Fashion industry icon Tim Gunn has had it with the fashion industry ignoring average-sized women.
In the midst of New York Fashion Week, Gunn, host of the popular reality show “Project Runway,” penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Wednesday. Gunn argued that designers and retailers should design clothes for the average-shaped woman, and not “a seven-foot-tall glamazon.”
“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,” Gunn wrote.
The average woman in America is a size 16-18, but most lines top out at size 12, Gunn said, citing research by Washington State University. That leaves open a huge opportunity – the plus-sized clothing market is now estimated to be worth at least $20.4 billion dollars, Bloomberg reports, citing research from NPD Group.
Only 8.5% of dresses on Nordstrom.com were available in a plus size – commonly defined as size 14 or bigger – according to an analysis conducted by Bloomberg in May. J.C. Penny’s website fared marginally better, with just 16% of dresses available in a plus size.
The online retailer Modcloth has responded, releasing lines with expanded sizing designed for the average woman. It removed the “plus-size” category on its website and integrated all sizes so there’s no clear differentiator between “plus” and “straight” sizes.
The retailer did a survey of 1,500 American woman, and found that 81% of plus-size women responded they would spend more money on clothing if they had more choices, and 88% said they would purchase more clothing if “more trendy options were available in their size,” according to the survey.
Gunn acknowledged that this problem is difficult to tackle. Designers on “Project Runway” “audibly groan” when they’re challenged to create designs for real women, not models.
“The overwhelming response is, ‘I’m not interested in her,'” Gunn said.
Gunn said clothes will look flattering if you design them for the bodies that will be wearing them, calling on designers to do just that.
“There’s an art to doing this,” Gunn wrote. “Designers, make it work.”