Plus-size fashion has been a topic of contention for a long while now. Despite the fact that around 60% of women wear a ‘plus size’ (plus size being defined as anything above a size 14, despite the fact that the average UK woman is a size 16, but that’s a whole other blog post), most fashion retailers don’t carry anything above a size 14-16. And those who do decide to stock some of the bigger sizes often do so by simply adding more fabric to their existing lines, which were designed for smaller body sizes. This is all in the name of inclusivity, but it’s an issue for a number of reasons. Mainly because inclusivity doesn’t always mean equality, and right now we need more brands who are able to tell the difference, and provide plus-sized clothing that caters to the consumers real-world needs. If you’re a fashion brand and you’re not sure what we mean by this, we have 5 things for you to consider.
Plus Size Swimwear
Swimwear is always a difficult topic for plus-sized women. But since the ‘fatkini’ movement took off in 2012, it’s been something empowering too. Before this movement, two-piece swimsuits were largely considered as a ‘no-go’ for plus-sized women – being reserved only for comedy sketches in TV sitcoms. But now, plus-sized models are empowering women of all shapes and sizes to rock a bikini at the beach. The problem is, if you want to wear a two-piece as a larger woman, you are pretty much limited to the high rise variety. These styles cover up a lot of your stomach while still being two-piece, and have given women the confidence to bare it on the beach. But they aren’t for everyone. Maybe if there were more options in the low-rise bikini department, we might love our tummies even more, and open up swimwear to those who don’t like or don’t suit the traditional high-waisted ‘fatkini’.
Plus Size Glass Ceiling
Visit the plus-size section of any e-commerce or real world shop, and check out the sizes on the clothes tags. What’s the biggest size there? Go on, we’ll wait. Done? What was the biggest size you found? Odds are, it’s a size 3XL. As with any shop, sizes can vary, so what is a 3XL in one shop could be a 1XL or 2XL in another. But a 3XL typically fits a size 20-24, and can accommodate up to 52-inch hips. At the end of the day, that’s not very inclusive. Women come in bigger sizes than a 3XL, and there are plenty of women who are left out by this glass ceiling of sizing. To be truly inclusive of plus-sized women, fashion brands need to embrace the 4XL and above sized women and acknowledge them by stocking sizes appropriate for them. That feeling and that acceptance shouldn’t have a size limit.
Physical Shops Keep Their Plus Sized Lines Hidden Away
Go to any physical store that sells a plus-sized line, and you are likely to find the majority of the shop dedicated to ‘standard’ sized lines. When you do eventually find the plus-sized section, it’s hidden away at the back of the shop, in a corner as far from the door as you can. There you will find a few racks, holding a bland assortment of monochromatic T-shirts, some shapeless jeans thrown on a table and a couple of decent crop tops, shorts and assorted ‘extras’. This subtle shunning of plus-sized lines is not only disheartening for plus-sized women, but it often ends up leaving them feeling deflated, and not really drawn to anything contained in the line. But if fashion brands were to promote their plus-sized lines in the same way as their other lines, they may find that shoppers are happier to be there and buy their stock. They could leave thousands of women feeling good about themselves when they go shopping in the real world.
Plus Sized Does Not Mean Scaled Up
This one is really important, and this is why. The majority of fashion retailers (who don’t specialise in plus-sized clothing) don’t supply a dedicated line for plus-sized shoppers. Instead, they will simply scale up the lines they already stock to include bigger sizes. This might sound like inclusivity, but it comes with a major drawback. Those items are usually designed for women with a size 8-10 figure, which is a lot different to your average size 18! These clothes don’t account for the variations between straight size bodies and plus-sized bodies, and the many variations within plus-sized bodies themselves. These clothes weren’t built with love handles, bingo wings or rounder bellies in mind. They might be loose in some places, but ridiculously tight in others. But when plus-sized clothes are made with plus-sized bodies in mind, you don’t feel like it’s your belly against the fabric. You don’t feel the problem areas on display, because the clothing is forgiving and comfortable. As though it was designed just for you.
Short and Tall Are Rarities
Women come in all shapes and sizes – and that isn’t just limited to weight. Just like ‘regular’ sized women, plus-sized women can be taller or shorter than average. The problem is, so much focus is put on just expanding the fabric, that retailers often forget that we can be tall or short too. It’s quite rare to visit the plus-sized section of a retailer and see a choice between short, regular or tall in jeans, like you would in regular sizes. This often leaves plus-sized women who are taller or shorter having to decide between wearing jeans that don’t cover their ankles, or pairs that they risk tripping over with every step. While we are grateful to have a plus-sized option at all, height differences are something that should also be taken into account.
Don’t get us wrong – we aren’t trying to belittle the amazing efforts of the fashion industry to include plus-sized women in their product lines. There has been some incredible progress made over the last decade to include more options for plus-sized women, and the body positivity movement has a lot to do with that. But this is a marathon, not a sprint, and there is still a long way to go. And the best way that fashion brands can improve their offerings is to listen to the people they are catering to – the plus-sized community. At Elle Courbee, we have hand selected our range to suit plus-sized women of all shapes and sizes, all designed to make you feel as confident as you deserve to be. To find out more, just browse our collections, or leave us a comment with your opinion on the plus-sized fashion world!