Why Plus Size Clothing Is Finally Catching Up


Why has plus-size clothing for women only recently become a commercial concern and fountain of creativity?

For a long time, clothing labels (both mainstream and indie, but mostly mainstream) have subscribed – for commercial reasons – to diet culture. A woman is taught to think that a slim, svelte body is the default. Plus-size women have been encouraged to assume their body is just a temporary aberration, so why invest any time or money in clothing it beautifully and making it look good?

plus size clothing

If mainstream fashion magazines like Australia’s Harper Bazaar are featuring plus-size models like Crystal Renn, then the tide is definitely turning.

It seems to be changing now, but full-figured women have been conditioned to have low expectations when it comes to finding attractive as opposed to functional clothes in their size. They’ve been consigned to buying cheap clothes that are low on creativity and aesthetics, often made using poor materials. They’ve often been obliged to buy clothing that’s behind the times, not through personal choice, clearly, but because most clothing stores have hitherto been somewhat cowardly about extending their trends into a plus-size range until they’re sure which boring, basic, key items will sell. Curvy women have been forced by the lack of choice to wear clothes that look, feel and were intended as an afterthought. Which is enough to make anyone feel a bit crap.

plus size clothing

Plus-size skater ‘pear’ dress from Damn You Alexis (Australia)

The thing, not every bigger woman has a skinny person inside screaming to get out. Not every woman over size 16 is considering a diet so that she can rejoin the human race. Not only are diets bloody hard work, they’re also more of a sprint than a marathon – intense, and not sustainable for any great length of time. If dieting was meant to be done for a lifetime, it would just be called eating.

Now – especially in the last couple of years – both magazines and clothing manufacturers are waking up to the idea that full-figured women may well have every intention of continuing to be so. When you look at the fashion magazines, Dita Von Teese fan and fashion blogger Nicolette Mason has taken over the “Big girl in a skinny world” column on Marie Claire. Plus-size model Crystal Renn is getting exposure as a top-notch model in her own right. The fashion magazines play it safe. They wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t mileage in it – if they didn’t think content like this would be popular.

plus size clothing

Animal print dress AX Paris Curve (UK)

As for clothing brands… their plus-size sections are absolutely blossoming, because said manufacturers have realised that curvy ladies’ money is as good as everyone else’s. That their personal taste is as distinct and exacting as anyone else’s. That they’re not just going to buckle down and magically sweat/spend their way to a size 6 just because the fashion houses have encouraged them to.

As a result, we’re finally seeing mainstream clothing manufacturers starting to produce plus-size clothing for women that isn’t crap. These new ranges have the same sensibilities you’d expect elsewhere. Online shops selling sleek faux-snakeskin and indie leopard prints no longer have a big sign pointing to a single wrinkled cotton poncho in last decade’s mustard yellow saying “fatties over here”.

We are, finally, all one big happy family of choice-ridden consumerism! Which is great, because who likes being left out in the cold? Especially if all you have to protect you from the elements is a shapelessly vast cotton poncho?

plus size clothing

2 items from about 4 pages of dresses from ASOS Curve (UK)

Take charge when buying plus-size clothing

Think about being a proactive consumer. Make your voice heard when you shop online. What do we mean by making your voice heard? Contact the shops in question. Give them positive feedback on plus-size fashion lines you’ve really appreciated, or particular items you felt did a good job of intuiting and flattering a full figure. Let them know where they’re going right, and encourage them to do more of it.

Also – if you see an online clothing store that has a separate and smaller plus-size clothing range which doesn’t feature an item you really liked that only went up to size 12, let them know. If commercial clothing companies know you will buy the stuff, they will make the stuff. As they’ve now realised, you are a good and beautiful person, and they want your money. And there is nothing wrong with that. You just have to work together to ensure the clothing they’d like to sell you is the clothing you’d like to buy.

plus size clothing

Charming little jacket from Carmakoma (Denmark)

Buy statement pieces that really suit you and make you feel like a truly beautiful / powerful / edgy / (insert your adjective preference here) woman. Basics are great, but statement pieces make you feel like a proper human being able to express themselves through clothes as well as, well, you know, expressive things… you know, sounds and talking and stuff. Statement pieces may cost more, so make sure they’re made with good quality fabrics that will last. The truth is that niche groups will never be catered for as fully as the mainstream, so if there’s something amazing that suits you, get it. You may not be able to in five or ten years’ time, when the rest of the world has unfortunately decided that what looks really great is all-over skintight spandex.

You know all those rules about what to wear and avoid when you’re plus-size? All that guff about stripes and whatnot? Don’t worry too much about that. Wear what you want. It’s an old adage, but if you feel free then you feel good, and if you feel good there’s an excellent chance you look good.

Remember you have a waist. It’s true. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You genuinely have a figure, so if you’ve ever wanted to dress to flatter your figure rather than hide it, please don’t feel too shy to do so. Floaty skirts, cinched belts, all that womanly vintage-inspired forties and fifties stuff… you can do that. It’s quite likely that you’ve got a figure that’s begging you to do that.

Hair and accessories. These are areas that never have to be beholden to sizes. You can wear any accessory you like, and shopping for accessories means you can always be up to date in whatever style tribe you belong to. Ditto hair.

Always invest in good underwear. This is fine advice for ANY woman, because what you wear underneath is your secret joy. The feel of silk on your skin reminds you what a precious treasured thing your body is, and you within it. That aside… full-figured women are more likely to have bigger breasts. For the sake of your spine, your carriage, your confidence, ensure you have a nicely fitted bra, because you deserve it.

Oh, and dance. At the end of the day, a good dance is more important than a good dress. But at least plus-size clothing is beginning to play a prettier tune.

Nicolette Mason

Nicolette Mason, we salute you.