“Sorry we don’t have that in your size”
Sounds familiar to all the plus size women out there. Fashion, by its nature, reaches for extremes. As a result, it has always made size inclusivity so much more of an event than it ever needed to be. It has politicized, weaponized and fetishized fat. Now, as waiflike models are replaced with Rubenesque ones, can plus-size fashion be freed from the burdens of identity politics and cultural prejudices — to simply exist as clothes and not statements? When will a plus-size model get to stop representing diversity and simply be part of the pack? Does every plus-size model really slay?
The conversation surrounding plus-size fashion has evolved almost as dramatically as the fashion itself. Clothing for larger women once consisted of style-agnostic garments tucked away between the rugs and mattresses. Eventually brands emerged that gave consideration to style and quality. Plus-size customers wanted to fully participate in fashion. Teenagers wanted the latest trends; older women with financial clout were looking for more than just the current “it” bag or another pair of shoes.
And every time a size-16 model walks down a fashion runway, her presence is noted by industry watchdogs, like points on a cultural scoreboard. How big is big enough to be truly representative of a too-long-ignored demographic? Fashion editors and stylists talk about emphasizing and celebrating curves — and they are always“curves,” not potbellies, saddlebags or love handles — as if to suggest that camouflaging them would be a surrender to social oppression and old-school thinking. In the self-congratulatory world of Instagram, the only acceptable response to a selfie accompanied by #fat or #fatgirl is an onslaught of heart emojis, exclamation points and the all-caps interjection: SLAY!