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Elle Macpherson weighs in on plus-size clothes, feminism

23rd July 2009

Elle Macpherson weighs in on plus-size clothes, feminism

I know, I know… I shouldn’t expect much from someone who embraces the moniker of “The Body,” but seriously, Elle?  Check out these gems from The Guardian’s interview today with the Australian fashion model-turned-lingerie designer:

Why has fashion alienated larger women?

It’s expensive to create the products. Perhaps larger women haven’t been as celebrated and therefore haven’t been interested in themselves, but today larger women, or all different body types, are celebrated.

Do you feel a responsibility to cater for all women?

I don’t feel responsible to cater for all women, but I do believe that as long as we have the expertise and the interest, it excites me to create lingerie for a different body type.

Elle has it totally backwards.  Larger bodies used to be revered in the past and it is today that only a narrow  aesthetic body type ideal –thin– is celebrated.  And it’s not necessarily that larger women aren’t interested in fashion; it’s that fashion hasn’t been all that interested in them.  Case in point: Amanda went to Macy’s in search of a size-16 cocktail dress and instead encountered a sales clerk who, in one brief exchange, “condescendingly call[ed] me fat, poor, and low class, insult[ed] all plus sized women in general, and [made] sweeping racist generalizations of ‘women of color’ being fat and poor.”  While launching plus-size offerings would require an initial investment to upgrade sample sizes, purchase materials and create designs, the fact that more than more than 56 percent of American women wear a size -14 or higher indicates a hefty long-term return on investment.  Just look at the Chris and Lucie Scholl.  The entrepreneurial sisters, neither of whom are plus-size themselves, recognized that the growing plus-size market was being grossly neglected and suffering from a lack of stylish options.  In 2000 they broke two cardinal rules of fashion: they exclusively offered fashionable plus-size clothes modeled by plus-size models who actually wear double-digits.  Their gamble paid off –in eight years, their online boutique b & lu went from one order a day to bringing in almost $1 million annually last year.  Just a few years ago, Igigi.com, another online plus-size shop, reported not being able to get enough fabric to keep up with customer demand.  Fashion designers recently claimed a drop in plus-size sales as reason for dropping plus-size apparel –completely ignoring, apparently, the fact that there’s an economic RECESSION going on–  but from 2001 to 2006, the $32 billion plus-size apparel market grew by a whopping 50 percent.    The fact that many lines offer plus-size clothes online but not in brick-and-mortar stores indicates instead the true motivations behind their dearth, which have nothing to do with profits and everything to do with image.

For the record, Elle’s line of lingerie “celebrates” women with buxom bosoms but not buxom bottoms –max Elle line bra size is a well-endowed 38/G, but Elle panties only go up to a size 6.

But you shy away from the word “feminism”?

It’s one of those coined phrases that has a lot of innuendo and not much meaning these days. There’s a stereotypical perception that a feminist is somebody who believes in equal rights for men and women. Well, I believe men and women are different and they have different needs, therefore the concept of equal rights doesn’t really sit with me in many ways.

Newsflash to Elle: It’s not a stereotypical perception; it’s what feminism is. And it’s thanks to all those “stereotypical” feminists who fought for equal –not different– rights for women that you have been at all able to become the successful model and businesswoman you are today.  You’re welcome.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 at 12:51 pm and is filed under Fashion, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 27 responses to “Elle Macpherson weighs in on plus-size clothes, feminism”

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  1. 1 On July 23rd, 2009, Jo said:

    “I believe men and women are different and they have different needs” Amen, Elle. Equal political rights? You betcha — thanks Feminists! But we’re not equal sexes, which isn’t to say that one is better than the other.

  2. 2 On July 23rd, 2009, Melissa said:

    Urrghhhhhh.
    “therefore the concept of equal rights doesn’t really sit with me in many ways?”

    What? There is just to much anger and annoyance boiling inside me right now to even try to understand this kind of crap.

  3. 3 On July 23rd, 2009, Lynn (The Actors Diet) said:

    i feel sick. shame on you, elle!

