MR Round Table: Plus Size Women in Fashion

The Writers | January 22, 2016

Plus size bloggers Kellie Brown and Katie Sturino guest star in today’s discussion

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Amelia Diamond: We’re here today to talk about the lack of size diversity in fashion — that for so long the industry has promoted one body type. The New York Times ran an article titled, “In Fashion, Fat Is Still a Taboo” about an art exhibit called Beyond Measure: Fashion and the Plus-Size Woman. The author writes about society’s size-exclusionary history, how it’s come a long way and yet, how in fashion, “progress has been halting.”

Just as with the lack of racial diversity in this industry, fashion’s size issue isn’t solely apparent on the runway; there’s a very real lack of size acceptance in the actual stores, on the consumer level. When Katie Sturino and I are gathering looks for her shoots, we have a hard time finding items — actual pieces to buy, not just samples — in both high fashion and high street stores.

Katie Sturino, fashion blogger at The 12ish Style and MR model: One of the big things is that making something “plus” (or even any size extended past a ten) is considered to be a special project for a brand, or like a big “You’re welcome.” In reality, it should be the norm because that’s the average size of a woman. What are we saying about women if we’re making it so hard for them to find clothes in stores?

Kellie Brown, fashion blogger at And I Get Dressed: It’s like a “risk” to the companies. It’s not something that they feel is worth spending the money on. They’re not sure how it’s going to turn out. And then I feel like — and I’ve worked for so many brands,  too — that everyone treats the “plus size customer” like one person. In straight size fashion, you can be edgy, you can be preppy, you can be into retro stuff. You can be really fashion-forward, you can be sporty, whatever your personal style is. But people address plus size customers as one person. We don’t all want fit and flare. I want a giant Margiela sack! That’s what I want.

You’re talking about millions of women all with individual personalities, sensibilities, personal style, taste.

Katie: Isn’t the assumption that the plus size customer won’t shop? Won’t spend money?

Kellie: Totally!

Katie: I don’t understand why that is.

Kellie: I think that the difference is that we have so few options to spend money on. Straight size women, or anyone who is below a size 10, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money, you still have a bajillion options. You can go to all of those really accessible brands.

Those accessible brands that do sell plus size clothing almost set it up to fail. First of all, there’s only, like, three basic t-shirts and sweatpants in a store full of cool stuff. They don’t promote it. If you make it and don’t tell anyone, you can’t then say, “It didn’t do well, it didn’t sell out,” because no one knew, there were no marketing dollars behind it.

Amelia: And a lot of stores that do carry plus sizes don’t carry it in the brick and mortar store. They only carry it online.

Emily Zirimis, graphic designer at Man Repeller: When they do carry it in the store, they corral everyone into a certain area. That’s really messed up. I was at a department store recently and I was looking for a coat. Women’s was on the first floor and plus size women’s was on the third floor, all the way in the back corner past children’s. And I was like, what message is that sending me as the buyer? Why are we hiding the plus sizes?  Why not integrate all of the sizes into one clothing rack. Why not say a size 2 to 28 in the same style. 

Kellie: That’s easier if everything comes in plus — especially when you’re in a store and you know that they have plus, but only in certain pieces. Do you really want to scour through every rack? If a store has everything in all sizes, that would totally make sense, but when only seventeen SKUs out of four hundred and eighty come in plus sizes, how can you shop? You have to literally look through everything and hope that the rack you’re guessing at has your size. To the stores who do invest in creating plus size options — especially the mass retailers — we want the same stuff. Don’t just make little special collections. If you’re going to cut it, cut it all. I don’t think that will ever happen, to be honest.

Emily: Where’s the J.Crew and the Madewell for plus size? You know? Basic pieces. Like a great pair of jeans, a nice sweater. Old Navy is the closest? But it’s not quality.

Kellie: J.Crew in plus would kill. It’s basics, but it’s fashion forward. It would be such a dream. Zara in plus!

Emily: I find myself basing my style, whatever that is, off of what’s available. It’s almost like I don’t know my style because the options aren’t there. It’s like, Okay, I’m going to get this pink shirt because it’s in my size. But maybe I don’t even want a pink shirt.

Katie: I don’t even know what it’s like to walk into a store to pick what I want instead of just what’s going to fit.

Kellie: That’s such a crazy point. A friend of mine just made that, too. She said, “I dress how I dress but I don’t even know what my aesthetic is because it’s not really an option.” You’re making do with what you have. If you could pick anything, would you even own any of this stuff?

Amelia: Where do you go for inspiration?

Kellie: I look at fashion and I adapt it to what’s available to me. I go to extreme lengths because I want to look how I want to look. I’m one of those people, though, that if I have a true dream and I needed to have something, I will get it made. I will figure it out. But that’s really extreme and not fair.

Amelia: Well, for the girl who doesn’t have that inherent sense of what she definitely wants to wear…

Kellie: We all work in fashion and have a fashionable sense, but I look at what’s happening in the same places that you look. I look in magazines, I look at other style blogger — not necessarily plus size bloggers. Most of the blogs I read aren’t. I look at my friends because I like to see what they’re doing. But in terms of inspiration, it’s the same for me as anything.

Katie: And then figuring out how to make it work for you. That’s the same thing for me.

Kellie: Being on the constant hunt: Googling your ass off for a jacket. Oh my god. It took me two years to find a coat!

