I recently had the opportunity to talk with Kendall Farr who is one of the top stylists in the motion picture industry. Kendall has dressed many stars such as Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Andie MacDowell and Uma Thurman and is the author of the definitive guide to personal styling called: The Pocket Stylist. She is currently promoting her new book Style Evolution, How to Create Ageless Personal Style in Your 40’s and Beyond . This is the first of a three-part interview in which we touch on several points that are of interest to the plus-size community.
LD: What is your book about?
KF: We live in an ageist culture. Women in particular are judged by a brutal set of visual standards. When you see a woman ‘of a certain age’ on the street and is dressed in the very trendy gear of a girl in her twenties or a woman who is dressed in things that make her look dowdy beyond her years, the first thing you may wonder is ‘How old is she?' What happens to many women is that somewhere around 45 they have an epiphany (or a complete melt down). They may recognize that most of the clothes they have relied on since their twenties and thirties don’t work for them anymore and they wonder ‘How am I supposed to look now?”
My approach is to take a woman’s age out of the visual equation--at least as the first thing you concentrate on when you see her. Ageless personal style is about wearing the shapes and proportions that work for your body first and then interpreting what of the ‘new’ trends in a season -clothes and accessories- will keep your look modern and relevant. If your style looks plugged-in, people couldn't care less how old you are. Your appearance communicates that you pay attention to all kinds of cultural currents.
LD: What is the state of the market for plus-sized clothing?
KF: I first researched and shopped the plus-size market as a stylist for Emme and while writing The Pocket Stylist (Gotham Books 2004). I had almost everything made for Emme because I couldn’t find clothes that looked sophisticated enough. Things either looked like bad imitations of teen clothes or they looked like matronly business-wear. There was very little modern-looking choices.
Five years later, I think there is good news and bad news. Good news first. Target and Forever 21 are both launched plus-sized teen collections filled with trendy, fast fashion. I see this as a positive forecast of how things may start to move along in clothing lines for grown-up plus-sized ladies. If these retailers are very successful, then I think more manufacturers will take a closer look at how to create trends aware collections that reach a wider age range.
Now, the bad news. If the average American woman is truly a size 14 or larger, then it makes sense that plus sizes should be a very lucrative market for fashion companies. So why aren’t more of them producing plus-sized clothing that looks current, cool and grownup?
Stay tuned for part two...