02 August 2010

Christina Hendricks is the perfect poster girl for plus sized beauty - talking about how she ‘loves beer and carbs’ and has been ordered by the producer of Mad Men not to exercise to maintain her curves (how’s that for a job requirement).

However, the World’s Sexiest Woman (according to Esquire) has also talked openly about how much she struggles to find fashionable clothing that fits her fuller figure.

‘It is difficult come awards season’, Christina said earlier this year, ‘I need to find a gown to walk down the red carpet in, and there are only size zeros and size twos available.’
So why, with producers, politicians and real woman embracing the hour glass, are fashion designers lagging behind? The New York Times Magazine offers one possible answer – no two plus sized women are alike…

‘The most formidable obstacle lies in creating a prototype. If you already have a line of clothing and a set system of sizing, you cannot simply make bigger sizes. You need whole new systems of pattern-making. “The proportions of the body change as you gain weight, but for women within a certain range of size, there is a predictability to how much, born out by research dating to the 1560s,” explained Kathleen Fasanella, who has made patterns for women’s coats and jackets for three decades. “We know pretty well what a size 6 woman will look like if she edges up to a 10; her bustline might increase an inch,” Fasanella said. “But if a woman goes from a size 16 to a 20, you just can’t say with any certainty how her dimensions will change.”

Thin people are more like one another; heavier people are less like one another. With more weight comes more variation. “You’ll have some people who gain weight entirely in their trunk, some people who will gain it in their hips,” Fasanella continued. “As someone getting into plus-size, you can either make clothing that is shapeless and avoid the question altogether or target a segment of the market that, let’s say, favors a woman who gets larger in the hip. You really have to narrow down your customer.” A designer must then find a fit model who represents that type and develop a pattern around her. But even within the subcategories, there are levels of differentiation. “Armholes are an issue,” Fasanella told me, by way of example. ‘If you’ve decided to go after a woman who is top heavy some gain weight in their upper arms and some do not. There are so many variables you never win.’

Hold on! All size ten women aren’t clones. We all carry weight in alternative places, so how are any prototypes made? Does this sound like an excuse to you?

by Amy Molloy 


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