As body positivity becomes more of the norm (Yes! Finally!), plus size fashion continues to make its way into our favorite retailers. From Madewell recently extending its sizing, to J.Crew pairing up with Universal Standard and Target’s wide array of amazing plus size options, plus size ladies are finally getting somAQe recognition. Last fall, there were 90 plus size models present at New York Fashion Week, up 86 from the four that walked in fall 2016. We’re getting somewhere!
Size inclusion is slowly starting to become a commonplace, but not all women are truly being represented. When you see a plus sized model on a runway or in a magazine, her body is always in perfect proportion. She generally has a large bust and hips with a snatched waist. Her stomach almost never looks “flabby,” and she doesn’t seem to struggle with fat on her wrists or ankles. News flash to both the fashion world and any woman reading this who can’t relate to this standard: not all plus sized women are shaped like a Coke bottle!
These women we see representing the size 14 and up body type (which encompasses 67 percent of women in the US!) are absolutely gorgeous, and I don’t mean to take away from their beauty. However, it can be frustrating as someone who doesn’t fit this mold to feel like my body is the “right” kind of plus size. My prominent double chin and my hip dips (the phenomenon when your hips “dip” in and get thinner) are almost never seen in models. It seems as though a plus size body is only palatable if the woman is plus sized in all the right places. When was the last time you went to a plus sized retailers site and saw a woman above a size 18 modeling the clothes? I’m not sure I ever have.
When you search for clothes for plus size bodies, they almost always recommend body-con dresses and skirts, clothes that nip in at the waist, and bust-flattering v-neck tees. An apple or pear shaped body is almost never going to agree with this. While I don’t think there should be rules on what women can wear, someone can almost always benefit from learning more about what will flatter their body. At a recent personal styling appointment, the stylist suggested only clothes that would cinch in my waist. While I enjoy that look sometimes, is looking smaller always a requirement for beauty?
And don’t even get me started on the notion that curves are sexy. Yes, I love that the media is finally telling the world just how sexy a woman can look regardless of her size. However, it’s frustrating to feel like that’s all plus sized women are marketed for. The styles of clothes presented to me almost always reinforce this stereotype— at stores, I’m sold fit-and-flare dresses and skinny jeans. Just because I’m a size 16 doesn’t mean I don’t crave a wide leg pant and flowy, shift dress in the heat of summer like everyone else! Our clothing options don’t have to be sexy or revealing to show off our body and feel confident.
Plus sized women are already constantly told their bodies should look different based on weight alone. Now, we have to deal with these stereotypes on exactly how our bodies should look in order to be desirable. It’s exasperating, and honestly exhausting, to feel like I have to fit into a mold all the time.
I’m here to say that mold is total BS, and I’m ready to see the fashion industry do better.
Here’s how I’m saying goodbye to this stigma and embracing the body I have.
Follow body positive women regardless of their shape
When every model seems to fit this hourglass type, it can be hard to look at plus sized women and not feel like my body is right. Finding women who embrace their body types rather than try to fit in with other plus size bodies showed me that there are women defying these stereotypes.
Wear what you want to wear
Stop following “fit guides” if you don’t feel that they work for you! I’m sorry, but I literally hate fit and flare dresses. They just look childish on me. So, I’ve made a personal policy that I won’t wear them, regardless of how many fitting room attendants say they’ll “flatter my curves.” Instead, I go for wrap and shift dresses. Wear what makes you feel comfortable and good, not what someone else tells you is right for your body.
Put your money where your mouth is
If you’re also over how brands perpetuate plus size body types, start shopping with brands who actively work against them. Eloquii has a range of “Viola” tops and bottoms made for women with significantly larger hips than their bust size. Target’s Universal Thread line offers denim in various shapes. Pay attention to the brands you buy from, and if their plus size representation isn’t up to par, let ‘em know! (I’ve found a nice little Instagram DM can actually go a long way in getting your voice heard sometimes). The more people who share their irritation with these stereotypes, the more likely a brand is to respond and change something.