Torrid's Plus-Size NYFW Show Defied Trump's Political Ugliness, Beautifully

The label Torrid staged a show devoted to plus-size fashion at NYFW, and its implicit celebration of diversity and inclusivity gave it an unexpectedly political edge.

In a New York Fashion Week noteworthy for its body inclusivity, Torrid’s first ever NYFW show felt a little like a victory lap.

The plus-sized brand’s Spring Summer 2018 collection was Bad Sandy from Grease meets Bad Dolores from Westworld. The collection was part laced-up leather and embellished jackets with collars popped like shark fins, and part dusty romance—lace and filmy robes and long skirts that coyly showed off the models’ legs as they strutted down the runway to a soundtrack befitting a hero slow-motion walking away from an explosion.

Torrid’s new collection is beautiful but safe, balancing edgy leather corsets with floaty, fluid fabric that gave some models the appearance of levitating. Florals were everywhere, embroidered, painted, etched in the fabric, on the goody bags, on the wall. So were ruffles.

The near-capacity crowd was significantly less floral and ruffled, but just as confident. Some of the onlookers were buttoned up fashion industry types, in perfectly tailored blazers and statement glasses. The rest could best be described as sexy neon teenagers from space.

As one model walked down the runway in a show-stopping mauve gown, two Torrid fans sitting behind me yelped at the same time “I want that!”

In the area where attendees waited before the show started, a plus-sized woman dressed in what could best be described as a “sexy girl scout outfit” and a raspberry-colored beret mingled near another girl wearing a tank top that propped her breasts in what looked like cloth cages.

Nearby, a young woman in a wheelchair wore an enormous gold chain with a commensurately large gold bear charm and a skirt festooned with embroidered conversation hearts.

Many of the attendees seemed almost too cool for what Torrid was showcasing, which was a collection designed with specifically plus-sized mass-market women in mind. But whether or not the attendees would actually wear the clothes felt beside the point. After decades of inclusion as tokens or novelties, larger sizes women were finally being welcomed and acknowledged as consumers of fashion.

Torrid isn’t the first plus sized brand to show at NYFW; that distinction belongs to Eden Miller of Cabiria, according to Fashionista. The second plus-sized brand to present at NYFW was Addition Elle, which showed just last fall.

Admittedly, a fashion show is an odd place for a political writer; even though fashion and politics often overlap, they rarely commingle. But, speaking as a political writer, this show occurring at this moment in history presents an almost hopeful narrative that runs contrary to the direction of the political narrative.

As the President devalues and demeans women who refuse to behave the way he wants as bloody and disgusting creatures, women who wouldn’t be at home on the Miss Universe stage are being welcomed and celebrated here.

As the current administration pushes for a world that’s closed and small and fearful, culture is opening up, diversifying, and rolling out a floral carpet for the different and brave.

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The Torrid show closed with a runway walk from each of its top ten finalists in the brand’s third annual model search. As the lights dimmed for the amateur contest entrants, the room exploded. Sure, this season of Torrid is about the clothes. But today’s show was primarily about the women wearing them.