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 flowing yellow button-down blouse.
The backlash, on the other hand, was huge. The plus size fashion community has been particularly frustrated, with an eruption of criticism following Dunham’s interview in The New York Times on Monday.
Across the fashion industry, the term “inclusive” itself has started to sound more like a marketing ploy than an engagement.
Luxury fashion accessible to tall people is unfortunately hard to come by. So when a luxury brand offers a collection that promises to be inclusive, expectations are high. But when this collection does not exceed a size 26, disappointment quickly gives way to 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.
Across 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 equal access to 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, taller 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 done 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 a “body neutral lawyer.” I strongly disagree with this label. Body neutrality is a philosophy that encourages you to focus on 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 “tries to be chin positive. I can cope with anything, but a triple chin is a hard place to land. It’s definitely not a neutral point of view on the body.
While it is normal to have complicated feelings about our bodies, and internalized fatphobia is unfortunately 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. Leaving 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 at 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 extremely hard to empower and publicize the body positive movement. Women like Gwendolyn DeVoe and Toccara Jones were pioneers in the plus size fashion industry. Yet when it comes time to distribute recognition to the general public, the New York Times isn’t exactly knocking on its 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 disparage the bodies of black women made thinness the Western ideal during the 200 last years. These stigmas appeared as early as the transatlantic slave trade. Prior to that time, having a fuller figure was actually considered normal and beautiful.
The plus size community has had to fight every step of the way to be included, going so far as to create their own spaces (see: the body positive movement) to escape judgment and central celebration. Unfortunately, many of these spaces have since been co-opted and watered down. When someone with the influence and privilege of Dunham has the opportunity to offer luxury fashion to greedy plus size consumers and yet cannot remember the most marginalized members of those communities, it seems selfish. .
Fashion may seem unimportant, but for the plus size community, it is far from frivolous. Being able to live and work in clothes that fit and flatter is not the default for all Americans. In the meantime, plus size clothing lines and self-proclaimed “ambassadors” don’t have the luxury of being so sloppy.