Clothing brands increasingly include the size… but are they really? – The Observer

During spring break, I went on a well-deserved and fun vacation to Chicago with a group of friends. We spent the week eating delicious food, visiting the city’s many museums, navigating the CTA bus system and, of course, shopping for new clothes. As someone who was considered plus size for most of my life, I’ve always hated shopping for clothes in stores with my friends (the majority of whom are straight sizes). In college, I started having to shop in the matronly, old-fashioned sections of stores like Kohl’s and Macy’s because most popular stores only sold up to a size L, or sometimes a skin-tight XL.

But, thanks to the popularity of the body positivity movement in recent years, many clothing brands have finally started expanding their clothing sizes or offering a separate plus size section. I finally have clothing options at the same stores my friends shop at. That’s a win for the plus size community, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, I have to disagree. First off, a lot of the brands that now offer “extended sizes” only go up to a size 18 or XXL in their straight sections, which shouldn’t be considered size inclusive at all – that’s is the bare minimum. For example, Victoria’s Secret was recently hailed in the media for expanding the sizes of its in-store PINK line to an XXL. They also won plaudits for hiring Remi Bader, a curvy model and new brand ambassador who garnered a large following on TikTok for criticizing the inconsistent sizing of larger clothing from popular fashion brands. Of course, I’m glad more people can find their size in stores, because Victoria’s Secret is a well-known brand. However, defending Victoria’s Secret as a size-inclusive brand is just ridiculous. Brands must, at the bare minimum, wear up to a size 24 or 3X in order to be considered size inclusive. VS PINK wearing a skintight XXL is not a brand to be entirely proud of, especially considering the fact that Victoria’s Secret’s main line of lingerie still only goes up to an XL in most stores. and up to an XXL online, with a very limited number of styles available in these sizes.

Another gripe I have with the fashion industry’s recent so-called “size inclusion” is that most retailers offering these extended or plus sizes don’t make them available in the actual store. I can finally go shopping in a trendy clothing brand, but I can only buy it online? Of course, it’s a little easier to return ill-fitting items since I no longer need to send clothes back to online stores only. But I still can’t go to a store with my friends and have the early 2000s dressing room montage of my dreams. Some brands are even backtracking: my local Forever 21s no longer offer their plus size section in store. Often, only huge brick-and-mortar urban stores, like those on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, carry extended sizes or larger. It’s like many brands have decided to ditch the body positivity “trend” because they’ve decided it isn’t worth it anymore.

Many clothing brands don’t even try to expand their size. These billion dollar companies should have more than enough money to buy some extra fabric and at least scale their sizes to 3X, so why don’t they? It all comes down to aesthetics and the “look” the brand wants to portray. Most women’s clothing from Urban Outfitters doesn’t run larger than L or XL if you’re lucky. It’s not because the company can’t afford to scale up or because there isn’t a market for bigger clothes; it’s because they decided fat people didn’t fit their aesthetic choices. Worse still, brands like Brandy Melville only offer one size: XS/S. For many brands, the aesthetics of a flat stomach and thigh gap are more important than making clothes fit the size of the average person, which for American women is 16 to 18 years old; 67% of women in the United States are considered plus sizes.

Moreover, within brands that market themselves as size-inclusive, a thick, seemingly impenetrable layer of fatphobia remains. For example, it’s amazing that VS PINK hired Remi Bader as their brand ambassador; I love what she does on her social media platform to advocate for better sizing for popular clothing brands. However, it is not representative of the plus size community as a whole; she still has a relatively flat stomach, smaller chest, and hourglass figure – she’s plus size, but not too big for VS PINK. She still fits well within the beauty standard.

I know this article might read like “a fat woman complains about the fashion industry for several paragraphs because it caused her a little extra trauma in college” (which, to be fair, is kinda close what I do), but I’d like to think it does more than that. If you’re also a plus size person, I’m sure you already understand the difficulty of trying to find a fashionable, size-inclusive store, as well as the embarrassment of having to explain to your slim friends that the store you’re looking for. ‘they all want to go to don’t even wear your size. But, to anyone of straight height reading this, I implore you to consider a few things before the next time you shop for new clothes. Buying into size-inclusive brands supports businesses that make the effort, which could encourage more brands to follow suit. Giving your money to stores that cater only to thin people is an intrinsic contributor to the fatphobia that plagues the fashion industry, no matter how many #girlboss #bodypositive Instagram stories you repost. So while strides have been made in the fashion industry for the inclusion of plus sizes, especially over the past decade, I think it’s time we encouraged all clothing brands to Do more.

Michael O. Stutler