Aaahhh, the bar mitzvah is over and I finally have a few minutes to indulge in some reading. (Pics to come soon!) I grabbed the latest edition of the New Yorker and came across a fascinating article entitled the “Plus Side.” Playing off the term “plus size,” the article addresses the transformation of the plus size fashion industry.
This article is so replete with interesting facts, that I can’t address all of them in one post. No question I’ll be mining stories from this article for posts to come.
One interesting story within the story has to do with the racial politics around plus size fashion. When we think of the conversations that surround plus sized fashion, health and weight come to mind. But there’s a racial one too. A huge group of women in the plus-sized community are African-American.
And the African-American element is probably what keeps the industry as exciting as it is and can be. Not only do black men and women celebrate a fuller figure (or “thick” figures), but the community has a history of embracing fashion — and fashion shows for that matter — as forms of resistance.
The story references the Sunday church processions of black slaves and how they became forms of fashion shows and beauty pageants. And in so doing, these processions elevated the slaves in a sense, even if for only a few hours. How interesting!
Over the years, we, at Beautyskew, have often challenged the cultural conversation around fashion shows, beauty pageants, and in some cases, the fashion industry in general, which depict these cultural elements as frivolous at best and demeaning at worst. We have cited examples of when these cultural institutions were uplifting. Here, again, is an example of fashion shows and beauty pageants don’t hurt but elevate people. Fashion shows and beauty pageants for African-American slaves were forms of rebellion against enslavement and inhumanity centuries ago, and now they are forms of resistance against cultural norms.
No matter the health or economic issues some may have with celebrating plus sized fashion, I’m all for rejoicing people’s right to feel powerful, celebrated, and equal to all others.