in a statement.
And none too soon, with women’s fashion retail sales on a steady decline since 2012. From its zenith of $41.8 billion, it has dropped 5.6% to $39.4 billion in 2017, according to the Census Dept. Monthly Retail Trade Survey.
By contrast, the women’s plus size fashion market is on a roll: up 38% from two years ago, reports Katie Smith, retail analysis & insights director at EDITED, which provides real-time data analytics to the fashion industry. “The plus size market is the fastest-growing segment in the U.S., but it still accounts for 1.6% of the market, which is baffling when you consider 67% of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 or larger,” she says.
Women know how they want to dress; they don’t need designers to tell them
It is sad that the fashion industry had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the revolutionary idea of size inclusiveness. But the overwhelming majority of women–plus size women–are demanding it. This is a kind of disruption that the industry can actually respond to proactively, if it only is willing to embrace the new image of the modern woman.
“For too long, the industry has been entirely blinded to the fact that a consumer can be plus size and passionate about high-quality clothing and have the money to shop for it,” Smith says. “Social media has helped fuel discussion around inclusivity, acceptance and is challenging old stereotypes. The Gen Y and Z consumers are far more open-minded and inclusive than any other consumer before them. And their impact on luxury, advertising and beauty has been, and will continue to be, enormous. The increased body-positivity these consumers are creating is finally hooking the fashion industry.”
The fashion industry is now in the unfamiliar, and for many the uncomfortable position of following rather than leading the consumer. “No longer is the fashion industry able to push its agenda onto consumers, instead consumers are pulling the industry forward.”
Plus puts new demands on designers
Besides the fact that plus-size women don’t look like the women many fashion designers want to dress, designing plus-sized clothing requires greater expertise and awareness of how to dress the real woman’s body, not designers’ favorite 6-foot-tall, size-00 model.
“This is a design failure and not a customer issue,” Gunn wrote in his 2016 op-ed. “There is no reason larger women
1can’t look just as fabulous as all other women. The key is the harmonious balance of silhouette, proportion and fit, regardless of size or shape.”
Speaking to the design challenges, and opportunities, of dressing the plus-size woman, Kim Camarella-Khanbeigi, founder of Kiyonna and an early pioneer in plus-size fashion, says, “The fit is science,” she says. “You can’t just grade up and expect the style to flatter and fit the same.” She started Kiyonna in 1996 to serve the specialty retail market and moved online in 1999. Today her brand is carried by 250 stores nationwide, as well as being available on its own website, Amazon and Zappos. Kiyonna also operates a flagship store called the Upstairs Boutique in Anaheim.
“What’s ready for disruption is the stereotypes about the curvy customer. Styled right and wearing something that fits, she exudes attractiveness,” Camarella-Khanbeigi says, as she notes the business opportunity to dress the curvy woman is great and growing. “There is a beautiful, curvy customer counting on it.”
The look of luxury in plus size
To date, luxury brands and retailers have been the most resistant to embracing the plus-size woman. Smith reports EDITED data shows that only about 0.1% of the luxury and premium market is plus sized. “What luxury brands don’t seem to pay attention to is that plus-size shoppers are already their customers, be it of their beauty, perfume, footwear, accessories or leather goods lines, rather than apparel,” Smith says.
While it is true that affluent women are less likely than lower-income women to be plus sized, it is safe to assume that at least 25-33% or more of the nation’s affluent women don’t fit into the luxury industry’s standard 0-12 size range. The latest available data from the CDC on women’s obesity levels by income confirms this, with its finding that over one-fourth of the highest-income women (specifically women with household incomes 350% above poverty level) are classified as obese (BMI of 30 or higher) and that isn’t even counting women who are simply overweight.
Gucci for one has paid attention and offers an increasing range of styles in large and XL sizes. It will also help Nordstrom fill its racks as it broadens its plus-size offerings. Smith advises the rest of the luxury industry to wake up. The plus-size luxury fashion market is growing and these women have the means and desires to dress as fashionably as her size 0 counterpart.
“Plus-size celebrities and influencers now have very visible global platforms for voicing their frustrations with an industry that can’t dress them. With social attitudes towards inclusivity shifting rapidly, luxury brands don’t want to lag in this opportunity,” Smith declares.
It’s been less than two weeks since Rihanna launched her Savage x Fenty lingerie line, and as expected, the fervor around the collection is, well, bonkers. Thanks to its many shades of nude, large size run, and hard to get your hand on product, fans across the world have been eager to give the collection a try. So were we—and that’s why we found 20 women who range from size 32A to 40DD, brought them into the ELLE.com offices, and had them review bras from the collection. Here’s what they had to say.
“When I heard Rihanna was launching a lingerie collection a light bulb went on over my head. I thought, ‘Oh I see, Rihanna wants allthe money in my bank account, not just a little!’
The bra is really comfortable! I get to wear my true size 32C and that is amazing. Also, I was able to find nude tones that did not exist before. The bra is just as good if not better than anything I have had. Also I want to support Rihanna! I think that its important to speak with you wallet. Not just social media, or Facebook, but to use your hard-earned dollars to support business. It feels good to support a newcomer who is changing the game.”