Amelia: Especially in an age where seemingly everyone has access to fast fashion. You see a trend on the runway, you know you’re going to find it the next day. To have to be on the hunt for it longer…

Kellie: You miss a lot of stuff.

Katie: I find that brands aren’t interested or don’t care about having you included in a trend. When I call in clothes from a straight size brand for a shoot, they’re just not interested in loaning, because even though the audience may be big, they don’t care about promoting that size. Even though they make that size!

Kellie: All of the time. So many of my friends who work in publishing or at major magazines and write for plus, even though the designers make it, they will not give them samples because they don’t want that featured.

Amelia: That’s just insane to me. I don’t understand from a marketing standpoint why you wouldn’t.

Kellie: It’s the dumbest thing. We spend so much money — we have to! — but you don’t have the option.

Katie: Wasn’t that the point of that New York Times article? That fashion doesn’t want “fat?”

Emily: “Fashion’s job is to exclude.” That’s what the exhibit’s curator told the author.

Kellie: But is it all of the mass retailers’ jobs? If you’re looking at the new Céline collection or you’re looking at Chanel and you’re like, ok, they didn’t send it down a runway, that’s fine — I mean it’s not fine — but why can’t you make it, Mr. Mass Retailer Brand? You’re copying all of this. The trickle down. It starts at the top of the pyramid, yet even as it trickles down, we’re still being ignored. And we really do want to be part of the consumer process.

Emily: It’s hard to be interested in fashion when they don’t respect you as a buyer. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten less interested when there’s a sample sale or a runway show. I’m just like, “Why am I going to respect an industry that doesn’t respect me?” All of these big brands, it’s hard to even look. It’s torturous. You can’t buy it, you can’t fit in it.

Katie: Where do you find that you shop?

Emily: ASOS, H&M, Forever21….I can’t seem to find the basic pieces that I want elsewhere.

Kellie: There’s nothing in the middle.

Katie: Dolce & Gabbana, Chloé, Stella McCartney, they all go up to a European size 50. I shop on Net-a-Porter. I’ll buy their 48s and 50s. But that’s rare. It is.

Leandra Medine: Back to what Emily said about not knowing your style — I know this is probably going to sound really trite because I have a fairly small frame, but I’ve been taking hormone shots for the past two weeks because I am prepping my body for IVF, and my stomach has just ballooned. None of my pants actually fit me anymore. I know that it’s trivial and I still fit into a size 4 or 6 and therefore it doesn’t make such a big difference, but I’m not used to this new body, so the outfits that I put together in my head don’t translate the way they used to. I feel like I’m going through a really similar identity crisis, obviously on a different level — and I’m a little annoyed at myself that I keep saying, “Obviously it’s not the same, it’s not the same!” but whatever mental lament you’re experiencing, I’m experiencing, too, you know what I mean?

Kellie: This is a good time to shoot some outfits for the site if you’re having a tummy-conscious moment, then.

Leandra: I’ve been wearing a ton of robes. I’ve been wearing a shit ton of robes.

Kellie: Robes are great! I saw your winter caftan and I was very into that.

Leandra: Yeah winter caftans, big sweaters that cover waist lines because all my pants are open right now. I was actually Gchatting Amelia on Monday — I was looking at Net-a-Porter and I was like, “I need to figure out what I can put on my person. I need to get dressed for the next X amount of months, because if all goes well and I get pregnant, this is going to last for another year.” It’s disheartening how few things are out there for different body types.

Kellie: I love getting dressed and I care about my aesthetic and I don’t want what’s typically offered to me, so I’m in this battle to get dressed. It should be a lot more simple than that.

Amelia: It shouldn’t be a daily struggle.

Leandra: Opening your closet shouldn’t feel like you’re entering a war zone, like you’re going to battle.

Kellie: That’s why being a blogger, it’s so awesome to get emails from girls who feel inspired. I love when someone is like, “I care about fashion now because you’ve inspired me to be invested,” or, “I can find things!” You don’t have to search the Internet because I’m already doing it, so here is the info. People want to care, but if you feel like this thing you spend money on, that you’re interested in and read about in magazines, you look at during shows –if you feel like this industry doesn’t care about you, then why should you care?

But in the end, that mentality hurts you because then you don’t get what you want.

Amelia: All of us work in fashion, which is a difficult and scary industry to come into as is. There’s a consistent fear that maybe you don’t fit in, so how could you get in. I have a few friends who thought that there was no way they’d ever get a job in fashion if they weren’t skinny, so they lost weight. Got skinny for the sake of an internship or job. And now there’s still that underlying fear that they’re going to gain weight and be “found out,” get kicked out of the club. We’ve all felt like that in some way, but how did you get over it?

Katie: I have always felt like the biggest girl. I remember being 23-years-old and working at Dolce & Gabbana, just feeling like a fucking cow. I felt that. They gave me clothes and were so nice, but I felt like a lost cause there. I really think that I didn’t feel comfortable in this industry until my Man Repeller story, which I’ve said before and I’ll say it again and I’m screaming into this microphone. By saying out loud that it was okay to have my body, and it was okay to have cellulite, and it’s okay to want to wear shorts, and it’s okay that like, my thighs not only touch but actually chafe — to say those things to people out loud, and then have women in the comments say, “Me too!,” that was a first for me. That’s the thing that social media has provided me: I’m able to provide an option for girls that have previously had a hard time finding one. They like the look but can’t adapt it to their own bodies because they can’t see it on their own bodies…

Kellie: There’s so much fucked up shit that happens in the plus size world, like they hire a model who’s undersized for her market, pad her up…

Emily: She always has a great face, great jaw line.

