Women and Hollywood is on break this week. Please enjoy one of our most popular posts of the year below. We will return with new features, editorials, and news stories on Monday, January 5.
Originally published June 5, 2014.
Two Oscar seasons ago, Melissa McCarthy approached a number of top designers to dress her for the event. They said no: “I couldn’t find anybody to do a dress for me. I asked five or six designers — very high-level ones who make lots of dresses for people — and they all said no.” Major designers declined the opportunity to have their work showcased (at the Oscars!) by a talented, beloved, and beautiful actress. Before we chalk this up to “She wouldn’t fit the sample size!” sure, that’s true, but this is the Academy Awards — custom made gowns are de rigueur.
We can only deduce that these designers didn’t want Melissa McCarthy to wear their work. They didn’t want their clothing to be seen on her. They didn’t want their image to be associated with hers, and it’s obvious why: the size of her body. When these designers said no to dressing McCarthy, they were ultimately saying no to her body, and to bodies like hers (of which there are millions and millions and millions). The fact that Melissa McCarthy, a movie star, has difficulty finding nice clothes that fit says a lot about the state of plus-size clothing — and how fat women are perceived and treated in the fashion world.
This is of course an issue that extends beyond Hollywood. McCarthy tells Redbook: “I don’t understand why if you’re a certain size, designers think your taste level goes down and you have less money to spend. The quality and construction is often so bad. Finding a great t-shirt or a great cigarette pant in a good fabric is next to impossible. Plus-size clothes are often really cheap and either look young or incredibly old.” This has been a problem for a long time. McCarthy doesn’t mention — but I’m sure she’s noticed — that in addition to the poor construction and questionable style of plus-size clothing, it’s also not very widely available. For whatever reason — I think we can all come up with about a dozen — clothing sizes that are very common have been, and continue to be, treated like some sort of niche market.
In an effort to improve the situation, McCarthy is creating a plus-size line of clothing with Daniella Pearl, who designed her Emmy dress. Bloggers, celebrities, and regular ‘ol shoppers have been speaking out against the sorry state of mainstream plus-size clothing and demanding more for years. It seems like the alternative and independent fashion world is catching on, so perhaps more high-end designers will finally get a clue and rather than turning Melissa McCarthy away, they will be grateful for the opportunity to dress her. Hopefully McCarthy will wear some of her original designs on the press tour for Tammy, which opens July 2nd and she tells us where we can buy them.