Why fashion’s changing attitude to plus size women matters

Plus Size fashion

Look by The Carpenter’s Daughter for Summer 2019 (left) and look by Stella Royal by Augustine on the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week 2018 (right). Images supplied.

The fashion industry has long been notorious for having little interest in plus size women, but times are changing and slowly the industry is too. The passing of iconic creative director Karl Lagerfeld this week has seen many of his offensive comments resurface as people and publications pay tribute to someone who was without a doubt a creative genius but also well known for his cruel comments towards fat bodies. The interesting thing now is how out of place those comments feel in today’s changing fashion industry and while not everyone is embracing diversity in all shapes and sizes it’s impossible to miss that some are and more will follow.

Even supermodel Kate Moss has recently admitted that she regrets her infamous quote “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, the damaging mantra that was adopted as ‘thinspo’ by countless women over the years. If you grew up in the 90’s as I did, Moss was the poster girl for the idolised tiny frame that was ever present on runways, in magazines and on our screens. While the more athletic models like Cindy Crawford and Elle Macpherson were popular earlier in the 90’s, by the time we reached the early 2000’s skinny was all that was to be aspired to and finding fashionable clothes above a size 14 had long been nearly impossible.

Personally, I’ve gone up and down in size my entire adult life, as a teenager I was aware that my body was not of Kate Moss proportions but I wasn’t all that worried about it until other people pointed it out. In my late teens and twenties I set about trying to obtain that tiny physique however I could and admittedly did more harm to myself than good over the years. It makes me a little sad to admit that as a woman of now almost 40, I’ve only in the past few years really become grateful for the body I have, what it can do and how wonderful it is. All of which I know is a direct result of being fed the same thing over and over my entire life which is that a certain female body type is better than others and why am I not skinny like that?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to body shame those who are thin or small framed, this isn’t about that at all as we are all different and that’s a wonderful thing. What is great about the time we live in now is that we are seeing more representation of lots of different shapes and sizes in the media, on the runways and online. It’s not all the time and it’s not everywhere but little by little things are changing.

It heartens me to know that children and young people are growing up with this kind of representation as it matters a lot. Being able to identify with the people you see on screen or read about in magazines is empowering and encourages body positivity. I would have been thrilled to see the likes of Australian model Robyn Lawley or American model Tess Holliday on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up. The idea that putting curvier women in the spotlight encourages people to become fat like some have suggested is absurd. The point is that it’s ok and more importantly normal for people to be all shapes and sizes and we should embrace that. After all isn’t being happy and loving our bodies a great way to live?

It doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, you have the right to wear nice clothes, look good and feel good about yourself. The brands that are embracing wider size ranges are definitely noticing the benefits of being inclusive. Plus size womenswear retailer City Chic recently made $75 million in revenue in Australia and New Zealand over six months with the brand’s fashionable garments clearly in hot demand.

Smaller brands locally are also enjoying success with the likes of newer label Lost and Led Astray and longstanding plus size brand The Carpenter’s Daughter growing increasing customer bases. More labels are adding to their offerings by increasing sizing ranges or adding specific plus size lines to their brands such as Augustine’s Stella Royal label which has had great success since launching in 2016. Sabatini also added a plus size range to their covetable knitwear and womenswear brand last year and there are many more changes underway in fashion at the moment.

There is still a long way to go but let’s continue to encourage and embrace change for the better, fashion should make us feel good, and that means all of us.

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