Saturday, November 07, 2015

Heavy on the Glam, Light on the Bullshit

Ashley Nell Tipton
Even though I consider Crocs a fashion accessory and seldom wear makeup, I'm a girlie-girl at heart. People who have only known me over the past several years don't know that there was a time when I wore stockings and heels and silk dresses, even cocktail dresses. I never went without makeup, especially mascara and lipstick, and had acrylic nails painted blood red. Even my bras and panties matched. It's true.

Now I prefer comfort over fashion. Call it age. Call it laziness. It works for me at this stage in my life when most of my free time is spent hammering away at a keyboard writing books, dressed in yoga pants and t-shirts, without shoes and a bra. This is also true.

I've been heavy most of my life, so finding nice clothing has always been a chore, especially when I was younger. I hate to sew, but I used to make a lot of my clothes because I couldn't find any to fit except matronly tents with big-ass prints. I even made a fully-lined trench coat once that came out pretty good.

Now it's not that difficult to find fashionable clothing in plus sizes, at least if you shop online. There are tons of great plus-size retailers on the Internet, but few physical stores that carry plus sizes. Which is surprising since most American women are a size 14 or greater. I guess they don't want our money. And, even if a chain store CLAIMS to carry plus sizes in their stores, they won't carry them in all of their stores, just in a couple, and the stores that don't have plus size departments get very snooty and bitchy if you asked a sales rep where it is (*cough* Macy's *cough*). And even if department stores DO have a plus size department, generally it is located next to housewares or somewhere in a corner away from the "cool stuff."

I have a plethora of real-life shopping experiences that have happened to me over the years that would curl your hair, some of which have made it into my Odelia Grey books. Most of my clothing is bought online because I don't have the patience for brain dead sales people and stores that don't respect me and my time.

This last week Project Runway (which I've watched from its beginning because I am a girlie-girl at heart), crowned its first ever plus-size designer, Ashley Nell Tipton. And for the first time ever, Project Runway featured a plus-size collection on the runway during Fashion Week.  Ashley's collection was fun, colorful, and very feminine. It even showed skin. If I were younger, I'd be saving my pennies and lining up for her clothing ... um minus the headgear.

Part of Ashley's winning collection.
Sadly, Ashley's win came with a lot of criticism from haters and critics. Many online attacks claimed that Project Runway chose Ashley over the other designers simply to make history instead of picking the best designer.

I call Bullshit! 

I watched the entire season. My favorites were Ashley and Edmond Newton. In the end, after the fashion show, it was clear to most watching that the two best designers in the show were Ashley and Kelly Dempsey. The judges said Ashley's collection was feminine, wearable and cohesive, and could be worn by women of any size. Ashley Tipton may have sent plus-size models down the runway, but the designs could be worn by women of any size. Not so of the other 3 finalists.

Over the 14 seasons of Project Runway, they've had several challenges that involved designing for the "everyday woman" which included some that were plus-size. I would sit on my sofa and growl as the snippier and less mature of the designers complained that they hated the challenge because it wasn't "their thing" or it grossed them out.  During those shows, I'm sure my neighbors heard me shouting, "Oh grow the fuck up!"  They probably thought I was screaming at a boyfriend or kid, of which I have neither.

One of Ashley's non-plus size designs. She can design for anyone!
Early in this season's competition (Episode 5), with Ashley fresh off not one but two challenge wins, many of the other women in the competition ostracized Ashley and tried to throw her under the bus and get her kicked off. I'm not sure why. Throughout the competition, Ashley was helpful, pleasant, a good sport, and charming. Maybe these other women sensed she was a talent to be reckoned with, or maybe it was just the age-old prejudice against weight, or thinking that bigger women are easy prey. Heidi Klum made a comment about it and even one of the judges referred to it as a "bitchfest." Ashley was hurt and crying and I cried right along with her, remembering similar incidences in my life. Some things never change.

Ashley Nell Tipton, my dear girl, you have a very successful career ahead of you, and women of all sizes are going to be clamoring for your clothes. Just do me a favor: make the skinny chicks wait in the back of the line.

Oh, and I LOVE your purple hair!!!


Ellen Byron said...

I love everything in these pictures. She is super-talented! And that's all that should matter.

Alisa said...

The first 2 in the collection pic are my favorites. I was so ticked off during the episode that had the designers picking their team and Ashley was last picked, and so glad Heidi called them out on it. Even in the 2 part finale, Kelly and Candace couldn't give Ashley any credit. Edmond at least said he thought Ashley was worthy of going to Fashion Week. After the they showed their collections and got their critiques Kelly still said she thought it was between her and Edmond when anyone actually listening would have known it was between her and Ashley. Ugh!

Michelle said...

You said everything I've been thinking all season and have also experienced the snooty sales people in THAT store as well. I love the fact that Kelly Osborne called the girls out for not choosing Ashley during the first group challenge and it just goes to show some people never grow out of middle school. I was shocked when Candace actually admitted during the finale that she thought Ashley was her biggest competition -- too little too late.

Congratulations to Ashley Nell Tipton and I wish you a long and successful career!