In an industry that prides itself on inclusivity and equality, why are plus sized people still being excluded? The lack of accessibility means plus sized people have no choice but to shop fast fashion. Sustainability isn’t only about environmental impact, but it’s about creating an accessible space for all.
On average, a woman’s dress size changes 31 times during adulthood. This is due to various factors including pregnancy, illness, and hormones. For a long time plus sized people have been excluded in the mainstream fashion industry, so why are we continuing this exclusion as the industry makes shifts to becoming more sustainable?
Plus size models are rarely used in media campaigns, but when they are it is often tokenistic. Body positivity activist and poet, Jade Elouise says “from personal experience, I think the way plus size models are treated on shoots is often with contempt and lack of consideration. I have been on shoots [that] didn’t have my size, leaving me with frumpy outfits or having to squeeze into garments that were too small.” This is a common story in the industry, with plus size brands not catering for 18+.
In an industry that doesn’t cater for plus sizes, it’s not a surprise that shopping second hand is near impossible for plus sized people. Vintage stores often only stock straight sizes, so turning to online shopping is the only viable option. However when plus sizes are available, the choice is limited. Jade thinks this lack of choice most accurately depicts the fatphobia within the industry; “clothes are limited in design, they are of a poorer quality, and many brands don’t go past a size 20, [claiming] it’s because the clothing costs more to make, yet they are happy to make oversized clothing in straight sizes.
There are sustainable brands like Kai Collective and Plus Equals, and pages on social media for second hand plus sized clothes, but for the most part plus sizes are still excluded in mainstream and most sustainable brands. One topic that came up with Jade was the ‘oversized’ trend. Some have an issue with this trend but Jade says this is a nuanced conversation. “Fashion should be fun and a way to express yourself, so it is difficult to ask people to limit themselves by only shopping to one set size.”
However, taking into consideration how your shopping habits affect others is vitally important. “People buying clothing in plus sizes to cut it down to size for themselves not only wastes materials in offcuts, but it completely removes that garment as an option for plus size people in the future. Someone wearing a plus sized garment as oversized and putting it back into circulation through donation or selling” is far better than cutting and reshaping a plus sized garment.
As we move into a more sustainable and circular fashion industry, inclusivity needs to be a priority. The ongoing fatphobia prevents progression; you can’t have sustainability without inclusivity. Sustainable brands and straight sized allies need to push for change to spark real change.