Designers Won’t Dress Plus-Size Celebs
Melissa McCarthy got snubbed on Oscar’s night. And we’re not just talking about her award.
In a new interview with Redbook magazine, the actress revealed that the perils of being a “big” big star are even worse than imagined.
“Two Oscars ago, I couldn’t find anybody to do a dress for me,” McCarthy said. “I asked five or six designers—very high-level ones who make lots of dresses for people—and they all said no.”
Despite the fact that McCarthy is a wildly brilliant actress and possesses such humor and talent that she has scored countless award wins and nominations, her weight has consistently been a target of both discussion and criticism—almost more so than her success. In 2013, The New York Observer’s Rex Reed even went so far as to call the actress “tractor-sized” and “a hippo.”
“I don’t understand why if you’re a certain size, designers think your taste level goes down and you have less money to spend,” McCarthy said in Redbook, targeting today’s seemingly unprogressive fashion industry. “The quality and construction is often so bad. Finding a great T-shirt or a great cigarette pant in a good fabric is next to impossible. Plus-size clothes are often really cheap and either look young or incredibly old.”
Unfortunately, we live in a “very size-phobic, sexist, racist, ageist fashion world,” Cameron Silver, longtime fashion historian and founder of West Hollywood vintage couture boutique, Decades, told The Daily Beast. Silver, who styled McCarthy for the 2012 Academy Awards in a light-pink Marina Rinaldi gown (a designer who specializes in women sizes 10-22), said that working with a plus-size actress, particularly one of McCarthy’s caliber, was a “non-issue.”
“How brilliant would it be if Karl Lagerfeld made a dress for Melissa and she looked incredible?” he said. “What kind of spectacular statement and moment would that make? It’s not like Chanel would be pigeonholed as a plus-size designer. It would just show insight and talent. It’s not hard to make Karlie Kloss look good, but someone who we might see as having more obstacles to look glamorous—which is all in the eye of the beholder—to elevate their confidence and beauty is a really rewarding thing. That was the most fulfilling part of the project with Melissa…She had a very clear directive that she wanted to be soft, that she wanted light colors…It’s like, why can’t a woman who’s larger feel diaphanous and like a goddess?”
Silver also points out that, since over 60 percent of American women are overweight and the average female weighs 166 pounds, “there are certainly more women Melissa’s size than Keira Knightley’s.”
So why is it that, in the “progressive” society we supposedly live in today, women who don’t conform to the unattainable standards of beauty set by the glossies still experience such discrimination—especially when larger body types are the norm?
“[Melissa] basically spoke the truth,” 30-year-old plus-sized fashion blogger Kirstin Marie told The Daily Beast. “She just kind of let out what a lot of women experience on a day-to-day basis…people are so obsessed with image and the way [they] look and the constant pressure from everything to look perfect…It’s not surprising that society isn’t more accepting of plus-sized women because we’re still taught at a very young age that being plus-sized or fat is unacceptable.”
“When I go shopping, most of the time I’m disappointed,” McCarthy said. And she’s not alone. According the NPD Group, a market research company, 63 percent of plus-sized women (typically categorized as anything above a size 12) report that shopping for plus-sized clothing is more stressful than shopping for regular clothing, because, as the actress explained, quality and quantity are severely compromised.
“[The fashion industry] has fallen into a rhythm,” Marie continued. “A lot of people don’t like change, they don’t like to accept or embrace change, so that scares them, because it goes outside their comfort zone,” citing the strong “front of plus-sized fashion figures” in the industry as “intimidating” to designers.
But, is there a way to stop this epidemic before it continues to spread? McCarthy is hoping to tackle the issue head-on, collaborating with dress designer Daniella Pearl (who designed the actress’s 2011 Emmy Awards gown) on a line of stylish clothing for plus-sized women. Attitude, too, has also been something McCarthy has always utilized to her advantage, slamming critics and standing up for her body.
The most unfortunate situation, however, Silver emphasizes, is that the discrimination is not limited to women of a larger size, but also affects those of a certain age or color.
“Why do we elect to alienate [these] entire communities?” he says. “I have a strong philosophy that style doesn’t know your size, your ZIP Code, your [finances], or your age. And I think that’s something that more designers need to embrace…There are still a lot of barriers we need to break in fashion.”
If Melissa McCarthy, an Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated, happily married mother of two is having this issue, what’s left for the rest of us, whether we’re short, tall, flat, busty, thin, curvy, black, white, young, old, and everything in between? The fashion industry needs to stop expecting designs meant for Kloss to fit us all (they won’t!) and starting creating pieces for the real American woman, McCarthy included.