I’ve been tied up on so many things this week that I haven’t even logged into WordPress until this evening. But while I’m here, I want to clear a couple more bookmarks from my browser, both of which are related to fashion (one directly, the other in a humorous vein). I’ll start by sharing this recent interview (from about a week and a half ago, actually) NPR’s All Things Considered did with Christian Siriano (that’s him pictured at your right). Siriano studied fashion in London and interned with a couple of fashion houses before competing in — and winning — the 4th season of Fashion Runway in 2008. Since then, Siriano launched his own fashion line; designed red-carpet gowns for several prominent celebrities (from First Lady Michelle Obama to nine stars at the 2016 Emmy Awards); and has a clothing line for Lane Bryant and a shoe line for Payless ShoeSource.
That part about Lane Bryant is quite notable when you think of it: Lane Bryant is a clothing store chain that caters to plus-size women. And it’s something Christian Siriano isn’t afraid to embrace. Indeed, he makes a point of having diversity in his line, creating options for women as full-figured as his mom (a size 16) as much as for those with smaller frames. He’s not afraid to include plus-sized models in his runway shows. And, he’s also not afraid to come right out and say that some of his dresses would look better on a woman with “more of a bust or a hip” than someone with the relative dimensions of a twig.
It’s great to see someone who’s become so prominent in the fashion world openly practice an attitude of inclusion of women of all types. It’s also great to know that a designer doesn’t seem to take an one-style-fits-all approach, instead freely tailoring his line to the various shapes. Bravo to Christian for doing both.
Staying on the subject of embracing women of all types, there’s a clothing store chain that, while they’re not in the same league as Lane Bryant, is also not afraid to embrace the full-figured woman. Indeed, they’re a chain that offers “sizes 2 to 28.” Perhaps you saw their commercial if you watched last weekend’s edition of Saturday Night Live (guest host: Emily Blunt). They’re a store called… well, uh, let’s watch their advertisement first before discussing their name.
Yeah, that name… Well, at least the clothing on display in this commercial fits the models quite well, allowing them to be, as the voiceover confirms, strong, confident, and gorgeous no matter how “unique” their frame may be. And, no, these are not “runway models,” yet they sashay just as confidently. That is until… well…
Yeah, that name… which Merriam-Webster defines as “to chew energetically.” (Side note: It also has very nasty urban slang definitions, especially in Australia. #Yikes!) If you couldn’t tell already, the ad is pure satire. It’s the latest entry in Saturday Night Live‘s long, long history of commercial parodies. The laughter you hear from the SNL studio audience is real… and a sign that they understand the satire in the ad, as well as the point of it: Clothing that makes a woman confident is good, but that joy comes crashing down when accompanied by a store name that shouts, “Hey! She’s not runway material!”
But, still, that name… As the models’ reaction so clearly encapsulates, crude words can be unflattering, be it from an internet troll or the brand name on the tag. Note, too, the stark difference between Chonk and its menswear “companion store.” Yeah, the guys have “Regular Clothes” all right. There’s a glaring reason for that night-and-day comparison, from how I see it: Society seems to demand that women get their look just right. Men, on the other hand, aren’t subject to the unforgiving eagle eye, comfortable in selecting something — anything — in their size. (“It fits. Let’s go home.”) I admit I sometimes have that comfort when it comes to my own male mode clothing. Sometimes, mind you, for any slacks with thin fabric or sleeve buttons on a dress shirt can still fall under my scrutiny.
So, if there’s a lesson from this SNL parody for the designers and clothing retailers, it’s this: Women are women, not a wardrobe size. Treat them well with clothing that flatters their figure and their personal style. And if you still have trouble figuring that out, well… perhaps someone like Christian Siriano can be of assistance.