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Why Are Fashion Retailers Still Neglecting Plus Size Bodies?

When I was a teenager there was nothing I feared more than shopping. Party invitations were met with the knowledge that I’d have to venture out and find an outfit. A convoluted mixture of wanting to feel fashionable and wanting to fit in lead me to the local shopping centre. Their windows filled with gorgeous colour combinations and striking models drew me in, but the minimal size range threw me out. As a high schooler, not fitting into the latest and greatest was mortifying. Standing in the change rooms underneath the downward lighting brought forth a deep seeded fear of shopping. Like a rejection text after a good date, I wanted things to work, but big brands were simply telling me “it’s not me, it’s you.” Years on, changes within the industry now provide me with more options yet it is far from ideal. As a consumer I believe it’s my duty to show support for brands who are making the effort to support women of all sizes. In hopes that my dutiful actions can prevent another teenage girl from feeling like she has to change to fit her clothes.

By Natalie Dawson

Plus Size Fashion Is Almost There, But Not Quite

Plus size fashion has moved mountains since it’s almost non-existent beginnings. There are now far more options for plus size women and these options are both fashionable and affordable. In the past it was a never-ending search to the back of the store, shuffling through over-sized t-shirts that lacked design and shape.

Women of varying proportions are now seen all throughout media – film and television included. Yet, much like with all good things there can be room for improvement.

A certain standard has fallen upon the curvaceous figure. The hourglass shape rules the runway placing new expectations on plus size women. The larger sizes lining the racks of our favourite stores are designed to fit a tailored waist, full bust and seductive hips. Completely normal characteristics of plus size women such as larger stomachs, thighs, arms and love handles are seemingly not taken into account.

There is appreciation for brands catering to plus size women, but there is minimal consistency. In some cases the design of the dress isn’t changed to accommodate the natural features of a curvy woman; in others, the item of clothing is made wider, but not longer — regardless of height, length is crucial as sizes go up

No body is identical, minor differences isn’t what’s being criticized. It’s the lack of understanding or willingness to understand that plus size bodies have different needs. Constantly running into the same issues over an array brands is disheartening. Finding a flexible brand is like finding a diamond in the rough.

Online Outlets Aren’t Enough

Not enough praise can be given to online fashion resources that provide women with plus size fashion options. They go above and beyond to provide plenty of choice alongside assistance with measurements. Although making purchases online shouldn’t be the only option for curvy women. The notion of going into a store and picking something off the rack is far easier than waiting a week for a item that might not fit. The trek to return packages at the post office grows tiresome after a while.

So, what is within walking distance?

Decjuba [6 – 16], Sportsgirl [4 – 16], TopShop [4 – 18], Gorman [4 – 16], Forever New [4 – 18], Sussan [6 – 18], Cotton On [4 – 18], Target [4 – 20], Kmart [6 – 20], Adidas [6 – 18].

These brands are by no means perfect in their execution, but a wider range of in-store sizing is a step-up from the rest. Sometimes things crop up and it’s not possible to order online. Having the option to try items on and see how they fit before making a purchase is an experience every woman should have.

Websites – such as ASOS – do their best to make up for this flaw through free returns. It takes the pressure off committing to an item of clothing entirely before you’ve even felt it in your hands. They also have tall and petite divisions to help customers find a look that is sure to flatter.

But online marketing also has its downfalls. ShowPo is praised for their plus size clothing options, yet taking scroll through their Instagram feed tells a different story. Founder Jane Lu said in an interview with The Sunday Morning Herald that curve models on their own don’t attract as much engagement as petite models.

Swimwear & Lingerie

When scrolling through a plus size fashion models Instagram account, seemingly the only brands on show are curve swimwear and lingerie lines.

It’s incredible to see women celebrating and loving their bodies, but eventually winter rolls around and clothes are essential.

Of course, undergarments and swimsuits are important parts of a woman’s wardrobe, but it isn’t the only item of clothing one owns. Plus size models are notoriously cast in these campaigns over high-fashion editorial shoots. Why is that?

Consumers want to see models their own size in a range of different campaigns. From high fashion to commercial wear, plus size women can express their confidence no matter what they’re wearing. 

The way to help women feel confident is the promote the use of plus size models in all aspects of modelling media.

Read: 7 Lingerie Retailers That Are Celebrating Body Diversity

Swimwear and lingerie brands that support plus size women are crucial parts of the movement, yet it seems to stop there. The reality goes beyond laughing in our bathers. Clothing is essential, yet the racks stop at size 18. Googling images of “models” versus “plus size models” shows a drastic difference in content. In the first row for “models” there is only one revealing shot compared to the seven for “plus size models.”

Some women have no interest in bikini’s and lingerie, so therefore are never going to see the beautiful women advertising these products. Jackets, coats, fragrances, dresses, skirts, the list goes on – curve models can rock these items too!

Celebrity Endorsement

The lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous can sometimes feel otherworldly. There is minimal personal connection between the average consumer and big name celebrities. Mega stars relate to their fans through social media, where it’s humbling to witness the raw realities of these talented people. Especially when it comes to body acceptance and self-love.

It’s hard to imagine their lives being anything less than perfect, but through their platforms models, musicians and actors alike have exposed their own difficulties with the fashion and beauty industries.

Artist Bebe Rexha called out designers in bulk as she struggled to find someone to dress her size 8 frame for the 2019 Grammy Awards. “I had my team hit out a lot of designers, and a lot of them do not want to dress me because I’m too big. Literally, like, I’m too big…” she said in an Instagram video.

The disheartening fact is that Bebe Rexha sits underneath the national size average for women. 

Musical sensation Lizzo often comments on her disinterest in designers that don’t want to accommodate for her and her body.“If you’re not making clothes for me, and if you don’t want to make clothes for me, I don’t want to wear your [designs]. I look good in other things anyway. But if you want to change the game and dress a fat body, call me,” she said in an interview with Allure Magazine.

It’s so hard trying to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back. So I want to take the opportunity right now to just feel good as hell because you deserve to feel good as hell!” she said to Metro. Lizzo’s approach to fashion is admirable as brands that are unwilling to support all women in turn shouldn’t be supported.

What Needs To Be Done?

Making change throughout the fashion industry will require work from more than just curvy women. The best way to support your fellow women is to show support for the brands that are doing the right thing. Progression in fashion isn’t about cancelling once size to cater for another, it’s about including a wider selection of styles for everyone to enjoy.

Regardless of opinions, finding clothing and being able to feel beautiful and stylish is a human necessity. A poor sense of self-worth is planted through consistent rejection. Brands not catering to women of varying size creates another layer of ‘othering‘ on top of pre-existing societal expectations.

Shopping for clothes as a plus size woman still requires a little more digging, there is a silver lining. Finding brands that fit well is a beautiful moment all woman can relate to. Despite misconceptions there are retailers that provide fashion options for curvaceous women. It’s finding them that can be the challenge.

Diligent research and knowing your exact measurements can make shopping a lot easier. Many online retailers have the measurements of both the model and the garment on their websites. Use this information and save yourself a trip to the post office!

The industry is continuously changing. Where some brands lack progression, others are skyrocketing by expanding their market. It’s important to acknowledge the efforts of inclusive retailers, as this will encourage other brands to follow suit.

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