Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 22, 2013

Tidbits: Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

— I admit it, I’ve been hitting the cookies pretty hard here lately. I can’t help it. You get that sugar rush and they taste yummy and there’s so many different kinds of delicious treats that come in the form of a cookie.

Make vegetables taste like Toll House cookies and I’ll eat my green beans. Until then the question, “Would you like a cookie, Heather?” is always going to be answered with a smile and a “Yes, please!”

When you add my affection for confection to our unusually wet summer weather, I can certainly say that there is probably a very good reason why I might find a few extra pounds hanging around.

But even those who have been watching their lips and counting their steps and doing all they can do to keep their weight right where it should be may find they are left standing in the plus-size aisle all of a sudden.

We all know the fashion industry is completely unrealistic in their vision of “average.” Designers make their samples in a size 0. That’s ZERO, even though more than half of women are a size 14 or larger. Models who come in at a size six are considered “plus-size” models. In fact, today’s average fashion models weigh in at about 23 percent less than the average woman. Plus-size models, once averaging between 12 and 18, are now between sizes 6 and 14. Most runway models would meet the medial criteria for anorexia.

Those designing our clothing don’t care they’re completely ignoring millions of potential customers. Many times, women, especially, will complain the clothing that is available in larger sizes is frumpy and ill-fitting and just plain un-flattering.

Those designers and manufacturers also keep changing the rules. An eight is not always an eight. Sometimes, it’s a six. Bless those folks and their “magic” fabrics that say a size six but fit from size four all the way up to 10 or more, depending on the measuring stick used.

Sometimes, an eight is a 10. Sometimes, an eight from the same manufacturer is a six in one garment, eight in another and a 10 or 12 in yet another.

And that gets annoying. They can’t make up their minds, and the folks shelling out the cash for this clothing are stuck wondering which size they are today. Guys, if you wondered why it took all day for your lady to go clothing shopping, it’s because she has to try on about three sizes of each and every garment. She can’t just grab a pair of clothes off the rack because that’s the size she got last time, and that garment still fits.

Then there’s the stores. Some carry nothing in “plus” sizes. Remember what Ambercrombie and Fitch’s CEO Mike Jeffries said about their line? It’s not for the “plus” sized folks in the world. If you need an XL, keep moving to the next store because you are not their “target demographic.”

Some will segregate the “plus” sizes, usually away from the not-plus size, so that shoppers don’t get “clothing envy” by seeing the clothes that have actual shape to them.

Now, they’ve been changing up what sizes are “normal” sizes and what sizes are “plus” sizes.

Once upon a time, you were pretty sure “plus” was going to be extra-large and up, or from about a 14 or 16 and up. A friend on a social networking site vented fiercely recently about an online retailer that had classified a size eight as a “plus” size, and she’s encouraging friends to avoid such retailers with their skewed sense of size.

Apparently, there’s a slew of celebrities that won’t be shopping at this particular store, as there’s a recent upsurge of “Ima Size Eight” celebs like Miranda Lambert and others. Why? It’s a nice “in between size,” one commentator theorized. They’re not the size zero “Beanpole things in the magazines,” but they’re still not singing “Baby Got Back.”

Regardless of what size a person is, it’s possible to make flattering clothing that helps everyone feel beautiful in their own skin. That’s what fashion designers should be aspiring to do. And frankly, there’s a lot of potential for greater creativity with this untapped market. No, you can’t always take the size zero and just make it larger. Yes, you may have to consider things like longer cap sleeves or watching that those arm holes aren’t going to show off a lot more than intended. And, for the love of Pete, add a little extra fabric around the chest on a button-up shirt. No one likes the pooch. No one.

But mostly, stop trying to make all women fit into your vision of what’s beautiful. Stop trying to make all men (quickly becoming more and more body-obsessed, as well) fit into your vision of what’s beautiful. Your customers are people. We are not dolls you get to dress according to your whims.

Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. And it’s not determined by the aisle where you shop for clothes.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.