Dear fashion industry: Why do you hate my body?
I want to paint a picture for you. I’m the average Canadian woman. I decide today is a nice day to spend my hard earned money at the mall, so I drive over, buy myself a coffee, and walk around. I spend time in several stores, browsing clothing. Yet something seems off – my size is nowhere to be found. As the average Canadian woman, my waist size is 33 inches and my hip size about 41 inches, roughly translating (according to most companies) to a size 14. Yet most stores in the mall stop at a 12, if they even have that size in stock. Actually, most racks I look at have an abundance of size 4 or size 6, and the selection gets smaller as the size goes up.
My pant size is 14, my top an extra-large. I’m a 21 year old woman, who goes to university and tries to dress for my personality (which I would argue is pretty exciting). Yet I can’t buy clothing from some of my favourite stores, including Urban Outfitters, Aritzia, H&M, Forever 21, and an abundance of others, save for the few items I can find here and there and the scarce selection found online in their plus size sections. Unfortunately, my shopping motto (which almost everyone I know has heard at least once from me) has become “if only they sold this in one size larger”.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself one question, and I aim to find answers. Why does the fashion industry hate my body?
I have a pretty good idea. My body isn’t on trend; being fat isn’t “fashionable”. The plus size industry was created when people felt pressure to adhere to strict fashion rules (re: fat women can’t wear bold prints). Yet, in an era that birthed the body-positivity movement and women above a size 12 are searching for fashion forward choices, the plus size industry is slowly becoming a useless label. Now, if you visit existing stores like Addition Elle, you’ll find very similar styles to today’s typical sized stores – just with bigger sizes, and prices to match. It seems mainstream fashion outlets just don’t want to make money off “plus size” people, an industry that has a market value of about 20.4 billion dollars.
There are a million arguments against selling “extended sizes” at stores you regularly see in a mall. One is that selling larger sizes requires more fabric, meaning the price would have to be higher for those sizes. Yet that isn’t how sizing works now, because retail stores are excellent at finding places to profit. All sizes are priced based on the largest size. You wouldn’t see an extra-small t-shirt priced at 10 dollars and a large priced at 15 dollars. This is just another way the industry could capitalize on the plus size industry.
One of my favourites is when people tell me that selling plus size clothing is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, to which I reply, “oh, that’s interesting, when did you become my doctor?” I’m not here to argue with you about health. The short answer is, I’m fat, and I still want to wear cool clothing. Do I not deserve that because my pants are a size fourteen? The long answer is, it isn’t the job of fashion retailers to decide if they want to “promote health” through their sizes and it shouldn’t be. Some stores sell extra-extra-small sizes, to which the same argument can be made. Both ends of the spectrum can be unhealthy, and both can be healthy, and both can be anywhere in between. It’s really nobody’s business but the person themselves.
Plus, if you’re really promoting health, why do athletic companies such as Lululemon condemn fat wearers of their clothing? Lululemon founder Chip Wilson said, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work [for the yoga pants].” He also said, “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, and how much they use it.” So even when you are fat, you can’t dress in workout pants and lose weight because… you’re fat? This is the logic of the fashion industry.
I think one particular quote from the former CEO Mike Jeffries of Abercrombie & Fitch exemplifies the idea that the fashion industry dislikes fat people.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either,” he told Salon.
My body isn’t a fashion choice, and it’s really nobody’s business as to whether or not I’m healthy and whether or not I plan to change that. The fashion industry can profit off of selling extended sizes, but they need to stop being afraid of plus size fashion first. Society stigmatizes a portion of the population that is the majority; the average Canadian. I’m sure some of you can relate. I’m lucky, because I’m on the cusp of plus size. I can still find a few size 14’s in some stores, a shirt that actually fits. Some are not so lucky to fit into society’s standards, or their pant size.
I’ll leave you with what fashion icon Tim Gunn once said on the subject. “Why doesn’t this industry wake up? All they can do is make more money.”
It’s time for the fashion industry to wake up.