Katie: But they don’t want her to have the body she has. There’s all this trickery happening.

Kellie: It’s super convoluted. I feel the same way as you, Katie, especially in fashion. I’m always the biggest girl in the room, even when I’m smaller. And the whole, “How did you get over it?” moment, I think that when it came time to enter this realm, I left that at the door. The minute I said that this is what I’m going to do — working in PR a million years ago, I was like, I’m the biggest girl here, so you’re welcome everybody. Ok? Cool? Alright, it’s over.

What I don’t like is when people compliment my outfit as though it’s a pat on the head: “Look at you, little fashionista!” I’m like, did you say that to blogger X over there? “Congratulations! You don’t look like a disaster!”

Amelia: People always say that to me when I walk into the office.

Leandra: Well it’s also a celebration, Amelia, because you usually come in like a hurricane.

Kellie: It’s like they think that somehow, because I’m a bigger person, my brain doesn’t understand colors and proportions and textures. If I was an interior designer and I was doing your house, you wouldn’t think I couldn’t make a room look beautiful because I’m fat. Yet somehow I shouldn’t understand those same elements to get dressed?

Not only are you the biggest person in the room and you have to get over it, but people like to remind you. Even if it’s in a backhanded compliment.

Emily: I’m tired of being made to feel less-than because of my size.

Amelia: Do you feel like that predominantly in the industry, or in general? Or where does that feel most prevalent for you?

Emily: Just…everywhere. I’m made to feel lesser-than just because of my size. Or maybe it’s in my head. I’m not sure. But even in high school and in college, I always felt like I needed to push myself in other ways to make up for my lesser-than-ness of weight. I wasn’t the pretty, thin girl so I had to be smart.

Leandra: You’re only ever forced to cultivate personality and identity when you have to numb something else. I was thirty pounds overweight until I was in tenth grade in high school and I think that’s why I’m so outgoing and extraverted: because I felt like I had to be.

Emily: You have to be the funny girl, too. That’s another thing.

Kellie: I feel like I have this super contrary attitude toward all of that in terms of what I’m going to accept. Like, whatever you’ve decided about me, I’m not going to accept that. I’m going to excel. Even in the thing you think I’m not good at. Whatever you’re projecting onto me, I’m literally rejecting it. I feel like that’s my personality.

Katie: That’s the attitude of a lot of plus size bloggers now. Like GabiFresh or Nadia Aboulhosn, they’re like, “Fuck you, I look so good. Everyone’s talking about my ass in a good way.” And that, I find, while it’s not me, it’s very inspirational. Like okay, alright, great!

Kellie: It’s refreshing. When people tell me, “Oh, that would be so great if you belted it…” I want to have a public belt-burning session. I’m not cinching my fucking waist! I’m not doing it! Shut up.

Yes, there are acceptable belts. But I’m talking about a belt for the express purpose of cinching your waist because you’re “supposed to” show off that you have one small part of you, but it doesn’t go with the outfit or it’s terrible, it’s elastic.

Amelia: Semi-off-topic, but when Instagram banned the hashtag “curvy,” Margaret Boykin wrote about how the elimination of that body positive word implied there was something vulgar about being curvy, about exposing skin and flesh if you’re over a certain size. But I see a lot of plus size bloggers refusing to give in to that. Plus size bloggers show tons of skin: shorts, crop tops, swimsuits. Just as much as anyone else. They are proving that there’s nothing vulgar about having more.

Katie: I posted a picture of myself in a cat suit the other day and I felt like Khloe Kardashian and I’ve never felt better about myself.

Leandra: That’s an important question I think: when do you feel like the best version of yourself?

Katie: Oh. Probably not in a cat suit. But I do like a cat suit.

Amelia: You love a bathing suit. Your bathing suit shoot for us was dialed up.

Kellie: I feel most comfortable when I’ve pulled off what’s in my mind. It’s like, I’ve executed this outfit the way I saw it. Size is no issue.

Leandra: What about you, Emily?

Emily: I was going to say almost the exact same thing: when things fit and when I don’t have to compromise for my size. When I go into the store and I have an outfit in mind and I don’t have to sacrifice my idea. As far as showing skin, I don’t. I’m just not that type of person to show skin. But the fact that plus size bloggers are makes me feel great inside. I mean, I’m not gonna post a bathing suit photo, but it’s great that they are and I respect that.

Kellie: I think it’s hard, though. Because there’s fat, there’s acceptable fat, and then there’s not acceptable fat. Acceptable fat is tall, lean, not roll-y, not soft, more of an hour glass. But if you’re bigger in the middle or top heavy or whatever…like, I’m 5’10,” I’m not an hourglass, and I post pictures of myself in a bathing suit.

If you feel confident and you want to wear something, go crazy, have fun. But the fashion side of me, if it doesn’t look fashionable, then I won’t like it.

Katie: Do you get comments when you post photos in a bathing suit?

Kellie: Always, but they’re almost never negative. I’ve been super blessed because there is a lot of slut shaming online, and a lot of, “You’re so fat, you’re disgusting.”

Tumblr comments are usually where it’s specific. I think it’s because I’m not “a little fat.” I am all the way plus size. It’s not like, “You could lose a little.” I am clearly a larger person, so maybe they don’t feel the need to say, “You’re fat,” because it’s like, “Duh, I know. I’m aware. I’m tall, I’m black, I’m me.” But what they say is that I’m promoting obesity. “I’m loving this outfit but don’t you feel like you’re promoting obesity?” And it’s like, “How? Because you like what I’m wearing, you think that I’m saying you have to gain weight in order to wear this?” I don’t understand the relation.

