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Plus size fashion pioneer Nancye Radmin dies at 82

Nancye Radmin, a plus size fashion pioneer who for two decades ran an upscale chain of stores, The Forgotten Woman, who served a group of women who had otherwise been overlooked by haute couture, died on December 8 in his home in Lakeland, Florida. She was 82 years old.

The death was confirmed by his son Brett Radmin.

For most of her life, Mrs Radmin has revolved around a size 8 and preferred to wear fine fabrics like cashmere and jacquard. But by her second pregnancy, in 1976, she had gained 80 pounds and was 16 years old. her size.

“Fat,” she told Newsweek in 1991, “was the F-word of fashion.”

“Absolutely nothing fancy was available,” she added. “I just knew I wasn’t the only fat woman in New York City.

With $ 10,000 she borrowed from her husband, Mrs. Radmin set out to start her own business – a boutique filled with the kind of high-end clothes she wanted to wear.

In 1977, she opened the Forgotten Woman at 888 Lexington Avenue on the fashionable Upper East Side. The store’s name referred to its clientele, women who wore sizes larger than most manufactured fashion designers – and, perhaps, a culture that ignored them too.

Prices were steep: a faux Persian lamb fur coat from Searle was $ 595, and an iridescent pink silk Kip Kirkendall dress was $ 1,850.

By 1991, it had 25 stores across the country, with annual sales of $ 40 million.

“People forget that the older, taller woman usually leads a dressy social life,” she told the New York Times in 1983. “She’s the mother of the bride, she goes to formal dinners with her. prosperous husband and she can take pearls. and bright colors that could overwhelm a petite woman.

Plus size clothing typically starts at size 14, and today the average size for women’s clothing in the United States is between 14 and 16. The plus size women’s clothing market was valued at $ 9.8 billion. dollars in 2019, according to market research firm Statista.

But in the late 1970s, the concept of plus size fashion was an anomaly. Yet Ms. Radmin’s store spoke directly to the burgeoning idea of ​​bodily acceptance, a product of the women’s liberation movement of that decade.

“If you look at the history of fashion for taller women, it was either invisible, ghettoized, or incredibly obnoxious,” Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, associate professor of history at the New School in New York City, said at the conference. ‘a telephone interview. “The Forgotten Women as an attractive, upscale plus size clothing store was a radically inclusive concept at the time from the perspective of fat women who deserved to see themselves as fashionable women who deserved to shop. trip.”

Ms Radmin reached out to the makers of Seventh Avenue, many of whom called her the ‘Crazy Nancye’, to have some of her favorite clothes made for plus sizes.

She also urged designers to create more plus size clothing. Some, like Oscar de la Renta, took a bit of convincing, but even he created evening dresses for his stores, just like Geoffrey Beene, Bob Mackie and Pauline Trigère.

The Forgotten Women stores had a “Sugar Daddy Bar” for the male companions of shoppers to entertain, stocked with Korbel champagne, tea sandwiches and miniature muffins. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Roseanne Barr, Nell Carter and Tyne Daly have shopped there. Stores have been strategically opened in shopping streets like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to show shoppers they are just as entitled to spend the money as their skinny counterparts.

“We wanted the customer to feel important and unhindered,” said Dane O’Neal, who worked in the chain’s merchandising.

Nancye Jo Bullard was born on August 4, 1938 in Nashville to Joe and Jane (Johnson) Bullard. She grew up on her father’s farm in Cochran, Georgia, where he harvested peanuts and cotton. Her mother was a registered nurse.

Even as a child, Nancye was enterprising, selling peanuts around the corner to earn extra money.

She attended Middle Georgia College (now Middle Georgia State University), but left before graduating to travel. She then worked as a secretary and moved to New York City in the late 1960s.

In 1967, she met Mack Radmin, a widower 23 years her senior who worked in the kosher meat trade. She converted to Judaism for him (she had been raised in Southern Baptist) and they were married in 1968.

Ms. Radmin often called the early years of her marriage her “Barbie doll days,” as she weighed 110 pounds, wore a size 4, and spent a lot of time shopping and dining in Manhattan.

Mr. Radmin died in 1996. Besides her son Brett, she is survived by another son, William Kyle Radmin; two sisters, Michelle Moody and Cheryle Janelli; and four grandchildren.

In 1989, Ms. Radmin sold part of the Forgotten Woman channel to venture capitalists. In 1998, the forgotten woman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The remaining nine stores were closed at the end of that year.

By this time, department stores had established themselves in the plus size market and started selling clothing in more sizes.

Mrs. Radmin didn’t think much of it. “I have no competition,” she told People magazine in 1988. “I only have imitators.”

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