I Wanna Dress Like Everyone Else!, an analysis of plus-size fashion

Everyone who knows me knows that I am an overweight female. It’s somewhat of the “elephant in the room” at times, but I have accepted the way I look and even embraced it. But on my journey of self discovery, I’ve run into quite a big problem (no pun intended): it is incredibly difficult to find cool, vintage-based fashion for plus-sized girls. In an effort to make sense of this, and to help others out there who, like me, have trouble finding the style they want, I have done a three-part project. The first, is a personal statement on why this is such an important topic, followed by a write-up on why plus-size vintage fashion is hard to find, and finally a guide to finding this fashion for your style. Please enjoy!

PART 1: I Wanna Dress Like Everyone Else!: A personal statement

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The largest dress I found at Buffalo Exchange.

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Dress I tried on at Kitsch-22. It fit, but not as flattering as I wanted it to be.

PART 2: Why so little plus-size vintage?

In June 2011, a popular boutique in New York City called Re/Dress shut its doors, turning to selling clothes on their online store redressnyc.com. Before the store could be closed for good, web developer Rachel Kacenjar purchased the company from the original owner and raised $27,000 in an indieagogo campaign to reopen the store by 2014. “I rubbed my last two pennies together to buy it,” described Kacenjar in her proposal. “I just couldn’t let it die.”

Re/Dress is a specialty boutique that sells vintage-inspired clothing for size 14 and up. Under Kacenjar’s management, the store will feature more masculine designs alongside the dresses that have been designed to allow for variety, but women can purchase accessories and clothing at a decent price.

Vintage fashion has been a trend for many years, but with the emphasis of hipster culture, more and more people want to turn their wardrobe into testaments to previous time periods. While it’s fun for some, a percent of the population cannot easily access these fashionable items. The Re/Dress store and site are one of the few plus-size centered shops that feature vintage clothes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one third of America’s population is obese (35.7%). This increase caused many popular stores, like Forever 21 and Wet Seal, to include more plus-size specialty items and increased production on more clothes that are sized higher and fun to wear. But for women who want to fit into the vintage trend, finding clothes has become a chore.

But why aren’t there more plus-sized vintage dresses out there? One reason can be because women’s bodies changed over time.

“Not only are we eating more daily calories on average than our vintage relatives,” writes vintage fashion expert Sammy Davis, “but because nutrition and healthcare are so improved, children are born healthier and stronger. Increased height and weight is the number one result.”

In addition to the change in body type, size charts differ from store to store, from decade to decade. The size ‘0’ didn’t exist until the 1990s, for example, and a size 10 or 12 would be much smaller than today’s standards. “The debate over Marilyn Monroe’s size is evidence enough: While Ms. Monroe may have been a size 12, in modern day sizing she was closer to a 6,” writes Davis. “As brands began adopting vanity sizing (which means you are a size 2 at one store but a size 8 at another), comparing sizes became like comparing apples and oranges. Simply impossible.”

This doesn’t mean that vintage plus-size clothes don’t exist: some people repurpose outfits to fit into the trend, others hand-sew their own vintage inspired clothing. With websites like Etsy, plus-size vintage has flourished as more and more people sell their fashions and updates.

With more plus-sized boutiques popping up around the nation, the need for vintage-inspired outfits rises. The reopening of Re/Dress in 2014 provides a dialogue for the need of more fashion equality and the impact of more specified clothing stores. Only then will the industry be one step closer to including everyone in fashion freedom.

PART 3: Plus-Size Vintage in 4 Steps!

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