Fashion Design Students Petition For More Plus-Size Mannequins

Photo: Getty Images.
The discourse about body inclusivity in fashion has evolved over the past few years, and it's about time. More retailers have wised up to the consumer base's spending power, and Ashley Graham is on track to become a household name shortly (and we may soon see more plus-size male models, like Zach Miko). But a lot still hasn't changed, both on the runway and in ads, and insufficient size diversity may also be trickling all the way down to the design process: A Parsons School of Design undergrad has started a petition urging her school to make more plus-size mannequins available to students, Runway Riot found.

Nayyara Chue, a Parsons junior focused on plus-size design, realized how little access the school's aspiring designers have to fuller-sized mannequins (despite the disconnect between the dress forms and what the country actually looks like). "It is preposterous that several students can't execute their plus-sized specialties at the school, even more so when the resources aren't readily available to us," reads the petition, which is addressed to Parsons' dean, Joel Towers. By installing additional plus-size mannequins in classrooms, Chue believes more emerging designers will be able to incorporate inclusive sizing in their collections.

Chue started the petition in March with a goal of 200 signatures, the New School Free Press reports. Now, it's garnered more than 4,400 names and counting from across the globe. "I don't want to call [body positivity] a trend, but it is, and the fact that there's multiple students that want to work with another body type that's not a size 6, I think it's great," Chue told the student-run publication of the support she's received.

Yvonne Watson, associate dean and associate professor of fashion at Parsons, told Refinery29 in a statement that the school has 17 plus-size dress forms, including a size 18 and size 22, available upon request. So far, the school has received two formal requests for these mannequins, both of which were filled, she explained. "Parsons encourages students to design for the many diversities of the human body, as well as for a broad age range," Watson said. "Addressing social needs is at the core of our design education, and we regularly challenge students to address issues of beauty, body positivity, and diversity as a way of challenging existing stereotypes."

The majority of the school's plus-size mannequins are size 12, according to the New School Free Press. However, Chue told the paper she doesn't think that's sufficient, since size 12 "is hardly plus-size," and that she's seen students having to share mannequins during the school year because of the lack of resources. This problem is, unfortunately, not totally new for designers-in-training: In 2013, two sophomores in apparel design couldn't find mannequins to fit their plus-size collection — so they built their own, the Cornell Chronicle reported.

Watson added that Parsons is currently working to bring on "a range of fit and drawing models who represent a diverse spectrum of body shapes" in order to help students learn to design for a range of body types, and also to free them from the constraints of working on a specific dress form. No word yet on if the school plans on buying additional plus-size mannequins for fashion design students, which Chue notes in her petition can cost between $300 and $400.

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