  4. 4 On July 23rd, 2009, Bianca said:

    “Perhaps larger women haven’t been as celebrated and therefore haven’t been interested in themselves, but today larger women, or all different body types, are celebrated.”

    I think I need to be drunk to understand what she’s trying to say here.

  5. 5 On July 23rd, 2009, Stacey Stardust said:

    Ugh. What a… disappointment.

  6. 6 On July 23rd, 2009, Rachel said:

    But we’re not equal sexes, which isn’t to say that one is better than the other.

    “Equal” does not refer to innate biological differences; it refers to the worth and value of a human being. In this vein, men and women are equal and therefore equally deserving of equal rights including and beyond equal political rights.

  7. 7 On July 23rd, 2009, Toni said:

    Men and women have different needs, therefore, women shouldn’t be allowed to vote? WTF is she trying to she trying to say? Rights & needs have nothing to do with one another.

  8. 8 On July 23rd, 2009, Rachel said:

    @Toni: She must also believe that different needs also exist among women, because obviously fat women don’t need underwear.

  9. 9 On July 23rd, 2009, Lori said:

    In fact, in many ways equal rights relies on the recognition that men and women are different and have different needs. Women, for example, can get pregnant while men cannot, so making sure that a woman can’t be fired for being pregnant is ensuring that she has equal rights in regard to employment. Having equal rights means in many cases making sure that women aren’t denied rights because of their biological differences. I’m not sure how the idea that men and women are biologically different and at times in their lives may have different needs in any way negates the idea of equal rights.

  10. 10 On July 23rd, 2009, Meryt Bast said:

    It’s one of those coined phrases that has a lot of innuendo and not much meaning these days. There’s a stereotypical perception that a feminist is somebody who believes in equal rights for men and women. Well, I believe men and women are different and they have different needs, therefore the concept of equal rights doesn’t really sit with me in many ways.

    A single word is a “coined phrase?” Rights and needs are the same thing?

    I think my brain just melted. Ow.

  11. 11 On July 23rd, 2009, Rachel said:

    Yeah, I like how she reduces an historical, worldwide movement for gender equality to just a “coined phrase.”

  12. 12 On July 23rd, 2009, Geri said:

    “but I do believe that as long as we have the expertise and the interest, it excites me to create lingerie for a different body type”

    I am thoroughly unimpressed with what Macpherson has to say here, but this quote does have one grain of truth: designers and manufacturers depend on consumer interest. All the clever marketing in the world can fail if consumers are not interested in a product. Therefore, those women who are buxom on top and on bottom – the ones who can buy an Elle Macpherson bra but not the panties, myself included – should not purchase the bra alone and buy their panties elsewhere. Instead, just don’t buy from the Elle brand at all, and perhaps shoot an email to the company telling them why.
    Of course, in the larger scheme of things (accidental pun, I’m sorry!) this may not make much difference, but by withdrawing our cash from companies like this and directing it towards companies that meet needs and desires for plus sized underwear is sending a powerful message – and in a way that most companies will understand: the exercise of our power as consumers.

    I’m still disgusted about what she said about feminism though – completely disgusted.

  13. 13 On July 23rd, 2009, The Bald Soprano said:

    a one word “coined phrase”.

  14. 14 On July 23rd, 2009, rachel with a little r said:

    wow…she doesn’t truly doesn’t seem to get it…if i did buy plus size women’s clothes I think would turn to other businesses besides hers, and not pour money into the pockets of such a character. Fortunately I spend most of my time these days hanging out in the men’s clothing, where there are plenty of sizes big enough for me…and oddly enough, the big and small men’s sizes aren’t split into separate departments…but i’m sure all THAT has to do with us being different sexes and our needs being different, too…women need to be split into regular size and plus size. men, nope. men are all just men.

  15. 15 On July 23rd, 2009, Rachel said:

    @rachel: I’ve noticed that, too, but it might also be because the women’s department is often much larger than the men’s department.

