Fast fashion, as you’re well aware, is the devil. Startups eager to snatch dollars dropped by customers looking to spend their money elsewhere have recognized this fact. Brands like Everlane and Reformation are startups looking to disrupt clothing for everyone—but they’re leaving plus-size customers in the dust, as Amanda Mull writes in Racked.
Many of the CEOs Mull spoke to urged patience for plus-size customers eager to spend their money on aggressively basic cashmere sweaters and floral dresses meant to be worn sans brassiere. Everlane, for example, refused to answer Mull in person, but instead forwarded a statement, saying “We need to launch plus as a separate brand with new fits, new models and new fabrics to ensure that the styles fit and look great. As we gain scale and get new customers, we will be able to focus our energy on launching this line.”
This excuse, Mull writes, points to a distressing attitude held by many clothing manufacturers and brands who are now finally starting to address the cries of consumers who just want to wear plain sweaters and quietly fashionable jeans like the rest of the world: “Women over a certain size are always a burden, never a priority. They’re expected to wait while others are served first.” Bra companies like True & Co purport to be the one solution for a wide variety of bodies, but when pressed as to why they only offer up to a 38DD, they offered an explanation similar to that of Everlane’s: it takes time and careful consideration to craft clothes for larger bodies, so please be patient.
While it’s certainly true that crafting a plus-size line from scratch takes time—the same amount of time a straight-size line might—the fact that none of these companies thought to consider women over a size 12 or 14 is befuddling. Plus-size clothing accounts for an astonishing 10 percent of retail sales. Some online retailers have caught up—Universal Standard’s clothing starts at a size 10, runs up to a 28, and treats having a wide range of sizes as standard—but a lot of the places that one can buy a wide range of plus size clothing don’t sell the kind of basics that Everlane does or floaty floral dresses for effortlessly cool Silver Lake sirens like Reformation.
I’m a size 16-18-?? with a body that will occasionally cooperate with straight size clothing, but really feels more comfortable in plus. The hours I have spent with a measuring tape against my body and comparing it to the measurements of Reformation or Everlane’s largest size are hours that I will never get back. I know what works on my shape and I know where to find it, but reconciling that knowledge with my desire is sometimes difficult.
Women of a certain size and shape have bodies that, if you look at the clothing largely available to them, are either meant to be contained or shrouded in in yards and yards of shapeless poly blends. While there are a few exceptions (Universal Standard and some of ASOS’s Curve offerings), most plus size clothes are faintly matronly—shift dresses and blouses designed for a woman who adheres to a strict code of “business casual” even on the weekends. No shade to Eloquii, who consistently provides a huge variety of clothing in a range of sizes for every occasion, but you would be hard pressed to find just a boxy tee absent of ill-conceived ruffles or peplums. It all feels very What Not To Wear—one imagines the spectre of Stacy London in the corner brandishing a wide belt, meant to nip in the waist and screeching about bright colors, to distract from the shape and size of the body in front of them.
What’s the most infuriating about clothing startup’s refusal to address the desires of plus-size shoppers is that the clothing that remains speaks volumes about what fat women are expected to dress like. Curves are to be embraced; clothing should be sexy and shiny and lowcut—all the better to distract from the shape and size of the body it’s covering. Mull points out that the fashion startup industry’s complete disregard for the needs of this customer base speaks to “the worst, most dehumanizing stereotypes about fat people—that they’re lazy, slovenly and stupid.” Selling short an entire community of people willing and eager to part with their money in exchange for the same kind of clothing everyone else has access to is frankly stupid—like setting piles of money on fire and walking away from it. Who knows if they’ll ever see the light?