When we talk about plus-size fashion, we tend to have different reactions based on our context, our knowledge, and our interaction with it. Nevertheless, this market has been growing exponentially over the last decade, and it´s having a lot of influence on the way we see and consume fashion. This movement around body positivity and acceptance is making people celebrate their bodies and be their authentic selves in their true size. Of course, this movement hasn’t been easy. For many years, big fashion companies have established passive-aggressive practices to exclude people who are on the bigger side of the spectrum of sizes.
Have you ever been to a store where the associates tell you they don’t carry your size? Have you ever felt there is something wrong with your body after looking at size 0 mannequins on the store display? That is called exclusion. It promotes a very restrictive idea of how bodies should look like, and it’s causing many disorders in people around the world including eating disorders, low-self esteem, and a sense of humiliation by not feeling “pretty enough” or “skinny enough” to fit in this very specific mold.
Little by little, these practices are starting to disappear. In some cases, businesses are starting to understand the importance of celebrating one’s body without comparing it to others. In other cases, where exclusion practices are part of the company’s culture, the directors are so stuck in their “skinny body” ideals of beauty that consumers get tired of it. Eventually, the business goes bankrupt.
Today we are demystifying plus size fashion. What are the biggest misconceptions around it, what thoughts should we let go of our minds, and how can we embrace our bodies positively and wear the clothes we love and make us happy.
Myth 1: All Skinny People Are Healthy
It is a common misconception to believe that thin people are healthy and oversized people are not. This is not true for all cases since health looks in many different ways. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. This means that even a size four may face overweight or even malnutrition. So we must let go of the idea that being skinny means being healthy.
If you’re concerned about your health, visit your doctor and get the check-ups you require to answer the questions you may have. If you’re concerned about the way your body looks, then ask yourself why and where did you get your ideals of beauty. Sometimes we are pursuing a certain ideal that is not entirely possible given the nature of our body and what we need for our body to be healthy.
Myth 2: Being Plus size is bad.
This myth comes from the previous idea that being skinny is healthy, and that’s what we should always aim for. Sadly, this idea has been portrayed culturally in mass media with movie characters that are fat and are often associated with depression, anger issues, or any other mental disorder. Craig from Malcolm in the Middle is lonely and often unhappy. Homer Simpson eats pink donuts and beer, suggesting that poor eating habits are the only cause of being overweight. To make things worse, sometimes we inherit these misleading ideas from our parents. If the parents talk shamingly about their bodies, the kids will start doing so. (Jenna White) So, this is the moment when you have to question what your true beliefs are, and what are some of the beliefs that you’ve had for a very long time, and that you are ready to let them go.
It’s also important to stop for a second to identify where these ideas are coming from and if there is a way we can make them stop. We cannot control what the people around us say or think, but we can definitely determine our sources of information. Unfollow that influencer on social media who makes you feel guilty about the food you eat, unsubscribe from the newsletter that sends you catalogs of size 0 models, and is making you think there is something wrong with who you are.
Myth 3: Only a Few People are Plus Size
Currently, the U.S. obesity represents more than 40% of the population. (CDC). This means that almost half of the population does not fit in the “skinny body” ideal of beauty. So it would be a wrong assumption to believe that the plus-size community is a minority when they represent a significant number of consumers in the United States and around the world.
Ironically, many fashion companies like to segregate larger sizes, making consumers feel they don’t belong to that store or even thinking of losing weight to fit in the “standard” sizes.
Don’t feel like there’s something wrong if you don’t find your size in the store or if you need larger sizes at some point in your life. We are emotional beings who are constantly evolving, sometimes gaining weight, sometimes losing it, and those are matters that concern you and must not concern anyone else. Be kind and respectful with your body as guilt and disappointment won’t lead to a healthy path.
Myth 4: Talking About People’s Weight is a Good Idea and Not Offensive
As we are often seduced by visually appealing advertisements, runway shows, social constructions, and role models to follow, it´s very easy to fall into these ideals of beauty that are expected from us. But in the process of following these ideals, we may get hurt, we may get mad or disappointed in ourselves for not being able to obtain the “ideal beauty”. That´s the power of fashion, it can make you feel like the most powerful and beautiful being in the world, or it can alienate you, making you feel you don´t belong and you should not belong.
