Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

So tell me . . .

Betty Jackson says:

'I still think that clothes look better on thin people. I'm sorry, that's the truth. They look better in a size eight and ten than they do in a 16 and 18.'


Do we disagree?

30 comments:

phyllis said...

I've heard Valentino say the same thing; and he defended his position saying that designers are basically trained in this aesthetic and they can’t escape it. I don’t know why people are so enraged when fashion designers make comments like this because unrealistic body standards are used and applied in dance and sports as well.

greying pixie said...

There is no denying that Western clothes look better on the 'slim' body. Unfortunately when fashion designers dare to say this they are always castigated for being the cause of anorexia, and the rest of society's problems. But slim figures are what we want to see.

Several years ago M&S ran an advertising campaign of a size 16 model, naked on a mountain top - it failed miserably, as did the Dove (girls with fat thighs) campaign.

The use of tall slim models by designers is not new, it dates back to Paul Poiret before WW1 who realised that the large amounts of fabric he used in his work hung better from a more athletic figure (actually his wife). It's all to do with proportion.

Incidentally I happened to see Betty Jackson a couple of weeks ago - she looked stunning in deep midnight blue. A truly inspiring woman.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree w/ the IDEA that thinner people look better in clothes, but I think it's a bit more complex than this. Contrary to popular belief, fat people CAN look good and skinny ones can look bad. Much of it is about taste and grooming. The biggest difference here is that thinner people have more options, but more options can also lead people into very bad places.

Dance and sports are a far cry from fashion....both require certain physical attributes to achieve specific goals, fashion doesn't. All people get dressed. I think that analogy is flawed on many levels.

In fashion it's mostly about the preferences of the people who call the shots. Valentino is a couturier which by definition means he makes clothes made to measure. IOW, if a client has enough money she can get a beautiful well-made dress. (IIRC, he's dressed Jessye Norman.) In fashion this isn't about necessity, but preference.

What's interesting is that rarely are these statements made about menswear. A man of any size can go to a tailor and come out looking great....so why does this dress size (which is pretty nonexistant anyway) issue ONLY apply to women's wear?

Anonymous said...

Of course, let's not forget the evil twin to slim figures is young figures. That's also what society wants to see.

Tiah said...

Womanly figure has bumps - such as a chest, hips and bottom. If clothes are designed to look good on clothes hangers, it requires a figure that imitates one.

Which explains why most men would look better in woman's clothes than women do.

lagatta said...

I'd tend to agree that most Western fashion looks better on a size 8/10 (which would be a size 6/8 in the US and Canada) than a 16/18 (14/16) figure. But many couture shows have used models considerably slimmer, often gaunt.

One could be snarky and also say that clothes look better on a 20-year-old than most 60-year-olds, and certainly better on someone who can prance about than someone who walks with a stick.

Fashion is an applied art. It exists as an aesthetic, but is also something practical that exists to fit, flatter and suit the needs of our vile bodies.

A person who is a UK size 16 (North American size 14) is not necessarily "fat" or lumpy - some people simply have a heavier body structure than others, even if they keep fit and eat proper food. I'm that really curvy Mediterranean type, and as long as I'm able to keep flab at bay, can get a lot of compliments. Sad it is hard to find clothes, which come in too small or "plus" lines designed for much more barrel-shaped figures.

Other than this point, the article was an interesting look at Johnson's life and work.

Duchesse said...

Many years ago, I took a size 14-16, sophisticated, despairing, 50+ visitor shopping.

The challenge: to find her clothes that were not dowdy rectangles.

Her favourite was a two-piece dress in soft wool challis in a large-scale feather-print which by the book should not have worked, but the print was so deliberately placed and matched, the tailoring so precise yet soft, that she looked graceful.

That dress was by Betty Jackson.

When I was 20 and had a mannequin's figure and height, practically anything looked great on me. Now, at size 14-16 I appreciate and support designers who will their include my (increasingly-populated) demographic.

Whether smaller women look "better" or not is the designer's judgment, and of no concern to me. I just want a shot at buying the dress.

Deja Pseu said...

I say it really depends on the cut of the clothes. I've seen some garments on size 16 or larger women that look stunning and IMO would absolutely swamp a smaller woman.

The problem is most *designer* clothes tend to be designed to look best on very svelte bodies. I'm a US size 8-10 but very curvy and most high-end styles really aren't cut to accommodate a bust and hips.

seilduksgata said...

So is she suggesting fat people should go around naked?!

Everyone needs clothes and ideally clothes that suit them. Some styles can suit bigger people better - I'm talking about size 16-18 but also a lot bigger than that. But designers are unlikely to stumble upon inspiration for the perfect plus size outfit if they're locked into a mentality that clothes only look good on thin people.

Anonymous said...

Most clothes are designed for thin people, so of course they look better on thin people. If the ideal were a larger size, designers would make clothes that flattered larger sizes. I have a small sneaking suspicion clothes cut to the straight lines of a teenager with boyish hips and a flat chest are 1) easier to make and 2) more economical to make, thus increasing the profits!

Mary Martha said...

SOME clothes look better on slim women... because they are designed to look better on slim women.

