Size Matters

Call it clothes for ‘real’ women or ‘body diverse’,plus-size clothing will always be a fashion outlier

Written by Namrata Zakaria | Published:July 3, 2013 4:02 am

Last week,we were treated to an image of Vidya Balan that we haven’t seen in a very long time. On Anupama Chopra’s engaging film-based chat show,The Front Row,Balan and her co-star Emraan Hashmi were promoting their latest feature. It’s a film I doubt I’ll watch — even though I watch almost all films. Balan’s wardrobe in this movie promises to be particularly jarring.

But on the show,Balan looked like a feast for jangled eyes. She wore a plain white kurta and basic blue jeans. Her mane was simply hair-brushed and left open. She looked beautiful,as she is,when she isn’t trying oh-so-hard to push the envelope for the curvaceous

Indian woman.

“Real” women,as overweight women are called,find themselves struggling to be accepted by the fashion and beauty world.

Only recently,a global outrage was triggered when a 2006 interview of Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Michael Jeffries went online. In an interview to Salon magazine all those years ago,he had stated that his store was only for “cool kids” and catered to “thin and beautiful” people. Of course,Jeffries became the American public’s Enemy No 1. Protesters swarmed outside Abercrombie stores wearing outsized T-shirts. Bans were called for.

But Jeffries’ only fault was that he put into words a fact that almost every retailer lives by. Larger sizes may be your biggest shoppers,but they don’t put the hip in your ship. It’s okay to think it,but not okay to say it.

Interestingly,questioning plus-sizes in fashion is largely an American phenomenon. Most of Europe sees fat as a matter of poor health,not of political correctness. According to an article by Ellie Krupnick in the Huffington Post,over a third of Americans qualify as obese. More American women wear Size 16 than Size 2,but you’ll barely find that in a high-street store. Krupnick also states that 57 per cent of American women buy a Size 16 or larger. But most of these shoppers have to make their purchases online.

There are several stores that cater only to women of larger sizes. Kenyatta Jones,the star of a reality show called House of Curves has a plus-size clothing store called Bella Rene. Gaby Fresh,a “body diversity” blogger,collaborated with Swimsuits For All to create a line of “fatkinis”,bikinis for curvy women.

India is a little less vain,but that’s only because its retail-scape is only just developing. Most stores offer Extra Large. Designer Wendell Rodricks sweetly calls his Large a

Voluptuous.

But the truth is as real as the rain. Retailers are fat-phobic because we are too. If Christie Brinkley,a swimwear supermodel even at 59,says she thought of herself as “fat” in her younger days,where’s the hope for the zaftig of the world?

Fashion is about selling a fantasy,its basic premise is showing you how you can be at your most beautiful. A multi-billion dollar industry rests on a myth that is rooted in society and anthropology. “Fatkinis”,“body diverse” and the like are only newer catchphrases. So long as men will live,plus-size clothing will remain a fashion outlier.

namratanow@gmail.com

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