But even people who are not designers, models, or celebrities, have a lot of influence on how we perceive standards. Because we, as consumers, determine what are our needs, values, and what we believe in, and it’s our decision to be part of the body-shaming culture or not.
Talking about people’s weight is not a good idea as one’s weight is personal, and this individual is aware of the factors that are making them gain or lose weight. People walk around us dragging with them their stories of shame, rejection, and bullying. The last thing we need is someone to tell us there’s something wrong with our body.
Yes, many of our ideas of body beauty come from mass media and advertisements, but many times we keep promoting these wrong ideals by having conversations about people’s bodies as if we knew how healthy or unhealthy they are. “Did this actor lose weight? He looked better last year” “This artist is skinny now; she looks great!” “You lost weight. Good for you!”
If we stop having conversations about people’s bodies and celebrating them or punishing them for their appearance, we will be on the right path towards a culture without body shaming.
Myth 5: Plus Size Fashion is a new trend
Plus-size fashion is not a new trend. Plus Size Fashion has been around for decades, but the concept of what it means and how it looks like has evolved with fashion trends and pop culture. Marilyn Monroe wore a size eight and was considered a beauty standard, but her measurements would be considered “plus-size” by quite a few fashion designers in today’s world. The way we interpret plus-size fashion is evolving, but it has been around us for quite some time now.
The newer aspect of this concept is that it’s finally receiving mainstream attention, and bigger corporations are considering this market in their products. The Plus Size fashion market represents $21 billion dollars in sales every year with projected growth in upcoming years. It’s here to stay!
Myth 6: Plus Size Fashion is for women only
Historically, there’s been an unfair social expectation on women to be more concerned about their bodies than men. So many people believe plus size garments are merely a women’s matter and concerns women only. However, all genders struggle to find larger sizes in the stores. Women grow up with the skinny body ideals of Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and Gigi Hadid. Men are exposed to the mainstream presence of athletic superhero bodies in films and shows like Chris Hemsworth, David Beckham, and Ryan Reynolds. In recent years, LGBTQ+ figures have received more mainstream attention, also establishing skinny body ideals, as with RuPaul, Demi Lovato, and Elliot Page.
Plus size is for all genders. Given the diversity of fabrics, silhouettes, and shapes, women’s fashion tends to have more options and therefore more stores and visibility. However, all genders face the challenge of looking for a size in the store that fits them. It is a movement that is growing and hopefully will be able to accommodate everyone’s needs soon.
Myth 7: Plus Size Fashion is Limited and Restrictive
Many people tend to speak about what plus-size fashion should not look like with some restrictive ideas such as: “don’t wear bold colors”, “stay away from prints,” or “wear flowy tops only”. These limitations negatively affect the confidence of plus-size people, as they think they should follow all these limitations and private themselves from a wide spectrum of great designs, colors, silhouettes, and patterns. With the rise of the body positivity movement, the plus-size fashion market is diversifying and coming up with wonderful designs that celebrate different bodies and shapes. Plus-size fashion must not be limited or restrictive by any means.
Myth 8: People who wear plus size clothing must hide their body
This is another big misconception that creates many insecurities and makes many beautiful bodies hide their authentic selves from the world.
Anybody who wants to wear a mini skirt should wear it, regardless of body size.
Anybody who wants to wear a two-piece swimsuit should wear it, even if the people around you tell you not to.
Anybody who wants to wear a tank top should wear it because tank tops are meant for hot weather, and if you want a fresh look for the summer, no one should tell you that you cannot show your arms and shoulders during a warm summer night.
Let go of the idea that there’s something wrong with your body or that you don’t deserve to have nice clothes and look pretty. Everyone deserves that, and we should all give us an opportunity to do so!
It is a very exciting time in fashion, as more of these social changes are being reflected slowly in our clothes. Plus-size fashion models, designers, influencers, activists, and therapists, are all leading the path towards body inclusion and celebration. In the end, consumers reject clothes that don’t represent them, so with your purchases; you determine what kind of businesses you want to support and want to see more of. Inclusive brands are growing because consumers identify with them and want to see more of their products. Restrictive brands are slowly declining and disappearing, as they couldn’t evolve with our mindset.