Although women make up the majority of clothing consumers, the fashion industry has had a longstanding habit of excluding plus-size women from getting accessible, stylish clothing. Instead of being able to run into their favorite store and swoop something off the rack, plus-size women have had to search online or travel to specialty boutiques to find clothes that fit them, making shopping more of a chore than a joy. On top of this, many brands fail to present plus-size women in their marketing materials, reinforcing the notion that standard sizes are the so-called “norm” of female fashion, when that simply isn’t the case.
Plus-size women exist, and they deserve to be included in the fashion conversation. Luckily, as the 21st century has progressed, we’ve come to see an increase in fashion brands that cater to plus-size women, but we still have a long way to go. How can the fashion industry support women of all sizes? Let’s discuss!
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A Brief History of Plus-Size Fashion
Plus-size women have been around since the beginning of time, but did you know, plus-size models weren’t represented in the fashion industry until the 1970s? Even with more plus-size models entering the fashion world in the decades to follow, the fashion industry has marketed plus-size clothing as a specialty form of clothing rather than the norm. On top of that, the mainstream media has assisted in making plus-size clothing seem “other” thanks to countless advertisement campaigns focused on weight loss, an unequal representation of plus-size models in magazines and fashion editorial spreads, and TV shows and movies that feature a lack of plus-size women. As such, plus-size women haven’t been shown the support from the fashion industry that they rightly deserve.
What is Considered Plus-Size?
The fashion industry typically defines plus-size clothing to be size 18 and up, or 1X-6X. However, sizing across different brands is hardly consistent. Some brands consider a size 10 and above to be “plus,” when this is technically not so. The sizing incongruities between different brands can make shopping incredibly hard for plus-size women.
How Can the Fashion Industry Support Women of All Sizes?
While some brands have taken the steps to support women of all sizes, much more needs to be done for plus-size women to achieve parity within the fashion industry. Some ways that fashion brands have helped to support plus-size women are:
- Make Plus-Size Options Easily Available: The easiest thing that fashion brands can do to support plus-size consumers is to provide a wider range of sizes for popular styles. Plus-size women deserve to enjoy the same stylish options that standard size women do. In addition to this, brands should work to offer a wide range of plus-size options in store as well as online: often, stores will only carry a limited amount of plus-size pieces. In order to change this, fashion brands should work to make all plus-sizes, from 1X to 6X, available in their brick-and-mortar stores, so plus-size shoppers can try on clothes, instead of having to buy them online first.
- Include Marketing that Features Plus-Size Models: When a fashion brand only creates marketing material featuring women who are a size 2 or below, it can make plus-size women feel like they’d never fit in the same kind of clothes. By creating marketing campaigns that are inclusive of standard size and plus-size women, fashion brands can be more supportive of women of every shape and size. In addition to this, many fashion brands get the word out about their products through promotional posts made by influencers, who will model their clothes and review them. Plus-size influencers should absolutely be included in these marketing campaigns, to show other plus-size women that a fashion brand has options for them too.
- Host Fashion Shows That Showcase Plus-Size Fashion: New York Fashion Week is one of the biggest events of the year for the fashion industry, especially for high fashion and couture brands. Thankfully, more and more plus-size models are getting to walk in New York Fashion Week shows each year. When high fashion designers include plus-size models in their shows, it demonstrates a more inclusive version of the fashion industry, making space for women in bigger bodies to enjoy couture looks that haven’t traditionally been made available to them.
Every body is beautiful, and no woman should feel that she has to change herself for the sake of being a certain clothing size. For far too long, plus-size women have been excluded from the fashion industry. While things are moving in the right direction, there’s still much to be done to give plus-size women the support they need in the fashion world. Brands can help by offering plus-size options in store, creating marketing materials that include plus-size women, and hosting fashion shows with plus-size models. With more visibility comes change, and plus-size women deserve to be seen front and center on the stage of the fashion world.