Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Undress the Nation

As promised, a thoughtful and considered post today - I have been pondering my thoughts on this one for a few days.

I recently saw a "debate" on a parenting forum entitled "Celebrating Obesity?" and the subject matter was Trinny & Suzannah's recent programme featuring size 16+ women and their struggles to find flattering clothing. It's still available to view on ITV's website if you missed it as I did, and want to watch.

The focus of the programme was (in my eyes) helping larger women find flattering clothes that would make them feel and look good. The focus of the debate in question was how unhealthy they all are and how could anyone think it was OK to celebrate their fatness. And because one of the "fat women" (she is a size 18, I'm still aspiring to that!) made a throw away comment about designers only catering to "size 10 freaks", slim women got all up in arms about "thinnism".

So here's my critique of the programme, in all it's glory.

First of all, I have to say I did cringe at the size 10 freaks comment. I'm sure the woman who made it would love to be a size 10 freak and I'm also sure it was made in jest, with an undercurrent of jealousy maybe. But not a great way to get people on your side! Another thing I found very cringe worthy was Trinny & Suzannah donning fat suits to go on a shopping trip with 2 of the ladies. That was patronising and unnecessary. They could still have seen how hard it is to find good clothes without the fat suits. But the women on the show didn't appear to feel patronised by it so hey, who am I to judge!

Having discovered that you can't buy a size 22 evening dress easily on the high street, they then confronted a group of retailers about their offerings. Now this is another part I just didn't like. I saw no point at all in asking representatives from stores that do not in anyway cater for the 16+ market to turn up. They don't have to sell plus size ranges, any more than they have to sell sausages for god's sake! Better to concentrate on the retailers who do profess to sell larger ranges, but make a dog's ear of it in my humble opinion. Naturally they offended the retailers by ripping into their ranges which I guess is their confrontational style, but certainly it wouldn't be mine.

On to the intersting part of the show - this is why we watch - looking at how to dress to flatter the shape of our bodies. Empire line dresses, good underwear (and oh my god what a difference good underwear makes!) and bizarrely jackets that won't fasten! Yes, you read that right...they put big busted ladies in coats and jackets 2 sizes too small so they won't fasten, to allegedly give a smaller appearance.

Not. Convinced.

A group of fashion students designed a range of clothing for the women, which inevitably needed lots and lots of adjustment before the garments where anything approaching flattering. But in the end they did a good job and the women looked great. And it was bloody heart warming to see that they felt great too, so much so that many of them were reduced to tears. It takes a hard hearted woman to watch that and then say they shouldn't celebrate because they are so unhealthy (Does anyone really think the debaters really give a damn about the health of these women?!)

Representatives from Evans and Elvi where wheeled out to view the collection and declared themselves impressed. They were very gracious considering their own ranges had been under the spotlight at the start of the show.

Here's the thing though. Even I can see that it would be very hard for a high street retailer to replicate the cut and fit of the tailor made garments shown. We don't all have the same shape so one size is never ever going to fit all. So if they were to go off and try to make an off the peg evening dress for size 22 women, how could it ever fit and flatter in the same way as the bespoke dress that has been fitted and tailored for the one woman who will wear it? I'm sure the same is true in a size 10, but does the problem not scale up with the size? I suspect it would.

So are we about to see an influx of fabulous fitted clothes in Evans? Well I will watch and see, but somehow I doubt it.

But great underwear - we can all do that!


Christine said...

Great post - I too would have gotten annoyed at them putting down size 10 "freaks" as well as at the debaters on their weight.

I think it's important to have clothes that suit you at any size, although I'd say that I'm half glad it became impossible for me to buy clothes in this town since it actually forced me to do something about my weight.

Kath said...

Well all I can say is that I seem to be inadvertently following T&S's advice given that none of my coats will button up at the moment. That would be because not that long ago I was one of those size ten freaks and now I'm not. I just haven't upscaled my wardrobe to match my bod!!

And actually, I do agree with them about the jacket thing. A smaller, more fitted jacket that doesn't do up can give the illusion that what's underneath is it slimmer than it really is. The edges of the jacket create a line that goes up and down and that's more slimming than one big voluminous mass of fabric. The only thing is, what are you supposed to do when it's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey and you can't do your coat up? Think of the extra calories you're burning off just trying to ward off hypothermia I suppose!!

Wendy said...

I can see how the theory makes sense, but honestly, in the examples they showed, the jackets just looked too damn small!

And anyway my mum taught me to always check my coat would fasten before buying it, and it's not like she's crazy or anything. Oh, wait.....;)

Crabby McSlacker said...

Oh for goodness sake, I can't believe that some people actually think there's something wrong with designing flattering clothes for larger sizes! "Celebrating obesity", that's just nuts!

Women DO come in all sizes, and they shouldn't have to dress in burlap sacks.

(I'm a jeans & t-shirts gal myself, so fashion trends are somewhat wasted on me at any size. But for those of you who dress up, there should be plenty of options at any size!)