Amelia: The logic is not there.

Kellie: It’s not real. Right? So, should I not get dressed? Another thing that’s big among plus size bloggers is that if we post pictures where we’re working out, people will say not to lose weight, that that’s selling out. Others will say, “Oh good, you’re finally losing weight.” And it’s like, Will you like these outfit posts better then? It’s gonna be the same style, same aesthetic.

You can love yourself at any size, on any given day. At your highest weight, at your lowest weight, at your weight that’s good for you. Whatever it is.

Amelia: That’s so hard, to embrace yourself as you are and not let yourself sit in fashion purgatory. I know that feeling so well, where you hate all your jeans because you gained weight but you don’t want to buy new jeans because you want to lose the weight — so you can’t wear any jeans and you feel like crap. It’s a bad feeling.

Leandra: I think that on a baseline level, fashion’s purpose is to make us feel like the best versions of ourselves. No woman, or man, frankly, is not motivated by feeling good about him or herself. And so by default, fashion plays an important role in everybody’s life. What I am finding is that people who are unable to participate force themselves to opt out because they have no other choice. It’s unfair.

We are platitudinously taught that what we look like on the outside doesn’t matter, that it’s all about what’s inside. But so much of what’s inside is informed by what happens on the outside.

When you guys were talking about when you feel your best, you all mentioned occasions where whatever was going on inside reflected what was going on outside. When I ask myself when I feel my best, it almost never actually has to do with what I’m wearing. When you ask me when I feel my worst, that’s always about what I look like.

Something I want to know is, what sort of advice would you give to your former self? If you were talking to the 12-year-old version of yourself and you could actually affect the psychological events that would happen in the subsequent 10 years, what would you say to her?

Kellie: It’s so funny because I don’t know that it would be about my body size. I think I’d say, “Listen to your mom, she knows what she’s talking about. Cherish family.” It would be more profound than: Your future fatness.

When we were talking about getting into fashion, and Amelia mentioned young women who thought they had to lose weight to get into the industry, when I was younger, I didn’t think I couldn’t do it because I was bigger, I thought I couldn’t do it because I was brown.

I thought, “There are no people who look like me.” Then one day I was watching one of those old Style Network shows and I saw André Leon Talley. I didn’t know who he was but he seemed super important, and I was like, “He’s big and black. I could be the girl version of him!” That made me think, “There are people who look like me.” That was more “the thing” than size.

When you don’t see yourself anywhere during that 12-year-old age, it’s kind of a mind-fuck.

Katie: I would say to my 12-year-old self, “You’re okay as you.” I think I spent the past 20 years pressed against the “skinny glass,” trying to get in and never getting in. This is the same body I’ve had since I was literally 12, and I’ve never felt comfortable in my body until probably now.

You walk into a room full of editors who are all zeros and you can’t find the clothes and you can’t buy the thing that everyone has and there’s always some road block — and so many of those blocks are mental. I finally exhaled and just said, “This is my body. This is who I am.” And I felt okay in a way that I never have before.

I think if I could lose all of that time where I was skipping a lunch and being obsessive or feeling like shit or leaving a party early because I wasn’t in a crop top and everyone else was in a crop top…those kinds of body moments: fuck them. And just worry about some other shit.

Worry about so many more important and valuable things for yourself than your weight or your body shape.

Emily: What I’d say is that things get better. Where I grew up, if you weren’t blonde, you weren’t thin, you weren’t tan: forget it.

Leandra: What’s making you happy now?

Emily: I like the change that’s happening. I see it happening in TV, with plus size fashion bloggers. And I like that at least more clothing is available. When I was a kid, nothing was available.

Amelia: There needs to be, across the board, a way for everyone to feel as though they can participate, and to not to be boxed into one category like you said earlier, Kellie. I don’t know how to make that happen. You have to hope that a loud demand for it will help.

In the meantime, I think women sharing stories of how they knocked down doors allows others to say to themselves, “Fine. I’m just gonna do it. I’m gonna move to New York City and enroll in FIT and be the one to design those clothes.”

Emily: Like Ashley [Nell Tipton] who won Project Runway. She’s plus size, and she won as a plus size designer, and the clothes are great. Anyone would want to wear them.

Amelia: Hopefully because of her, there are going to be more and more people designing cool clothes for all sizes.

Emily: It’s going to happen.

Check out Katie Sturino’s website, The 12ish Style, and follow on Instagram here. Check out Kellie Brown’s website, And I Get Dressed, the And I Get Dressed Instagram, and her personal Instagram here. Meanwhile, if you haven’t met Emily Zirimis yet, you may recognize her from making this incredible Bieber gif. She’s our graphic designer and has a sweet Instagram, too.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; Styled by Elizabeth Tamkin; Creative Direction by Emily Zirimis.

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  • VQ

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  • Subrina Ejoke

    This interview made me sad, happy, sad again, hopefully, and then fuck yeah!
    As a personal stylist I’m often very weary of taking clients that are about a size 12 because I never want to let them down if I don’t find anything that fits. I live in the mid west so it’s even worse because the options are so limited. Shopping online can be a hassle because you order a size 10 because your client is a size 10 but then the package comes and she can’t fit into anything. This is more than soul crushing. The fashion industry needs to do better. If we keep having these discussions and start demanding more, they’ll have to do better

    • We have a retail showroom in NYC, would love to host you and your clients.

