This week’s controversy over Calvin Klein model Myla Dalbesio is only the latest in a heated discussion over plus-size and expanded body diversity in the fashion industry. And, while the arguments can run the gamut, the Internet’s polarizing reaction to the campaign does bring to light one important question: What is plus-size anyway?
For an industry that pulls in a massive $17.5 billion annually, plus-size fashion has drawn some blurry lines when it comes to what constitutes the target customer. And, while more and more retailers are opening dedicated plus departments in order to capitalize on sales, as Digiday reports, these brands have surprisingly disparate measurement requirements. For example, H&M’s H&M+ line (which launched in 2011), includes sizes large, XL, 2XL, and 3XL. Target’s plus-size department goes one size further with 4XL, fitting a 51-inch waist and a 53-inch bust. Forever 21 + collection runs from XL-3XL, and ASOS Curve offers sizes 14-24.
These wide-ranging measurements — though helpful for the audience of consumers who want exciting new fashion trends — aren’t only confusing (translating size differences between brands is irritating enough), but they perpetuate the issue of unnecessary labels. If stores still can't agree, what’s the point of differentiating between plus-size and straight-size in the first place? Maybe the answer isn't finding the perfect definition of plus-size at all; maybe it's time to integrate a wider range of sizes into the rest of the retail world. (Digiday)