I've been involved in the plus size fashion world for over four years now as a style blogger. I've been a plus size woman for over 20. There is no getting away from the fact the industry, as a whole is highly politicised. Being a fat woman isn't always easy, so selling clothes to a fat woman can be a minefield. The shopping experience can be emotionally loaded, brands are dealing with women who might not be happy or confident, they might be in transition, hoping to lose lots of weight, or like my little corner of the world, boldly confident and gagging for the newest trends. Generally though, I think most plus size women want to be able to access clothes easily, at affordable prices that fit well. And even that can be difficult sometimes.
As a plus size blogger, even if you deny it, and say you're just in it for the pretty fashion, making yourself visible on an open forum like the internet is a political statement in itself. It is a well dressed, stylish two-finger salute to society. A society that, on the whole thinks you should be locked away, wearing a black sack until, one day magically you will emerge thin and acceptable. Until that day, you don't deserve respect, opportunities, love or kindness. Harsh, but true. It's a difficult arena and as such the plus size retailer can find themselves in a unique position.
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Not only are they touting the latest fashions and keeping up with consumer demand like their smaller sized counterparts, they are also acting as cheerleader and encourager. There to reassure the not so confident amongst us, that it's okay to enjoy fashion and that you do deserve to treat yourself. But with that comes this sometimes overwhelmingly saccharine marketing ploy to 'beautify' the plus size woman and play to their insecurities. It's a daily onslaught of sickly sweet messages about inner beauty and being yourself. Which, on the surface is great - of course it is important to reassure plus size women they are beautiful, goodness knows the world has spent an awful lot of time telling us we're not, but, isn't it time we evolved from the 'poor little fat girl, we'll make it all better' marketing material? Isn't it time we were spoken to as equals, much in the same way our thinner sisters are? Isn't it time to see slick advertorials, or fun, carefree fashion focussed images?
I have been a size 32 right down to a size 20, I've always been fat, in various shapes and sizes, but I have also always been beautiful and that was never in question. I disliked my larger body because it was inconvenient, because the world I lived in didn't accommodate it. I couldn't find great clothes in my size, I always had to have a seatbelt extension on the plane, when choosing a chair to sit in at the pub or at a family barbecue, I would first survey it and decide if I would fit in it or if it would indeed take my weight. So I made the decision after years of dieting to have weight loss surgery, it wasn't easy and to this day I still suffer the devastating effects it has had on my body and health, but, cosmetically I can now fit in the chair, and do up the seat belt and buy better clothes. But despite all of that, despite my lack of access to things a thinner person takes for granted, I still knew I was beautiful, I still had an active love life, a well paying job and friends and family that loved me very much. You see, despite society's and the plus size fashion industry's preconceptions about the average fat girl, we are capable and ready for so much more. We are bold and bright and intelligent and worthy of dynamic communication and product and we want it now.
I am greeted, on a daily basis, by plus size women who are waving their hard-earned cash in the air, desperate to spend it on clothing, some want fast fashion, trend led pieces, others want classic, well made wardrobe staples that will stand the test of time. The plus size customer is just as complex and varied than that of the straight sized woman, yet it would still seem the industry is playing catch up.
So I put it to you, plus size purveyors of style and trends: Stop telling fat girls they're beautiful and start giving them what they really want, awesome quality, wide choice, well fitting fashion. We know we're beautiful, now give us the clothing to match.