Zoe Stratos | Columnist Staff
Pittsburgh Fashion Week 2020 kicks off on Monday in a way that’s much different from previous years: it’s all far away. With so many podcasts, showcases, and zoom interviews popping up on the PGHFW official website, it’s time to talk again about the representation of body types in fashion design and showcases.
In previous years, City Center Community Development Company, sponsors, and other PGHFW volunteers aimed to promote the growing fashion industry and designer talent in the city of Pittsburgh by showcasing their talents in a runway show at Wintergarden inside PPG Place. Although the format of the week changed this year, the mission hasn’t.
While not necessarily PGHFW related, the mission to showcase different body types along with designer flair is of utmost importance – especially since fashion represents the masses and what they want to wear.
The body positivity trend has been around for years; thousands of people fight every day for different kinds of inclusiveness in big advertisements and fashion shows around the world, and the fight seems never-ending for some of these designers.
One of the main reasons for failing to include a different body type is the famous lingerie store, Victoria’s Secret.
As an lingerie company specifically, Victoria’s Secret’s goal is to make women of all sizes feel comfortable and sexy when stripped to almost nothing, but they continue to stand tall with the usual 5-foot 10-inch woman.
The lack of inclusion didn’t affect them during the early 2000s until the recent wave of positive body movements allowed rising competitors to take over the market. Companies like Aerie and their 2014 “#AerieReal” campaign ushered in a new era of inclusive, digitally unedited advertising.
Since Aerie’s big turnaround and the emergence of other companies such as Savage x Fenty and ThirdLove, Victoria’s Secret has seen declining sales, smaller profits and multiple store closings around the world. The annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show ranking also fell.
However great it is to see the beautiful models of sportswear that women all over the world want to wear, people want to look at themselves when they want to buy clothes. It’s hard to imagine yourself wearing clothes when the model is seven or eight sizes smaller than you, or 10 inches taller than you. Incorporating these different body types allows women – and men – to see what fit really looks like. Not to mention, one body type deserves to be accepted and displayed the same as the next body type.
On Tuesday morning, the PGHFW website posted a podcast, A Common Thread: Modeling, Designing, & Color Inclusivity, focusing primarily on the inclusion of African Americans in fashion, but also explaining the importance of designing for different body types.
One of the guests, Jai Proctor, a tailor and designer, became interested in fashion as a teenager. Her company, JAllison Designs, makes custom and custom made clothes because of her struggle to find clothes that fit her. He explained that clothes are mass produced to fit commercial styles, which is a major problem in fashion design today.
It’s important to feature up-and-coming designers like Proctor, as they not only highlight small businesses, but also show the public which companies are taking the time to include different shapes and sizes.
In addition, consumers benefit from inclusion, and companies also benefit from economic inclusion – it’s a win-win situation, so why aren’t designers open to it? Without having to hire regular models or spend money editing their ads, designers save money. In addition, customers of all sizes will want to buy these clothes.
However, as body positive campaigns start to escalate, the plus size area is where designers are still failing. It is true that this kind of inclusiveness is a step in the right direction; However, the curvy idea of the plus size model is not entirely accurate to the public. Designers tend to accentuate the bust, thighs, and butt rather than the waist and stomach.
There has even been little progress in the men’s department, as there are still taboos surrounding the positivity of the male body. Plus size women’s sections are popping up everywhere, but we barely see the plus size men’s section, or plus size men’s sections in the modeling and fashion industry. The shift towards male body positivity is critical as we continue the conversation about inclusivity – as well as gender-neutral inclusivity.
With designers turning to body positive missions across the board, confidence levels and sales will skyrocket. Activists work tirelessly to get to where we are today, but it’s important to remember that there is work to be done, and clothes to be made.
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