For years my mother has raved about George at ASDA bras, not just because of the high quality or low price but due to the vast array of sizes. I inherited my 38F cups from my mam, who wears a similar size (which she would prefer me not to detail on the internet). Because of our analogous breasts, she has always been keen to recommend great places to shop for brassieres and her firm favourite, as stated above, is the George line of lingerie.
Being a brat in my teens and early 20s – and in some ways, wishing away my fatter frame by squeezing into badly sized, higher end lingerie brands – I ignored her sage advice to shop in supermarkets for my bras. Until, that is, non-essential shops closed due to lockdown measures. After exhausting what the internet had to offer me in lieu of my lingerie addiction, I found myself sorting through what the supermarkets had up for grabs.
What I found wasn’t just the cutest metallic zebra print set of all time (for £12!) but a full clothing line that was more size-inclusive than anything I’d ever found on the high street. In the ASDA I attended, at least, clothing was stocked up to a size 26 and there are even more sizing options available online – up to a size 30, which can be ordered through a free click and collect service.
Similarly, Tu at Sainsbury’s stocks up to a size 26 and even up to a bra band size 44, while F&F at Tesco stocks up to a size 22. All three aforementioned stores offer tall, short and regular sizing across their ranges. While these may not be the most inclusive size ranges in the world, it’s worth celebrating the accessibility of these sizes in a time where almost all plus-size shopping must be done online.
The most impressive part of these clothing lines is not just that they are stocked in such easily accessible spaces but that the lines don’t differentiate themselves at all. High street stores which stock plus sizes often keep them in a dark corner in the back, in styles completely different from the main line, or don’t stock them in store at all. In contrast, the supermarkets above carry their plus sizes alongside their straight sizes, meaning that their bigger sizes are sized up in the main line and are not a separate collection altogether.
Hollie, a 35-year-old plus-size blogger who wears a size 22-26, says this is one of the main reasons why she likes to shop supermarket clothing lines. "The fact they can offer plus sizes up to a size 24 where some huge retailers only go up to a 16 or 18 is quite shocking really." She continues: "Don't get me wrong, yes they can do better – what about those above a 24? Or in the latter end of the 20s size range? – but we need to applaud that they are actually offering a plus-size range and the range is always alongside the rest of the collection. They haven't forgotten that plus-size people shop for clothes too."
Rhiannon, a 23-year-old who wears a size 20, agrees. "I’ve never had a problem finding something that will fit me in a supermarket clothing section," she enthuses. "I’m not sure everyone will feel the same, but from what I’ve seen in supermarket fashion marketing, the focus is on the comfort of the clothing. There isn’t a ‘perfect body image’ being shoved down your throat when you’re trying to buy a chunky cardigan or a big fuzzy jumper."
Speaking to me via email, Tu tells me that this is a purposeful decision as "inclusivity is at the heart of Tu". They explain: "With every campaign Tu strives to be the most inclusive clothing retailer. We also cast for diversity and inclusivity, this doesn’t mean a tick box exercise or meeting certain criteria, it’s about creating a culture on set and through the process that drives genuine inclusivity." Tu also confirmed that they are working on extending their size range towards the end of this year.
Just like past me, these people didn’t expect supermarket clothing to be up to scratch for any fans of fashion. Katy, a 24-year-old who wears a size 18/20, says this is in part due to classism. "It's partly because we don't think of supermarkets as 'glamorous' and that there is still a perception that they do 'old lady clothes'." She adds: "There is also a classist element because the clothes aren’t just cheap but convenient too; you don't have to do a trip separate from your food shop to access them."
It’s a hard pill to swallow that inclusivity may mean that people think lesser of brands, in particular those that cater to bigger sizes and wider class ranges, but exclusivity has been a selling point for luxury brands for years. Just as high end trends make their way down to the high street and eventually cheaper brands, so too does the attitude of being able to access fashions that others can’t – so those who don’t need to source clothing from supermarkets find themselves looking down on those who do.
That said, attitudes towards exclusive brands are changing. After being attacked for its transphobic and fatphobic rhetoric towards its customers, Victoria’s Secret attempted to rebrand itself as "woke" last year. The lack of authenticity and blatant money grab was derided and since then the brand has had to close stores and sell assets to stay afloat.
With attitudes about inclusivity changing alongside supermarket clothing becoming more and more trend-driven, it only makes sense that their fashion offerings are finding success. Hopefully, the inclusive nature of having plus sizes simply be extended sizes in the main range, rather than a forgotten afterthought, will become a staple for all brands – not just those you can pick up while grabbing a meal deal.