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Trinny and Susannah Undress the Obesity Crisis


Posted At: 13 August 2008 11:15 AM
Related Categories: General, Retailers


This blog is going to be a bit controversial and a bit undecided, I warn you now. There are 2 opinions on the matter of Plus Size Fashion and I happen to agree with both!


Last night, I caught Trinny and Susannah’s ‘Undress The Nation’ on ITV1, which this week was focused around the fashion options available to plus size women. You have to say plus size really, you can’t get away with fat, obese or unhealthy on TV. Don’t get me wrong, I myself am certainly not, by any stretch of the imagination, skinny; in fact, a couple more dress sizes and I’ll be limited to ‘larger lady’ collections too. So, you see, its not like I’m trying to be biased or offensive…the difference is, I’m also not trying to say I’m normal or ‘fabulous’, as one women kept repeating on last nights show. I am overweight and unhealthy and I, granted, most of the time do not look good in current fashions! So what should I do? Should I stick to the dreaded ‘tent tops’ and wide leg trousers, should I wedge myself into a white pair of skinny jeans and deal with my highlighted lumps and bumps in the name of fashion…or maybe I should just lose some weight? No real answer to this question was truly given last night – possibly, because there is no answer or possibly, because ITV was too afraid of offending someone, who knows.


Trinny and Susannah have their heart in the right place (I’m a big fan, actually); they tried to get some young designers from the London College of Fashion to create their ‘big girl’ models some fashionable, flattering clothing, but I have to say they failed. All that was really offered were a few square neck pencil dresses in different colours, primarily of the same design. I don’t want to wear that every day either, thanks.


The retailers did their bit and joined in on the debate; Elvi and Evans turned up, as expected, along with a small number of representatives from other retailers such as Monsoon, but most were defensive about their collections and decision to stop at a size 16.


Even the retailers who offered an 18 and above got criticism; it was suggested that simply making one design in a wide range of sizes wasn’t enough and it should be adapted for the larger ladies unique figure.

One representative (from a retailer whose name I’ve forgotten, I think it was Zara) said it would take a whole new design, a whole new template and a completely separate production line to do this…so, a whole separate retail operation then? Like, maybe, Evans (part of Arcadia), for example?

I agree here that it really isn’t financially viable for the majority of fashion stores who already make quite enough money serving “size 10 freaks” (the [irresponsible] words of a woman on the show, not mine!) to add bigger sizes, and you have to wonder if getting the retailers to make bigger clothes is really the way forward. I don’t think it is. How about getting people to loose some weight?!

I know that there are legitimate reasons for obesity and I know that it’s bloody hard to shed the pounds, but trust me – and this is from one who knows – you’ll feel much better getting into that Topshop size twelve than if you had stayed big and waited for the Topshop ‘Big Is Beautiful’ collection*.

You might look alright in plus size clothing, but (and this is purposefully clichéd) you really won’t feel alright on the inside, and that’s what really matters.


*not a real collection!

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As with everything these days it seems the endorsement by a 'celebrity' would encourage the customer to buy into a certain line, so if a popular retailer were to launch a plus size range then the use of someone such as Nigella who is both beautiful and glamourous as well as on the large size to endorse the product, should help sales; equally advice on how to dress the fuller figure would have more credibility if it were delivered by someone larger rather than coming from Trinny and Susannah. Also it is not enough to add plus sizes to the current ranges, but to reshape fabrics into new looks would encourage the customer to feel they were still buying into the trend rather than being forced into Evans or other speciality retailers. It's not rocket science to take an existing garment and modify the look for a larger figure, increase the length, reshape the neck slightly, there's definitely scope for that and using the same fabrics and modifying the styling is a lot less expensive for the retailer than launching a whole new range. From the customer's perspective it might make you feel better to fit into a Top Shop size 12 than than waiting for the plus size range but if you are large and have no chance of shifting the weight then the reality is that being fashionable and having a good body image is going to be about compromise.

Hi Frances. You're right, there is a massive market waiting to be tapped, which I'm sure the retailers will eventually pick up might just take some time! Remember what happened with ecommerce? Only a year ago the number of retailers with websites was unerwhelming, now, ecommerce is making up a large proportion of sales for most of them; the industry does catch up eventually, it just takes a while!

Quite frankly I'm surprised the retailers aren't leaping over each other to cater for the plus sizes. We keep being told there's an obesity crisis, so presumably the number of people requiring larger clothes is growing. It's unlike the retailers to deny themselves a great big slice of any market. It makes me wonder what their resaoning would be. What is more powerful than making themselves even more money? It must be the association. They must rather be associated with the "size 10 freaks" and fear an association with anyone much larger would actually deny them the skinnier market instead. Presumably there will be a tipping point when the size of the plus size market can no longer be ignored.

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The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinion of the author and are not intended as statements of fact and do not represent the view of SnapShop or Pragma in any way.


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