Why the poor fashion choices of plus size stars affect us all

L to R: Octavia Spencer, Melissa McCarthy, Adele and Sherri Shepherd.

As plus size women continue to gain more fame and carve out a presence in a world that so famously shuns them, more and more curvy celebrities are beginning to appear on red carpets as staples in the fashion world.

This year was no exception, with the delightful Melissa McCarthy earning both an Emmy and Oscar nod, and Octavia Spencer sweeping the awards show circuit for her role in “The Help.”

But I know that I’m not alone when I say that I feel that the fashion choices of this year’s plus nominees have been less than stellar.

On both social networks and other blogs, I’ve seen women discussing the disappointing fashion from the carpet last night. Like many of you, I too was appalled at the wardrobe choices of the plus size nominees.

But why should we care about the clothes they wear? Shouldn't we support the wardrobe choices of women who are carving out paths for themselves as minorities in the famously sizeist world of Hollywood?

The answer is a resounding "no." Because to put it simply, their clothing is sending a message --  and it's not a good one.

After two completely forgettable dresses at the Globes and Emmys, the amazing Melissa McCarthy wore an absolutely dreadful Marina Rinaldi gown to the Oscars. McCarthy, who is a divine actress and a wonderful talent, apparently played a role in the design of her Oscars dress, having professionally studied fashion. I find it disappointing, to say the least, that this dress was the one they came up with.

From the poor construction, to the horrible sleeves and bust line of the dress, it screamed to me that she is a plus size woman trying to cover up and/or is unaware of how to dress her body. It saddened me to see such a beautiful woman hiding behind that gown.

Sherri Shepherd wore a similarly unfortunate gown. Sure, it had potential with a beautiful color and fantastic beadwork. But the gown’s deep V clearly showed Shepherd’s support bra - a choice I can't believe her stylist let through.

And then there was Octavia Spencer …

Her dress was pretty, well constructed and fit well. (Of course it did, it was designed by Tadashi Shoji, who has a history of making fabulously well-made dresses for ALL women). She famously said earlier in the season that other designers didn’t want to dress her or were incapable of doing so. So she stuck with Shoji for all of her gowns. As so, her awards season style was, at best, one-note.

Adele looked pretty at the Grammys and the Brit Awards. But if I see her in another black dress with long-sleeves, I think I’m going to cry. 

The bottom line is that not one of these BEAUTIFUL and AMAZINGLY TALENTED women looked like they are going toe-to-toe with Jennifer Lopez, Viola Davis, Stacy Keibler, Michelle Williams or other red carpet stars.

Instead, they looked like how our critics think plus size women should look – covered up, good enough, in “something that fits” or “is slimming.”

It is the perfect explanation for why it’s so difficult for a plus size woman to buy a formal dress at department stores. Instead of fashionable, trendy options, she is left with nothing but dowdy, long-sleeved looks that make apologies for the bodies they are so blatantly trying to cover up.

There is simply no excuse for this anymore.

Fashion is meant to be aspirational – these women are given a unique chance to show  that  plus size women are beautiful, talented, sexy, creative and fashionable.

That was simply not achieved last night and I’m tired of seeing it.

How you look matters, whether you want to believe that or not.  Don’t get me wrong, there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to hide certain body parts – we all do it. But when the world is watching you, it needs to not be done in such a way that you are saying to the world, “what you think of me and the judgments you pass on my body are deserved. Even I am embarrassed at how I look.”

It’s time for clothing choices to say, “I am here and you can’t stop me from shining.” I’m not going to sit here and say I loved the clothes just because they were on plus size women. That’s not good enough anymore.

When Jennifer Lopez first came out on red carpets back in the 1990s, people said she was fat as well.  A curvy and proud Latina, she looked NOTHING like a “typical” A-lister.  But she didn’t cower behind demure, boring clothing that "slimmed" her -- she embraced her curves. She wore colors and prints and made SURE they were tailored to her body. And that’s what made her a red carpet staple. Her confidence was undeniable. And I know that confidence came from wearing clothes that WERE MADE FOR HER. And don’t try to tell me it’s because she is smaller. It’s not – it’s because she didn’t let people tell her what she SHOULD wear. She didn’t whine about designers not dressing her, or wait for some Chanel to magically land in her lap. She never once bemoaned her size in interviews and then said her words were twisted. She OWNED who she was at every size she has been, even if she wasn’t feeling her best.

If someone asked me to find 10 better dressed bloggers than these stars, I could do so in less than five minutes, and most of the time on a fraction of the budget. If we regular gals can do it, there's no reason they can't too.

It’s time plus size women stopped settling for “what fits” and started carving out a space for themselves as superstars in fashion and in the world.



Glen said...

I agree with you assessment of Mellissa Macarthy. I thought the dress was quite ugly to be honest. The others were tolerable but I would have thought I would see better considering what is available.

Melanie said...