The clothes that are designed to look better on fuller figures will. The key is that those of us who are larger should recognize that we can't dress like the latest fashion magazines demand we should.

I wear fuller skirts and tend towards a more 'new look' style (it suits my womanly hips). I get all sorts of compliments, and women often ask where I get my clothes (which often I have had made because everything in the stores is designed for waif 14 year olds).

It is possible to be a larger woman, be well put together, stylish and look great. you just can't expect the designers to help you achieve that goal.

A friend who is a seamstress and makes many of my clothes said that when it comes down to it designers design for skinny people because skinny people tend to be pretty uniform. Larger women are different... some carry their weight in their hips, some in their rear, some in their stomaches or in their chest. It's hard for designers to actually design for all those different body types... so they lazily design for one 'ideal'.

Ms Baroque said...

Oh for fucks sake. Maybe the clothes look their optimum on size 8-10 women. Big deal. I was a size 8 when I WAS 8. The point is that she's talking about what makes the CLOTHES look best. What about what clothes make PEOPLE look best?? And most of you commenters have fallen right into the trap.

Anonymous said...

I agree that clothing looks better on size 8 or 10.
The truth of the matter is that that is the size the ready to wear pattern was originally drafted in.
If the size 8 or 10 had a DD bust it would pull and not fit.
If her bottom was lushious the pants would make those tell tale wrinkles and look like Heck! etc. The reason plus clothing looks like cr@p and fits like cr@p is because it is not cut to the shape of a larger body. It is just the same pattern made bigger. That is why for example if the bust fits the neck and shoulders are too big. Almost always the sleeves too long.
For the most part, One needs either to "be" a custom cut figure of "have" a custom cut made for one in order not to have a closet of ill fitting clothes.
Take a look on the streets. The small flat butt types look as ill fitting in their ready made pants as the rounded large butts.
It is all in the cut! If the cut is not adjusted to your size it will look like cr@ap unless you are that special shape and size the pattern was drafted in originally.
Why do you think Donna Karan looks so good in her clothing. The woman is wearing custom cuts!!!
Well cut age appropriate clothing looks good on anyone. A size 8 in a plunging neckline with an age worn decolete looks waaaaaay worse than a size 16 custom cut on a youthful decolete.
If there was money in cutting clothing for real shapes they would be doing it. It is cheaper to make clothing without darts or gussets or other shaping techniques.

Toby Wollin said...

"..clothes look better on thin people.." Another piece of proof that people who are doing the designing are more concerned about the hang of their clothes than about people actually WEARING their clothing. Skinny people are walking clothes trees...the clothing hangs from their shoulders. There are no curves to get in the way of the hang of the clothing. That is why people like Betty Jackson like skinny people. Designing clothing for people with curves takes a lot more effort and expertise than designing things that are going to walk around hanging from shoulders. As a sewist, i can say definitely that dealing with bums and busts requires being able to put in extra steps that these folks don't want to have to deal with. In addition, they are steeped in the culture that fat and 'not young' is bad/evil/worthless, etc. etc. so, I don't see why anyone should be surprised by her saying this.

e said...

it depends on the cut, quality and style of clothes -- and it very much depends on the undergarments worn underneath. this is just as true as for slimmer people: they can have unlsightly bulges caused by incorrect (or no) underwear, or by wearing cheap, unflattering clothes too.
ther are two women at work, bith very larger (okay, obese). one wears beautifully tailored clothes that skim over her; you can tell she's a large lady but you can't see everything. and she's always wonderfully groomed. she looks smart. the other has unwashed hair and wears shiny, or sheer, or clingy fabrics that accentuate every THING. you can see which one cares the most and which one looks the better. again, you could do this with two slimmer women too, i know! and i know it doesn;t really answer betty jackson's wuote...

Judith in Umbria said...

I firmly believe that it is a meaningless statement. Are designers presenting a museum show or are they seriously undertaking to dress or to inspire the dress of more than the 25000 size 0s who can afford €3000 for a pair of trousers?
Nothing makes me happier than being able to say, "This collection will look good on a wide variety of women." If it will only look good on anorexic Ukrainian adolescents, why should I care about it?
For hundreds of thousands of reasons, no amount of willpower and spa help will make many of us fir that image. And than goodness for that.

Betty Sue said...

I think the clothes that designers design look better on a size 8 - but that shows a lack of skill and creativity on their part. If you're really a hot designer, you should be able to design something that looks good on a variety of bodies.

greying pixie said...

I do think these comments are getting a little extreme. Surely the long and continued success of Betty Jackson is proof of how good she is at designing for all women. She was only stating a personal opinion regarding how her clothes look, she didn't in any way claim that she was only designing for thin models - if that were the case she would have gone bankrupt years ago!

Sarah Wyatt said...

I think that this represents how fashion is now. I buy Betty Jackson clothes and she cuts very much on the small side. I am 10/12 (UK) and her 12 is a snug fit.I think we are all very much brainwashed now into only seeing beauty in the thin and young. Go look at a picture of Marilyn Monroe and by todays standard she looks big, and by that I mean she looks like a woman. Its not her clothes, it's the fact that we have models looking like boys on the catwalks.

dinazad said...

