In my younger years, if you had asked me where to find on-trend plus-size clothing, the first thing that would’ve come to mind was Forever 21+. Partly because I was young and broke, but also because I was a fashion student, I had little interest in the offerings of well-known brands that provided plus-size options consisting solely of matronly clothing. Anyone who’s part of the fat community knows exactly what I mean.
After that period, I noticed a shift toward more size-inclusive fashion choices. Eloquii, initially launched as a part of The Limited, regained independence and became available online in 2014. In 2013, H&M launched their e-commerce site that featured extended sizes not available in stores. Target followed suit with its plus-size line, Ava & Viv, in 2015. The year 2019, marked the store’s 20th-anniversary collaboration with designers, including Phillip Lim and Anna Sui, and marked a significant step in offering high-end designs in a broader range of sizes. That same year, Anthropologie entered the plus-size market. Interestingly enough, I had worked there before this and often had to disappoint customers by letting them know that our store didn’t carry any clothing beyond size 14.
US sales of women’s plus-size apparel reached $21.4 billion in 2016, according to one market research group, and in the UK, the number of plus-size brands rose by 50.7% between 2015 and 2020, according to market data research from Gitnux. Plus-size clothing in retail stores has experienced significant growth over the past eight years. However, as highlighted by creator Eve in a TikTok video, all of this progress appears to be plateauing.
So what’s changed? In 2021, Vogue reported a resurgence of Y2K fashion trends. Kim Kardashian garnered significant attention for her remarkable weight loss efforts in her quest to fit into a dress originally tailored for Marilyn Monroe in 1962. Later that same year, Miu Miu put micro miniskirts on the runway as part of their spring/summer 2023 collection. And 2023, saw a rise in the popularity of Ozempic, a medication to manage type 2 diabetes, touted as a “magic” weight-loss drug, with a nature-made cousin, Berberine, following closely behind. All of this coincided with the usual New Year’s resolutions to achieve a ”summer body” and shopping for a new wardrobe. With these shifts in fashion trends and weight management perceptions, attitudes toward plus-size inclusion may diminish as societal desires and priorities regress.
Extreme diet culture is nothing new and does not change the fact that most women are plus-size. According to research cited by Racked, an estimated 68% of American women wear a size 14 or above. (The average size is between a US size 16 and 18.) And yet, only .06% of the looks during spring/summer Fashion Week in the US and Europe were size 14 and above.