Plus-Size Teens and Fashion
Statistics cited in various women's magazines and by the Food and Drug Administration show that 62 million women in this country are a size 12 or larger. The average American woman is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and is a size 12 on the top and a 14 on the bottom. Surprised? Then you are going to love this: The concept of the size 2, stick-thin, needs-to-eat-a-Big Mac-and-buy-a-Wonder-Bra model as being the "in" and perfect body is being thrown a curve. Literally.
The Plus-size Teen
Plus-size, full-bodied, heavy, large, full-figured. These are just a few of the terms used to describe those of us who wear sizes with double digits. But now it's time to throw all of these terms – and the ideals and concepts that come with them – away.
"I don't call plus-size teens full figured (sounds too womanly) or even plus size (too exclusionary)," says Catherine Schuller, an image consultant and industry liaison of CurveStyle. "At this time in any girl's life the last thing she wants to be is different from what is hip, hop and happenin', and especially she does not want to have to shop matronly. I prefer to call these teens 'bodied' as in they are very conscious of showing off their bodies as most teens are, but they need to do it in a way that is trendy, yet still tasteful."
The Passé of Style and Fashion
The days of Twiggy-size models are quickly fading – especially with designers, manufacturers and store owners battling against the old cliché of "thin is in."
"I think there are so many exciting things going on in fashion right now for the plus-size teen," says Gina La Morte, president and founder of StyleEmergency, Inc. "To have stores created entirely to this market – such as Torrid – shows that this market is a strong and important one on the rise."
Schuller shares that there is some difficulty in reaching the plus-size teen and addresses the pickiness of this age group. According to Schuller, the overly-disconcerted attitudes regarding fashion are often seen and heard. "At times these teens don't hate their bodies so much as they hate the choices out there in terms of modern, edgy styling in the fashions available," she says. "To borrow from the overall junior market can be achieved, but it has to be done with plus-size junior clothing. Some stores are catering to this new market, which means that it's catching."
"They should design clothing that actually looks good on a heavier frame," says Mary E. Tyler from Newport News, Va. "Simply upsizing fashions for skinny people is not only insulting, it simply doesn't work. A fat person is not fat all over. One size 20 does not fit all."
Tips on Showing Your Style
Being a "bodied" teen can often lead to a lot of anxiety about what to do, say and especially what to wear. According to La Morte, it's totally up to you. "I always say wear what you love," she says. "If you feel good in it, that confidence will totally show through no matter what you have on. Also, now with so many new options out there, there's no reason not to look as trendy as the size 2. Style is not a size!"
Just as there are things to do when looking for style and fashion, there are also things not to do. One of these is fit. La Morte says that the fit is just as important as the fashion. "A very important tip, however, is that [bodied teens] need to start wearing clothes that are 'fitted,'" she says. "Avoid styles that are too tight and too baggy. So many full-figured teens make the mistake of wearing oversized clothes, thinking they are hiding or concealing their size, when in fact, they are making themselves appear larger."
In Search of the Latest
One of the more common mistakes made by bodied teens is settling for what is available instead of what they want. Schuller says this is not the fault of the teen, but rather the industry. "When I see teens with a tummy walking down the street with baby-tees or tube tops exposing way too much flesh, I think, 'There's a better way to achieve that look that won't call attention – and possibly ridicule – to the wearer,'" she says. "I understand why this dilemma occurs; the clothes are simply too small and not in proportion to a larger frame. Simply because the bodied teen does not know where to shop and does not want to shop in the same department as her mother and grandmother, she gets a larger size of the fashion designed for the smaller frame and tries to adapt it to her own. It doesn't work, but what else is there to do?"
Now more than ever, there are many new options for plus-size teens to shop and stay hip! With hot new stores and Web sites like Torrid, Sizeappeal.com, Turnstylz and GFLA, today's bodied teens can dress more fashionably than ever before.
Produced and developed by a company called Hot Topic, Torrid will be opening 28 new U.S. stores this year. Meg Clymer, who is a buyer for the chain of stores, is eager to let the customer in on their store as a destination for bodied teens. She knows the needs and wants of this customer and shops for manufacturers who are creating trendy merchandise that fits bodied proportions. Styles such as their vintage jeans, laced tank and hook-front tank top keep you looking hot and in fashion in a size that fits you. Torrid fashion can be seen at their Web site or by visiting a store near you.
Offering clothing for the bodied teen girl, Size Appeal has everything from classic clothing to lingerie and bathing suits created to fit – and flatter – the fuller figure. To see what's available from Size Appeal, visit their Web site.
Turnstylz is a wonderfully-produced, yet small company that offers a wide variety of clothing to choose from all created, designed and manufactured for the bodied teen girl. Visit their Web site for more information.
With the ideals, beliefs and sense of purpose exhibited by Schuller and Morte, the market of fashion for "bodied" teens is sure to soon become the center of a lot of attention.
"I'm on a mission to bring some reality to the fashion world, to help real women see more of themselves on the runways and in the stores," says Schuller. "Right now, what's in the stores is based on what's shown on the runways. And what are shown on the runways are clothes in size 2 and 4 on women with no curves. Well, you can't just take something you've made for a size 4 body and put it on a larger body and expect that it's going to work. Real women have curves. Thank God! I want to celebrate that."
Not sure what style or fit will best flatter you? The Figure & Fit brochure offers beautifully-bodied fashion expert Catherine Schuller's theories about finding the perfect look for your body type. The brochure, which is plus for shipping and handling, can be reserved via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling (800) 759-7747. Payment by check or money order should be sent to Figure&Fit, LLC, 460 Park Ave. Suite 430, New York, N.Y. 10022.
The Figure & Fit brochure includes a shape assessment wheel that guides women in determining their predominant body shape by comparing the size of their bust to their waist, their waist to their hips and their bust to their hips.
Once a woman's shape has been ascertained, Schuller offers style suggestions. For women with a triangle-shape figure, for example, her suggestions include ways to achieve a more overall balanced shape.