Apart from the facts that it should be people looking better in clothes rather than the clothes looking better, and that dresses designed for thin people naturally look better on a slender figure, and that fat people have a right to be able to choose from a multitude of clothes rather than just three or four items in the "fat department": I don't think a thinner girl would have looked quite so flirtatious in the midnight blue draped dress as Norwegian singer Maria Haukaas Storeng did in the Eurovision song contest last night (just as she wouldn't have looked her best in the glittery silver super-mini the Swedish entrant sported). And Portuguese singer Vania Fernandes? A slimmer girl would have been beaten to death by that fantastic dark gown, but Vania was a queen! And she would never look this good, were she thinner....

So in the end: depends on the dress, depends on the wearer!

miss cavendish said...

Thin people can look awful in clothing if it's ill-fitting. And the same applies to larger people as well. So really, I think people should choose the best fit, and the clothing will look attractive.

West Coast Boomer said...

Of course clothing looks better in a size 8 than 16. However wearing clothing ON a size 16 body is much better than the alternative - which is going stark naked.

Mary said...

I'm sure this was a comment by a designer on design - if you see what I mean - not saying that she doesn't consider 'real' people in fact.....
Betty Jackson is so successful because her clothes can be worn by a wide variety of people, but that doesn't mean that every item can - or should - be worn by everyone. And surely that is always the way. As others have said already - fit and some idea of what suits your own body shape/colouring etc. is all-important. (And maybe experimenting occasionally, because sometimes you can be surprised by what can work....)
And fit is always tricky on the high street whatever size you are if you don't conform to what is considered to be 'average' for that size in that country. (I am definitely not what is regarded as standard British sizing. French fits better - but that's another story.)
With regard to the size of BJ's clothes - maybe her sizings are more as they used to be? So many suppliers have altered their sizing as people have got larger (to make them feel better?) - that I have supposedly got smaller over the years even though I know I have remained much the same!
At the risk of going off on yet another tangent - did anyone see Germaine Greer's comments on Victoria Beckham? See --http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2008/may/19/fashion?picture=334195047
Now there is a dress that should not be worn by everyone. Fascinating stuff!

Angelabdc said...

I'm not sure if it qualifies as irony or not but I'm a size 18-20 and the only affordable clothes range I consistently wear at the moment is Betty Jackson Black from Debenhams. She says somewhere else in the interview that they do cut great trousers and this is something I testify to. I'm not offended by her comment. I wish it wasn't true but it is although I think self confidence and yes grooming too make a big difference to how you look.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it depend more on your shape than on your dress size? You can be size 8 and curvy - (if you're about five foot nothing) or size 8 with no tits, shoulders, waist or bum and look like you're in a terminal decline. That's how I'd look at a size 8. Even my 15 year old daughter is a 10! I couldn't be an 8 without actually being a corpse! I'm a 12 and that's great for me at 5ft 6 inches.
Geri

roz said...

Clothes also look better on beautiful people. But we all have to dress. Let us all dress as if we were beautiful and thin, and f--- 'em if they can't take a joke.

Mode Monitor said...

What Valentino said about desginers applies to current Western culture at large: to be thin is desirable. And I can't escape from that either. I do think that clothes do tend to look better on thin people (that is both, men and women) than on heavy people. I also think that remaining slim helps keep one youthful and youthful looking. I hated that Dove ad campaign with "real" bodies. It's ironic that the more we hold thinness in high regard, the fatter our society becomes.

Perhaps one day our cultural preferences will shift, but until then, thin is in.

Having said that, I know people who do not conform to our ideal body types but who exude a great deal of self confidence (whether they feel that way or not) and that, at the end of the day, is far more seductive than just merely falling below a certain weight.

Iheartfashion said...

I don't think there's any question that, runway clothes anyway, look better on a thin frame that best approximates a hanger.

Samantha said...

It's really sad to me that people buy into the whole 'clothing looks better on small people' thing. Because it doesn't. And anyone who believes it does is missing the whole point of dressing (which is to 'wear the clothes', and not let the clothes wear you).

I'm speaking from experience as a size 12/14/16 shopper, a shop assistant (in a store that stocks 6-14UK), and a dress maker. Wear what you like. Try things on you normally wouldn't. Just don't be intimidated by others, or what you think the garment is made to be like. It's an article of clothing - it's made to do 'something' to your shape (add volume, minimize,etc).

Also, look at the runways, there are plenty of clothes that would look great, wonderful, on all sorts of figures - and sometimes when you see a celebrity (who's larger than the model) wearing a runway garment you get to see for yourself (without going into the fitting room) what the power of a little flesh can do.

Rollergirl said...

I love BJ but I'm thoroughly bored of this subject, there's never a conclusion! However I do think that the point of design is problem-solving and if a designer could come up with some clothing designs that flattered all shapes and sizes I think they'd be onto something. It's narrow-minded and lazy for designers just to stick to dressing one shape. And I say this as a thin person who works as a stylist and loathes dressing 'real people' because the clothes never look as good as they do on a model but that's not the fault of the 'real people', it's the fault of the designers and PRs for only holding samples in a size 10.