It’s Time for #PlusIsEqual at New York Fashion Week

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - 1100 Block of Kensington Road NW

It’s that time again. It’s New York Fashion Week. While the streets are flooded with the usual fashion community, a newer movement, too, is hitting the streets. Designers, models, stylists and supporters flooded Times Square for the #PlusIsEqual Lane Bryant event. The campaign is calling for support in representation of all sizes of women in fashion. Excuse the forthcoming location pun, but I think it’s much overdue in terms of time. 

According to the campaign website noted above, 67% of American women wear sizes 14+ but are drastically underrepresented in the visuals we see everyday. Take a moment to think about how many women have you seen on a billboard over a size 6, let alone larger than that? How about in ads and editorial in fashion magazines? How about on your favourite TV show? Now think about how many women you know that wear size 14+. We know they exist, so I ask Fashion (capital F in an effort emphasis the entire industry): where are they?

Healthy women come in all shapes and sizes. So do unhealthy women. Can we agree that “Size ain’t no thang.” Or at the very least, I don’t want to make this a size thing. For me the number inside a garment is just to get you in the ballpark of what may fit and flatter. It’s a necessary means. And not necessarily mean. 

In an attempt to create more awareness on this dramatic representation shortfall the #PlusIsEqual movement crashed the Fashion Week party. The movement’s manifesto is superb:

When I look around, what I see doesn’t represent me. I deserve more. I’m ready to share the spotlight.
It's time to see a change. To see a body like mine on a billboard and in magazines. I’m sexy, spirited, and stylish with nothing to hide. Worthy of being seen. Just as I am. 
It’s time to represent. Because my voice is one of many and I want to live in a world where we are all seen and celebrated.

Many use labels such as “curvy” or “plus size” when referring to women and the fashion in the size 14+ range. In an effort to distinguish it just makes people feel “other.” When I asked a few women how they felt about the terms, “curvy” or “plus size” I received feedback that ranged from, “I love the term curvy,” and “I hate them both,” all the way to “How about it’s just another size?” or my personal favourite, “F*c% the word “plus” and “curvy. It’s demeaning.”” 

Regardless how any one personally feels about those labels, they are simply labels. As a society I feel we are quick to categorize and sort people into this or that but we hardly take a moment to think about the harm that labels can do. We tend not to think about how they intentionally separate. Or how they can be damaging. When it comes to a person’s size she (or he) wears, is the additional label helpful? We already have the numerical size for fit guidance, thus, I think not. Fashion is supposed to bring people together through a common art form. Frankly, I urge you all, like my friend, to, “F*c% the word “plus” and “curvy.””

We all deserve to be represented. I hope one day, too, celebrated. Like I have said here, here, and here we have to see to believe. Diversity, including more sizes in fashion, must be a priority. I believe representation of all types of people and talking about what we have in common helps us, only then, to understand our differences from a kinder point of view. We must showcase all shapes and sizes so we can love each other - and maybe the most important - ourselves.

If nothing else, hear me from a capitalist, economic point of view. There is a demand for more sizes, styles and representation for women who wear a larger size that 12. Hello! There’s money to be made, brands. How about you make more sizes in your brand’s collections so more women can buy it? Show more, sell more, earn more. It’s doesn’t have to be so hard.

As you review the NYFW SS16 presentations at the newly minted Vogue Runway take a look and see if the fashion community you click, try, and buy represents all the wonderful women in your life.

Looking for more NYFW coverage? Check out last year's post.