Fashion designers work in a different world. Unfortunately, it’s the one the rest of us live in. Fashion designers design for the ideal, the wonderful. In Season 9 of Project Runway, one of the designers, Olivier Green (why didn’t I notice that name before?) complained that one of his models had boobs. He didn’t like that, it ruined the line of his work. He also complained about hips, legs that weren’t long enough, and shoulders that weren’t wide enough to make his creations drape right.
Hearing Olivier complain made me realize what happens in the translation from runway to store rack–and most of it goes wrong. Here’s what I wish designers would pay attention to a few details:
1. Just because it’s plus-size doesn’t mean the buttons need to be the size of dinner plates. Regular buttons will work just fine. Jackets or blouses with huge buttons call attention to whatever they are close to. When these giant buttons are also white, no matter what color the fabric, they look even more ridiculous. See image on the right.
2. Cross-body bags need to fit across the body of people with breasts.You can’t be Olivier and insist that your work is meant only for the super flat-chested. Even men have chest muscles that aren’t flat, and allow a heavy cross-body bag to shift and wind up in an awkward position. In the example below, the bag is meant for men to wear in front and women to wear across the back. That would be great if we never needed to take anything out of
the bag, didn’t mind if the person behind us in line does take things out of the bag, and didn’t have an impossibly wide or cuttingly thin strap across the front. Try them on real people before you make a million of them. Even the guy on the right doesn’t look like a good fit for this device, which is just big enough for a smart phone, keys and plane ticket. If that’s all I’m carrying, I’ll use pockets. Trouble is, when you fly, you also have a laptop, carry-on, water bottle, e-reader, jacket–none of which will fit in that contraption across your chest, which you will have to take off and send through the X-ray machine. So you’ll take out your boarding pass anyway and carry it between your teeth.
3. Please give us colors we can wear. Want to wear. To work. Very few people can pull off the mango-tango color of the year for 2012. We’d like to pull it off and bury it, but it glows beneath the earth. No one larger than a size 4 can wear pants this color. OK, so maybe my slate-gray, navy blue, dark olive colors aren’t trendy. But give me a choice. Do the mango-tango, but also let me have granite, shale, mushroom and midnight slacks. Everyone in line will be grateful.
4. Not everyone is flattered by cropped pants or capris. I can’t find a pair of summer slacks that covers my cankles. For the vast majority of people, cropped pants are hideous, cutting the leg in two (a visual trick not flattering to those without legs that start at the armpit). The crops also hit the leg in a place that isn’t tapering so it looks like a wrapped fencepost. Please make a few long pants for summer. And don’t tell me it’s cooler. The crops were shown across the page from a matching selection of long-sleeved sweaters and knit cardigans. If I’m wearing sleeves on my arms I want sleeves for my legs, too.
5. Pants need pockets, shirts don’t. I have no idea what pockets on women’s blouses are for, but certainly not for an iPhone. I call half my clients every time I sneeze. And unless I tuck a calculator in the other side, I look like I’m pressed against a narrow wall. If I decide not to put anything in my pants pockets, that’s my choice. It’s not up to the designer to decide I shouldn’t and eliminate the pockets.
Please, designers, take a look at real people and design for them. Sew on buttons with more than two passes of thread, tack the end of the zipper so it doesn’t crawl out, cut the neckline so it covers the bra straps, and make my blouses long enough to cover the waist band when I hiccup. I will thank you and my colleagues will be able to look at me without smirking.
—Quinn McDonald is hoping to find just one pair of dark linen pants for the summer that not only fit, but have pockets.