Why Do We Call It "Plus-Size" Anyway?

asos
I don't remember when I started shopping in the plus-size section, but I do remember how it felt. As I wandered through the home goods in the basement of a major department store, past the towels and off-season Christmas decorations, I wondered if I had misheard where it was. Then, winding around a corner, I spotted it; a tiny nook stocked with disappointing styles that made my heart sink. Was this my initiation into womanhood?
Advertisement
While trudging through the sad racks, I quickly learned that my size was something to be ashamed of, something requiring a label. Whether the section is called “plus-size,” or “curvy,” it’s named in a way meant to illustrate that its denizens are considered outliers; it’s named in a way that shows the rest of the sartorial society what to do with us.
The current definition of plus-size starts at a 14, or an 8, or a 20, depending on who you ask; the term plus-size was created because most clothing only went up to a size 14, an arbitrary marker even then that has changed over time. The sizes beyond that point were considered to be “specialty,” and less in-demand than "straight sizes" (another unnecessary moniker, if you ask me). But, the average American woman now wears a 14; which means women who wear that size are the exact opposite of rare.
madison-select-plus
In using words like “plus-size” or “curvy” to designate a certain segment of merchandise, you’ve gone beyond doing a service to the customer and entered a space where those labels are being attached to the people themselves. How different is that, then, than just calling your shoppers fat? And, someone who wears a size 14 knows that she wears that size, and looks for clothing with a label denoting those two digits. No other label is necessary to further define just what kind of person might be leafing through that particular rack. Unless those "plus" markers aren't for the wearers, at all, but for everyone else, which begs the question of why we need to label, or separate space on the shop floor, at all.
Style blogger and Marie Claire contributor Nicolette Mason explained “I think that right now, when it comes to fashion, there is an important distinction, simply based on the fact that not all brands or designers cater to women [size 12 and above], so we need to have some kind of signifier to help find the clothes and fashion that do fit and come in our sizes.”
Advertisement
Until the day comes that all brands expand their offerings to include all sizes, there will always be size-defining labels. There have to be. Because women who wear a size 14-plus are not catered to by the majority of stores, they are forced to seek out a style clarification so that they don't waste their time slogging through every boutique and online shop in the hopes that they’ll find something that fits. But, by refusing to cater to the statistically average woman, brands aren't just hurting that left-out segment of shoppers, they are hurting their own bottom line (a topic we've covered before).
forever-21
Some women have no qualms about the “plus-size” marker. “You can call me any size you want, as long as I have amazing clothes to wear,” stated model Candice Huffine. “Above all, you know, I want — like all other curvy ladies — beautiful, well-made, on-trend clothing that fits. If a label has to go in front of it, so be it, I suppose. I am all about the fashion.” Style blogger Margie Ashcroft added, “As a fashion-forward woman who also happens to be plus-size, it is just a way for me to Google search clothes.”
Still, it's not just a way to categorize clothes. Every plus-size fashion post on Facebook starts an argument — about health, about sensitivity, about whether the model is plus-size enough or maybe, somehow, too plus-size. The term has become a way to define women, yet again, by their outer appearance alone — and that is a problem. But, is there an alternative? Could there be a way to distinguish items available to the larger end of the size spectrum other than this additional label? Likely, that answer is no. Until fashion truly becomes inclusive, there will continue to be classifications arbitrarily assigned to those the industry deems out of the “norm.” Maybe it's just a question of the "norm" growing to fit what's actually normal these days.
If "the industry" were to ask you, would you say you're fine with the term “plus-size” and its current use? Would you prefer a different label, or maybe no designation at all?
Advertisement

More from Trends

Something strange is afoot, literally, across the pond. While New York Fashion Week this season was largely defined by the "see now, buy now" phenomenon, ...
Accessory trends are a changin'. That's the long and short of it. While we've seen a lot of the same pieces trend over the past year (i.e. chokers and mini...
If you've found yourself in a Zara, Topshop, or H&M within the past year, chances are you've seen garments made out of this swishy, lightweight, micro-...
Whether you feel most comfortable as a wallflower or in the middle of a dance circle, chances are you’ve got a celebration coming up that requires you to ...
Runways are oozing with new trends (obviously). But each year, it gets harder and harder to sift through them all. Our favorite fast fashion houses are ...
Fashion has always been a form of escapism, a way to break away from the daily monotony, the sea of khakis and T-shirts, and the sameness that traps those ...
For as long as we can remember, velvet's held strong to its holiday-season connotations. But we've always been firm believers in the luxe texture's ...
(Paid Content) Maybe it's the back-to-school mentality, but there's something about the coming of fall that makes us want to hit "refresh" on multiple ...
If you're obsessed with off-the-shoulder everything, but can't imagine wearing the trend post-summer, we've got some good news: On Saturday, It label Self-...
Finding an excellent pair of boots can be a trip. Since we can't possibly have them all (though, we'll keep dreaming we can), most of us try to find one or...
Sometimes, Fashion Month can feel as much (if not more) about the crazy, over-the-top outfits showgoers wear as, well, the shows themselves. There's ...
There is a thing happening right now with fashion that's exposing a wide divide between What Was Cool and What Is Now Cool. It's informed by the fact that ...
The last time you saw a group of models coming together for a common cause was probably for a selfie or to maybe board a yacht — which is all fancy and fun...
When my parents became aware of my burgeoning love of fashion, they did what they did anytime they thought I was starting to get into something; they ...