Melissa McCarthy may be hilarious, but she’s very serious about making over the plus-size fashion industry. And she’d like to start by losing the designation “plus-size.”
“I just don’t get why we always have to group everything into a good or bad, right or wrong category,” the “Spy” actress told Refinery 29. “I just think, if you’re going to make women’s clothing, make women’s clothing. Designers that put everyone in categories are over-complicating something that should be easy.”
So McCarthy is going to make it easy. Her new clothing line, Melissa McCarthy Seven7, caters to women sizes four to 28.
It’s not uncommon to see an A-lister branching out into fashion. Everyone from Gwen Stefani to the Olsen twins have done it, but rarely do they have the experience. McCarthy does. She was planning to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York but was waylaid by her success as a stand-up comedian.
“I’ve done every single piece. I’m on my hands and knees fitting and pinning and checking alterations,” she told USA Today. “It’s really satisfying. I am psychotically involved. I plan on designing every step of the way.”
The actress’s leap into the business feels like it’s part of a long overdue evolution. In the past, shopping for larger sizes has been a demoralizing, sometimes impossible experience. Women on the Fashion Plus subreddit, for example, complain they can’t find the most basic of basics, like jeans. So searching for the latest trends in a size above 14 is like tracking down a pot of gold.
But McCarthy’s foray into fashion comes amid new, more inventive lines from Target and an increasingly fashion-forward approach at Lane Bryant, which is trying to shed its image as a destination for shapeless frumpery. The company’s “I’m no angel” ads, featuring full-figured women in lingerie, have helped.
This has been a long time coming, and McCarthy’s vocal opposition to the industry’s obsession with Twiggy-like models and customers has helped. She has been especially honest when it comes to the fashion indignities she has suffered in the past, including when she couldn’t find a designer to make her a dress for the Oscars — that’s right, the Oscars.
“I asked five or six designers — very high-level ones who make lots of dresses for people — and they all said no,” she told Redbook.
That’s pretty cruel, but it’s also bad business. The fact that more designers haven’t started making clothes in larger sizes is inane. After all, this underserved demographic is hardly a niche.
“Seventy percent of women in the United States are a size 14 or above, and that’s technically ‘plus-size,’ so you’re taking your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You’re not really worthy.’ I find that very strange,” she said during the Refinery29 interview.
When stores do carry larger sizes, they tend to be completely segregated from the rest of the inventory. According to size-12 model Candice Huffine, shopping for clothes can be a downer. In one instance, she said, “I went to the plus floor and I was certain I was on the wrong floor. I had to walk through all the mattresses, the home section, chairs, pillows, sheets; all this until I got to the very, very back, and there were like four racks and that was your plus section. And I thought, ‘Why are we in the back like this?’ The other floors are pumping music and have makeup stands and shoes and this one is up on the quiet floor with the bedding.”
McCarthy is tackling the segregation issue, too. She’s working with stores that are carrying her clothes to make sure her creations will be where they belong — with the rest of women’s clothing.