Imagine trying on five pairs of the same-style size 18 shorts in a small, poorly lit dressing room because each pair you try on frustratingly fits differently. Or being plus-size and needing to find a last-minute outfit when there are only a handful of brick-and-mortar stores offering extended sizes. This is just a glimpse of the problems that we curvy folks have to deal with on a regular basis.
Shopping is not an easy task for most, but it’s especially challenging for those whose body type does not fall within the industry norm, aka above a size 10. I’m not going to lie — it totally sucked growing up with the amount of plus-size exclusion I faced, and it definitely played a negative role in my self-esteem. While the plus-size fashion industry is growing, we aren’t seeing enough expansion and diversity in the market just yet.
With roughly 67 percent of women in the U.S. being considered plus-size, brands that don’t offer extended sizes are missing out on literally millions of potential customers — and dollars. This statistic does not even account for the large market of plus-size male customers who are also in search of fashionable clothing for their size.
There are still big-box brands with the resources to make great clothing that refuse to embrace the prevalent curvy customer and invest in quality design and manufacturing. And claiming you carry plus sizes and then banishing the meek selection to an unidentifiable area of the store is just not cutting it anymore.
That said, if there were a time to be plus-size in fashion, it would be now. Ever since mega-babe Ashley Graham made the cover of Sports Illustrated, many brands have jumped on the plus-size bandwagon. But some brands seem to want to cash in on the body-positivity movement by thoughtlessly creating clothing that does not actually fit the plus-size customer’s body — mainly because the designs were not researched and the patterns were not scaled correctly.
Some brands are even using models who are much too small for the plus-size market, showing an unrealistic representation of the clothing. As a plus-size fashionista myself, I long for the day when brands will fully invest in and embrace their curvy customers by offering more accessible fashion.
Don’t get me wrong — not everything is bad about the plus-size market right now. We have more options than ever before. There are standout brands making an impression on the plus-size community and being industry leaders. The clear winners are staple brands like ASOS and Eloquii. The online e-tailer ASOS is always offering edgy designs that push the plus-size fashion envelope and parallel straight-size designs, while Eloquii is all about quality and fit. Lane Bryant is paving the way by being super-inclusive and body positive, creating diverse ads and leading the unretouched-photo campaign showcasing women’s real bodies. (Another positive sign: The current season of Project Runway has models of all sizes.)
Since the fashion industry is ever-evolving and has a lot to learn about its plus-size customers, I wanted to hear from the curvy influencers who are paving the way. I talked to crusaders including Denise Bidot, Ashley Nell Tipton, Nadia Aboulhosn, and others.
Check out what these plus-size leaders have to say about their biggest fashion gripes and the brands they think are already killing the game. They, like me, agree that everyone deserves access to great fashion regardless of their size or gender, and I’m excited for the strides that the future will bring.
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