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Parsons Presentation | 5 Principles of Fat Fashion

May 17, 2018 1 Comment

Parsons Presentation | 5 Principles of Fat Fashion

Hi All!

I'm so excited to share with you about my recent trip to NYC where I was asked to present at Parsons New School of Design about Plus-Size and Fat Fashion at their Every/ Bodies event. An overview of my presentation is just after the program.

Well, overall it was AMAZING!!! I love NYC and it was extra special because I got to meet with a former student and connect with other professionals who are passionate about body diversity and equality in the fashion industry. 

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The event was amazing! Here's the program:


5:30- 6:30 p.m

Dr Kathleen LeBesco (Professor of Communication Arts, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Marymount Manhattan College). She wrote the book Revolting Bodies, which I highly recommend. 

Yoni Doyeon Yu- Designer (Parsons BFA Fashion Design senior student)

Tamara Oyola-Santiago (Director, Community Health, Wellness and Health Promotion, The New School University)

Moderator: Aliana Aires (Ph.D. Visiting Scholar/ Researcher)

BREAK 6:30-7:00 p.m Informal discussions (Beverages and snacks will be served)


7:00- 8:30 p.m.

Dr Deborah A Christel (THAT'S ME!) (Assistant Professor, Department of Apparel Merchandising, Design and Textiles, Washington State University)

Greta Valigi- Designer (Lane Bryant/ Parsons BFA Fashion Design alumni, 2014)

John Paul Rangel (Design Director, Full Beauty Brands)

Tianjiao Hayley Qu- Designer (Parsons BFA Fashion Design alumni - Winner of the BFA in Fashion Design Social Innovation Award, 2017)

Moderator: Fiona Dieffenbacher (BFA Fashion Design Program Director: Collection and Product). This event was organized by Parsons School of Fashion Research, Scholarship and Creative Practice Committee.

Here is a summary of my Parsons presentation! I talked about how we (as fashion educators and fashion designers) need to focus on 5 principles in order to create body diversity within the fashion industry. The presentation was based on a manuscript that I had published in 2018

Fat fashion: Fattening pedagogy in apparel design. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320970922_Fat_fashion_Fattening_pedagogy_in_apparel_design [accessed May 17 2018].

1. Connection: 

Teacher / Student relationship: Teacher is a role model and should be empathetic to all individuals. 

  • Teacher must demonstrate empathy
  • We all must share thoughts / feelings
  • This creates genuine, honest, person centered environment
  • We must dismantle hierarchy

2. Critical Reflection

We cannot design or teach from a place of bias. It is important to read about the following topics and to spend time critically reflecting on these. 

3. Language

Designers and Teachers must declare a “Diversity and Etiquette” Statement for their teaching and designing spaces. If we want to create spaces that are inclusive and safe for people of all shapes and sizes, we must set an expectation of what is and isn’t allowed in our spaces (classroom or office).

Here is the statement I used in my classroom - feel free to use it if it feels right to you!

No body talk is allowed in our classroom. Although we work very closely with human bodies, our classroom does not allow any comments regarding good or bad figures, shapes, colors, heights, weights or sizes. In this classroom we recognize and appreciate that all bodies are unique in shape and size. There is no ideal standard for a human figure. We are learning to become designers and it is designers’ job to adorn the human figure, not judge or critique it. As future designers, we understand that all humans deserve equal access to fashionable, comfortable and affordable clothing regardless of body shape or size. Please feel free to come to my office hours to discuss any of these statements.

(copied from) Fat fashion: Fattening pedagogy in apparel design. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320970922_Fat_fashion_Fattening_pedagogy_in_apparel_design [accessed May 17 2018].

It's also important to bring fat people into your space and ask them what language they would like designers to use when working with them (fat, plus-size, curvy, thick). To break down the superiority and elitism with thinness, students / future designers need to hear fat people talk about their experiences.

4. Environment & Equipment

Challenge each other to look for the ways fat bodies are oppressed:

1. Arrange workspace for bodies of all size to easily move
2. Changing areas must be big enough for large bodies to move easily
3. Temperature (body heat increases when changing / trying on) put a fan in each fitting area. People of all sizes increase body heat when changing clothing. 
4. Chairs & walkways must be wide and strong enough. 
5. Measuring tapes must be long enough (96", 120" or longer) OR use yarn or ribbon to measure if a model is triggered by body measurement.
6. Dress forms must be large enough for students / future designers to normalize size diversity. The average American woman has a 37.5" waist which translates to a 16/18 women's clothing size. The mannequins we use must be at least this size. 

7. Illustrations must include fat figures!

5. Activism:

Look for structural ways to incorporate concepts while working within course requirements or design goals at work. Exposing students and colleagues to alternative perspectives allows them to make connections between what they are learning and broader social implications.


1. Bringing fat women into the classroom
2. Create unique promotional materials
3. Evaluate personal bias through a survey BAOP (Allison, Basile & Yuker, 1991)
4. Start clubs
5. Starting the conversation is a form of activism
6. Support Fat Activist on Social Media. Here's a list of our favorites.
yoga travel fat cotton women's plus size panties underwear 100% cotton size inclusive full coverage brief thong short

1 Response

Becca Palm
Becca Palm

May 20, 2018

I’m moved by your presentation ideas. Thank you so much for speaking these words into the world and for using your influence to help others (in this case, those that are serving) to understand, speak, design and act with the same loving respect for everyone as you do. 💕

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