Just like life, fashion ain't fair. On a globally-broad scale, the injustice is that the items we buy in big box stores are mass produced by severely underpaid people who live and work in unimaginable conditions.
This, of course, is nothing new. These statements have been made for years, and therefore seem blasé. In fact, many don't even consider the tribulations faced by those who make what we wear. An unfortunate side of the fashion world is its tendency to let celebrities wear the most extravagantly expensive garments (the ones that they could likely afford) for free all because the designers can use it as publicity. Promote their high end line to an audience that will never be able to afford anything that label offers.
While these problems with the fashion world are among the most obvious, others are routinely presented to unwary consumers. This occurred to me during a recent shopping trip when I was preparing to buy a few items for an upcoming vacation. I came upon what appeared to be a cute dress and realized that it was a wrap dress, so I moved along.
The wrap dress, originally created by Diane von Furstenberg in the 1970s, is glorified in fashion magazines as the look that anyone can wear. It's supposed to be ideal for wearing to the office, for the weekend and going out. It's typically made of jersey or another fabric that bounces back from wrinkling, so that you can just throw it in a bag and go. Its versatility is something anyone can appreciate.
However, the problem stems from the idea that it's the perfect outfit for anyone to wear. This is a lie and it will be obvious when I return to that store in several weeks and find the sale rack filled with that dress marked down. Just removing it from the hanger in the dressing room is enough to make you crazy. There are long bands of fabric and little holes throughout the garment that you're supposed to string them through. You spend 10 minutes reconstructing the dress on your body and then look in the mirror. All that energy for nothing.
The neckline, which I believe is always a v-neck, is always absurdly low. This is not a look for the office unless you wear something underneath. The fabric that wraps around your body always sits in the weirdest places. The flimsy fabric moves on its own, causing the wearer to incessantly tug at the neckline so that a boob doesn't fall out or to adjust at the waist so that when you sit down, the hem doesn't fall in such a way to reveal other unmentionables.
I would love to take credit for assembling all those ideas, but, honestly, I read this lament on a blog.
Yet, it was such a revelation; I had tried on half a dozen wrap dresses in my life under the impression that it was for everyone but felt bad when they looked like crap.
Judging by the blog commentary, I wasn't the only one. It was good to finally hear the truth and to know that I didn't have to waste my time trying to reassemble a dress that wasn't going to ever look good. You see, as much as we're supposed to believe that items like the wrap dress are ideal for every body type, they aren't. Anything that claims it looks good on everyone is a boldface fashion lie. It's like the one-size-fits-all t-shirt, a declaration that's only partially true.
Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie
We know that the high-end labels cater to a specific group--rich, thin gals. This, again, is not a shocking revelation. What's unfortunate is the lack of change from retailers and designers marketing toward Middle America. But America's waistlines are growing, and the only thing changing with the garments is vanity sizing. Vanity sizing, of course, is making clothes bigger but keeping the small size label so that it makes us feel good and we buy it. It also explains why the size 10 of today used to be a size six.
Clothing is crafted for the tiny. Designers try to justify not extending lines past a size 12. Some have even admitted that to make a size larger would require more fabric and therefore cost more. Not to mention that they would have to completely re-create the shape of the garment. A shirt made for a stick figure with no bust would need to be reworked for a bosomy gal. But what about starting on a smaller scale here in Tulsa? Could our local boutiques push their size range? Are they pushing past that size 12/14 mark?
I don't mean to pick on the businesses that Tulsa has in terms of non-mall shopping. If the boutiques are, praise for them and if they aren't, they aren't doing anything differently than any other stores. And I don't know why this article suddenly seems to focus on the unfortunate end of the stick for plus-sized women. But really, there's an imbalance throughout the whole industry. We covet the young far more than the old. Just as we are getting fatter, we are also getting older. The older people still want to look good, yet we create fashion lines for the tragically hip or for those who tragically need a new hip. The fashion world certainly falls short on those ladies in the middle. There are problems, of course, with cost as well; though with so many stores making cheaply made, cheaply sold disposable, trendy items, that argument doesn't hold much water any more.
There's no real answer here as to what to do for any of these injustices. It's not as though we can write our Congressman about them. We just have to understand ourselves and our bodies. We have to know what works and what doesn't by trying on items, looking in the mirror and trusting our friends and families to tell us what to buy. We buy what's good, the bad is left unsold and perhaps one day, the stores will catch on and catch up on the times. Then we'll never have to get our hopes up about a cute frock only to see that it is a crappy wrap dress.
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