Watching the models strut down the runway at fashion week, and we all can’t help but wonder whether those garments would look as good on women who don’t happen to fit the “sample size.” In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all for most pieces: We come in a vast variety of shapes, some with larger hips, a narrower waist, or a fuller bust.
It’s the designers who embrace this fact, keeping diversity in mind and offering pieces that work for a range of women’s body types, that stand out.
That’s why we rounded up a slew of fashion designers who are skilled in designing for real women—in every shape and size.
This should say it all: Carrie Hammer organized a recurring fashion show that boasts the title “Role Models Not Runway Models.” The idea behind this show is that the women coming down the catwalk are entrepreneurs, journalists, athletes, business moguls—accomplished in their own rights, yet diverse. By casting real women instead of traditional models, Hammer showed that she truly can design for any shape or size.
She’s known for universally flattering dresses that hug the waist, have a modest three-quarter-length sleeve and a full, voluminous skirt. Many designs feature belts that cinch the waist, showing off a woman’s hourglass shape, while unexpected details like a leather horizontal band, silk collar, or lace front panel add intrigue.
The ultra-inclusive Courtney Noelle line boasts a size range of 2 through 28, and you’ll notice that the women modeling the clothes on her online store showcase a range of body types. As she states on her website, “Courtney Noelle isn’t made for any one size in particular; rather, Courtney designs for an attitude.”
Noelle’s mission is to instill confidence in wearers, empowering them to embrace their individual shapes. You can expect a lot of fashion-forward frocks, bold bodycon dresses, and glam detailing in her collections—with every piece striking a balance between sassy and sophisticated. Mary Lambert and Gabourey Sidibe are just two celebrities who have been seen sporting Noelle’s designs.
This designer distinguishes himself by keeping practicality at the top of his mind. Peter Som, who is known for feminine designs that never look too frou-frou, told O, The Oprah Magazine, that he asks himself a lot of questions with every design—such as whether the wearer will feel confident in a sleeveless piece, whether she can do the buttons in the back, and whether she can wear an adequately supportive plus size bra underneath without it showing.
He’s also all about versatility—dresses that come with a matching jacket for professional or daytime occasions, which can then be removed for a night out on the town. Som’s garments have a lot of structure, with their sexiness coming from the silhouette as opposed to a skin-baring cut. The fact that Som’s own mother likes wearing his collection shows that his designs work well for all ages, too.
Hackwith Design House
Designer Lisa Hackwith explains on her website: “Hackwith Design House started with the goal of making clothing as unique as the wearer.” To this end, she only makes 25 of each design in the Core Collection, Swim, Basics, and Plus lines. By making a limited number of each piece, Hackwith makes each garment feel special.
The designs include basics like structured button-down tunics and cotton shirt dresses, as well as unique pieces, like a wide-leg jumper with a sash and raw-edge hems. Each and every design is made in the U.S. (at their Minnesota studio). HDH Plus offers a size range of 14 to 28 with timeless, minimalist designs that are easy to throw on and still look put together.
Not only does MILLY, a line by designer Michelle Smith, have something for everyone regardless of shape or style, but she also sells pieces that women with differing budgets can afford. Smith’s garments are both high-quality and chic but, most importantly, they’re wearable.
To this end, she produces more than one version of styles—for example, a sleeveless dress for the woman who’s confident about her arms and another with sleeves for someone who prefers to showcase a different asset.
She also constructs skirts with a larger hem so that a woman can let it down if it feels too short for her comfort level. The playful prints, energizing colors, and eye-catching details are bound to brighten up your closet. Moreover, the clothes manage to work for women in their 20s just as easily as for women in their 50s and 60s.
There’s a reason why Philip Lim won a Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent for his womenswear just a couple years after launching the label. “I never think in terms of age, class, or race,” he told O, The Oprah Magazine, “My line is more about kindred spirits.”
You’ll surely appreciate the practical details his designs have, such as functional pockets on dresses, but the best part is that Lim shapes his garments on real women with curves to make sure they fall nicely, accommodate hips and a bust, and aren’t too revealing. Somehow, he manages to strike a compromise between trendy and classic with each and every piece.
This designer made a splash when he integrated plus-sized models into his runway show. Christian Siriano also launched a line with Lane Bryant for plus-sized women, further solidifying his reputation as a body-inclusive designer.
Additionally, when plus-sized actress Leslie Jones complained on Twitter that she couldn’t find a designer to dress her for the “Ghostbusters” premiere, Siriano saved the day and took on the job.
Ashley Graham, Danielle Brooks, and Christina Hendricks are just a few other stars who happen to be big fans of his designs. His pieces tend to be attention-grabbing without being too showy, such as pastel high-waisted wide-leg pants with a matching blazer, or a flowing silky jewel-toned tunic that can be donned over a no wire bra.