Growing up in American society, I never saw women who looked like me highlighted in magazines or ad campaigns. I saw plenty on a day-to-day basis, sure, but they were never being celebrated for how they looked. This added more stress to the struggle I already had with my body (more about that here). If people like me weren’t being celebrated or shown off, why would I ever be? What was so bad about being big? Were people who looked like me automatically not beautiful because of their size?
As I got older, I got bigger, and I began wearing “plus-sized” clothing when I was a sophomore in high school. I put quotation marks around plus-sized because there’s not a solid agreement on the point that sizes become “plus” sizes—the fashion industry says “plus” sizing starts at size 8, but most people wouldn’t think of that as plus sized at all. Also, the sizing system we use is quite arbitrary, especially when one considers that a pair of size-6 jeans can vary in the waistband by as much as 6 inches.
My biggest problem with the American fashion industry isn’t, however, the sizing (although this is obviously a big problem)—it’s the accessibility. In 2012, it was estimated that 67% of American women are “plus sized,” or size 14 and up. The dominant sizes in the industry, however, are 0, 2, and 4. So, why don’t brands make plus-sized clothing, and why don’t stores carry them? Amanda Czerniawski, sociology professor at Temple University, former plus-size model, and author of "Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling,” argues that it’s out of fear. She says that “many of these designers, when they go to design school, they're not taught to make clothes for plus-size bodies,” which can intimidate them into not designing anything for plus-sized women. This turns into a lack of options for plus-sized women.
When I want to go shopping for clothes, I almost always have to do it online, as do many other plus-sized women (here is a list of some great websites for plus-sized clothing). It is rare that I find something cute that fits me at a local store, which is sad, considering most of them have some pretty cute clothes. When leaving out plus-sized clothing from their selections, retailers are missing out on a category that is worth $17.5 billion, and effectively preventing a majority of their community from shopping at their store. I polled my Instagram followers on my story, and 87% of plus-sized women said that they can rarely find clothing at local boutiques. Many of my followers said that the few times stores do have actual plus-sized clothing, it all looks the same, and the selection is very slim.
Plus-sized women deserve a vast clothing selection just like non-plus women do. I urge retailers to add plus-sized clothing to their selection, and to advertise what they carry. Don’t ignore us, embrace us!