“I’m a 34A so it’s difficult to find a bra that looks good and feels nice but the Savage X bra was super flattering. Best of both worlds. I was expecting to see super padded bras, lace, and maybe a bit of S&M when I got to the ELLE.com offices. Now, it’s clear that the collection is sexy but tasteful. I’ve never felt confident in lingerie before the day of the shoot.“
“As someone who rarely wears bras, especially not underwire, I was genuinely surprised at how comfortable and supportive the bra was! These bras are truly made for the female form and there is no compromising between wanting to look and feel your best. Even the most comfortable of fitting bras have tiny details that make you feel sexy and beautiful. There is no exaggeration here: Rih has done it again!”
“One of Fenty Beauty’s tag lines is ‘Beauty for All’ so I was really excited as a person of color and as someone who has a hard time looking for bras in general to see how this tagline would translate to a whole lingerie line. I usually have to try on four different sizes in one brand before I get the right fit, but I really just used the last bra size that I bought (from Aerie) and it fit perfectly, cups and band together. The material is so comfortable, too.”
“When I heard Rihanna was launching a lingerie line, I was interested and hoping that plus sizes would be included. I didn’t want to get my hopes up because most celeb collections aren’t size inclusive. I’m frankly used to being let down because their sizes are extremely lacking. It feels like she just dipped her toe in the plus size pool, but didn’t take the plunge. Stopping at a size 18/DD, when a 14/D is the “average” size of the American woman, is really the bare minimum where plus sizes are concerned.
“I didn’t even need to see the lingerie to know I’d want her entire line. Everything Rihanna touches turns to Trophy Wife gold. While the bra I tried on was a basic t-shirt bra, I did love that there was an element of sexy with the bit of lace on the cups. Plus, I loved the soft feel of the fabric. The size also fit perfectly—there was no gap between my chest and the band and the cups fit me perfectly with no empty space, all the while pushing everything up to give nice cleavage without heavy padding.”
“After I read and heard the awesome reviews for Fenty Beauty, I knew that Savage X wouldn’t disappoint. There was an instant feel of comfort with a generous dash of sexy. Better than my past bra experiences.”
“I thought the options would all be sexy bras with cutouts, but she also had full coverage bras in a variety of color ways. One thing I do wish is that the straps in the back could tighten a little more for girls like me with heavier boobs.”
“These undergarments are comfy yet sexy, priced appropriately, and will jump start summer 2018. Give Rih your money and stop playing. Enchantress Fenty is doing her best to include everyone in the conversation—obviously, inclusivity is the only way to go—so I assumed the same would apply to this. Compared to other bras, this one is pretty good; I’m not mad at how it looked. The color was pretty and the fit was nice, not too tight but had support.
“The bra I wore seemed similar to others I’ve tried on in the past. But what I can say is I love the style of it all and how it fit so perfectly for my little bitties.”
“Rihanna’s goal is to include everyone: Big, small, light, dark you name it. Over all, these are better than other bras I’ve tried in the past. I love the lightweight feel and it’s so soft so it gets an A from me.”
“While I’m normally a 34C, I ended up fitting best in a sister size, a 34D. This bra was way better than bras I’ve tried in the past that have tried to hit the sexy meets functional mark, but sorely missed. This bra didn’t dig in anywhere, had just the right amount of lift to be a normal t-shirt bra. I couldn’t feel the underwire at all.”
“I thought everything would be more sexy and stand out but, to be honest they look like regular under garments. I wish they were more unique or made me think that I needed them in my life. That being said, the bra was really soft and comfortable to wear, which is a good thing, but in terms of looks, I think it looks like a normal bra.
“I thought the bras would have a more edgy or lingerie look to them. They were just like any standard bras which was not what I was expecting at all, but you don’t normally get pretty colors when you get to bra my size so I was excited about that. I do wish, though, the support for ‘ the girls’ could have been better.“
Gowns from the likes of Madonna, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Zendaya and more blurred the lines between couture and costume party.
By now, we all know that the Met Gala is a little couture, a little costume party. And that was the case Monday night, where the dress code for the opening of the museum’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibition was “Sunday Best,” and the red carpet had enough crosses, crowns and halos to fill a firmament on high.
They came dressed as saints, sinners, angels, even a female Pope, which made for some sublime and some ridiculous fashion statements. And yet somehow, they managed not to offend, perhaps because over the years, the rules of faith have become nearly as elastic as the rules of fashion, at least among the Hollywood and pop music crowds in attendance, that you really can do whatever the spirit moves you to do. Because most of it, we’ve seen before.
On the kitsch side, there was Katy Perry in 6-foot-wide Versace angel wings and gold go-go boots, and Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a Dolce & Gabbana baroque-patterned cathedral train and an actual Nativity altar on her head.
