Fashion runs by its own special rules. And those rules have never been fair to plus-size women. Those who are larger than the arbitrary size 12 have fewer choices. Even celebrities whose hips are beyond the range of sample sizes are denied all the freebies and fawning that greet their thinner colleagues. New York's Seventh Avenue may not be stripping anyone of their civil rights, but snubs still sting.
And it's a sting that is especially sharp for plus-size women who love to bargain-hunt — the pickings are slim at consignment shops, vintage boutiques and sample sales. Although there are Facebook groups, pop-up shops, eBay sellers and such dealing in plus-size vintage clothing, there are few online companies that specialize in it.
Carolyn Thompson has stepped into the void with ResellXL, an online consignment shop specializing in professional and upscale attire size 14 and up.
The seed of the idea was sowed when Thompson tried to off-load some of her own plus-size attire and could not find a consignment shop to accept it. The experience was aggravating for her, but Thompson, who worked for an executive recruitment firm in Vienna, Va., shrugged it off and moved on.
But the obvious void in the fashion marketplace stayed in the back of Thompson's mind, and early this spring, she decided to act. She incorporated ResellXL, and the site has been live for about a month. Already, the clothes and accessories have been flowing in, and the shoppers are logging on. Thompson has four part-time employees who help authenticate the merchandise, and she has a sense of the brands and styles that make her customers swoon. They want denim sportswear, large-scale handbags, fancy shoes in size 10 or larger, designer evening gowns, prom dresses and, God bless 'em, St. John knits.
"They're looking for things people only use once or twice," Thompson says. And they're not necessarily looking for this season's buzzy handbag or formal gown. "Just because trends come and go in our part of the country, a lot of people don't care about that — people from rural areas."
Besides, who wants to pay retail for a one-use dress? Plus-size customers shouldn't be forced to.
Meanwhile, plus-size celebrities — or even those who simply don't fit into typical runway samples — are often faced with the high-class problem of not being able to borrow a dress for a red-carpet event. Recently, actress Leslie Jones lamented via Twitter that she was unable to find a major designer to "help me" with a dress for the upcoming premiere of her film "Ghostbusters."
It was a problem similar to one her co-star Melissa McCarthy described when, as a best supporting actress nominee, she attended the 2012 Oscars. Other actresses have talked about how being larger than a sample size limits the borrowing possibilities from designers.
Of course, one could argue that borrowing a dress is a perk — not a right — and that others should follow the lead of Bryce Dallas Howard, who famously bought a size 6 dress off the rack for the Golden Globes this year. But what fun is that?
Designer Christian Siriano, who has dressed all shapes and sizes for the red carpet, stepped up to outfit Jones. He argues that all famous ladies should get the same perks — not just those who are sample sizes. There should be equal opportunity brand synergy on the red carpet.
Signs of greater fashion equality, of a sort, are rippling through popular culture. Everyone can traffic in used clothes. And celebrities of all sizes can reap the benefits of fame.