fashion

Christian Siriano Reps the Plus-Size Women at New York Fashion Week

Fatalefashion/YouTube screengrab
Fatalefashion/YouTube screengrab

The New York Fashion Week would have been business as usual if it wasn’t for Christian Siriano. The designer, already known for embracing various body shapes through his Lane Bryant partnership (the fall line is coming out they day of this post) and through dressing actresses like Leslie Jones as well as First Lady Michelle Obama, has taken his commitment to body inclusion to the next level. This time, for his Spring/Summer 2017 runway show, he cast five plus-size models to the catwalk.

Check out the social media buzz (and the full show!) for yourself:

Simply put, this kind of fashion show is life-affirming. No hyperbole; as a plus-size woman myself, it truly is life-affirming. For too long, fashion has been in the narrow “must be stick-skinny” box, when 1) women have never only been one size and 2) the majority of women are now within the 16-18 size range. The fact that fashion designers, on the whole, have dedicated themselves to this narrow definition of beauty is mind-boggling, especially when some of the women in their lives, I’m sure, aren’t size 0.

Tim Gunn, design educator, author, and personality from Project Runway, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post during NYFW. He took the fashion industry to task for “turn[ing] its back on plus-size women.”

I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women. It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American women now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers—dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk—still refuse to make close for them.

Gunn also calls certain designers out by name who have said, in so many words, that they didn’t want plus-size women wearing their clothes because they felt plus-size women were ugly.

Enter designers like Siriano, who has taken the opportunity of dressing an underserved market head-on.

When ELLE Magazine asked Siriano as to why more designers don’t make plus-size clothes, Siriano’s comments seemed to echo Gunn, seeming to allude to the fact that some designers just might not want to put in the time commitments to dress women who aren’t sample size

We know the importance of creating inclusive collections. So why can’t more designers make great plus-size clothes?

I think they can. I just think it’s a lot of time and a lot of work. The thing is, if you’re a designer, then you want to constantly push yourself and your designs. When we make a new collection, we’re changing shapes, we’re changing patterns. We get a dress on a model, and it’s our first time seeing what the dress really looks like a woman’s body. And even with traditional fashion models, where it’s their job to be a certain size and a certain proportion, you have to make adjustments once you see your clothes on a real live person. Now imagine doing that with more sizes, more proportions. You really have to play with every piece. So timing is a big part of it. You have to make the time. But having said all that, we made it work. We found the time and we put in the effort because being a label that different women can wear is really important to us.

So the trick is having the time?

Honestly, I think the “trick” is you have to really want to do it. You’re embracing more of the world. Which is great. We’re all in this together, you know? And the models in the show who are “plus size,” they’re not in a special place, they’re now wearing differently styled outfits. They’re just beautiful girls who are in the show, like normal. Everything’s normal. That’s how it should be!

(From my point of view, it sounds like he’s simply saying they’re lazy.)

Gunn is right; there’s a lot of money to be made here, and Siriano, the most successful Project Runway alum because of his business acumen, certainly has his business sense attuned to this void and is using it to differentiate himself and endear himself to a larger part of the market.

But that doesn’t mean his shrewdness is something to balk at. There is still a thoughtfulness to Siriano’s decision to cater to a wider selection of body types. As he’s said himself, he likes dressing women of all sizes and wants every woman to look and feel beautiful. If he just wanted to make money, he could do like Target and make plus-size sacks. But he’s actually giving women choices, style, and a voice in the fashion world. Siriano is allowing plus-size women to feel like they do matter in fashion and that they do deserve to feel beautiful. Simultaneously, he’s giving his fellow fashion designers the middle finger, daring them to what he’s doing for plus-size women. It’s a challenge that I hope more fashion designers take up. As Gunn says in his op-ed, “Designers, make it work.”

What do you think of Siriano’s NYFW showing? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

#BeyondLabels: Fashion Blogger Freddie Harrel On Rediscovering Her Self-Worth

Like a lot of sites focusing on diversity in the media, JUST ADD COLOR highlights a lot of stories about being defined by labels, particularly bad ones. So much in or society is dominated by how others see us and how each of us are portrayed in the media. That can do a lot of damage to a person’s self-esteem and self-worth. But with all of the labeling that happens in a lifetime, how about living beyond those stereotype-laden labels that limit us? In other words, how do we find our self-worth, despite the messaging we’ve received? #BeyondtheLabels will highlight how people who are considered “outsiders” by the media—because of race, gender, weight/size, sexuality, ability, mental health, etc.—have rediscovered their self-worth and self-acceptance.

