Not-so-average fashion

Fashion has abandoned the average American woman. The purpose of fashion is to adorn the human body, and in the 1950s it was great at it. Have you seen Audrey in Givenchy in every single one of her films? The clothes are beautiful; she’s beautiful. Good job fashion, you get a gold star.

But people today are different from the people of the 1950s. We are bigger than we were half a century ago. And fashion refuses to recognize it.

If the average size of an American woman is a 14, and she has to buy her clothes in a specialty size, then the fashion industry is in denial about what a women’s body look like today. This problem is slowly being addressed in the industry, but there are a lot of concerns unique to bigger people that Fashion hasn’t yet figured out how to meet.

Washington State University is actually one of very few universities researching and teaching about plus-size fashion. Deborah Christel, a professor in the department of apparel, merchandising, design and textiles (AMDT), taught a class sponsored by Speedo in the fall of 2014 to build a better swimsuit for “plus-sized” women.

“The students I teach are going to go into the fashion industry,” she said. “I believe universities have a social responsibility to make sure future designers know how to create clothes for everyone.”

In the class, students met with female swimmers who wore sizes 18 to 24 in order to understand their wants and needs as swimsuit consumers.

“About 60 percent or more of women in our nation wear plus-size clothing,” said Christel, who has made plus-size apparel and weight bias her research focus. “It’s a no-brainer that we should be teaching it.”

Christel’s other research regarding plus sized clothing includes finding the actual size of the average American woman and plus sized underwear that’s actually comfortable. Her work in regards to the Speedo class is published in her article, “The Efficacy of Problem-Based Learning of Plus-Size Design in the Fashion Curriculum,” and appears in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. It can be found at

Dominique Norman, a fashion activist and senior apparel design, merchandising, and comparative ethnic studies major, will be the first AMDT student to show her final collection in plus sizes. Students are typically required to make sample clothes in a size 2-4. Norman’s collection will be made in a size 14-16.

I’m lucky to be in a place that’s dedicated to providing options for every person to feel beautiful. But we’re not in the industry; we aren’t making clothes for the masses, yet.

Clearly consumers are aware of the issue. But the issue goes beyond customer satisfaction. It’s about equality. Everyone, regardless of size, should have options in how they dress. Just because women aren’t the same size as women from the 1950s doesn’t mean they’re less deserving of being heard, having buying power or having beautiful clothes.

Addy Forte is a senior apparel design and merchandising major from Seattle. She can be contacted at 335-1140 or by [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of the Office of Student Media.