When you think of viral fashion trends on TikTok, what comes to mind? Obviously there’s With Jéan’s Alexa dress, a ruched terry cloth frock that’s spawned a million knockoffs, not to mention over 10 million views on the platform. There’s also House of Sunny’s Good Vibrations dress, a follow-up to the London-based brand’s sold-out Hockney Dress (another viral hit!). Aritzia’s Melina trousers, Mirror Palais’ Fairy dress, and Zara’s wide-leg full-length jeans are a few others. These garments are fan favourites for a reason: They make an outfit, garner compliments, and strike the right, extroverted mood for right now. But what’s also uniting them is a bit of a bummer; none come in extended sizes. In fact, hardly any of these items are available in plus-sizes.
“When I see a viral fashion trend on TikTok, there’s a good chance I cannot participate because my size isn't included,” said Los Angeles-based creator Callie Richards, 33, whose TikTok account @hotpinkandglitter has more than 342,000 followers. Richards has chosen to boycott fashion brands who do not have sizes that extend to 3X. “Even with me following a large percentage of plus creators, it's still shocking the number of things that I see that I can't participate in because they don't come in a true plus-sizes.”
For Richards, the problem isn’t only with brands that market themselves as only for customers who wear straight sizes. In fact, she finds those less problematic. Instead, her issue is with brands that call themselves size-inclusive or utilize marketing tactics on TikTok that suggest they carry plus-sizes, when the truth is far from that. “I get DMs all the time from brands that are like, ‘We’d love to send you leggings to review,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Are you size-inclusive?’ and they’ll say, ‘Yes, we go up to XXL,’” Richards explained. “I’m always like, ‘Bestie, that’s not exciting. That’s not even the average size of American women, so absolutely not.’”
Monique Francisca, the Seattle-based founder of plus-size fashion blog The Chic Edit, 41, told Refinery29 of how disheartening it is to shop a trend on TikTok that turns out not to come in plus-sizes. “When a brand markets themselves [on TikTok] as size-inclusive, leading someone who is a size 2X [or up] to go onto their website and discover that they only sell up to XL — it’s very disappointing,” said Francis. “If you’re going to put it out there that you’re inclusive, then cater to more sizes.”
Creators themselves are trying to combat the bait-and-switch themselves. “I had a viewer once ask me if I could please put the size range on the cover photo of my TikToks [when I was reviewing a brand],” said Richards. “They said that watching a video all the way through and then seeing that the brand only goes to 24 feels like going into a store and realizing that it only sells sizes up to 14 when you wear a larger plus size.” In turn, Richards adapted her video format to ensure that viewers understand what they’re getting when they watch her TikToks.
There's also the matter of creators' content getting unfairly taken down. “With the algorithm, plus bodies are at such a disadvantage, because we get flagged so often,” said Atlanta-based TikTok creator Nikki Garza, 26, who has over 913,000 followers on the platform. Garza, who uses TikTok to share fat-positive fashion advice, tells Refinery29 that, like many of her creator friends, getting flagged for adult content or nudity while wearing swimwear or any clothing items that show skin is a near-constant frustration for plus-size women on the app. “Every time I'm in a swimsuit, even before anything posts, my videos go into consideration for at least 20 minutes,” said Garza. “Once it posts, I'll get flagged for adult content within a few hours.”
Her appeals to get her videos reposted are often met with success, but having to undergo this process when her straight-size counterparts do not is an added layer of frustrating work. “It's a deterrent to wanting to make content,” Garza said. “All I’m trying to do is exist in my body and be proud of it, while also showcasing that to other folks, and TikTok is constantly shutting me down.”
Los Angeles-based creator Brianna McDonnell, 29, discussed a case when a video she posted was wrongly flagged for “sexual content” on her TikTok. Many among her 27,000 followers shared similar stories: “I believe that every single plus-size creator has had a video wrongfully taken down,” McDonnell told Refinery29. “It directly affects how much money [one] makes, how much access they have, and how much their audience can grow.” McDonnell said that by constantly having to go to bat for their content, fat creators on TikTok are being suppressed.
According to a TikTok spokesperson, the app does not moderate content on the basis of shape, size, or ability. "We continually take steps to strengthen our policies and promote body acceptance.” Instead, the company argues that the app “strives to foster a community where everyone feels welcome and comfortable expressing themselves exactly as they are.”
With added roadblocks to content creation, many plus creators have taken to producing less content. This then limits the number of plus-size trends present on the platform, further perpetuating the notion that straight-size fashion is more popular.
Despite these barriers, a few size-inclusive trends have seen enormous success on TikTok, including SKIMs’ Long Lounge Slip Dress, available in sizes XS to 4X; Selkie’s Puff dress, which runs from XXS to 5X; and Girlfriend Collective’s Undress, offered in sizes XXS to 5X. Amplify their success — and the success of other plus-size fashion trends on the platform — by shopping these viral items here, here and here. And while you’re at it, perhaps make a TikTok about it all, too.