No Laughing Matter: Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy and the Shifting Discourse of Plus-Size


Lauren Downing Peters

National Popular Culture Association Annual Conference (Seattle, Washington)


The celebrity fashion line is typically an outgrowth of a star’s reputation as a fashion icon. Indeed, celebrity-designers such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwen Stefani and Jay-Z have found great success in translating their idiosyncratic and iconic personal styles into fashions for the masses. In the increasingly crowded market for celebrity-branded clothing, however, comediennes Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson have emerged as the unlikely brand ambassadors of their own eponymous plus-size collections.

Their forays into fashion are perhaps improbable because, as self-identifying fat women, both have been open about their ambivalent relationships with fashion and dress, and have outwardly expressed their contempt for the plus-size fashion industry. This may be glimpsed in the public relations blitz that has surrounded the launch of their respective lines. Blending humor, activist discourse and personal narrative, both McCarthy and Wilson have presented their collections as efforts to affect change in an industry that has historically marginalized and stigmatized the bodies of fat women. However, this engaging discourse has largely glossed over discussions and descriptions of clothing, begging the question, do their collections present a true rupture in plus-size fashion design?  

Through a discourse analysis of the media that has accompanied the launch of McCarthy’s and Wilson’s fashion lines—including interviews, advertisements, reviews and editorial fashion spreads collected from mainstream American fashion and women’s periodicals and websites—this presentation will explore how these two unlikely plus-size fashion advocates have merged their own bodily habitus as fat women with humor and activist rhetoric to evolve the discourses of plus-size fashion to be more fashion-forward and inclusive. Paralleled with a visual analysis of the garments in their respective lines, this paper will explore how, if at all, the activist discourses espoused by the actresses are upheld in the design of their garments.

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  • Typ:
    Konferensbidrag (övrigt (populärvetenskap, debatt, mm))
  • Konferens:
    National Popular Culture Association Annual Conference (Seattle, Washington)
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Om författaren

Lauren Downing Peters

Lauren Downing Peters is a PhD student at the Centre for Fashion Studies. Prior to beginning her studies at the Centre, Lauren graduated summa kum laude from Washington University in St. Louis where she received her BA in art history and anthropol... Läs vidare


Downing Peters, L. (2016). No Laughing Matter: Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy and the Shifting Discourse of Plus-Size. In: National Popular Culture Association Annual Conference (Seattle, Washington).