    • Golly. Maybe this can be a positive challenge for you and your business Subrina! You can be a pioneer!

    • Thats sounded so awful for your clients. Brands are crazy.

  • Meghan

    I interned in the fashion world in college, I was a size 18. I felt like the biggest girl in the room at all times. The strange part was, I felt super confident in college. I had a great boyfriend, friends and life – but something happened when I entered the fashion world every day after my train ride to the city. My confidence depleted over time at my internships. Thoughts would enter my head like… “Why can’t I just be skinny?” And in a way, I wasn’t making these ideas up in my head. Most of my bosses clicked with the other interns (who were sizes 0-8) . I would often wonder is it me? I am so happy, outgoing and positive at school and in my personal life. Why are they not accepting me here in my work life? It haunted me for a long time until I decided to just go a different route. I am not saying everyone who works in fashion is a bitch – but I definitely felt like if I was skinnier and “fit in” more to their perfect mold they would of liked me better.

    I love fashion and continue to have the same issues talked about in this post. I spend three hours to find a pair of pants or a coat but I do it because I love it and I want my style to be my own. Not the plus size outdated mold that most brands create for us size 14 and over. Thank you so much for bringing this issue to light and I can only hope in the future it gets better.

  • It’s true, life can be quite boring sartorially if you are on the wrong side of the size fence.

    Which is where my sewing machine comes in: I don’t sew clothes, I just buy them and then … *nip*, *tuck* *got you bastard*. I make lovely longish tops out of mini dresses (*chop*), short-sleeved garments out of long-sleeved ones (*chop – chop*), I buy men’s jeans and take them in to fit my waist … I also buy simple men’s sweaters because the sleeves and the garments on the whole tend to fit me better – my body adding feminine forms all on its own, so noone knows in the end.
    All of it with a great pleasure, because ain’t noone putting this moose into a shabby corner!
    On the serious side: one does not need to actually know much about sewing to do what I am doing and it feels better if you start taking your sartorial revenge upon cheaper clothes.

    I may or may not have “edited” a men’s Isabel Marant tee. Jep.

    • Liz

      Um, I don’t know you, but can we be friends? I like the cut of your jib.

      • Amelia Diamond

        And I like a sailing ref.

        • I had to look it up. 🙂

  • Susu

    Yes, this needs to be an OH BOY!!!!

  • Aydan

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this and def agree with my fellow commentators below, let’s hear this, though it was an incredible read. Thanks to all for constantly talking about the things no one else wants to talk about!! (Also thanks on the bolding of the names — it made all the difference)

  • gabifresh

    yes to all of this! and shout out to kellie for addressing the intersectionality of blackness and fatness.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Gabifresh! Let us know next time you’re in NYC!

    • PCE

      Actually Gabifresh you are my hero! I follow you on insta and love the blog – FYI your swimsuits have finally made me EXCITED for beach season!!!

  • Liz

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. In my adult life I’ve been a size 4, a size 24 and every single size in between (I now hover around a size 6/8), and it absolutely sucks that I can say with some authority that it is still a ton easier to be a straight size, even with today’s plus-size options. I do find it soul-crushing that plus-size is often corralled into a separate section in the store, or even on a different floor of a department store. WHY? Why isn’t every article of clothing that a line makes just available in a size 0-28?
    We need a revolution, ladies, and it happens with our wallets. We need to start putting our money where our mouths are and dropping coin on lines and brands that support a more broad, accepting view of what women’s fashion should be. Totally agree with the comment that J.Crew/Madewll can (and should) jump on this as well: they’d kill it!

    Liz
    http://www.stylishdisaster.com

  • Love this!!!! Such a great discussion and what I am trying to address with HeyGorgeous.com

  • AlexaJuno

    Growing up overweight is so terribly difficult especially when it comes to clothing. I spent alot of years wearing some pretty mature looking stuff from New York and Co. because it was the only store where I didn’t feel like crying in the dressing room. It was through the trials of shopping that I was taught by my aunt and mother, both larger women, how to dress for my body type in ways that were flattering and where to shop to suit my needs. Still, when all the other kids were wearing trendy juniors stuff from teen shops, things I wanted to wear, I just couldn’t fit into any of it and it really took a toll on my confidence. I’ve since lost weight and am average size at this point, but getting dressed was a battle for a long time. It’s heartening to see the body positivity conversation happening for other little girls and women whose size makes them feel like a second class citizen. I hope to see more genuine inclusivity from the fashion industry in the future.

    • PCE

      I lived this too and I feel that pain – I’m a 14/16 depending on the day, brand, etc and was that size at 13 years old (I grew fast/hit puberty really early)…. You’re 100% right – I feel like a second class fashion citizen. Even if we tried to be daring with fashion, we’d be looked at as if we are just sloppy and don’t know how to dress.

  • Kitties at

    I am a middle aged fat lady who stereotypically wears JJill – clothing for the woman who has officially given up. And THEY don’t carry the plus sizes in stores.