  16. 16 On July 23rd, 2009, Jackie said:

    So Elle’s bras are plus size, but her panties aren’t? This is probably why everything at Torrid was so low cut this summer, the assumption that if your fat you must also have large breasts. Oh, and that you want to show them off every chance you get, because why would a fat person feel secure within themselves enough, not to be revealing?

  17. 17 On July 23rd, 2009, Frances said:

    She makes the smallest bras in history. I just fit into a 14C, which I think equates to a 36C. When I was a bit smaller and my 14C fit a bit better, I tried on a 14C Elle Macpherson Intimates bra. I couldn’t even make the back touch, let alone do it up.

    I wonder if that maximum size of 38 will fit like a 38.

  18. 18 On July 23rd, 2009, Enomis said:

    Gag. The truth is, she’s catering to extremely thin women with extremely large boobs. She’s going after the underserved market segment of women with implants. I guess she doesn’t want to be honest about it because that might give the wrong image, or cheapen the brand in some way. The “right” image to give off is that you’re celebrating all women. No one seems to notice that disappearing fat women is antithetical to that. Great post, Rachel.

  19. 19 On July 23rd, 2009, Twistie said:

    The English language read that interview and promptly cried itself to sleep.

    I can’t even make myself cope with what she has to say about feminism.

  20. 20 On July 24th, 2009, Alyssa (The 39 year-old) said:

    Wow. Talk about someone who Does Not Get It.
    (Then again, this IS a woman who gained 20 pounds for a movie, then lost it again, saying she “didn’t feel comfortable at that size, and kept walking into walls and things.” Yeah.)

  21. 21 On July 24th, 2009, Lindsay B. said:

    Really, that interview revealed that she is doing the exact opposite of celebrating larger women, especially with knowing what sizes she ACTUALLY carries.

    Her line about feminism disgusts me. She obviously has no idea what feminism is, or she wouldn’t confuse the actual intent of feminism as being the “stereotype”, when the STEREOTYPE of a feminist in modern culture is actually a lot less flattering.

    She is celebrating women who are able to grow (or buy) big boobs; nothing more, nothing less. And this interview would be exactly why she’s going to damage her reputation with her target market.

    (Sadly, there are women who agree with her about feminism and will be drawn to her line. I’d just like to pretend for a little while that common sense was a lot more common. )

  22. 22 On July 24th, 2009, Monica said:

    Wow, Elle just doesn’t get it. Oh, well, live by the sword, die by the sword – right now some paper in the UK is excoriating her for how old her knees look. Something, ironically, that is easier to forestall if you have some flesh on your bones.

  23. 23 On July 24th, 2009, newlyveg said:

    Her words were carefully crafted by her media expert to sound like she is saying a lot, but really has said very little.

    It’s sad, but women have been made to feel like feminism is a dirty word. As though it were synonimous with man-hating, anger, and militant lesbianism (whatever that means… as if lesbians hated men, it’s ridiculous). Since I’m sure she still has quite a large male following, she can’t possibly be associated with the term feminism, lest the legions of men who would follow her to the moon and back might then be discouraged by her supposed “man hatred.” It’s probably similar to the concept of an attractive bar tender not letting on that he or she is married or in a relationship, to better exploit tips from his/her patrons.

    Oh Elle. Not all of us reading your words are so feeble minded that we can’t see right through your contrived statements.

  24. 24 On July 24th, 2009, Rachel said:

    It’s sad, but women have been made to feel like feminism is a dirty word.

    Hence the title of this blog :)

  25. 25 On July 24th, 2009, rachel with a little r said:

    Rachel, that is a good point about the sizes of the departments.

  26. 26 On July 25th, 2009, Laughingstock said:

    I seem to remember that this Elle McPherson character, on being questioned why she didn’t have any books in her apartment, sagely answered that it was her belief that one shouldn’t read anything they hadn’t written…

    Does anyone still take her seriously, though?

  27. 27 On July 26th, 2009, Sky said:

    If we would stop treating the male and female children so differently, there wouldn’t be as much of a different culture between adult men and women.

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