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Is the fashion industry waking up to fact we want clothes that fit & flatter?

Article by Fabafterfifty

I am not alone in finding it increasingly difficult to find clothes which fit and are flattering now I’m in my fifties. I wear the same dress size I did at 30, and yet as my body shape has changed clothes no longer ‘touch’ in quite the right places, especially around the middle and upper arms.

Great news then,  that thanks to relentless campaigning for diversity in fashion from Caryn Franklin  Erin O’Connor and Debra Bourne as part of the ‘All Walks’ campaign , there are signs that things be starting to change.

Realistic range of body shapes to be used in fashion design training

“We want student fashion designers to be introduced to a realistic range of body shapes during their training process. Diversity can enhance craftmanship not impede it.”   All Walks, Co Founders Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor. 
Fresh from the success of SNAPPED, All Walks’ Spring/Summer ’11, campaign involving nine major fashion designers from Vivienne Westwood, Giles Deacon to Stella McCartney, the award winning fashion diversity initiative, delivers on its’ pledge to inspire changes to Britain’s fashion curriculum.

Britain’s first ever, educational institution devoted to furthering the promotion and design requirements of diverse body shape to meet consumer demand, will be launched by All Walks Beyond the Catwalk with Edinburgh College of Art, at their 2nd annual All Walks Futures Forum at Graduate Fashion Week. The Forum takes place on June 7th 2011 and will be attended by Govt Minister for Equalities and Lib Dem Body Confidence Campaign founder, Lynne Featherstone.       

The All Walks founders believe that there’s a need to promote fashion as an inclusive and inspirational force in women’s lives by creating imagery that mirrors the diverse and individual beauty of women, and design that has been informed by knowledge of a realistic body shape not just a tailors dummy or a sample size model. Currently all fashion colleges train exclusively on dummies size 8/10.

The All Walks Centre, headed by Course Leader of Fashion, Edinburgh College of Arts’, Mal Burkinshaw, will research and develop new approaches in fashion education to include more emotionally aware and considerate practice. Students will benefit from training on a specially commissioned set of UK sized 8 to 18, tailors dummies, donated by leading mannequin specialist, Proportion London. Skills might range from learning languaging to aid working on different body shapes, listening and understanding the needs of the consumer, as well as using diverse body shapes to inspire the form and design of garments.

Fashion Industry has a narrow approach to diversity of image

”We support All Walks in agreeing that the fashion industry currently has a very narrow approach to diversity of image. It’s the responsibility of fashion educators to teach our future fashion practitioners from designers to image-makers  to become more aware of the emotional impact of their design and messaging through creative and exciting educational methods.” says Burkinshaw, who has just implemented a project to introduce students to designing for ordinary bodies.

Too many limited physical ideals

“It makes a big difference working with a real human being, than training on an inanimate object. say Franklin, Bourne and O’Connor. Only when those in the fashion industry understand how powerful fashion imagery actually is, and how ordinary women feel about the limited physical ideals that are currently used as a learning template, will we see progress.
Bournemouth University and Southampton Solent University have also incorporated diversity of body-shape projects into the curriculum post the first Forum last June. More colleges are expected to follow.
 “People constantly talk about the economics of emerging markets – Brazil, India and China. Surely it’s time to join the dots between commercial thinking and emotional understanding. We live in a diverse world. The fashion industry can send out a more conscious message, develop a more emotionally considerate practice in pursuit of a more lucrative business proposition. It all begins in education. We are indebted to June Barker, Managing Director of Graduate Fashion Week for recognising this.” conclude Co Founders, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk.

Congratulations to All Walks Co Founders Caryn Franklin and Debra Bourne will both receive an Honorary Doctorate this June, in acknowledgment of their work in Industry and Education.

We look forward to more diverse fashion fit on the high street soon


Fabafterfifty.com. Redefining 50. Celebrating the best half of our lives!

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  1. Maddy Eltham

    May 29, 2011

    This is all good news for the older woman wanting to look good – but why oh WHY does it have to stop at size 18? I cannot be a lone voice in the world of bigger women who don’t want to wear army surplus tents???

  2. Vida Moda

    May 29, 2011

    This is a great post, but there is still a lot of traveling to be done on this journey. The fashion industry is still largely focused on young and trendy and that is what they put in the mainstream media. However peoples body shapes are changing and ultimately the fashion industry will have to change to meet the demand from the marketplace. Whether or not we’ll see this change in the way media represents fashion remains to be seen.

    There are designers out there who do recognise the needs of their customers and do make beautiful clothes in plus sizes. They may not always make it to highstreet chains. The internet is offering more choice if you are prepared to look and over time the internet will level the playing field and provide better choice for “fit and flatter”.

    Maddy we agree with you and we hope we can offer a better choice.

    Philip from Vida Moda

  3. Helen Wenley

    May 29, 2011

    I am a size 14/16 and live in New Zealand. I have two problems with clothes – getting a flattering fit and getting colour (the more flattering designs are usually black, black or black!). I appreciate that the size of the population base here is a problem.

    • Sheryl

      July 12, 2011

      Young and trendy, why not mature and trendy. I am 55 and still wear very fashionable clothes and just love the lovely colours that are around. I dont think age has much to do with fashion, it’s how you wear what you wear that counts if you like it and it feels good, as they say, just do it 😉

  4. Maureen

    November 22, 2011

    I’m 56 and weigh 102 pounds. There is very little out there that doesn’t make you look age 12. 🙁 I can’t even buy women’s socks..all way too big.

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