The ‘Big’ Question

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So fashion has relented and will now produce plus-size designs with Marc Jacobs leading the charge. I for one am not particularly surprised. For years, high-end clothiers have resisted the call, for decades they have turned a blind eye to a developed world only increasing in size and weight and for as long as they would now care to forget, they have avoided tapping into a potentially massive (no pun intended) market; considering most fashion labels are deep in debt, it was high time, the accountants warned, that they come up with a profitable idea.

Why, pray, does this concern the readers of Mensflair? Well, as little as it will affect the next few years of shirt buying or tailoring, the eventual knock-on effect of such a seismic shift in the fashion world will send shockwaves throughout the clothing retail world; other designers, except perhaps Karl Lagerfeld, will fall too. Fashion will change, and the way we look at clothing will change too.

For instance, designers will have to rethink style; designs that work on a skinny model do not work on a plus-size model. This affects both female and male design; the knock-on effect to fashion-conscious behemoths like H&M and Zara will be substantial. I think it possible that they will divide plus-size clothing from standard size clothing – take heed, all the chaps who said they couldn’t fit into “anything in that damned Spanish store.”

I also think it possible that outré fashion takes a back seat, with more variations on timeless style forming the foundation for fashion’s new audience; it may well be the death knell for outrageous couture, which is already exhibitionist PR designed to add credence to the fashion house concerned.

Many will be thinking “Big sizes? Big deal” and rightly so; anyone who sifts through the tail end of sales and reddens in fury at the proliferation of XXL and lack of a single Medium knows that ‘big’ chaps are not unfairly treated when it comes to fashion, they’re simply less interested. Vanity is the product of favour; it is more common in people who are of a more conventional size. Although in fairness, larger people have been excluded from the ‘ideals’ paraded by fashion, which is down mostly to the fact that they do not match the aesthetic ideal of fashion’s nonpareils, minutely because of the health risks of endorsing size – fashion PR would have you believe it is entirely the latter.

The question is, does this signal the end of the fashion world as we know it? Are those hallowed houses, constructed on the dubious foundations of anorexia, bulimia and Adobe Photoshop to come crashing down? As long as vanity multiplies at the rate it does, I doubt it. I see more of an evolutionary wisdom in fashion’s nod to this ‘growing’ market; they may not be scientists, but they see the divisions in humanity already forming, however slight they currently appear.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. The Gneech says:

    “anyone who sifts through the tail end of sales and reddens in fury at the proliferation of XXL and lack of a single Medium knows that ‘big’ chaps are not unfairly treated when it comes to fashion”

    What world do you live in, sir? As someone who is exactly XXL, finding anything in my size except at a specialty shop is as near to impossible as makes no odds.

    Viva la revolution! Sign me up for a proper waistcoat to start, please.

    -The Gneech

  2. Dear The Gneech,

    From your website, I presume you are a Virginian? The world I live in is London, England.

    It seems there is an unfortunate conspiracy that seems set to disappoint both of us – colossal numbers of XXL items go unwanted in London’s sales, and yet it seems they would be keenly appreciated in Richmond.

    Yours,

    W

  3. James Crouch says:

    Pleeeease tell me where these ‘London Sales’ are with the colossal numbers of XXL items! As a large by reasonably well-proportioned rugby-playing gentleman of 42 years but a keen interest in stylish clothes, with an off-the-peg/bargain budget, I would love to find these emporia!

  4. Ken Dunson says:

    In my humble opinion being in control of ones weight is one of the most dramatic things you can do for ‘style’. Can you imagine Cary Grant at 6’1″ and 240 pounds; or, 5’9″ Fred Astaire at 200 pounds!? How many men style icons can you name that were obese?? I frequent thrift shops for fun and pleasure…hoping to find a discarded, 50 year old, like-new Brooks Brothers tie for 20 cents; but, I am astounded that more and more I see a growing number of shirts that go up to 6X, 19″ necks, etc. As a youngster growing up in the 40′s and 50′s obesity was an oddity. Today it is common! I feel badly for those who suffer this problem.

  5. Jim says:

    With overweight people the beginning and end of design/tailoring is to conceal their bulk – is it any wonder that such a limited brief is not enough to excite the top fashion talent? And, let’s be honest, at the end of the day an overweight person is still not going to look anywhere near as stylish as a well-dressed person of normal size. Any person who truly cares about aesthetics will stay in shape.

  6. A well written article. As a forty-something chap on the portly side(46″chest, 38″ waist, 16.5″ collar, 29.5″ leg) I have no problem finding and looking good in the traditional items but I do like to indulge in buying contemporary and querky pieces from the likes of Nicole Fahri. The truth is that many designers fail to deliver in designing clothes that suit the proportioned but larger size. I can access the larger sizes but the aesthetics don’t work.

  7. Rico says:

    I’ll have to disagree with Jim. I’ve seen men of girth outdress their slighter rivals on many occasions. As they say repeatedly on this site, its about the cut. If a portly man has a customized suit that minimizes his gut vs a slim man who has an off-the-rack suit, the difference is substantially noticeable.