Fashion blogger Freddie Harrel combines her love for style with her passion for helping others gain self-confidence because of her own past struggles self acceptance. Her story reminds me of the stories many women of color, black women in particular, have when it comes to accepting their hair, being told by others they were pretty “for a black girl,” and consistently being put down by the mean-spirited and well-meaning alike. Her story is also familiar to me because, like me and many other women of color, she went to a school where she was the minority. Being put in a situation of being the only black person in an institution is stressful enough, but having to deal with both outward and unspoken discrimination is even more taxing on a teenager’s mental growth into adulthood.

Her moment of clarity came after years of trying to fit in. “Before I am a woman, before I am black, I am Freddie,” she said. “…In a really non-arrogant way, I think that’s amazing. I can’t believe I’ve missed that in so many years.”

Instead of me describing her story, just watch this video, created by Stylelikeu’s “What’s Underneath Project: London.”

You can follow Harrel at her site. You can also follow Stylelikeu and see more amazing stories of self-acceptance from people of all walks of life.

#DifferenceMakers: Madeline Stuart and Rixey Manor’s Bridal Photo Shoot

Some photos from a bridal photo shoot have made the rounds, and they’ve got everyone talking. The photos, taken by Sarah Houston, feature Madeline Stuart, a model with Down syndrome, showcasing several wedding dresses in and around Virginia’s Rixey Manor, a popular wedding spot.

Rixey Manor’s owner, Isadora Martin-Dye, commissioned the shoot and told Huffington Post UK, “A lot of newly engaged women cannot see themselves as a bride because all of the images magazines use are of these tall, thin models. I think that being a bride is a life experience that every woman should be able to see herself doing, and defintely not stressing about the fact that they won’t look ‘perfect’ on their wedding day.” Houston wrote on her blog that she also wanted to showcase a bride’s individual beauty. “I honestly just wanted to show that no bride is cookie cutter, each one is unique and beautiful and Madeline proved that,” she wrote.

Madeline Stuart – Rixey Manor from Nugen Media on Vimeo.

Thankfully, the comments on Houston’s Instagram page and blog have been positive.  But, I’ve read this story on several different websites, and in almost every comments section, the comments almost always devolve into a dichotomy; either people feel the pictures and Stuart are quite beautiful and inspiring, or how they think that people with Down syndrome shouldn’t get married. The thing I took away from it is similar to what the Martin-Dye wanted people to take away from the photos—we should get ourselves accustomed to the idea of different types of brides, including brides with mental disabilities. We shouldn’t believe that people with mental disabilities 1) don’t want to get married or 2) can’t get married.

I did some reading before writing this post, because—in full disclosure—I myself have only ever been in contact with one person with Down Syndrome in my entire life. Even though I went to an elementary school that embraced both children with and without learning and physical disabilities, and even though that environment gave me much more exposure to people with different abilities (more exposure than most schools were doing even in the ’90s), I still never had much exposure to Down Syndrome. So writing this article was a learning experience for me as well.

Let’s take a look at some myths and debunk them.

• MYTH: People with Down Syndrome or other disabilities don’t want to get married.

Why it’s false: Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they are instantly rendered helpless. But, in fact, there are many couples with disabilities out there. In a feature outlining Bill Ott (who has Downs’ Syndrome) and Shelley Belgard (who has hydrocephalus), a couple with disabilities, The Washington Post writes how while there are many couples like Ott and Shelley out there, the actual numbers haven’t been calculated. “Experts say it’s difficult to track the number of couples with intellectual impairments because they often enter into committed relationships without getting married,” Style writer Ellen McCarthy wrote for The Washington Post. “In many instances, a legal marriage could interfere with Social Security or health-care benefits.”

