I recently found myself browsing the promotions tab of my Gmail inbox and decided to click on one from a store that I don’t normally shop at that was having a sale. I was then shocked to discover that their “regular” sizing only went up to a 10, and “plus” sizing starts at a 12. I usually wear somewhere between a size 10 and a size 12. Regular and plus-size ranges often fit differently, so I was faced with a dilemma: if I were to order from this store, which size range would I order from?
It got me thinking about the struggle I sometimes encounter in trying to find the right size at certain stores. At stores like Forever 21, for example, if a large doesn’t fit me, it’s almost impossible to find a size XL or pants in any sort of inclusive sizes in store. And then if I go to the plus section, I can’t find a size that fits there either. Their plus range starts at a 0X, but those are very hard to come by in store as well.
Unfortunately, stores like these aren’t the only ones where mid- and plus-sized women might struggle. Lululemon was exposed for keeping their small selection of the largest sizes they carry, 10s and 12s, in a separate and messy area in the back of the store and rarely restocking them, as Business Insider reported. High-end brands and celebrity or influencer clothing lines often only go up to a size large and an 8 or 10, but 68 percent of American women wear a size 14 or above, as per Racked.
As brands become more and more inclusive (as they should), they tend to ignore a group of millions of consumers that would be considered “mid-size” or “in-betweeners.” On websites and in advertising, we often see models on the smaller end of the spectrum for both standard and plus/curve size ranges. The lack of mid-size women wearing a 10, 12 or 14 is apparent. And if they are there, they’re considered plus-size.
Ashley Graham, widely regarded as one of the world’s most famous “plus-size” models, is a size 14. The fashion industry is built to divide women into only two size categories: sample and plus, and when a model is a size 8 or above, they’re automatically looped into the plus-size category. Celebrities like Amy Schumer and Mindy Kaling have spoken out about how they are often referred to as plus-size actresses, but Schumer has said she is a size 6 to 8, and Kaling a size 8.
When this happens, brands not only forget to include options and representation for women who fall in the middle, but set standards that could be harmful to young girls’ body image. Every body type is beautiful, and I’m part of the group that believes brands can provide inclusive size ranges without separating women into categories. As Time reported, Melissa McCarthy said, “Women come in all sizes. Seventy percent of women in the United States are a size 14 or above, and that’s technically ‘plus-size,’ so you’re taking your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You’re not really worthy.'”
Women come in all sizes. Seventy percent of women in the United States are a size 14 or above, and that’s technically ‘plus-size,’ so you’re taking your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You’re not really worthy.’
One of the major reasons that mid-size women often have trouble finding clothes that fit is the limitations in patterns that clothing pieces are made from. Because of cost restrictions, designers often have a sample size pattern (a 2 or 4) as well as a plus-size pattern (a 14 or 16 — if that’s something they offer) that they make tweaks to for the rest of the size range. When a size 2 pattern is being tweaked for up to a size 12 or 14, distortions occur and the clothes don’t actually fit the real women who wear these sizes. This pattern issue is also the reason that a size 14 in a regular size range tends to fit differently and usually smaller than a size 14 in a plus-size range.
As everyone has probably experienced, sizing in women’s fashion is extremely inconsistent across the board. We already live in a world where we have to deal with the dread of standing in a dressing room staring in the mirror at yourself sweating, trying on clothing item after clothing item that doesn’t fit. Is it too much to ask that retailers just provide us with inclusive, standard sizing and representation without putting us in meaningless categories?
Thankfully (and many years too late), these conversations are now being had and things are beginning to change. There has been a recent rise in mid-size fashion bloggers, looking to fill the gap in influencers who have body types that everyone, regardless of what size they wear, can relate to and get inspiration from. YouTubers and Instagram influencers such as Carrie Dayton and Sierra Schultzzie, who both have said in their videos that they typically wear a size 12 or 14, use their platforms to discuss their struggles in finding clothing to fit their self-proclaimed mid-size bodies and sometimes straddling the line between regular and plus sizes. If you’re interested in checking out their Youtube videos, start with Carrie’s “Midsize Must-Haves You Need in Your Life,” Sierra’s “Size 2 & Size 14 Try on the Same Outfits from Madewell,” or their joint series trying on the same outfits at different stores.
Is it too much to ask that retailers just provide us with inclusive, standard sizing and representation without putting us in meaningless categories?
Some brands are beginning to recognize their lack of inclusivity and are making changes to their branding, advertising, and websites. Aerie, for example, has made headlines for banning the alteration of their advertising photos and vowing to be more inclusive in both sizing and representation, as Time reported. Its parent company, American Eagle, has a feature on their website where you can see the same jeans on models who wear sizes 00, 6, 12, and 22.
As women in the United States, trying to find clothes that fit us can be extremely hard. On any given day, I can be a size 8 in one store and a size 14 in another. I didn’t even know that there was an entire community of women out there who are also facing this “mid-size” or “in-betweener” struggle, until I found the influencers who are talking about it openly — and I hope that anyone facing the same dilemma can relate as well. We are all beautiful, and we all deserve clothes (and lots of them) that fit!