Fashion & Beauty

Fashion and the Plus-Size* Woman


What is the plus-size woman’s place within fashion?

This is the question a recent exhibition, Beyond Measure: Fashion and the Plus-Size* Woman examined. Produced by the Masters of Arts Candidates in New York University’s Visual Culture: Costume Studies Program, the exhibition used a collection of objects coupled with the perspectives of designers, manufacturers, the general public, and “plus-size” women to explore what it called a “complicated cultural construct.”

The exhibition was on view from January 13th to February 3rd of this year. However, the online guided tour component is still accessible with a treasure trove of audio and visual guides.

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Undoubtedly, the term “plus-size” is a burdened one. So much so that the curator of the exhibit, Tracy Jenkins, clarified exactly what they mean in using the term.

The fashion industry has played an undeniable role in enabling the stigmatization of larger women’s bodies. Despite consumer needs, plus-size fashion has traditionally been given little sartorial energy. Yet women of all physiques have had to clothe themselves, and thus have stood somewhere in relation to the fashion system. The plus-size woman’s place within the history of the body and her space within the fashion industry . . .  emphasizes her relationship to gender and body politics as well as cultural attitudes toward beauty and health.

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