TOO FAT FOR FASHION?
The women’s plus size market is estimated to be worth £4.7 billion (Channel 5). There was a time when curve brands were seen as frumpy and uncool, and it would be taboo to admit you shopped at one. Times have changed in the wake of a growing body positive movement, but is plus size still too fat for fashion?
One brand that especially comes to mind when I think about this is Bravissimo. The women in my family are blessed with curves and large boobs, so I have a lot of childhood memories of going to Oxford Street with my mum on the weekends in order for her to visit the only Bravissimo store in London (at the time). Bravissimo is known for showcasing models with “real” bodies, however I was confused at why a brand who markets themselves as catering to curvy women never showcases models above a size 10/12. Whilst Bravissimo is not exclusively a plus-size brand (you don’t need to be ‘curvy’ to have large boobs), it is plus size approved, and I can vouch that their products work. Bravissimo’s expansion into clothing was also another win for curvy women, as their pieces were tailored with all bodies in mind, including the ’curvy’, ‘really curvy’ and ‘super curvy’ feature. There is no denying that a large
portion of their demographic is plus size women; this is evident from the consumers they use in marketing videos. So, if all bodies are represented through their consumers, then why aren’t all bodies represented through their models?
Instagram is becoming the easiest and most popular way to get a ‘feel’ for a brand’s image. The cynic in me often questions a company’s motivation behind embracing the body positivity movement, and I can’t help but feel like many companies take the lazy and easy way out by throwing one curve model in an advert with the occasional comments about ‘loving your curves’ in order to keep people happy. It’s now ‘cool’ to be body positive, and where there are trends there is profit.
Whilst plus size fashion has come on leaps and bounds in the mainstream, there is still a lot of work to be done. A lot of the time fashion still takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It’s great that some brands are extending their straight size lines, but brands need to do more than just create a garment with one body in mind and throw a couple of extra sizes on the end and call that inclusivity. This only proves that companies see bodies like mine as a burden. My personal struggles with shopping are very telling of the work that still needs to be done.
I am a UK 16-18. My size is not abnormal. In fact, the average UK woman is a size 16. So, if we make up the majority, why are we not being represented? Why are companies hiding plus size sections in stores and taxing larger sizes even though it caters to the majority of their customers?
The fashion industry is extremely diverse, and unfortunately plus size is excluded from a lot of it. Whilst curve models and brands are quickly seeping into the high street, the same cannot be said for luxury fashion. I’ve seen many people use the argument that catering to plus size means creating more patterns, cutting larger pieces of fabric, hiring another fit model, all of which incur expenses. But unlike more affordable or smaller brands, global luxury fashion houses have the money. Gucci alone saw a 49% sales growth in the first quarter of 2018 worth $2.2 million, yet them and similar brands keep insisting that plus size is just too expensive. It’s also not a coincidence that London Fashion Week 2018 only included 3 curve models (Channel 5). Companies are not scared about financial costs, they’re scared about ruining their image. Alternative shopping is another example. Just the other day I was scrolling through Depop and I filtered my size search to include only large/extra-large items. Despite there being loads of items, every single one was modelled by skinny women. There is nothing wrong with being skinny, but why is a size 8 girl modelling size 16 clothes? Every description included something along the lines of “size large but model is a UK 8 so can be worn oversized”. This may seem like a minor issue, but it is indicative of perhaps the biggest issue with all of this: even things that are supposed to be for plus size women are seen as more appealing on smaller bodies.
Is plus-size a buzzword? Yes, maybe it is. But my body is not a trend. All bodies are valuable and worthy of representation. Only including one type of body shouldn’t even be an option anymore. For years this industry has profited off of women’s insecurities by force feeding us messages of why skinny is more fashionable than fat, so retailers finally owe us their commitment to protecting plus size bodies. Stop exploiting our insecurities and start including us. We’ve done enough to prove its good business. We will no longer be ignored. I am fat. I like fashion. The two are not mutually exclusive and until this becomes common knowledge, only then will true diversity in fashion occur.
I am not too fat for fashion.
Written by Maria Christodoulou – @MaaazC28xo
Illustrations by Kat Muir – @km_illustrations