In this day and age, inclusivity is queen. What was once shunned and kept in the dark is now out and moving forward towards acceptance. Our generation is more willing to listen and be empathetic, taking the perspective of others and understanding that what our parents and grandparents traditionally thought about certain ideas isn’t necessarily true or even remotely close to right. We are more inclusive, more aware of sensitive issues and more likely to actually give a damn and do something about it. The environment, animal welfare, LBGTQ+ rights, healthcare – the list of what we are actively fighting for is seemingly endless. For the first time in a long time, we are willing and able to take on these challenges and fight for what is right rather than what was previously thought to be.
All of this reflection on our generation’s huge jump in inclusivity brings to mind the question – have we moved far enough forward in the world of plus size acceptance?
BACK IN THE DAY
In the past, retailers have previously ignored the entire plus size market, focusing their advertising, in-store displays and even how the clothing at stores are laid out to capitalize on the skinny to average-size market. But what about the plus size gals?
An important market segment, plus size women were often ignored in the world of fashion. There were very few retailers who actually carried anything remotely close to what is now considered to be plus size and, if they did actually have anything, it was often hidden away in the back of the store or the depths of their websites, difficult to find and totally out of the way. To find what you were looking for, you’d either have to really dig and hunt or hit up a specialty retailer that only catered to plus size women.
Even looking around these stores, the clothing for plus size women was often featured on standard mannequins or on nothing at all. How are you supposed to understand how something is going to fit if you can’t visualize it? Why is it that the average sized woman could walk into any store and immediately see what she’ll look like and how to style something while the plus size girl had no such luck? Even online retailers fell victim to this trap, with some going so far as to feature models inside of one leg of a pair of leggings or tights to really illustrate how ‘well suited’ they were for plus size women. Not only was this an absolutely insulting practice, but to be quite frank, it’s disgusting.
While there are retailers and stores that have been inclusive from day one (here’s looking at you, Lane Bryant and Torrid!), this selection has always been very sparse. Often, you’d have to live in a major hub or city to even hope to have one of these retailers close by to be able to actually shop and see what you were buying. The boom of online retail really helped change this limiting aspect, but only so far as increasing accessibility to these few stores that actually catered to curvier women.
In addition, what has historically been offered by retailers for the curvier girls in the world has been severely limited. Most styles fell under the realm of boring, conservative or just boxy and unflattering. Rather than focusing on what plus size women actually want out of their clothing, they chose to focus on creating pieces that simply covered them up in the most unflattering and unfashionable way possible (anyone remember those huge oversized tunic shirts they kept trying to make us wear).
The past may be, well, in the past, but it really makes you sit down and think about things. Are we far enough along into this idea of acceptance that plus size women are no longer hidden away and ignored? Which brings to mind the idea – no matter what you look like, no matter how much you weigh, you deserve to be included. You deserve to be able to walk into a store and see a mannequin that has the same body type as you. You deserve to be able to shop online and see a model that is accurately modeling the clothes that you are thinking about buying.
Now that it’s the 2020’s, retailers are finally realizing that it’s time for a change. They’ve finally recognized the plus size market and seen the value in this previously ignored market segment. Retailers and e-tailers are finally beginning to see the error of their ways and opened the door to the possibility that maybe plus size women actually do like to shop and want cute, stylish clothes that actually look good on them.
One of the brands blazing this trail is Nike – back in 2019, they gave their flagship store a makeover, adding plus size mannequins modeling their activewear. While they originally launched their plus size line back in 2017, this step in 2019 was a huge leap forward for activewear and clothing in general, as it inspired many retailers to follow suit and add more plus size inclusive ranges and displays to their stores.
Take Target for example – if you walk into your average store, you’ll now find plus size mannequins and photos or advertisements featuring actual plus size women wearing their clothing. They also offer curvier lines of clothing that specifically cater to the plus size girl in styles that are actually cute and trendy.
Even online retailers are jumping in and offering extended ranges of clothing for plus size women. Fast fashion brands such as Fashion Nova and Forever 21 are great examples, with lines that specifically cater to curvier gals and offer styles that are actually flattering and super trendy (and not to mention, totally affordable). You can even shop by your own category ASOS and find styles that are totally exclusive for plus size women.
But even with these amazing leaps forward in the world of plus size fashion acceptance, we’re still hitting the wall. Surprisingly, there are those that are pushing back on the use of plus size models and mannequins, falsely stating that they’re encouraging unhealthy habits and normalizing ‘fat.’ This is 100% not the case. What these people fail to realize is that not everyone falls under the same category or heading. They don’t take into consideration that what you do to take care of yourself is the real indicator of how healthy you are. You can be ‘plus size’ and still be active and eat healthy. Take professional athletes for example – many athletes actually fall under this clothing category simply due to how much they exercise. ‘Normal’ clothing doesn’t necessarily fit them properly, as it is not designed for someone who is muscular and athletic. Does that mean that they are unhealthy, too?
To these naysayers against inclusivity and the growing acceptance of plus size women and fashion, we have one word: “No.” We will not let you push us back. This is the future and we will continue to fight for inclusivity and acceptance for all. Plus size mannequins and models are not going anywhere – we will make damn sure of that.