The world’s streets are full of what the fashion industry labels “plus-sized women” – far more than we previously thought. Thanks to numerous studies, we know that the average woman is around a size 20. Not, as previously believed, a size 14. That means that the disconnect between the clothes in store windows and the bodies of women walking past them is greater than we had ever assumed.
Despite this, major fashion brands still refuse to accept the bodies of their customers. The only fashion brands that want to acknowledge the size of the newly minted “average woman” are plus-size brands, which are marginalized in the market, as if they catered to a fringe and not, in fact, everyday women.
Designers still opt to create artificial cut-off points in their line, sizes beyond which they refuse to accommodate. That’s because they know that size, much like a specific brand, is aspirational. It plays on the insecurity of the audience to present an ultra-thin model wearing a high-end brand. It’s not enough for the audience to say, “Wow, that looks incredible on her.” It is intended to make the audience say, “I want to be her.”
With that desire comes the desperation of drastic weight loss efforts, starvation tactics, rumours of torturous workout regimens from renowned models, and the embarrassing stories of those who try to emulate them to no avail. Because the healthy path toward weight loss isn’t sexy or doesn’t result in “10 pounds lost in 7 days”, it’s never the path chosen. As a result, we so rarely see successful permanent weight loss.
This is the cycle that designers send us into – coveting everything about a woman walking down the runway, tormenting ourselves to try to be like her and then shaming ourselves for failing miserably.
Thankfully, there are designers who recognize not only the fashion needs of the average woman, but the emotional needs, as well. The fashion label Lane Bryant, for example, has eagerly picked up the slack.
Designers such as Monif C and Whitney Mero encourage women to celebrate the gloriousness of a curvy body, no matter where their curves may be. And activewear brands such as Rainbeau Curves and Lola Getts Active are providing the support of reliable activewear while also encouraging their customers in positive, shame-free ways.
Altering my clothes is sometimes an escape from fashion’s dictates. And I no longer hate my body.
The fashion industry is ignoring the needs of the average woman because they’ve operated, for far too long, on the assumption that the average woman didn’t want to be average – she wanted to be a remarkable catwalk-ing beauty.
What they didn’t expect was the number of brands who would swoop in and show the everyday woman that her average body is beautiful, even if only a different kind. Her average body is and can be remarkable. And, if the fashion industry can’t figure that out, they’ll be left in the dust.