With the royal wedding a matter of weeks away, preparations for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s nuptials have stepped up a gear – and yes, that means that the planning for Prince Harry’s stag do is well under way.
According to a new report in Vanity Fair from Katie Nicholl, who recently authored the new biography Harry: Life, Loss and Love, the Prince has asked his brother William and best friend Tom Inskip to over-see the arrangements, with the latter tasked with finding a suitable location for the festivities.
Tom, who is known as ‘Skippy’ amongst his friends, was apparently spotted at a boutique hotel in Mexico last week, which could prove a potential venue for the event.
‘Tom is in charge of finding the location,’ a source told Vanity Fair, explaining that the Prince has a specific set of criteria. ‘It has to be somewhere they won’t be found and a place they can completely take over,’ they said. ‘Tom was checking out this fabulous place in Mexico last week and he loved it. It might be a step too far for everyone to go to Mexico but it’s one of the places on the wish list.’
William, meanwhile, has reportedly been asked to ensure that things don’t get too wild. ‘Harry is a lot tamer and less of a party boy these days,’ a further source told the magazine. ‘Meghan has really calmed him down. He smokes less, although Meghan hasn’t yet managed to get him to quit smoking. And he doesn’t drink as much. He’s determined that there will be no repeats of Vegas on this stag do.’ Though William previously joked that his younger brother ‘hadn’t asked him‘ to be best man, we can safely assume that he will play an important part in wedding preparations.
While it was previously reported that Meghan enjoyed a low-key hen do at Soho Farmhouse at the start of March, it seems that was just a pre-amble. The royal-to-be has apparently enlisted her friend Markus Anderson to plan her event. ‘It is going to be fabulous, glamorous and every exclusive,’ a source close to the Soho House consultant revealed. ‘Marcus knows some wonderful venues, [but] saying that, I bet he’ll keep it simple and close to home.’
Because what’s a fashion show without stylish clothes and a star-studded f’row?
From left: 18-carat white gold and diamond ring, £9,600, Chanel. White gold and diamond bracelet, £153,200, Van Cleef & Arpels. White gold and diamond ring, £34,700, Dior Joaillerie. White gold and diamond necklace, £66,600, Chaumet. Titanium, sapphire and diamond earrings, price on application, Adler. Muse morganite and 0.35-carat pave diamond earrings, £7,000, and snowflake 1.48-carat diamond cluster stud earrings, £6,500, both Birks, from Mappin & Webb. Pearl necklace, £2,190, Mikimoto. Snowflake crown diamond necklace, £108,000, Birks. White gold, black rhodium and diamond ring, £10,500, Annoushka. Rosee du matin double row flex diamond bracelet, £7,000, Birks, from Mappin & Webb. iamond and pearl bracelet, price on application, Mikimoto. Blouse, £350, Bella Freud, from Browns. Cards (part of set), £65, Thomas Lyte.
From top: snowflake diamond and akoya pearl necklace, £150,000, Birks. 18-carat rose gold and diamond interlocking bracelet and 18-carat yellow-gold and diamond interlocking, £4,950 each, both Shaun Leane. 18-carat white gold and diamond ring, £26,000, Messika. 18-carat white gold and diamond bracelet, £25,500, Chanel. 18-carat white gold and diamond ring, £32,728, Fabergé, from Harrods. Blazer, £720, Bella Freud. Champagne glass, £75, Lee Broom. Poker chips, price on application, Geoffrey Parker. Dice, £5, Aspinal of London.
From top: 18-carat white gold, diamond and tourmaline ring, price on application, David Morris, from Harrods. white gold and diamond, opal, sapphire and emerald necklace, price on application, Moussaieff. multi-strand diamond bracelet, £36,850, William & Son. 18-carat white gold and white diamond bangle, price on application, Stephen Webster. 18-carat white gold and diamond ring, price on application, Boucheron. Chess set, £690, Luke Honey. Dress, £580, MaxMara
Clockwise from top left: 18-carat white gold and diamond ring set, £12,600, Shaun Leane. White gold and diamond double row bracelet, £8,450, De Beers. White gold and diamond link bracelet, price on application, Pomellato. White gold and diamond fringe earrings, £16,000, Mappin & Webb. White gold, aquamarine and pave diamond ring, £8,400, Bulgari. White gold and diamond bow ring, £14,000, and white gold and diamond necklace, £66,600, both Chaumet
From left: platinum and diamond bracelet and platinum and diamond ring, both price on application, Harry Winston. Platinum and diamond collar, price on application, Boodles. Tourmaline and diamond ring, price on application, Garrard. 18-carat white gold, Mother of pearl, diamond and sapphire watch, £96,000, Breguet. Backgammon board, £4,250, Geoffrey Parker
Photographs Emma Thaler
Styling Bettina Vetter
Fashion assistant Stephanie Sofokleous
Make-up Amy Conley at Stella Creative Artists using Tom Ford Beauty
Nails Kimberley Nkosi using Chanel Le Vernis in Rouge Noir and La Crème Main
Models Dominique and Marta at Established
Producer Lucy Coghlan