Leslie Jones wore a gorgeous red Christian Siriano dress to the Ghostbusters premiere in Los Angeles on Saturday. This shouldn’t be news: Actresses wear beautiful designer gowns to movie premieres all the time. But for Jones, stepping onto the red carpet (which was technically green, in this case) in her off-the-shoulder frock was the culmination of a needlessly difficult process that laid bare the fashion industry’s sizeism and racism.
Two weeks ago, Jones tweeted that she’d been unable to find a designer willing to dress her for the premiere, even though her management had been asking around “for months.”
Jones is 6 feet tall with a lean, athletic build—statuesque but not sample size. She’s also black, and you might detect a whiff of racism in designers’ refusal to work with her. The Hollywood Reporter’s hot take on the issue, in which stylists suggested that Jones was simply too unsophisticated to realize she’d need to approach designers early for a custom-made dress, certainly didn’t ameliorate the impression that much of the fashion industry has a problem with women who aren’t skinny and white.
Siriano came through with the bespoke dress, proving that it’s actually possible for designers to create custom dresses on short notice, no matter what the Hollywood Reporter says. And the Project Runway alum also pointed out that he really didn’t deserve praise for fulfilling the basic task we entrust to designers: making clothes for people to wear.
In an interview with Mic last week, Siriano emphasized that if the fashion media wants to make it easier for women of size to get dresses for the red carpet, it needs to cover larger women’s fashion choices in exactly the same way they cover skinny women’s fashion choices. “I am going to count how many of all these outlets are actually going to run the photos of Leslie on the red carpet,” Siriano told Mic. Lo, many outlets came through, with headlines declaring “Leslie Jones Slayed,” “Leslie Jones Stuns,” and “Leslie Jones Looked Like About 10 Trillion Bucks.” (There were also a couple of less than enthusiastic headlines, like “Leslie Jones found someone to dress her” and “This Is What Leslie Jones Ended Up Wearing to the ‘Ghostbusters’ Premiere.”) Most of the articles on Jones’ dress emphasized that Siriano “stepped in,” “came to the rescue,” or “swooped in with the save”—essentially, commending him for doing the bare minimum of what we should expect from designers to the stars.
But Siriano is absolutely right: It shouldn’t be remarkable when a designer dresses a woman who’s not proportioned like a supermodel. That’s why I’m not congratulating Siriano for doing the right thing by making a dress for Jones—I’m merely acknowledging that he did his job, whereas some number of other designers did not. In a decent world, Jones would be able to borrow or commission a dress from any designer of her choosing. She’d make headlines because of her excellent taste, instead of making headlines because fashion’s ridiculous sizing standards almost prevented her from showing it off.