Full Figured Fashion Week Matters More Than You Think

Plus-size fashion is a hot topic, no question. Just weeks ago, Tim Gunn went viral with a blistering takedown of the industry, which he says “turned its back on plus-size women.” It’s an important point, but not a new one. Everyone knows the fashion world largely ignores these women, leaving them with limited access to clothing — let alone high-end clothing. But when all this righteous outrage fades, is anyone actually doing anything about it?

Here’s the good news: Yes. With her new documentary, The Sixty-Six Percent, filmmaker Natalie Abruzzo is shedding light on those doing something about plus-size customers being underserved by the fashion industry. Looking through the lens of Full Figured Fashion Week, Abruzzo highlights the voices and creators committed to making the fashion world a truly equitable space.

“The majority of women in the U.S. are wearing plus-size women's apparel. Yet, the fashion industry treats these women as the minority. And even though there is a surplus of women who want, need, and seek fashionable, on-trend, well-made clothing, there is a deficiency and a disconnect,” Abruzzo said. (Just to clarify, the 66% refers to women in the U.S. whom the CDC identifies as overweight.)
In the last two years, FFFW has emerged from the shadow of NYFW as a noteworthy fashion event in its own right, thanks primarily the work of its founder, Gwen DeVoe. “She has made it her mission to be as inclusive as possible in size, shape, and race,” said Abruzzo, who interviewed DeVoe for the film. “This message resonates with women who are excluded from beauty and fashion time and time again.”

With this film, Abruzzo hopes to amplify the message further, understanding that many people — Gunn included — are only now hearing it for the first time. Reflecting on his recent op-ed, Abruzzo said, “We are certainly better for having him speak out about the plight of the plus-size woman in the fashion landscape.”

But his problematic comments on plus-size women themselves? Those need to be addressed, too. “Can there be real change in a society that still holds strong prejudice towards fat? This is the real question,” Abruzzo said. “I believe we are moving towards more education and understanding about the term ‘fat’ and all that it connotes. ‘Plus-size’ and ‘fat’ seem to be two sides of the same coin in many minds, and it is up to us — the filmmakers, journalists, and media — to keep the conversation going to affect change in our learned behaviors and attitudes towards these words."
That’s why FFFW — and plus-size fashion in general — is about much more than clothing. It’s about treating people as equal, at any size, and allowing them to treat themselves as such. “This, on the surface can seem shallow, but the implications of repeated dismissal and exclusion are very deep,” Abruzzo concluded. “When an entire industry turns people away who look different, that matters, because it endorses a culture in which discrimination is acceptable.”

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