Scenes From Challenging The "Experts"...Fashionable Plus-Size Apparel

Using aesthetic principles to challenge "so-called" experts "how to" advice
for apparel choices of plus-size women.

Andrea Eklund
Apparel, Merchandising, and Interior Design
Washington State University

The purpose of this project is to investigate the accuracy of "how to dress" advice directed toward plus size women in popular literature. Examples of the advice given to plus size women include: they shouldn't wear large prints or pants with straight legs; do not tuck in shirttails; cover up the hips and derriere with a blazer; and wear elastic waist skirts. In general, most experts suggest that plus size women should de-emphasize the body. Therefore the strategies are to decrease the visual impression of apparent size. Thus they aim to disguise the body. They tell these women to hide their bodies under clothing and give them numerous guidelines to follow so they can look "better".

The strategy for the project is to properly use aesthetics principles of proportion and line in designing and constructing twenty properly fitted ensembles. Each ensemble visually refutes the advice in popular literature for plus size women. The ensembles designed are targeted toward women aged 18-28 that are plus size themselves, a size 14 and above. This target market is neglected within the retail establishments in terms of apparel with a fashion edge. Also since women aged 18-28 have a hard time finding apparel and are unsure what is best to wear, they often read and go by the advice given in popular literature.

Three fitting models were used to design this range of apparel. One model is 5'7", size 18 and has balanced proportions but a fairly flat derriere. One model is 5'5", size 22 and has a much larger upper chest and abdomen than hip and legs. The third model is 5'4", size 26 has fairly balanced proportions but a prominent abdomen and derriere with extreme pelvic tilt. Diverse body types are used because, like all women, plus size women have different body types.

Photographs of the twenty designed ensembles modeled by the fitting models are included in an exhibition. Photographs from different angles of the ensembles demonstrate if the designs in fact prove that "don't" advice given by popular literature is incorrect. Actual ensembles are displayed in the exhibit on replicas of the fitting model's bodies so the viewers can see the garments themselves, which will help them to get an even better viewpoint on if the experts are incorrect.

The final outcome of this project is to post photographs of the designed ensembles along with aesthetic analysis to a web site. This site would be a valuable resource to the apparel, merchandising, and textiles discipline as a teaching tool for understanding real body types, commonly occurring sizes, and successful designs for dressing plus size women in current fashions. The overall goal is to enhance perceptions of the fashion options for plus size women, stamp out ignorance that plus size women should only cover up the body, and to prove that advice directed toward plus size women in the popular literature is inaccurate.

Download Aesthetic Analysis for each Ensemble
Download Descriptions of each Ensemble
(Note: Files open as Word Documents. Please note files are large, so download depends on speed of Internet connection)