    • I too am a middle aged fat lady and when I turned 40 I decided I would NOT give up. Like Kellie I search and search for the right thing and it takes FOREVER (I hear her on 2 years for a jacket, I’m still working on it) and my closet gets smaller and smaller but I’m slowly pulling together a wardrobe that fits my insides as well as my outside. But dang if it’s not a full-time job! And it’s so annoying when plus sizes aren’t in brick & mortar stores! I’m finding more and more online locations for cusp and plus sizes that have free shipping and generous return policies. I’ve started sticking to just a select number of retailers to reduce my time cursing my reflection. Check out Nordstrom, they have a decent variety of plus brands online, free shipping and returns and they seem to keep adding brands. Of course, if you click “tops” the plus ones are on page 56, but you can narrow to your specific size and they have a lot of customer reviews to help you narrow down what to try. Don’t give up, you deserve to love how you look! <3

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I am not a traditional plus size- I used to be a size 8 and now hover between a sioze 10-12 depending on the article of clothing. But as a black woman I experience a lot of what was talked about in this piece. When you are naturally curvy with a large butt and slim waist and wide hips – finding clothes that fit when everything is made to fit someone with small to no butt and narrow hips is near impossible. Going into Zara I feel like a whale. I finally just stopped going because I always felt like crap when I was in there. I do the same mental edit of “how do I make this work for my body” when looking online or shopping. I use dto wear a lot of vintage because it allowed for my body to just be what it is without my feeling the need to camouflage with a belt or a long shirt.

    • Junglesiren

      I feel your pain. All my pants are altered. Taken in at the waist and usually hemmed a bit. Whatever pants I buy I tack on 30 bucks for alterations. Sucks, but I’m used to it now.

  • i feel like i have so much to say but i will just simply say thank you for this <3333333333

    also katie, that insta of the cat suit i did like 3 takes because i thought it was khloe i had to read the caption over.

  • Natty

    i just learned so much, you are all wonderful human beings. thank you!!!

  • enC

    This makes me sad. Anyone that enjoys fashion should be able to. I actually feel that it might not be a case of larger people just being left out though. After years of being very thin, I gained 40 lbs due to a medical condition. (I have now lost the weight.) What I learned is that if you are overweight you can’t just move to a larger size, because your body is no longer in proportion. The extra weight is not evenly distributed. My weight was in my stomach and upper arms so the size12 that should have fit, didn’t. I just wore stretchy waistband items, and tunics. And great shoes. I think it would be great for larger people to have more options, but my guess is they would still need to do a lot of alterations.

    • At least let them have the good pieces deserving of alterations. The thing is there’s fewer options at larger sizes to even fit over our bodies. But yep, I’ve found at a larger size alterations are often necessary.

  • Andrea Raymer

    I have been bigger than most of my friends my whole life, in fact, my mom has even been thinner than me since the moment I hit puberty. In 7th grade I shot up to 5’7″ and a size 14. I had always been interested in fashion, and it really was the only thing that made me feel better. I didn’t look like the other girls in high school, but I knew I could out-dress them, and thats what I did. I abandoned the American Eagle/Hollister/Abercrombie phase and recreated outfits from fashion magazines and wore them to school. Once I moved to New York to work in fashion, I pretty much had my aesthetic defined (it involves a lot of mens clothes because they are big enough for me).

    The struggle I have faced a lot is that I feel like the only outlook that a bigger woman is allowed to have on her body is a positive one. This is how I look, and I don’t like it. I never have, but I can’t even complain a little bit to my closest friends without being told to stop throwing myself a pity party. My skinny friends all go on about how fat they look and I am not allowed to commiserate. I want to get in shape! I want to be healthy and strong, and yes, thinner! But I can’t tell anyone that without them yelling at me or flat out denying that there is even a difference between our bodies. I have had much thinner friends tell me that their problem is much worse than mine because I am taller than them, like 4 inches in height makes up for the seventy pounds more than her I weigh.

    • Emma

      Yes yes yes. Totally hear you about the friends thing. Drives me nuts when they have no problem lamenting about how chubby their cheeks are or how their stomach rolls over their jeans waistband even the littlest bit, but that somehow their disgust at their own perceived fatness in no way affects how they see me or think of me. Like, I probably literally weigh twice as much as you. The 5 or 6 inches in height doesn’t quite make up for that. You can’t have it both ways, wanting me to sympathize with how gross you think you look yet “not be allowed” to be critical of my own much larger body.

  • Kerrith

    I have always felt like the message was,”You don’t belong in this neighborhood.” It’s sad because I love fashion, and I love to shop and spend money on quality items. Currently I keep my look pretty basic and express myself via shoes. They always fit! I have welcomed norm core, although I know it is “out” on this blog, but it has really allowed me to feel current and stylish in a world where the really intricate, higher end stuff just doesn’t fit.

  • Junglesiren

    The fashion industry is cutting off their own noses to spite their faces. It’s a strange financial move since very few women are actually as size 2.

    Our doors are open to everyone, whatever size you are. This is funky stuff so it’s not for everyone but if you like a little funk in the mix, check us out.

    http://www.whoredeculture.com

    Pandora Sykes is a fan and wore our jeans here on MR:
    http://www.manrepeller.com/minor_cogitations/pandora-sykes-sunday-times-style-london-fashion-week.html

    Good luck to everyone, whatever size… you are beautiful girls!

  • garnerstyle

    Great interview!

