Ask FGG: "Can we talk plus-sized Oscar fashion?"
Posted by Angela in Ask FGG,Plus-Size Fashion
This Image by Shavar Ross makes us wonder: Who was Oscar wearing?

Sunday’s 82nd Annual Academy Awards broadcast drew attention for its many firsts. In addition to Kathryn Bigelow’s history-making win as the first female Best Director, Geoffrey Fletcher became the first African-American to be recognized with a screenwriting Oscar with his adaptation of Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. Had Lee Daniels won the Best Director category for Precious, he would have been the first African-American to receive the honor.

Despite the focus on the (long overdue!) breakdown of these racial and gender barriers, many FGG readers may also have found themselves quietly (or not so quietly) cheering the bold, beautiful fat girls who represented so well at the Kodak Theater. The night began with Mo’Nique’s gritty poise during her Best Supporting Actress win. Viewers were then treated to Queen Latifah’s statuesque turn introducing the Governor’s Award ceremony clip, and – of course – the radiant sparkle of industry newcomer and Best Actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe, who seemed to be a magnet for telecast and paparazzi cameras alike. As I watched each of these captivating women rock their respective red carpet finery, it got me wondering:

“Which designers were lucky enough to dress Mo’Nique, Gabby and Queen? And – more importantly – has the time finally arrived for the fashion industry and media to give plus-sized beauty its due?”

Research on the first question was easy; news sites and blogs couldn’t wait to showcase photos of these ladies, as well as the stories behind their full-figured fashions. Although rumors had swirled around Sidibe’s gown options in the weeks preceding the ceremony, she eventually settled on a gorgeous blue Marquesa creation with short sleeves and diamond floral detail. (She also referred to her dress as a “money shot,” which made me gasp… and then giggle.) Having proven herself a savvy red carpet vet over the years, Queen Latifah opted for a one-shouldered dress in lavender satin by Badgley Mischka. Mo’Nique chose the periwinkle color of her Tadashi Shoji gown (and the gardenia in her hair) in tribute to Gone with the Wind star Hattie McDaniel, who wore a similar look in 1940 as the first African American actress to receive an Oscar.

As to the second question – Are high-profile designers and the media beginning to acknowledge that fat girls exist and shop outside of big box stores? – well, that’s a bit more complicated.

There has definitely been lip service paid of late to including representations of “nontraditional sizes” in fashion shows and magazine spreads. For the second consecutive year, designer Mark Fast featured plus-size models in his runway show at London’s 2010 Fashion Week. America’s Next Top Model has begun to cast contestants who don’t wear a size 2. Both V and Glamour recently touted issues showcasing models in extended sizes. Sidibe herself donned fashions ranging from off-the-rack at Torrid to designers like Monif C. (who helped us answer a recent "Ask FGG" question) during her awards season appearances. And another of Hollywood’s current darlings, Christina Hendricks of AMC’s series Mad Men, is as unapologetically voluptuous as she is talented. (Word is that her recent New York magazine cover sent the entire male population of Time Out New York’s offices into a buzzing frenzy that lasted days.) Yes, there are ripples of positive trends out there.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to overlook the “...but” to most of these encouraging stories. As a result of the decision to include size 12 and 14 models, both the casting director and a stylist quit the Mark Fast show backstage. Hendricks has gone on record as saying she gets frustrated by the consistent emphasis on her body, as if her curves somehow eclipse the need to acknowledge her work on one of television’s most critically acclaimed shows. And while fashion spreads and runway shows (and Tyra) may be slowly opening their doors to larger sizes, the fact remains that “plus-size” in fashion speak doesn’t correspond to the tags in the back of your IGIGI dress or my Venezia jeans. Because straight sizes don’t usually extend past a 6, anything above that can be considered “plus” – meaning you’ll often see a model wearing a size 8 or 10 being billed as “plus-size,” despite the inconsistency with real-world sizing.

Still, any opportunity for girls ages 7 to 75 to see diverse body types represented in the media as both beautiful and viable has to be considered a step forward. On Sunday night, 41 million viewers saw that three of the women occupying these physiques are intelligent and talented, funny and dynamic – just like those of us who spent the Academy Awards in our pajamas instead of couture. So, reader, whether you’re an actress or an architect, your challenge this week is to hold your head high and tackle your calling with confidence. Give your next boardroom presentation with the poise of Mo’Nique, channel Gabby’s exuberance the next time you find yourself in a new setting, and let your laugh and smile come as freely as Queen Latifah’s whenever possible. After all, each of us represents in her own unique and stylish way.