Let’s just get this out of the way: growing up “plus-size” was — and is — a struggle. People stare at you. People hurl insults at you. People tell you to join Jenny Craig, they give you an aversion to your own reflection, they damage you in ways you sometimes won’t process for years. They make you feel like you’re less than them; they make you feel like you’re not a real person, like they are.
I had all of that (and more) happen to me when I was growing up, and I was only a size 12. 12 was a perfectly fine, average size for a teenager of my height, but that extra little bit of chunk around my waist made me a target for life. Especially since my sense of self-worth was tied to that number: 12, 12, 12. If I got any bigger, I was “plus-size.” And that was a fate worse than death for a 15-year-old girl.
The plus-size industry was very different 14 years ago.
Being “plus-size” meant shamefully trailing after your mom in Addition Elle or Laura, and suffering through hours of white-hot embarrassment while you stared at racks of flared, sensible work pants, and triangle-shaped white blouses and hoped for just one graphic tee that didn’t look like a maternity shirt.
It’s really nice to be in the future.
See, 15-year-old me didn’t have the selection or representation that plus-size people have today.
From a size 12 to a size 22 and beyond, the rise of social media has given way to voices that, for many years, went entirely unheard. Plus-size models, influencers, and CEOs are now out in the world and fighting to create spaces where the word “fat” isn’t a bad word, where “curvy” isn’t code for “anyone above a size 8,” and where calling someone “thick” is a genuine compliment.
From stores like Torrid finally opening in Canada to online retailers like Forever 21 expanding their plus-size sections, size ranges for clothing have never been better. And with those expansions comes actual style into our lives. Keeping up with trends is a possibility. Wearing clothes from your favourite movie or TV show is now a reality.
Even the brands I mentioned before have stepped up their game, with Addition Elle collaborating with plus size activists like Ashley Graham and Jordyn Woods. They’ve begun skewing younger to appeal to teenagers and millennials that can’t shop other stores — and considering the plus-size fashion industry is reportedly worth over 20 billion dollars as of 2017.
Related article: Joe Fresh Just Launched A Stunning New Plus-Size Activewear Line
Where To Shop
With so many options available, where are the best places to shop? What companies can you support, both as fledgling ones or as companies owned by plus-size women themselves? If you aren’t sure where to start, head over to Instagram to find some plus size, body positive activists who tag the brands they’re wearing. Seeing the clothes on real people will help you get an idea of what body shapes different companies cater to.
Related article: 8 Size-Inclusive Brands To Have On Your Radar This Fall
Here’s a small list of the frankly giant selection these days:
- Indie brand Big Bottom Behavior was started by and intended for plus-size women. Their leggings are a big hit, due to their comfort, style, and unclockable opacity.
- Higher end retailer Marsté was founded by plus-size CEO and makeup mogul Marlena Stell, whose fashion focus is on empowerment.
- Fashion Nova Curve has an entire dedicated Instagram to their plus size range, which features influencers and models of all sizes.
- Specialty sites like eShakti will custom tailor any of their pieces for your exact dimensions.
- Lingerie brand Impish Lee carries sizes not usually found in stores, with sizes from 0-33 and bra sizes from 28A to 44J. (You’ll be able to spot my sister on their front page!)
- Big box retailers like Target, Old Navy, and Walmart have plus sizes up to 4x
Gone are the days of shrugging and deciding that things were as good as they were ever going to get. Gone is some of the shame, and the stigma, and the embarrassment of rolling into a plus-size section to find something to wear.
What gets ingrained in us isn’t easily forgotten, but the changes to the fashion world around us can help us all feel a little more comfortable in our bodies.
Featured image: Instagram/@justjenp