"Plus-Size" is Causing Exclusion in Fast Fashion

By Emily Spennato

Plus-size. It’s just another word for “above average.” For “fat.” For “overweight”, for “not skinny.” It’s a word that department stores use to tell girls they can only shop in the back of the store, because their clothes don’t look appealing in the front. Modern society has become so obsessed with self-image that we’re skipping basic steps. These are steps we were taught at circle time in preschool when they taught us how to share and how not to eat glue--the basic step that’s  missing is how to include everyone. It’s not news, but despite the rise of body- positivity, the fashion industry continues to ostracizes women for being physically different than a specific and limited ideal of beauty.

Fast fashion stores like Forever 21, Top Shop, and H&M help proliferate these ideas. When shopping at stores like Forever 21, it’s hard to tell where their size distinction comes from. If fast fashion is supposed to be for the everyday consumer, why isn’t their sizing branded as such? When looking in the plus-size section, it’s easy to see where the distinctions lie. The plus-size section is located on a separate floor, and the clothing is hung on black, plastic hangers. The “regular” sizes are hung on sleek, wooden hangers. The message is not only exclusive, but also illustrates the lack of quality given to the shopping experience of plus-size women. Fast fashion is screaming, “We only want to give those fitting the cultural standards in our clothes a positive experience while buying them.”

Consider women’s clothing and the distinctions they’re often branded with. The coloring, the advertising, and the modeling. Everything is exact and specifically catered to an intended experience. Hangers, presentation, even styles, all vary across size ranges. There is normal, and then there is plus-size.

Why does there need to be a difference? Fashion has proven, especially in recent years, that. like art, it is not confined to a specific frame.  Is it that much harder for shoppers to thumb through a few extra sizes that there needs to be a whole new section for those that can’t fit into Forever 21 larges? (I discovered the same day that I can’t even fit into a Forever 21 large, despite not being considered plus size) Not only are plus-sized women sectioned off literally and figuratively, but they are also sectioned off with cheap plastic hangers that send the message that their clothing is not as important as the “normal” sizes. It doesn’t deserve to be in the front of the store. It doesn’t even deserve a fancy hanger. The emergence of plus-sized models and larger mannequins strewn at the entrance of Target and other stores is a step in the right direction. All shapes and sizes should be represented in all brands, especially everyday affordable ones, but as of now, that’s still not the case.Why does fashion--especially feminine fashion--have to be categorized based on who fits in the smallest sizes? Fashion is a form of expression, and excluding those who don’t fit the standard is limiting their expression. Victoria’s Secret executive Ed Razek “apologized” for comments he made regarding the exclusion of trans women from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in December. “The show is a fantasy,” he said defensively to Vogue. If fantasy also excludes women who are over a size two, I don’t want to daydream in this politically unfashionable climate. Fashion is art, and needs to work on inclusion so everyone can enjoy it.