Size inclusivity

Inclusive sizing has become something of a buzzword recently. With companies claiming to make clothing “for ALL bodies,” consumers are left to wonder what really constitutes inclusivity in sizing, and why they should care.

If you have ever shopped for women’s clothing, you’ll know what I mean when I say the sizing is a nightmare. Jean and bra shopping require a level of emotional fortitude that I can rarely muster on my best days. If you are straight-sized (up to 14-16 or XL in US Women’s), you might recognize this type of situation. You may have had tearful moments in the dressing room, wondering why you seem to be the only person in the world who can’t pull off a certain style, or thanking genetics for your freakishly short legs as your pants drag on the ground. Even without the added stress of negative body image, it can be downright impossible to find clothing that looks acceptable.

Now consider the fact that you can find clothing that fits you in almost every store. It may not look exactly how you want it to look, but it covers your bits. For people who wear larger than a 16, the only options for clothing consist of the small, sad plus-size section (if it even exists) of a store with mainly straight sizes, or one of the few entirely plus-sized retailers. The majority of these options stop at a 24 or 3XL. People who wear sizes larger than 3XL are forced to buy their clothing in the few online stores that cater to those sizes, which are 64 times less numerous than those who sell straight sizes. In total, only 2.3% of women’s clothing comes in any plus sizes at all, according to the retail analytics firm “Edited.”

At this point you may be thinking, “OK, that sucks for them, but why should I care?” And that response is totally normal. When the world is built for you and people like you, there is often no pressing reason to question the status quo. But since the majority of people in the US wear plus-sizes, now is the time to get vocal about this and many other forms of social inequality against people in larger bodies.

Access to clothing is a political issue. If someone cannot find professional clothing in their size, it limits their ability to work in certain jobs. If athletic clothing or swimwear is not made to accommodate their bodies, they cannot participate in physical activity. Even something as simple and necessary as shoes are not always available in varying widths. And even when these items are available, consumers are forced to pay more for them, since retailers know they have fewer options to choose from. For those at the far end of the plus spectrum, they may even need to have clothing handmade, further raising the cost.

So what can you, as a straight-sized person, do to help solve this inclusivity issue? For one, stop shopping at retailers that only sell straight sizes. You might be surprised at how limited your options become, but your plus-sized friends will thank you when your next shopping trip rolls around. Be critical of brands that claim to be size-inclusive: Do their sizes stop at a 2XL? Are they using models of all sizes? Is it just a marketing ploy or a legitimate attempt to serve a wider market?

At the end of the day, retailers could make way more money if they opened up their size range to the under-served market. It is only the fear and dislike of larger people representing their brands that keep them from selling plus sizes. But fat people are not going to disappear, and they deserve to wear clothing that is affordable and well-fitting. No matter your size, we can all do something to fight the lack of inclusivity and representation in mainstream clothing brands.

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