The plus size industry is taking off: models are walking, brands are launching in major retailers, and people are talking about what plus sized really means. But too often, we hear of the industry from those who aren’t representative of the customer base – those size 10 and above are often considered plus sized when it comes to fashion, while the average American woman’s size is actually a 14. So what do plus sized women think about the plus sized industry?
Diversity vs. Reality
Recently, Sports Illustrated featured its first plus sized model in its swimsuit edition of the popular magazine. Ashley Graham is 27 and plus sized by industry standards: a size 14 but with a flat stomach and toned skin. When the average American starts at a size 14, perhaps a better choice for a plus sized model who represents all women (and, the majority of them), would’ve been Tess Holliday, the size 22 model whose Instagram hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards has started somewhat of a beauty revolution. While it’s nice to see a model like Graham making headlines of a major magazine, what SI has suggested is that it’s okay to be plus sized as long as you’re toned or the correct body shape and possess curves instead of fat.
Target, the massively popular big-box store, added a plus sized designer collection to its stores in February. In response to the backlash that the retailer received last year when introducing plus sized lines, Target rebranded its plus sized image by partnering with popular fashion bloggers Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason to figure out what plus sized customers really want. Previously, Target had grouped its maternity and plus sizes together and branded a plus size dress ‘manatee grey’ when it’s smaller and identical version existed simply as ‘heather grey’. When the introduction of the AVA & VIV line, Target hopes to make a positive impact upon the plus sized industry.
With such big names making waves in the plus size industry, we all wonder if other brands will get on board with the program. Well, rumor has it that after SI’s introduction of Ashley Graham, big-box lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret may have plans, finally, to bring true plus sizes to their collections. As of now, this is just a rumor and Victoria’s Secret has yet to comment on the speculation surrounding their expansion plans. From a business perspective, Victoria’s Secret and other big retailers are well poised to cater to a specific niche of women – and a niche of women that aren’t afraid to spend their money on quality items and a wider selection.
What The Future Holds
If there’s one singular segment of the fashion community that’s overlooked, it’s the plus size community. The industry is experiencing an evolution and the variety of brands that exist now far outweigh what existed only a few years ago. But there is still much that needs to be accomplished: plus size fashion still has a lot of work to do to be fully accepted into the fashion industry and not thought of as a separate industry. A common goal of diversity, body acceptance, and styles that are accessible to all will go far in promoting healthy body image through fashion.
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