Legally in America, people with mental disabilities have the same legal right as anyone else to get married, as well as own homes, drive, and anything else. Slate asked University of Virginia’s Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy’s Dr. Richard Redding about this, and he said that mentally disabled people don’t need to pass any competency tests. But, state-by-state, things break down a bit different. Slate states more than 30 states either restrict or prohibit marriages between people with mental disabilities. “Such marriage laws are rarely enforced. But when they are, a competency hearing can be triggered by a guardian or family member who suspects manipulation or coercion behind the marriage.” Even though the laws aren’t enforced, the existence of those laws contributes to society’s ignorance about the rights and needs of mentally disabled people.

•Myth: People with Down Syndrome or other disabilities don’t want to get married.

Why it’s false: Many people believe the mentally disabled don’t want to get married because they see those individuals as being forever a child. But that’s not true, either. People with Down Syndrome have productive lives and want the same types of rich social interactions and relationships just like anyone without the disability.

Philip Davidson, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, told The Washington Post that the stereotype should be disbanded. “There is a bias in our society that is unfounded—that just because you have Asperger’s syndrome or Down syndrome that you automatically cannot sustain a relationship,” he said. “But that’s just not true. These people are really not all that different than you and me. Their investment in the lives of other people are as significant as yours and mine.”

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies in America is born with the condition, making it the most common. “Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year,” states the site. So with those kinds of stats, it’s actually surprising we haven’t seen any more advertisement featuring people with Down syndrome. What this wedding spread is hoping to do is further incorporate people of all types into the country’s social fabric, and what we should do as consumers (and as members of society) is welcome more media like this since it only helps everyone in the long run. As the president of Global Disability Inclusion, Meg O’Connell, told the Telegraph, “People want to see people like themselves in fashion and advertising and marketing campaigns. People with disabilities by clothes and cars and houses. They want to be represented, like everyone else; disability has been the forgotten diversity segment.”

What do you think of the photos? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Great blogs to check out:

Wife who tied the knot with disabled husband to become Britain’s first married couple with Down’s Syndrome dies aged 45 (Daily Mail)

Mental health, human rights & legislation (WHO)

Mentally Disabled Couple’s Legal Battle Ends with New Home (ABC News)

#DifferenceMakers: The Banned Lane Byrant #ThisBody Ad

Women have enough trouble as it is, but we also face intense scrutiny with beauty and size standards. Even though there’s many different sizes of women and many different standards of beauty, women and girls have to contend with what’s always presented to them as the norm—being tall and thin (but somehow still buxom and curvy). I’ve personally dealt with these issues in my own life, and they are something I’m only just now coming to terms with.

Showing different types of beauty on television and in film would help everyone feel more comfortable in their own skin, but several television stations went against that idea by banning a revolutionary Lane Bryant ad. The ad doesn’t show anything different than your typical Victoria’s Secret commercial—women in bras and panties—but this ad was, for some reason, seen as being too “indecent.” Take a look at the ad yourself:

Did you see anything too indecent for television (especially seeing how we get full-on sex scenes in primetime TV nowadays)? I didn’t. So it left many to wonder what exactly was so controversial about showing full-figured bodies on television, especially when commercials like this get aired, which are presented in an aggressively sexy tone (the only difference being that skinnier models are shown).

Either way, the Lane Bryant commercial was a positive step towards remedying many women’s low self-esteem. By seeing self-assured, self-confident, beautiful women who are also women of size, many will start to feel the seeds of empowerment.

What did you think about the commercial? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Analyzing the Costumes of "Empire": The Lyons

Empire  is a show that’s soapy, dramatic, and fun. Of course, with a show like this, the costuming is going to come into play. Thankfully, the show takes a pages from Dynasty and Mad Men, especially if go by Tom and Lorenzo’s expert analysis of those characters’ closets. 

The Empire characters say a lot about themselves through their clothes, so let’s see just what they’re telling us.

A #BlackoutEveryday Christmas: Black-owned online stores for the woman in your life

I’m back with more #BlackOutEveryday Christmas shopping! If you loved the shopping suggestions for the men in your life, I hope you’ll find this article, about great online shops for women, just as informative. To be honest, I actually need to pay attention to this article myself, since I have yet to get my Christmas shopping underway. #Christmasprocrastination.

Here are five of the many black-owned shops out there that are sure to have the perfect gifts for your the women on your list.