Lena Dunham’s new plus size clothing collaboration with plus size luxury clothing brand 11 Honoré is small. The collection consists of just five items: a handkerchief hem dress, a sleeveless white tank top, a scallop hem mini skirt, a blazer and a yellow fluid button-down blouse.
The backlash, on the other hand, was enormous. The plus size fashion community has been particularly frustrated, with a flare of criticism following Dunham’s interview with the New York Times on Monday.
In the fashion industry, the term “inclusive” itself has started to sound more like a marketing ploy than an engagement.
Luxury fashion accessible to plus-sized people is, unfortunately, hard to come by. So when a luxury brand releases a collection that promises to be inclusive, expectations are high. However, when this collection does not exceed a size 26, disappointment quickly replaces enthusiasm. Especially when you compare the Dunham collection with another recently released luxury brand collaboration – Erdem x Universal Standard – which goes up to a size 40 and is much more inclusive.
In the fashion industry, the term “inclusive” itself has started to sound more like a marketing ploy than an engagement. Truly inclusive clothing brands are like Loud Bodies, a sustainable brand that offers US sizes 0 to 42, or Universal Standard, which offers its full line in sizes 00 to 40. The very definition of inclusive requires access equal to the opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized – i.e. a size 26 may be larger than the typical luxury brand, but it is hardly inclusive.
Then there is the question of price. Studies show that taller people consistently earn less money than their single-sized counterparts. For this reason, plus-size consumers are generally more aware of where they choose to spend their money. Prices for this collection range from $ 98 to $ 298, which may be affordable for some, but will make clothing largely inaccessible to many. (Obviously a lot of fashion is inaccessible, especially in the luxury market, but it’s always important to remember how structural inequalities affect fashion consumers.)
To be fair, 11 Honore should have known better than having his very first celebrity collaboration with Dunham.
In her interview with the New York Times, the controversial “Girls” star is described by The Times as an “advocate for body neutrality”. I totally disagree with this label. Body neutrality is a philosophy that encourages you to focus and appreciate what your body can do for you, rather than focusing on what it looks like. Yet in that same New York Times article, Dunham speaks quite negatively about his own body. The actress claimed that she “was trying to be chin positive. I can handle anything, but a triple chin is a hard place to land. It is definitely not a neutral point of view on the body level.
While having complicated feelings about our bodies is normal, and internalized fatphobia is sadly quite common, there are countless other advocates for body neutrality and fat release that would have made more sense for this collaboration. .
This brings us to a second problem with the choice of Dunham. Putting aside her own not-so-positive thoughts for the body, the actress is just one corner of the plus size market. It’s another more common size fashion trope that Honoré should have seen coming.
Dunham lives in a plus-size body, at least according to the majority of size charts from plus retailers, but is considered “little fat” in the plus size community. And being a little fat has a lot of benefits in the plus size fashion world, starting with their ability to shop in many mainstream stores and brands.
Dunham is also a wealthy white woman, and here it’s important to recognize how privilege – and the lack of it – is intersectional. Women of color, especially black women, have worked very hard to empower and promote positive body movement. Women like Gwendolyn DeVoe and Toccara Jones were pioneers in the plus size fashion industry. Yet when the time comes to distribute mainstream recognition, the New York Times isn’t exactly knocking on their doors.
In fact, the whole concept and creation of fatphobia can be linked to anti-black racism. In her book “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia”, author and sociologist Sabrina Strings explains in detail how the desire to vilify the bodies of black women made thinness the Western ideal in the 200’s. last years. These stigmas appeared at the start of the transatlantic slave trade. Previously, having a fuller figure was actually considered normal and beautiful.
The plus-size community had to fight at every step to be included, going so far as to create their own spaces (see: positive body movement) to escape judgment and celebration from the center. Unfortunately, many of these spaces have since been co-opted and watered down. When someone with Dunham’s influence and privilege has the opportunity to bring luxury fashion to avid tall consumers and fails to remember the most marginalized members of those communities, they become interested.
Fashion may seem unimportant, but for the plus size community it is far from frivolous. Being able to live and work in clothing that fits and flatters isn’t the default for all Americans. Until they do, plus size clothing lines and self-proclaimed “ambassadors” don’t have the luxury of being so carefree.