How did plus size come about? 

How did plus size come about? 

The term plus size is a term used to describe a body type that falls outside of the industry's standard – the “straight size” range. The straight size range starts at approximately size 14. Although, sizes vary from brand to brand. Since there is no standard sizing in the clothing industry, as yet this is the general criteria. In the UK, a plus size is anything above size 16 and in Europe its size 44 and up.

While strides have been made in recent years with more brands expanding their size ranges, the options are still far from equal compared to straight sizes. This discrepancy is often seen not just in the availability of sizes but also in the styles offered.

The is because, on a large part, brands for the sake of inclusivity simply increase the sizes of their pre-existing clothing and designs to appease the buyers. There is no actual consideration for the non-traditional buyers needs or requirements. This is because ultimately it is not just a matter of recognizing that there is life and consumers beyond size 8, it affects the profit margin of a brand. The truth is producing bigger sizes, uses up more fabric, designing specifically for curvy consumers requires more time and money. The costs of all these items have to be absorbed by the business, or passed on to the consumer. If this were to happen, the sellers would have to increase the price of the entire range, thus price themselves out of the market.

In my view this is possibly the biggest resistance from most brands in failing to actually consider the needs and requirements of a non-traditional consumer.

Whilst various fashion shows and social media campaigns, and even laws in some countries, promote body diversity. You can’t possibly change the price of bigger items simply because they need more fabric to manufacture the product. Equally, you cannot design a line especially made to serve the needs of curvy consumers.

Therefore, most retailers for the sake of inclusivity prefer to use the existing patterns for size 8, by simply increasing the sizes, to retain that market share and their profitability.

I, at SilkBlvd, as a seller am too familiar with this concept. Inclusivity has a cost. You cannot simply purchase what manufacturers offer at a low rate per item, but making changes to the standard item can have a huge impact on a business. The patterns used to make regular clothing needs to change. The type of fabric also needs changing, along with the reprinting of the style. All of these compromises make certain styles more expensive than others, which leads to extra-costs and delay in shipment. Then there is the use of more fabric, additional shipping and customs cost.

Even when sellers like SilkBlvd, take all of this into account, there is a risk that the average consumer will not recognize the difference between a store selling increased sizes from the existing products, verses garments made especially to accommodate the varying shapes of the body, when both appear similar but have significantly different results in your appearance.

It is acceptable to use the term plus size?

The term "plus size" carries a negative connotation much beyond mere measurement. Critics argue that the term perpetuates harmful beauty standards. It implies that there's a "normal" size range and a "plus" size range, thereby contributing to body image pressures and segregation of the two.

On the one hand the term is also embraced by some. They argue that it is a reclamation of a label, that is empowering.  It helps build a more inclusive space within the fashion world, where diversity should be celebrated, instead of being separated.

On the other hand, for some the use of the term is extremely demoralizing, after decades of the term being synonymous with obesity. Thus, should be used sensitively.

Does “Plus size” equate to obesity?

I would argue not. Just because others label your body type as a “plus size”. It’s not an indication that you should be classified as a “plus size”. Size extends beyond the society’s “norms”, just like everything else. Each of us is allowed to have individual ideas. It is also important to remember, not all humans are made the same, some have wide or narrow hips, big or small waist-line, big or small breast or all and any of the above. A lot of consumers who have a healthy profile, get classified unnecessarily into a “plus size” simply because the store sizes cannot accommodate them.

What is considered to be curvy?

Curvy applies to a wide plethora of body types and sizes, not connected to any specific measurement. It can be different body shapes, such as, a very thin waist, fuller hips, bust or thighs or all in the same person or some in one person.  

There are a lot of very famous influencers, celebrities and people with influence, with perfectly sculpted bodies who exercise regularly, but do not fit into the “normal” mould. You will see that they can and do rock their curves with whatever they wear.

You can argue that their clothing is tailored to their body. That is exactly the point I am making. Embracing “plus size” fashion in some instances can open up a vibrant world of style possibilities. It’s all about finding pieces that vibe with your personal style and identity, that make you feel striking and sensational regardless of your body shape.  

My parting words:

Choose retailers that design garments for your specific shape and not to fit in with the masses, for the sake of inclusivity.

Perhaps I will let Mindy Kaling have the last word:

“WEAR A BIKINI IF YOU WANT TO WEAR A BIKINI. You don’t have to be a size 0’

How did plus size come about? 
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