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Breathing New Life into the Plus-Size Fashion Revolution

Why do we need a revolution anyway?

It’s no secret that plus size fashion leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to allowing people with larger bodies to be stylish, without sacrificing comfort. The term “plus size” refers to clothing that is sized larger than standard or straight sizes, typically a UK 18 or above.

However, according to Fashion United, plus size fashion only accounts for 22% of the market, even though 67% of women in the UK are size 18. How are the majority of women supposed to find their style with the minority of the market? The simple answer is: they aren’t.

The vast majority of women who wear above a size 16 say that they don’t feel as though high street stores provide enough of an adequate range. Now, it is absolutely true that the discussion around plus size fashion has changed drastically over the last decade, but that doesn’t mean that the stigma that comes with not being able to shop in the straight size section has gone away completely. If a shop has a plus size section - which they don’t always have - then it’s almost always tucked away in the corner, and it’s never extensive.

So instead, plus size people are directed to go online where, whilst the options are often more varied, finding something that fits properly becomes even more difficult. The industrialisation of fashion - especially fast fashion - means that most clothes have to be manufactured quickly and in a “one size 14 fits all size 14s”, where the actual reality is more nuanced.

Height and weight distribution play a major role in the way that clothes will fit and if you know you’re not a standard size, then buying without trying is a big risk. A lot of people have become disillusioned to the exhausting nature of trying to buy clothes to fit their bigger bodies and have been calling for the plus size fashion industry to be revolutionised.

TikTok trends doing wonders for body positivity

That sounds counter-intuitive, I know. Most social media is heavily criticised for the way in which they promote unrealistic standards for body types or appearances and this can definitely be said for TikTok. However, the app’s algorithm makes it particularly easy to tailor your “For You Page” (FYP) to include only what you’re interested in and the values that you align yourself with.

There are also an abundance of plus size and body positivity creators on TikTok making validating and supportive content, videos that critique society and the fashion industry, and outfits of the day. Not only does this content raise the awareness of gaps in the industry and areas needing improvement, but also normalises watching larger bodies.

There is something incredible about watching bigger bodies wear what they want and announce that you’re also allowed to wear whatever you want, whilst also giving you the resources to do so. I personally started using TikTok during the first coronavirus lockdown here in the UK, and was delighted to see, once we were allowed out again, that people were still following body positivity out in the physical world as well as online.

I have never seen so many people with bigger bodies wearing shorts and bright crop tops as I have in the last 12 months, and partial credit must go to the success of TikTok and these trends for the new fat-acceptance movement.

What could the revolution look like?

Some brands are already working on more inclusive lines of clothing, and this is great. Universal Standard is a company doing an incredible job at providing simple but stylish clothes available from a size 00 to 40, and have also photographed models in every size so that you can get a basic idea of what the range would look like on your body type.

Big Bud Press is also a fantastic sustainable and ethical brand, also boasting an impressive size range. Brands that can offer clothes to fit all kinds of bodies need to start being the norm, bigger people deserve to be stylish as well.

Obviously, there is a lot more going on with the body liberation movement than just fashion, there systemic injustices and deep-rooted social biases that aren't going to go away when Primark start selling above a size 18; however I do believe that it is a start towards heavy people being able to celebrate and show off their bodies the same way that straight size people can.

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