9 Ideas That Would Change Everything For Plus-Size Women

Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
There's no way to get around it: Plus-size women are underserved by retailers and underrepresented in media. Walk into any store, flip through any magazine, or look at any piece of advertising; while 67% of the population of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 or above, only 2% of the images in media represent plus-size women (and you'd be surprised how many of those images cast plus women in a demeaning light). Body positivity is only the beginning, of course — there's only so much an individual can do to feel good about her body when society is showing her a negative story at every turn. There's a lot more to be done, and that was the topic of conversation during Refinery29's Every Beautiful Body symposium that took place yesterday in New York City.
Over the course of the day, models, influencers, bloggers, brand representatives, and activists all spoke about issues that still pervade every aspect of life for plus-size women: from the lack of fashionable clothing and forced online shopping, to the erasure and banning of plus size bodies online. Hearing these people speak was not only inspiring, but also left me feeling frustrated by how much still needs to improve. That was a feeling shared by many of the other women in attendance, including Emme, the first plus-size supermodel in the world. As we took in imagery from the body-diverse photoshoot featured in the upcoming documentary Straight/Curve, Emme and I both started crying. It was clear that things had changed from when she began working in the 1980s; but, as the four panels illuminated, there was still so much left to do.
Although it’s vitally important to recognize positive progress and celebrate every victory, here are nine ideas explored at the event that could change everything for plus-size people.
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
1. All clothing lines would be inclusive.
Currently, the majority of people who wear over a size 14 struggle to find clothing that not only fits their body but also fits their personal style. So many plus-size women are forced to settle for drab, uninspired items that are clearly created without fashion-forward consideration — and they have to shop in segregated plus-specific stores. By existing clothing lines expanding their size range to offer all sizes, shopping would no longer be looked at as a depressing chore.
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
2. Design students would be taught how to design for all body types.
You’d assume that designing for all body types and sizes would be part of the curriculum at any major fashion institution, but sadly that’s not the case. The average dress form students work with is within a size 4 to 8 range, a stark contrast to the majority of women in our country. Emme has created an initiative, Fashion Without Limits, to directly combat this issue by offering dress forms in sizes 16, 18, and 20 to design schools throughout the country. By having access to larger dress forms, students will be able to better understand and design for plus-size women.
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
3. All social media accounts would be connected to your real name and have a real photo of you.
No more hiding behind computer screens for gutless trolls. Threaten someone’s life? Leave bigoted comments? Telling people to kill themselves simply because they’re fat? That info would be tied to your name and face, so you could actually experience consequences for your actions. Knowing that there could be a genuine impact on your life if you’re an asshole online may actually help make the internet a more friendly place.
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
4. Sizes above a 14 would be available in stores alongside sizes below a 14.
Not hidden in a dark basement behind housewares, not relegated to online-only shopping. Actual plus-size clothes, in stores, on the same floor as smaller sizes. Doesn't sound so revolutionary when you put it that way, does it?
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
5. Brands would actually take action and make the improvements that their customers are begging for.
We know brands are reading our comments on social media, but where is the action on their end? In the immediate-gratification age of digital media, many clothing brands seem stuck in the stone ages. We know you’re seeing our posts, we know you’re having meetings about them, we know we can have an impact on your business...so step up. Be an industry leader, not a follower.
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
6. Magazines would actually represent the real world, not some “aspirational fantasy” that we’ve been told we want to see.
No fashion magazine should have only two images of plus-size women in 300-plus pages, or only offer one page of style suggestions for women who wear a 14 or larger. We shouldn’t be your quota, we should be your cover. Plus-size women look just as stunning in high-fashion photoshoots as their slimmer counterparts, so there’s absolutely no reason they can't be cast in campaigns. (Also, sample sizes need to not be one size only.)
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
7. TV and movies would stop casting larger women in the same old sad stereotypes.
In real life, plus-size women are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and more, but in TV and movies they always seem to play the best friend, the sad sack, the slapstick sidekick, or the villain. Let’s tap into real life and finally offer a more diverse cast that isn’t relying on the same old, predictable cliche we’ve seen a thousand times before.
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
8. Brands would use visibly plus-size women in campaigns.
Too many plus and size-inclusive brands still choose the same type of model — white, hourglass silhouette, and barely actually plus-sized (sometimes not at all). Casting models of different sizes, shapes, ethnicities, ages, and abilities would give consumers actual ideas of how clothing would look on them and would help support body acceptance and mental health across the board.
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Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet.
9. Plus brands would have plus-size women making decisions.
There are a multitude of plus-size clothing brands run by slim men and women who have never experienced being plus-size. Although that doesn’t completely negate their experience in the industry, having an actual plus-sized woman in a decision-making position could change everything. From the language and models used in ad campaigns to design and styling concepts, a plus-sized executive could make decisions that genuinely reflect what their customer base wants.