  • Rhi

    Such a valid discussion, but there’s one thing you ladies slightly touched on, which I personally find as massive problem: being taller. Not only am I 180cm, so almost 5’11”, I can also range from a UK size 14-18 depending on the brand (so, 10-14 US?), which is partly down to weight, but also proportion – no matter how much weight I lost I doubt I’d ever fit a 0, even at my thinnest I still had to size up because of bust or shoulder witdth. Taller women, especially women taller than myself, struggle so much and paired with plus it can make it almost impossible. I’m lucky to fall into the category where I can almost shop wherever I like, depending on the brand sizing standards, but more often than not height will limit me just as much as weight. I have petite friends that struggle too, but I do think there’s a lot more you can do with excess fabric than not having enough.

    This also means a struggle to find shoes, for example I have a pair of Acne boots but they stop at a 41 so they’re fairly snug. Imho they’re not a true 41, the same with a lot of places. I find trainers are usually true to size and Gucci are a brand I’ve found to be true, I can’t wear Jimmy Choo, Cos or Whistles unless I want pain.

    I find that there is a massive lack of consistency within bigger sizes. Straight size stores seem to be more consistent within sizes UK 8-12, but bigger or smaller you can never tell what size you’ll be. It’s so true how fashion excludes, which is ridiculous really when true style should promote individuality and it should not be difficult to achieve.

  • Kayla Tanenbaum

    late on this convo but I’d like to say something that frustrates me about size-representation in fashion is the way it treats mid-size (I don’t know how else to say that) bodies. Super, super thin girls are the norm (size 0-2) and then they fetishize “plus” bodies (constant lingerie spreads; I feel like plus models are never actually wearing clothes) but I NEVER see a girl a size 6 or 8. She’s not interesting because she’s not extreme in either way.

  • I am pretty sure I have it much easier than the women in this post but petite is a problem too. I am less than 5 feet and all clothing is pretty much made for supermodels. I actually wear three fourth sleeve as full and cropped pants are full pants. Its pretty ridiculous. Its a different problem but all the same frustration. All women are not 5 feet 10 inches tall!

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    I hope that, as a voice representing the fashion industry’s audience (and therefore energy and inertia), that this post pushes retailers like J.Crew, Madewell, Zara, Topshop etc. to include plus sizes into their collections. This was not just a conversation between 5 women, this was a platform on which to make a change. Side note, this post makes me very proud to work at Man Repeller.

  • very interester by this subject because for sure, we can’t all be a size O.

  • Kate

    This was a great read and an important reminder of the need for greater diversity in the fashion industry! What does frustrate me however, is the limited conversation that continues to occur whenever discussing issues of body diversity and image. It is forever one focussed on size, rarely concerning itself with the bigger picture. We live in such a diverse and multifaceted society, and yet when it comes to matters of diversity in the fashion industry, the conversation never extends to disability. When people ask why there is such a disparity in the general sizing of models used in fashion, the question of where are all the disabled models? never seems to spark the same concern…..

  • While I have no actual idea what it is like to be a plus size in todays fashion obsessed and size obsessed world, I feel like I share that struggle. I grew up being a 34G bra. So NOTHING fit and nothing worked. Id have to buy size 14 items on top or in dresses and then have them cut down to a 6 or an 8 on top or a 10-12 on the bottom. I had in my head the idea that IF ONLY my boobs weren’t so freakishly large everything would magically fit.

    Fast forward to 3 years ago and a diagnosis I wish on no one, I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction. While losing my breasts was hard to wrap my head around, I clung to the idea that at least when all was said and done I would finally be “normal”. It made getting through it much easier.

    6-9 months later when the healing was done and I went shopping for the first time I had in my head this magical scenario where I was going to pull things off the rack and they were magically going to fit me. Turns out as much as I wanted to blame it on my large chest, I still wasn’t “normal”. I am a size 6-8 on top, and have size 12 hips even though my waist is proportionate to the rest of my frame. The most devastating part of the changes in my body were not the actual loss of a part of my body or the emotions of the surgery itself. It was the feeling like even after I had gone through everything I had gone through, I still didn’t or don’t measure up. And while I really do love clothing and fashion, I still go through periods where the thought of shopping or trying things on puts me in panic attacks or tears in a dressing room.

    While for the most part I can still find things (so long as I get every skirt and dress tailored) I am just at the cusp. I am too big for many brands that I yearn to wear and see advertised that I love (why do they stop at 10 when I need a 12 in bottoms and dresses) and yet plus sized are too big. So I am in that inbetween no mans land where things just don’t work.

  • Ollie

    So I read all of this and I completely relate, but not quite in the same way. I am a skinny guy, and when I say skinny I am a 32″ chest and a 26″waist at 5’10” and I have never, not once, ever found anything in my size, I tried on Gosha Rubchinskiy and even that was too big (for those that dont know Gosha is a Russian menswear designer whose sizes run very slim).

    So for this reason I am pretty much stuck to womenswear or childrenswear, sometimes vintage but often the sleeves are painfully short.

    The real problem with this is that at work a guy isnt allowed to wear womenswear, or childrenswear because ‘its wierd’ eventhough I am in no way attempting to cross dress and I have no desire to that is how the world sees it. So instead I have to get shirts in a 14.5 inch collar (I am a 14) which make me look like I have the smallest neck in the world.

    So to overcome all of this I learnt to sew, I make a hell of a lot of clothes for myself eventhough my sewing skills arent in any way perfect, but at least I get what I want and it neither says ‘Burberry Childrenswear’ or ‘Kenzo Kids’ on the tag. I totally know what you’re going through, all girls are expected to be skinny and all guys are expected to be big, but sometimes it only takes a few to show real diversity, viva Gypsy Sport!!

