Products Aren’t Made With Plus Size People in Mind

This week marks the 2018 edition of Design Week Portland, a weeklong series of interactive events, installations and conversations showcasing the evolving state of design here in Portland, Oregon. I helped put together an event called The Fattest Gap, which took a look at why things aren’t designed for plus size people and a few ways to fix that.

Rebecca Alexander from AllGo

Copper Union’s Claire Doody joined me to discuss fashion, while Rebecca Alexander and Michele Amar from AllGo, the recently kickstarted accessibility app for plus size people talked furniture. The amazing Shilo George of Łush Kumtux Tumtum Consulting took on the topic of workplace weight bias and discrimination. Awesome, right?

Shilo George at The Fattest Gap
Shilo George talks workplace weight bias and discrimination

It’s not often you get the opportunity to talk to people who are actually designing the products and experiences that are part of your everyday life, but we were able to do exactly that.

Bruce Sturgell & Claire Doody Talk Plus Size Fashion
Bruce Sturgell and Claire Doody talk plus size fashion

Claire and I discussed the fact that many brands designing plus size clothes aren’t using bigger fit models to design them. Simply sizing up a product doesn’t ensure a good fit. As a body gets bigger, it expands in ways that clothes designed with a “mainstream” sized fit model aren’t made to accommodate. This results in shirts that don’t fit in the stomach and shoulders, or pants that can’t contain bigger thighs. You already know this stuff.

When you run a website that talks about the fact that clothing isn’t made for bigger people, it can be easy to forget that not everyone understands there’s a problem, or how to fix it. The attendees positively responded to the things that Claire and I had to say about plus size clothing and the solutions we suggested. Don’t get me wrong, many who attended were well aware of the issues in the industry, but it was great to see a few people taking something new away from the talk. We don’t get many opportunities to discuss these things in public.

Rebecca Alexander, Claire Doody and Bruce Sturgell
Rebecca Alexander, Claire Doody and Bruce Sturgell

I’m glad I was able to be part of an event that addressed some of the core issues bigger people have to deal with on a daily basis. Many of us know what it’s like to worry about whether that chair at the restaurant will hold you, if the shirt you’re ordering online is actually going to fit, or whether your doctor will treat you with dignity. Getting the opportunity to discuss all of this with people making decisions about the products we use every day is a great step in the right direction.