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I think we need to have a very real discussion about a few things happening in the plus size clothing industry right now. Recently I’ve seen a lot of “call outs” from bloggers and influential people in the plus size community that basically consist of “Quit bitching about the things you don’t like and start talking about the things you DO like!!!”. Let me start by saying that I personally subscribe to this motto in my life. I’m a really fucking positive person, and you’d be hard pressed to see me sulking about and complaining. The thing is, I just can’t ignore the cultural shift that everyone else seems to look past. The industry just hasn’t kept up with the people they are designing for. And while fat people everywhere are beginning to embrace their bodies, and educate themselves on their own oppression, it seems that the plus size industry isn’t ready to understand, market, and create for this new fat positive community.
One thing I hear from plus size people, more than anything else is “I need affordable clothes”. I see an overwhelming amount of people in the fat blogger community respond with “you get what you pay for”, “quality comes at a cost”, or even “quit asking for people to make beautiful clothes and then expecting them to be cheap!”. And let’s just be real… that’s bullshit. Clothes should be affordable and beautiful and AVAILABLE. And despite what some may think, I believe that the majority of plus size shoppers actually have a really great grasp on how the business of clothing manufacturing goes. People know that the way to get cheap clothes is mass production, and mass production can only happen when you have a gigantic buying audience. They’re not uninformed. They’re just done settling.
I remember being young and having an ongoing conversation with my mother about whether or not you should be comfortable in your clothes. She would try on pants at a department store and they would be snug (or possibly even not fit), and she would not try on the size up. She’d either put them back, or buy them and remark on how they would help her suck in her stomach. For years of my life I really believed that if I had pants bigger than my waist size in my closet I was magically granting myself permission to be fat. When I started slowly creeping into the plus size section of stores I saw it as a pit-stop for a little comfort. I wasn’t actually going to wear these pants forever, I just needed this one pair of jeans to get me by until I was back on track with whatever diet I was going on that week. See, that’s the thing about plus size clothes that we don’t always talk about. For a long time plus size clothes were seen as impermanent. They were not the destination, they were a detour. But thanks to the body positive movement, plus size stores are no longer seen as a detour. We want them to be part of our journey, a really important part that helps us express ourselves.
So what happens when you have a new generation of plus size shoppers that don’t want to settle and are ready for plus size manufacturers to be their main destination? Well, maybe you rethink your product and how you market it. Let’s be real here, we know that cute affordable plus size clothes sell (shit, even ugly affordable plus size clothes sell, just look at what happened when Lilly Pulitzer collabed with Target). So when clothing manufacturers continue to neglect a seemingly untapped market of plus size people looking for affordable clothing, it feels like a huge “fuck you”. I know, it’s not easy to change up your business model, but when your entire consumer base is shifting and their needs are changing, don’t you think it’s time to reevaluate?
The blame can’t keep being placed on plus size shoppers. We are the ones that have paved this path for the plus size industry. We’ve literally carved out these giant spaces that say FAT PEOPLE EXIST AND WE ARE AMAZING, celebrate one another, and create conferences educating people about body positivity. When we ask for campaigns representing us, it’s not unreasonable to expect our community to actually be represented. I get it, everyone has to do their job. And it’s not fun when you feel like you’re working really hard and everyone is telling you it’s not good enough. I promise you that’s not nearly as painful as the continuing lack of representation that we in the plus size community experience. And when we won’t settle for a half-assed attempt at marketing to fat women, it’s not because we are negative or hateful. It’s because we are a little too busy participating in a self love revolution to promote companies that don’t seem to value the path we’ve laid for them.
We haven’t given up on the plus size industry, so why does it seem that they have given up on us? When we ask you to do better it’s because we seriously need you to DO BETTER. We are not ungrateful, or uninformed, we’re just not impressed. If you think you created something amazing and it doesn’t get the response you hoped, I promise it’s not because we’re impossible to please, it’s just that you didn’t nail it. And we know you can. I know it’s scary but we believe in you. And you won’t need to convince us it’s a “step in the right direction” when it is. We’ll see it. We’re out here breaking down barriers and overcoming oppression… the least you could do is make us some cute, reasonably priced, clothes.