AMEN! As a plus-size woman on a desperate hunt for a gown for an upcoming cruise and two local galas, I am absolutely exhausted at the daunting thought of having to rifle through a few racks of "Mother of the Bride" style gowns (the only ones available in plus-sizes), having walked past an endless sea of gorgeous, colorful sizes 0-4. I'm a 31-year-old single woman who is going to have to resort to looking twice my age covered in glue-gunned glitter and sheer long sleeves to be considered in 'formal wear.' These celebrities have access to designers, the money to pay for them and the clout to show the dresses off to the world. They are the reason the department stores continue to only stock "Mother of the Bride" gowns in the plus-size departments.

Unknown said...

As much as I was not impressed by the choices made by the actresses nor was I impressed by the lack of actual diversity I don't really blame them. I mean, they're in one of the harshest industries in the world when it comes to body policing and sometimes we forget that these people have very real feelings. Its extremely obvious that most of the women pictured above are not quite comfortable enough to take risks and thats ok. Do I wish more "curvy" celebrities would own their bodies and unapologetically stand up for them? Of course. However, they're going to go at their own speed while other "plus size" women showcase their bodies and inspire others.

michelle renee said...

yes, yes, yes!!!!!! and as much as I love Marina Rinaldi and Tadashi (every dress by him that I have worn fit magnificently, he understands a curvy body), I think it is a shame to see what I can only say is so-so. I liked the dress Octavia wore for the oscars, but did not care much for the others (sorry I did not like the Lavendar one others gushed over either.) and Melissa seems to be content in sacks and too much fabric. You are right, they can do so much better. and I am hoping as more and more fuller figured stars emerge (do not even get me started on the horrors of Gabby Sidibe's fashion) that designers will start to want to dress them (and figure out how to!), and that stylists will be more aware of what works. it is obvious, we are not going away!!

Terri H. said...

Maybe what is really needed is a stylist who works with plus-sized celebrities, so they aren't being told at every turn to cover up and wear black. Every celeb takes cues from their stylist - and if the ones working with plus sized ladies are all offering the same advice, it's got to be hard to find the confidence to feel beautiful. Maybe that's why the "regular gals" are able to break free - nobody's whispering "trust me, I know what I'm doing, I'm a professional" in their ears.

Unknown said...

its nice to see a different perspective. I liked Melissa cause i was so happy to see her not in long sleeve dark dress. I'm always wanting more from her. and I guess I felt a like her team really made an effort.

Allison McGevna said...

YES! Melanie, my thoughts exactly! You should check out Monif C, Torrid, Bettie Page Clothing and Stop Staring. Lot's of sexy, beautiful options! And btw, LOLLLL @ "glue-gunned glitter." That's going to be one of my new sayings.

Allison McGevna said...

That is such a good point Terri!

Allison McGevna said...

I agree that the color was a departure for her! I love hearing everyone's opinions on this. Thank you so much for commenting Shainna :)

Allison McGevna said...

You're SO right. We aren't going anywhere!! They better get used to it :-) And ps, I LOVE Tadashi as well. Fit is amazing!

Allison McGevna said...

That's a great point Sarah. It is definitely tough to be in the public eye. I don't mean to criticize them as people and I hope it didn't come off that way. I guess I'm just aching for change!!

Allison McGevna said...

I completely agree! I had really high hopes!!

Bonibaru said...

Bravo, this was going to be my comment. The majority of those women didn't dress themselves. Rachel Zoe Project & Brad's thingymajig on Bravo are not rushing out to style plus sized women nor are designers rushing to make clothing for them. I don't blame the ladies above for their choices; I was glad to see color on Melissa and Sherri, I may be in the minority thinking Melissa's dress looked nice (not great, but not horrible), and I thought Octavia looked classic and beautiful. Either Tadashi needs to branch out and start styling the handful of plus ladies or someone else needs to step up and fill what is an obvious (if small) gap in the plus sized high end Oscar niche.

Anonymous said...

Not only were the gowns not right for Melissa and Sherri, but the hair for Sherri was not right.
Her hair is always looking "not real". She needs to go "natural" like Viola Davis, or get a better wig or weave. I couldn't tell which thing she had as her hair.
Speaking of hair, too, I've been looking for a plus size woman wearing short hair, and there isn't one. I decided to cut my hair short to accentuate my cheekbones, and MAYBE, restart my modeling career. I've sent out many emails, with no response. Hmmmm, what do you think? Are they accepting of plus sized models but still don't accept us with short and natural hair?
Terri Jeann

Nancy said...

Hi Allison,
I would have to disagree i think Melissa McCarthy Looked fabulous i love the color. US weekly is even having a poll on her Oscar look and people are Loving it! Sherri's dress color was GREAT! but yes i agree the bra showing that v cut was not my fave part of her dress but if she wanted to flaunt it hey more power to her! Adele's Rocks the Black and i love her black dresses !whats wrong with black? she has even stated that she loves black and she isn't much of color. Octavia Spencer dress was OMG Amazing she looked beautiful! but over all i think thier smiles and confidence on the red carpet and them rocking those dresses made them shine! especially for Melissa even Kelly Osbourne said she looked Beautiful. :)Again in my opinions.

