Although Ashley Graham felt “confident and sexy” in her custom H&M gown at the Met Gala in May, serving one of the best looks of the night, the story for last year’s annual event was entirely different.
Speaking to New York magazine’s “The Cut” for its September issue, which she covers in cheetah-print lingerie against the same animal-print background, the size 14 model admitted that designers didn’t want to dress her for the Anna Wintour Costume Center’s fundraiser in 2016.
For what’s considered the Oscars of fashion, brands invite celebrities, who are then approved by the Vogue editor-in-chief, and create a couture gown relating to that year’s theme.
“I couldn’t get a designer to dress me,” Graham said. “You can’t just show up in jeans and a T-shirt.”
Graham insisted that her size wasn’t an issue, and that while she was “on hold” (a preface to an official invitation) by the organizers of the event, she didn’t have the right connections or enough time for a custom dress to be made.
However, despite her explicitly denying her curvy status played a major role in her nonattendance, it was likely at least a factor, considering fashion designers’ typical sample size is around 6 to 8.
This isn’t the first sign of adversity that the 29-year-old model has faced. Her cover shoot for the January issue of British Vogue was more of a struggle than it appeared after several designers outright declined to provide provisions.
Former editor Alexandra Shulman thanked Coach for its help but did make a point of saying that “sadly, there were other houses that flatly refused to lend us their clothes.”
Fortunately, Graham is now able to borrow clothes from almost any designer she likes — because she’s a supermodel — but admits that her stylist “will aggressively tear off sleeves, lower bust lines, and add slits to better suit her body.”
Graham herself knows that the road ahead is tough but will continue to act as a pioneer for the body positivity movement.
During her photo shoot for New York magazine, she was seen pointing out areas that she was worried might get retouched, asking the editing team not to do it. The model even said, “It’s better to keep the cellulite if you can.”
Other stars have also commented on some designers’ lack of leeway when it comes to dressing anyone bigger than a size 8.
Size 6 actress Bryce Dallas Howard has bought multiple red carpet dresses herself from brands such as TopShop and Self-Portrait, because of the lack of options available to loan. She works with a stylist when it makes sense, though. “If there’s time to prepare, if there’s a nomination and the designer is going to be able to build a dress. That’s not normally the circumstance. It was such a relief when I was finally like, ‘I want to feel relaxed, I want to be able to do this quickly, and I want to feel good about myself,’” she told Yahoo Style.
Comedy queen Melissa McCarthy also lamented the lack of options for ‘bigger’ women. “Two Oscars ago, I couldn’t find anybody to do a dress for me,” she told Redbook. “I asked five or six designers — very high-level ones who make lots of dresses for people — and they all said no.”
Other stars who have struggled to find dresses for the red carpet include Christina Hendricks, Orange Is the New Black’s Dascha Polanco, and Jennifer Hudson — who was sadly only inundated with options after losing weight.
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