  • Prunella

    If I can find decent sizes and accessories, like rings for larger than a size 11, or chokers made for more than a 16 inch neck, or wide width boots that are sexy and have expanding calves, or shoes that fit across my feet , or stockings that fit over 250lb Im going to spend a fortune. Sexy lingerie, not just babydolls…I make my own, because its not out there…

    • I’ve started going to Etsy for a lot of accessories because they stores will often make custom necklace lengths and have rings in larger sizes.

  • PCE

    There was nothing worse than when I was in law school, shopping with my best (albeit skinny) friends at lord and Taylor for one of our formal events… I had asked a saleswoman if a dress I loved came in a 14, because the 12 was just too snug. She looked at me, huffed, and said “no, you should shop in the women’s section” then turned on her heel and walked away. I was mortified, my friends were irate (because they’re good people) and that woman went about her day scoffing at the 23 year old chubby girl buying a dress. It’s one thing if it didn’t come in a size 14, which is a problem in and of itself but not the sales woman’s fault…but to speak to me like I was some pariah, like I didn’t deserve to be there looking for a pretty dress… THAT was the worst experience of my life. It was years ago and talking about it still stings.

    On the topic of the above story, specifically, has anyone ever taken a look at the women’s section in lord and Taylor? I love that store and I shop there a lot, but the clothes in the women’s section are DISGRACEFUL. The clothes there – other than the Michael kohrs items (which, frankly, should just be over with their straight size counterparts) – look like leftovers from the 90s. It’s embarrassing. And why?? You’re missing out on tapping a HUGE market, if you’d just take the time to design REAL clothes for us!

    • I was asked to style a member of the Junior League for their fashion show at Bloomingdale’s. She was an 18, and Bloomies in DC doesn’t have a womens department. While all the other models wore fun and trendy fashions, my poor woman was swathed in head to toe black knit because it was the only thing in that store that fit her figure. I was disgusted by not only the lack of larger sizes, but how the staff dismissed her and me because as one said, we weren’t “their target customer.” I agree, if we had good options and were treated with respect and had at least clean and organized departments, we’d spend our money!

  • Lulucylemon

    I’d love to see J. Crew/Madewell do plus size. J. Crew Factory (or Mercantile, whatever they’re calling it these days) often sells XXL/up to size 20 in a variety of items, but they frequently sell out quickly. Seems like that would be an indicator that plus size women WILL shop if you offer the clothing we’re looking for. True J. Crew was doing XXL in some tops, too, but it seems to have faded away in favor of XXXS-XL… which makes me wonder about vanity sizing. Not that I’m begrudging small, petite women their right to have clothes that fit too- J. Crew for all!

    • PCE

      They also only offer those sizes ONLINE, which is super frustrating because HELLO, we would like to try things on first before spending the money only to have to return it a week later because it just doesn’t look right. I’d love to see those size offerings actually available IN j. Crew, not just on their website.

  • Abigail Löfberg

    Big fan of Man Repeller, and an even bigger fan of size diversity in fashion. This is a super important convo, thanks for doing this!!!

  • kristina

    I feel like this post may veer and longer than I’d usually post online, but here goes.
    Double digits buy clothes. They love clothes. They tried to work in fashion but we’re not a sample size. They tried to work in a creative field but remained un- aesthetically appealing. Then your double digits and a redhead and too heavy and it’s like you are walking abhorrent trifecta for people, family, friends, strangers, coworkers to comment on your appearance. You spend astronomical amounts on underwear, because who is making anything over a D for 30? Not any mass retailer. Then lord forbid you be a 12/14 and have a baby and be a new shape all over again. You have a Mummy tummy pouch and skinny jeans are all the rage. And you can’t find any to wear.
    It’s frustrating and it is changing and has changed. There are more choices. But I 90% shop online. It’s the only way o can dress the way I want and not feel I’m being pandered to even in Nordstroms.
    Thankfully a lifetime of the aforementioned equals me giving no more f****. People can say what they want,I know I have style and ya I have to work at it but it’s mine and it is part of my personality now and does start conversations and gives me an in to talk about the passion of fashion. I’m ok with it. But it’s be nice if the industry treated all people regardless of size as wanting to buy clothes. Peoples size is actually not indicative of their monetary stature.
    There rambling done. 40+years of frustration. Thanks 🙂

  • Marissa Dawson

    Amazing conversation! I’m a size 12. When I was younger as a curvy athletic size 10 I felt normal and cute. In fashion spaces though I always felt too big. You have to have a lot of confidence to maintain your sense of self sometimes. I design plus size coats and totally agree that there isn’t enough as diversity of products. Preppy, sexy, chill. biz cas, street; it should all be there in plus size.

    http://www.p2918.com
    @p2918

  • keenberry

    I read this the day it came out and then again this morning and I LOVE IT. I agree with every damn thing in here and Kellie, let’s burn our damn belts together because I HATE BELTS. Seriously, a great, great article. Thank you!

  • Totally late to the game, but I love this piece so much and love MR for posting it. I’m over 40, veer between a 12-16 and LOVE fashion and it’s so hard to find great piece and quality pieces in my size that still have style AND work with my personal style. Not every woman over a size 12 wants to be a pinup, and not every woman over 40 wants to live in asymmetrical linen tunics. THANK YOU for addressing this topic!

    • kristina

      You & me, Allie are *likethis*. 🙂
      In complete agreement.

  • ahepwhoa

    loved this!!! this conversation needs to be happening in all fashion houses and at every publication