Size recognition is a notion that the fashion industry is still struggling to come to terms with. There is a stigma associated with plus size fashion, and not just in India. This fear of damaging their brand if they offer plus size clothing exists all over the world.
Ever since the set up of retailing clothes, the brands have ignored the needs of plus size buyers. They are almost like a different species with a different set of rules and often do not find the latest trends on the racks. Women who are above size 16, are often told that they can’t wear and pull off certain items of clothing, they should wear baggy clothes, fitting should not matter, bright and contrasting colours should be avoided, stripes and big prints should be thrown away. We all grow up with all those instructions pounded into our heads.
Ask any plus size woman and she would tell you that she has been told at least once in her life that short dresses do not suit her. And designers and celebrities who set trends are not doing much to change that perception. But is the body positivity movement really making any real effect on the fashion and apparel industry?
It would be wrong to say that nothing is being done. Designers have indeed woken up to the need of inclusive fashion in this day and age. There are brands who are exclusively selling to plus size women including Pluss, ALL – a little larger, Violeta (Mango) and Alto Moda (Pantaloons) that have entire sections dedicated to curvy women and their needs. It is the online retailer who has made all the difference. E-sellers like Amydus, Larjjosa, Lastinch, Lurap are all catering to the need with 7X sizes available for sale.
Recent fashion weeks all over the world are including models to broaden the variety of women and body types we see on the runway. In India comedian Bharti Singh walked down the runway in Lakme Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016 in a short blue dress while in the autumn/winter season an entire show for plus size models by Little Shilpa got a lot of accolades. Transgender models have showcased collections most notably activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi was a definite game changer in the industry.
We also saw Carol Gracias and then Kareena Kapoor sashay down the runway for big labels while they were heavily pregnant in 2016. Anita Dongre had Kareena walk down the ramp within a few months of her delivery, in February, while she was still in the process of losing the baby weight.
On the international front Beth Ditto made the headlines modelling for Marc Jacobs and celebrity favourite Prabal Gurung is going to be teaming up with Lane Bryant for a collection that goes on sale in March. Not many know that Michael Kors has a plus size collection too. Plus size influencers like Ashley Nell Tipton, Ashley Graham, Gabi Gregg and Tess Holiday are truly revolutionising beauty standards, being recognised as supermodels, designers, stylists and being covered in high-end magazines etc..
Too little too late
But it has not really trickled down to mainstream retail experience. The media still struggles to recognise larger women and the need to stop marginalising them. Any advertisement or representation is of younger thinner women who are often retouched on photo-editing software to look flawless. They sell all aspirational products on television, magazines and online and plus size people only appear as comic relief. There are exceptions but they are very few and far between.
— aLL-Plus Size Store (@allplussize) August 28, 2016
Women are often conditioned to believe that those brands who do not advertise exclusive plus size collections do not sell them anyway. It is no surprise as larger women are truly underserved. The options available are often monochromatic, not trendy and ill-fitting. More often than not you will end up buying ill-fitting trousers with large baggy t-shirts and tunics with bad prints and still shell out a bomb from your pocket to pay for them. There are brands that are selling larger items but only up to size 16. It seems that they pretend that sizes above that don’t exist.