Plus Size Mannequins Did Not Exist In The Fashion Industry Until 2 Students Designed One

Cornell University apparel design students Brandon Wen and Laura Zwanziger wanted to create a plus-size clothing line together to fill a gap in the market. But they were stopped by a barrier: they couldn’t find any adequate plus size mannequins or dress forms that they could work from.

Anything they did find was a botched up version of a thin mannequin, and thus they changed the focus of their Project Development class project from a plus-size clothing range, to creating plus size dress forms and mannequins for the market.

They say the fuller figured clothing market is a largely overlooked one and they wanted to do something to change that.


Under the guidance of Susan Ashdown, the Helen G. Canoyer Professor in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD) in the College of Human Ecology, they analyzed thousands of 3-D body scans of women to define a prototype body size and shape. The team matched it to a single scan of a pear-shaped, size-24 woman from the FSAD department’s 3-D body scanner and used it to develop a pattern for the shape and contours of their mannequin.

Next they used the department’s laser cutter to slice half-inch think pieces of foam and stacked and glued the layers to create their model, a half-scale dress form that allows designers to develop prototype garment patterns that can later be replicated at full scale.

Ashdown says it is a great display of using innovative technology to implement change in the design industry. “Instead of just scaling up something designed for a different-sized woman, or even thinking about clothing as something to disguise a body or make a body look different than it is, the students sought to celebrate shape as it really is.”

The students created a clothing collection based on their mannequin prototype and called it Ruben’s Women, after the Flemish painter famous for his illustrations of full-figured women. So far the collection has 4 jackets, a skirt and a pair of pants which are tailored to complement curvier women.


“A lot of stores won’t have plus sizes in the store, so people have to go online and find them, and it’s difficult to find them online,” Wen said. “Plus, a lot of plus-size women don’t want to shop in regular stores around thin customers; it’s a self-consciousness thing.”

Their idea came after some research showed plus size women account for nearly 30% of the apparel buying market, so they wanted to tap into that market and create something that would perhaps enlarge those numbers in the future.

“A lot of the clothes [for plus-size women] are really just sized up from smaller proportions, which fit really strangely,” Zwanziger said. “Plus-size women feel alienated from the fashion industry.”

They place great importance on the creation of a plus size fashion line. They realized it is not just about making bigger garments, but understanding bodies are different proportions when they are bigger.

“Issues of health aside, we’re all different body shapes and body proportions,” she said. “Each person deserves to have clothing designed for them as they are, not as they relate to some abstract industry shape.”

Why aren’t there better design technologies for plus sized clothing? How come it takes 2 students to realize the need for this? Women’s bodies, no matter what they look like, deserve to be catered for by the clothing industry and we are just glad there are advocates out there for inclusivity.



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