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Lena Dunham on body positivity: 'We want curvy bodies that look like Kim Kardashian has been up-sized slightly'

Erin Donnelly
·4 min read
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Actress and writer Lena Dunham is adding yet another string to her bow, collaborating with the e-tailer 11 Honoré on a plus-size clothing collection. But according to a new profile in the New York Times, "plus size" is one of a handful of terms framed around larger bodies that frustrate Dunham, who has herself "settled into a Size 14 to 16."

"Body positivity" is another loaded term for the Girls star, who last year posted on Instagram about feeling more "body tolerant" than "body positive." 

“The thing that’s complicated about the body-positive movement is it can be for the privileged few who have a body that looks the way people want to feel positive," Dunham told the Times. "We want curvy bodies that look like Kim Kardashian has been up-sized slightly. We want big beautiful butts and big beautiful breasts and no cellulite and faces that look like you could smack them on to thin women.”

Dunham, who hasn't shied away showing off her figure on-screen and off, suggested that her body doesn't fit into this category. 

“I have a big stomach, I always have. That’s where I gain my weight — especially after early menopause, I have a straight-up gut, like an old man — and that’s not where anybody wants to see flesh," the 34-year-old, who underwent a hysterectomy after struggling with endometriosis, shared. "It’s not like if I posted a sensual nude of myself on Instagram, people would be marveling at my beautiful derrière.”

The 11 Honoré x Lena Dunham line consists of just five items sized from 12 to 26, with prices ranging from $98 to $298. Dunham hopes that the capsule collection will fill an underserved need for witty wares that curvier bodies can wear, too. She's also created pieces that she's personally struggled to find in tune with her body — such as a miniskirt that won't ride up in the back and show "what my mother would refer to as my pupick.”

"What I really love in fashion is a certain level of playfulness and winky intelligence that people just don’t think bigger women want or understand," she said. "No one thinks plus women have a sense of humor, and if they do, it’s, ‘We’re going to put a watermelon on your skirt, you sassy girl!’ None of it has subtlety or true sophistication.

“There’s so much judgment around bigger bodies, and I think one of the judgments is that bigger women are stupider,” she continued. “They eat too much and don’t know how to stop. Thin women must be discerning and able to use their willpower. Bigger women must be limited in their understanding of the world, and they keep doing things that are bad for them. The amount of people who have written to me on my page: ‘You’re promoting obesity. Don’t you understand you’re killing yourself. Are you stupid? Why are you doing that?’”

Indeed, her own recent post announcing her fashion line was met with a fair share of body-shaming comments — most of them from other women. 

“The thing that’s been really interesting is how angry it makes people when you dress like yourself,” she noted. “It’s not, ‘Oh, I don’t like that dress.’ It’s, ‘How dare you?’ And it’s fascinating how much of that comes from other women with bodies that look like mine. It’s not a male gym rat. It’s other women who have been indoctrinated with the same message: ‘Didn’t you get the memo? We’re all doing this. We’re all going to wear the Spanx.’”

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Dunham, meanwhile, doesn't wear Spanx, or even a bra on most occasions. Loungewear, even in the quarantine era of tie-dyed sweats, is also a minefield, and something she has no current plans to include in her plus-size collection.

"If a thin girl wears sweatpants, it’s kind of cute — like, ‘I’m having a rough day!’” she explained “But for a chubby girl it’s, ‘You’ve made a lifestyle choice to give up.’”

Whether it's through her own clothing line or her red carpet looks, Dunham hopes that her bold take on personal style will empower younger women with big bodies and too little representation. 

"The only way I’ve been able to make the red carpet interesting, or in any way meaningful, is to be myself with no concern for whether the people who are watching are going to anoint it best or worst anything, because then at least I’m saying something about being a woman in this body that only I can say," she shared. "And maybe there’s some girl at home going to her prom and she feels like she doesn’t have the right body and she sees me in this weird nutty dress and she feels like, ‘If that girl can go to the Emmys dressed like that, then maybe I can show up to my junior prom dressed like this.’”

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