Real Housewives of Auckland: 'plus-size' designers speak out
Women all over the country gasped in disbelief when former fashion model Michellle Blanchard called Angela Stone "plus-sized" on The Real Housewives of Auckland. It was a moment of out-and-out meanness, clearly meant to offend.
But what does plus-size even mean in 2016? Designers say it is a fairly mobile concept, and with the average New Zealand woman a size 14, it is one that is possibly on its way out.
Caroline Marr of The Carpenter's Daughter, who designs clothes in sizes 12 and up, doesn't even like to use the term "plus-sized".
"For me it's just fashion for big girls. We don't have extra limbs."
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Marr says being called "plus-sized" only tends to bother those women who have just crossed over into that zone, often as the result of the body changes associated with ageing.
"I find the girls who take offense are the smaller girls, because it's new for them."
In her view, Angela Stone, a healthy size 14 at most, does not qualify as plus-sized.
"Good on her for being offended," says Marr. "I would be as well. Stick up for the majority of women."
Most clothing labels available in New Zealand offer sizes 12 and 14. It is size 16 that usually marks the start of the "plus-size" band, and a move to specialist clothing lines.
In contrast, most models hired to advertise clothing are sized 6 or 8 — like Blanchard — which is well below average.
"I get where she is coming from," says designer Sera Lilly of Blanchard's comments. "To be honest, in the fashion industry anything over size 10, you are borderline plus-sized."
That's part of the reason Lilly no longer shows at New Zealand Fashion Week — she can't be bothered with the body shaming that goes on.
When she cast real women (as opposed to models) ranging up to size 14 to show her clothes in 2010, some were labelled plus-sized. A member of the international media asked Lilly what it was like to "obese" in the fashion industry.
Like Marr, Lilly dislikes the term plus-sized.
"I had to call my label plus-size because how else would you differentiate it? To me it's more of a curvy body shape. So many designers don't cut for boobs and butts."
Of Stone's figure, Lilly says: "If you look at that and think that's plus-sized, your view is really screwed. She looks like a beautiful healthy body shape."