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Plus-size proportions?

Plus-size clothing has really taken off in recent years as retailers become more and more aware that women do in fact come in different shapes and sizes than the mannequins they use in their shop windows. 

Now when I was younger, plus-size meant maybe a UK size 18 or 20 and upwards. However, I recently saw an advert for a plus-size clothing company, who specifically stated that their clothing was available in sizes 12-32. Excuse me? I’m not sure if I’m a lone voice in the wilderness here, but when did a size 12 become plus-size? I myself am a UK size 12/14 and have never really considered that to be plus size, so to hear it in this advert got me thinking about what the term “plus-size” actually means. It also got me questioning why we even label curvier women plus-size to begin with and, most importantly, why companies use models to represent such ranges who aren’t even plus-size themselves. Misleading much?

Cue inspiration for a blog post.

First I’ll begin with ASOS Curve, a clothing line launched in 2010 by the global fashion website. When searching for dresses on the ASOS website, the Curve collection is mixed in with other brands that are not specifically plus size. Having not come across the line before, I saw the below image of this lovely model in a dress that’s right up my street and of course clicked on it. 

I assumed that the Curve collection meant perhaps a size 14 and beyond, but when I went to order this dress and select my size the smallest size that could be ordered was a size 18. I was confused at first, thinking perhaps it had sold out in my size. Yet when I clicked on the website’s description of the Curve line, it explains that the collection is for UK sizes 18-30. This means that the model in this photo is supposed to be at least a size 18 herself.

I don’t want to judge what dress size a woman is because clothing sizes don’t mean anything really; clothing sizes vary shop to shop and on a deeper level, I believe that women are more than the number on their clothes. However for the purpose of this article I think it is important to establish that this woman  looks to be a size 12, maybe a 14 at a push. So unless ASOS are producing miracle clothes that make you look two dress sizes smaller (which I highly doubt, based on the fact that it’s physically impossible), they’re using models that are smaller than the clothing range they’re supposed to be representing. Which defeats the whole point of having such a range in my opinion.

After I noticed this I went on a hunt across the internet to see how other shops presented their plus-size range. It was actually hard to find models displaying the clothes, in stores like New Look their plus-size range was displayed with just an image of the item of clothing itself.

I did come across a few companies that almost left me speechless. Next was an absolute shocker. When you click on plus-size clothing or dresses in this case, the following images come up.

So plus-size clothes are shown either by a simple image of the item of clothing or are modelled by size 6-8 women. These women are beautiful, as are their bodies, but that is completely beside the point for this particular scenario. Having a size six woman model a dress that is advertised as plus size-size sends out a message to the plus-size woman; these clothes, that are designed for a fuller figure, won’t actually look good on you (or good enough to market) unless you look like this model. The message is not only ridiculous, but confusing to women of all shapes and sizes. It makes me think that perhaps Next need to go back to the marketing drawing board on this one.

Continuing my research I encountered more of the same in both online shops such as Missguided and shops on the UK High Street like Marks and Spencer

A dress from the Missguided + range which caters for sizes 16-24. Again, this woman does not look to be a size 16 to me.

As I’ve mentioned, having these models represent plus-size lines not only defeats the whole point of having such a range, but it’s also very misleading for consumers. For example, I saw the following Boohoo dress whilst looking through the website, again the model looked to be perhaps a size 14 but it happened to be a part of Boohoo’s Plus range for sizes 16-24.

I took a chance and ordered a 16 because clothing sizes can vary so much from shop to shop. I can be anything from a size 10 in Marks and Spencer to a 16 in Topshop. However when the dress arrived, it was far too big and by quite a bit. It was more like a size 18 and would have drowned the model in this picture. So I can only guess the dress must have been pinned at the back for the purpose of the advertising photos.

So we can establish from this that companies are marketing things to women by using females that society would deem “thin” and “pretty”. Shock horror. 

A vintage poster advertising Vitamins. Has anything really changed?

Although I was pretty shocked by my findings, I have to be fair to these clothing companies and acknowledge it is quite difficult to get it right in the plus-size arena. I mean, how should companies market such a range? What sizes should it include? What should it be called? What size models should they use? etc. etc. etc.

 The plus-size ranges I have looked at range from being called “Plus” to “Curve” to the rather ambiguous “+” sign from Missguided. The term “Curve” seems perhaps the least offensive but is it saying that women below a size 18 aren’t curvy? I hope not because I hate ‘skinny shaming’ as much as I do ‘fat shaming’. Is the title “plus” then offensive to the ladies these clothes are aimed at? What does plus actually mean? Plus a few extra pounds? Plus fat? Plus curves? Why does being a size 16 make you a “plus” woman? 

When you break  the term down it seems totally absurd, doesn’t it?

There’s a lot of questions there and unfortunately most of them can’t be answered. This is because however you market a plus-size clothing line there is always going to be some form of controversy. From the models you choose to advertise it, to the sizes you choose to include within it and the name you adopt to describe it. If you asked me what the ideal way of dealing with plus-size clothing would be, I’d say scrap these ranges altogether really.

 See the thing is, in my dream world full of rainbows and kittens and cupcakes, there wouldn’t be specific ranges for specific sizes. 

Let me explain this, using the following picture of a dress from Missguided’s “+” range.

So this woman is meant to be a size 16, but whatever size she is you can’t argue against the fact that she looks smoking hot. If she’s a size 16 and looks so sizzling in that dress, so too would a size six and a size 26. So why do companies feel the need to create special ranges for women over a size 12/14/16 (or whatever they consider to be plus-size) that promise to make them look “slimmer” or “flatter their curves”? 

I  am one of the many women out there that crave diversity. Instead of plus-size ranges, let’s just have clothes for all women that come in a wide range of sizes. As far as marketing goes, let’s keep it real; yes let’s see size six models, but let’s also see models that are a size 10/12/14/16/18/20/22/24… etc. Until that happens, we will continue to see clothing ranges that not only leave women feeling dissatisfied with their bodies, but that also discriminate and force segregation between women based on the number on their jeans label.


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