Deep into the continued push for diversity in fashion, we’re still rarely seeing a range of plus-size bodies on the runway. Inclusive and diverse are words continuously thrown around when a curvy model rounds from out of the backstage arena and onto the catwalk. But as the show wraps and the finale walk commences, we are left with a few larger sized models utilized in collections.
So how can we applaud designers for their diversity efforts if their collection is still primarily for the sample size — something the industry created with thin bodies solely in mind? We’re still not seeing an influx of plus-size models on the runway and some students argue that a lack of training for how to design for plus-sized bodies may be a factor. And for many fashion school students learning to design for larger bodies, it still is unfortunately lacking.
“To put it plainly, the only way I got plus-size experience was from not working with the models my school provided [but instead] making my friends models for my collection and then forcing [my professors] to show me what to do for their body and how certain things need to be graded out,” Iyomi Ho Ken, recent graduate of School of the Art Institute of Chicago, says.
Teen Vogue reached out for comment about the school’s plus-size initiatives, to which Katrin Schnabl, the Chair of the Department of Fashion Design at SAIC responded, “We are invested in working with and supporting diverse body types through our curriculum. We have a broad range of sizes in our dressforms, and we work with models of all sizes. Early on in the program, our students are encouraged to develop agency with regard to who they are inspired by, want to dress, and design for. Students can explore the body of their choice throughout our design and construction curriculum and electives.”
Pattern grading is the process of turning a sample size into smaller or larger sizes. Grading is done using a size specification sheet and it does not create a new shape. Instead, it increases or decreases the size of the original shape of the garment. And as many students have learned, simply increasing the size doesn’t take into account how garments should sit on larger bodies. What works for a size two will not fit or look the same on a size 20.