Allison McGevna said...

Hey Nancy, thank you so much for sharing your opinions! I love to hear what others think! As for Adele, I too love wearing black, I just want to see her switch it up a little :-)

Raccoon said...

ooh and don't forget Igigi. Some of their dresses are AMAZING. Always colourful and always flattering... and within the average woman's budget. Melissa McCarthy could have worn one of them and looked a million times better.

Allison McGevna said...

YES!! I love Igigi!!

Falala Mele said...

When I first started to read this post I was thinking "Amen! Look they are all covered up in meters of material" but then I went on to thinking about what they need to go through at an event like this.

When ever I dress up to go out, a big part of looking and feeling good for me is being comfortable. So while I think they weren't perhaps the BEST outfit choices, they are still real women after all. And we ALL feel insecure about something wether we are a size 6, 12, or 20.

Factor that in with a bazillion cameras around shooting video and photos.

So perhaps their choice in outfits were to a. look glamorous (personally I would have went with showing some leg) b. to feel comfortable and not worry about cruel camera angles (it's their night and they need to feel comfortable enough to enjoy it) c. they actually liked what they wore (and are like me...if I like it, I will wear it).

Nice topic of discussion.... Thanks for bringing it up :) I think Octavia's dress is banging and it would look so feirce in a bold colour..... this new follower is happy to have found your blog xo

Falala Mele said...

Glue-gun-glitter....FUCKING OATH! I feel you....I mainly shop in thrift stores because atleast I can find statement peices with bold colour and print without the disgusting socially acceptable plus size fashion in australian department stores...even plus size stores like City Chic...I walk in and think "who the fuck designed this?" I need to help them! They go a but gun-hoe with the glitter prints.... I also find vintage clothes are designed better and they fit the figure!

Allison McGevna said...

I'm so happy to have you Falala. I def stand by my original thoughts, but lovely readers like yourself have made me think more critically about this issue and the things that I say. I've definitely taken that to heart and will be writing more and more about this issue. I loved hearing ppl's thoughts on an issue I had no idea would be so personal.

KurvayshusB said...

Well first and foremost, *waves sweetly* HI ALLIE!!! :)

Secondly, I actually kind of like Octavia, Melissa and Adele's red carpet looks (not Sherrie though...she looked a damn mess.*slaps her hands*). While of course I would have LOVED to see more sex and sass in their ensembles, I think they were classy. Adele has her own style and does her best to keep her image more about the music and not her looks. While she would look amazing in a fab cobalt blue gown fitted to her body with an updo and gorgeous diamond drop earrings (ugh! I have fashion dreams of dressing her!!!), I can appreciate that she has her own "thing" and sticks to it. Maybe as she progresses musically, her style will change too.

Overall, I agree with what you are saying. Plus size stars need to step it up on the red carpet and not be afraid to show off their bodies. However, I think it goes to say that as with most celebrities...they don't know or understand how to dress themselves and go with the flow. A lot of what they put on is usually a reflection/direction of what some stylist has told them is good and acceptable to put on. There aren't enough red carpet stylists that understand plus size women and their fashion. So when they do get a client that is larger than a size 14...they don't know what to do with them and slap them in the ole okie doke. Not to say the stars themselves don't have any say-so in the matter but they also are in the frame of mind that this person is a professional and knows what they are doing...when half the time they don't.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Nancy on this, I actually really like Melissa McCarthy's dress. It's a little too jeweled for me, but overall I like it. Great color, the material looks soft. Looks like something I'd wear (minus the pricetag, of course).

Jinja said...

I think I am late to this discussion (seeing as I just discovered your blog, I guess that's okay ;-D), but while I appreciate that ladies want to feel comfortable, I also think that these ladies are celebrities. They get their photos taken constantly, they go on screen for a living, and none of them come across as insecure or shy. Well, maybe Adele. Heh. Even if they are on the inside, most of these women are known as being pretty outspoken, so I doubt their goal for a red carpet evening is to be seen as comfortable or less than confident. I expect them to be bold! This is how they are in their personalities, so I would expect them to express that in their glamour choices as well. I also can't imagine any of them being intimidated by a stylist. Octavia Spencer would chew and spit out any stylist who tried to tell her to tone it down...

There are lots of fuller-figured women who kill it on the red carpet. Queen Latifah. Sara Ramirez. Kirstie Alley (well, she can be hit or miss LOL). Oprah. America Ferrara. Jennifer Hudson.

And even those who I don't consider all that full: Kate Winslet, Christina Hendricks, Jennifer Lopez and Alicia Keys, for example.

All of these ladies prove that there is absolutely no need to settle for bland instead of glam.


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