On a recent Saturday in New York City, an group of impeccably dressed women unexpectedly appeared in front of the post office on 33rd St. The city was in the midst of Fashion Week, an event typically associated with impossibly tall models, avant garde designs and A-list celebrities lining the front rows of catwalk shows.

 

Women do not come out of the Woman Factory in five different sizes of the same shape, and it's time clothes reflected that.(Photo:plus size formal dresses)

On a recent Saturday in New York City, an group of impeccably dressed women unexpectedly appeared in front of the post office on 33rd St. The city was in the midst of Fashion Week, an event typically associated with impossibly tall models, avant garde designs and A-list celebrities lining the front rows of catwalk shows.

Despite the atmosphere of the city, the women gathered on 33rd St weren't all working models. In fact, they were members of a flash mob organised by Pinup Girl Clothing, a California based specialist retailer with a focus on vintage designs. As the group grew, a theme emerged. Not only were they were all wearing the same Pinup Girl dress but the women were all vastly different shapes, from sample cut thin to what is typically referred to as 'plus size'. As they stood there, resplendent in shades of lilac, pink, black, white and red, the message intended by Pinup Girl founder Laura Byrnes and articulated by Micwriter Theresa Avila was clear: "The right dress can look great on any woman, no matter her size or body type."

You'd think that such a sensible idea would have the support of people in the business of making money, but the fashion industry remains gobsmackingly out of touch with the diversity of its potential consumer base. Plenty has already been written about the economics of the fashion industry and by researchers far more learned than me, so I won't attempt to deconstruct the whys and wherefores of this here. Suffice it to say, old arguments about the cost of providing plus size patterns and material are not as valid as people think they are especially when considered against the production of petite clothing.

However, I do have practical experience of being (a) a woman, (b) who wears clothes, and (c) would like them to fit well and look good. Unfortunately, having been blessed with the bottom of my South American mother, the hill climbing Scottish thighs and broad shoulders of my paternal ancestors and the disproportionately small bosom of who-even-knows, clothes shopping tends to result in me feeling demoralised, frustrated and increasingly prone to self loathing.

After another failed attempt to find something bordering on a sophisticated outfit recently, I couldn't help but feel pinpricks of rage on seeing a sign in the entrance of Sportsgirl. According to the sign, September 7 - 11 was "Love your body week". On the bottom were two logos: Sportsgirl's and the Butterfly Foundation, an organisation which supposedly raises awareness about eating disorders.

Now, I've struggled with eating disorders and the more moderately titled 'disordered eating' since I was 12 years old. That accounts for 22 years of alternately treating my body with starvation, purging, dieting, cruelty, derision and, on extremely rare occasions, kindness. Almost two thirds of my life has been spent viewing my body as a dilapidated, unsightly lump of junk that sits on my front lawn and hides what I'm supposed to believe is the beautiful 'inner' me.

Well I'm sorry Sportsgirl, but nothing makes me hate my body more than going into shop after shop (including yours) and finding that the only women entitled to love themselves are the ones with homogeneously proportioned bodies between sizes 8 and 16. I understand that your majority market is teenage girls and women in their early 20s, but you are doing more harm than good by pretending that you care about body positivity while refusing to embrace any real diversity in sizes OR cuts.

Women do not come out of the Woman Factory in five different sizes of the same exact shape. A lot of us are arbitrarily proportioned and completely shut out of fashion play as a result, and we can't just exercise our way into having a narrow rib cage. Running more won't diminish my hockey player calves - for that to happen, I'd literally have to have both of my legs set in plaster cast and wait for the muscles to atrophy.

Sportsgirl isn't singularly responsible for cheap and meaningless corporate messages about body positivity. The beauty and fashion industries are both guilty of pretending to care about our feelings, primarily because 'femvertising' has proved so profitable. But messages telling us to 'love our body' assume the fault lies with our own poor self esteem and negative self talk and not with the multi billion dollar industry erroneously invested in promoting our shame and self loathing. If you really want me to love my body, stop trying to sell me bullshit and start trying to sell me clothes!

Think this is just my problem? Think again. In a 2013 interview to discuss her book Out Of Shape, Melbourne author Mel Campbell recounts the moment she learned that she wasn't alone in feeling distressed about the exclusion she felt from the fashion retail industry. She told Myriam Robin, "When researching, I did a survey of people's worst experience in shopping for clothes. It was heartening to learn it wasn't just me. Everyone struggles, and everyone thinks they're alone."

It doesn't have to be like this. As Avila reported in Mic, Byrnes' Pinup Girl clothing wasn't conceived as a laboured statement about body positivity. On the contrary, it was simply a matter of recognising that women of all sizes and shapes want to wear clothes which make them feel good, so it makes sense for retailers trying to turn a dollar to provide that for them. As Byrnes says, "Women need clothes, it's as simple as that. We want to do a great job giving you clothes."Read more at:short formal dresses

 

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