Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Elephant in the Room: How Big is TOO BIG for Fashion?

CocoRocha_DailyNewsCover.jpgIf you have been following NYFW then I am sure you are familiar with the story of Coco Rocha. She is a size 4 model that was set adrift like an old Eskimo due to her desire not to starve herself to fit a sample size. For those not in the know, traditionally the sample size is size 0 or smaller.

She has this to say about her weight "gain":

“If I want a hamburger, I’m going to have one. No 21-year-old should be worrying about whether she fits a sample size.”

And yet this is the country we (well I) live in. Models are not picked for shows because they "balloon" up to size 4 and directors are ejected from airplanes apparently due to safety/comfort concerns involving "customers of size". Obviously there is some sort of disconnect going on here, but alas this is not a posting for the Freakonomics blog on the NYT website.

Now what does this have to do with a blog on plus size fashion you may be asking yourself? In her industry, for lack of a better term, Coco Rocha is plus sized. Think about it this way: the sample size is 0 and most brands only go up to a 10 /12 . Having runway models that are size 4 would essentially be the same as pushing the size range from 10/12 to 14/16. See what I mean now?

When I was having this discussion with my better half about the whole Coco Rocha fiasco, he asked me a really interesting question. How big is too big for fashion? His position was that if you let yourself go past a certain point it obviously indicated a disinterest in yourself and by extension fashion. After all, he said, not everyone can be a victim of medical/genetic issues.

I was stumped at first at how to answer.

Fashion as business is based upon the creation and manipulation of artifice. Simply put, you are invested in how you look because you are using it as a signifier of the characteristics that you want to associate with or represent. Fashion designers essentially create the canvas that breathes life into these characteristics, and as such they demand control as we are treading on their dreams by donning their garments. So, could it possibly be that we are in the wrong to ask them to design in larger sizes?

Fit definitely becomes an issue as waistlines expand and at a certain size it becomes next to impossible to provide a flattering silhouette. Then again designers also rarely design for women anymore and more often than not opt to do so for hangers. This in and of itself explains the proliferation of gamine sprites on the catwalks. So, it is clear that there is room for some middle ground concerning size ranges.

That still, however, does not answer his original question of "how big is too big for fashion". I think we all have our own individual opinions on this subject, and far be it for me to make a decree for everyone out there. I'd love to hear your comments on the subject. Either write something below or e-mail me.

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