plus-size1.jpgHere we are in the middle of 2007 and women all over the world are still struggling to find fashionable, trendy and affordable plus size clothing. Not to say that their aren’t’ any out there, but wouldn’t you would think with the average clothing size worn by women in this country being a size 14 that we would have a fashionable plus-size boutique or specialty retailer in every mall or outlet.

Nearly half of all women in the United States are plus-size, but if look at the fashion industry or media outlets you wouldn’t know (Which, Clutch is guilty of too, and is pledging to make a change). Television, magazines and the Internet bombards us with images of beautiful women who sizes range from 0-6. No wonder why we have so many women walking around with self-image issues. We wanted to find out how real “plus-size” women feel about the word, the assumptions attached, media images and more.

What does the word Plus-Size mean to you? and what size do you think certifies that one is plus-size?

I think plus size generally means sizes 14 and up. I’ve never really cared for the word myself. I have also never seen the need for there to be a “plus-size” section. Why can’t they just hang all of the clothes together, put the size on the tag, and call it a day? For the record I have been everywhere from size 10-14. Stacey, Alabama

Plus size means over a size 14. That size seems to be the cut off for women’s plus. Toya, D.C.

Plus size to me means that you are larger than average. I think size 16 and up is plus size. Nicole, N.Y.C.

Plus-size means (for me, at least) full hips, thick thighs, round backside, and full chest. If you had to assign where one crosses the regular sized threshold into plus-dom, I would definitely say a 14. Dana, Atlanta

If Plus-size, when did you know know it?

I had problems with my weight when I was younger and it didn’t help that I didn’t really know how to dress for my shape. I just knew that I couldn’t wear some of the things like Bongo jeans and little skirts that my thinner friends wore, b/c they either weren’t available in my size or the items just didn’t look right on me. Also, kids are very cruel…that’s how I knew I was ‘plus sized’. Stacey, Alabama

I was always on the higher end of the scale (size 12-14) while in high school, but that was due to my body shape. I did not become plus sized (current size 18) until after high school. Toya, D.C.

I became plus size a few years ago. I was always thin until I had my baby. Prior to having my child I was a size ten. After having her I was a fourteen and now years later a sixteen. Nicole, N.Y.C.

I’ve always been “plus”–so it was since I was knee high. But, I didn’t start owning it until I got in college and stopped shopping in stores that excluded me from their Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer collections. Before that, I was in a little plus-size denial. I was still trying to rock a “B” cup when I was throwing “Ds” on it, and a junior size 13 when there was “too much booty in the pants.” *lol* Dana, Atlanta

Why do you think the media refuses to acknowledge plus-size women as regular sizes, since the average size is 10 here?

B/c today’s media is celeb obsessed and most of them are stick figures (or close to it). Then the average woman is expected to perpetrate this unrealistic standard of beauty. It’s a vicious cycle. Stacey, Alabama

Because thinness is an ideal, and for some reason that is considered attractive. Also, smaller women can wear more clothes, and do not have bulges or bumps or curves the way large women do – the clothes have less to contend with. I also think there is a note of maliciousness in media – since the (white) ideal is thin, people who do not fit that standard are mercilessly torn apart. Toya, D.C.

It’s my understanding that the average size is a 12. Perhaps the media refuses to acknowledge plus size because the consumer allows them to do so. We still live in a time where bigger is perceived as bad. Nicole, N.Y.C.

I don’t know–maybe the media is being subsidized by people/industries that make money off of the lack of self-acceptance among women (i.e., gyms, diet industry, psychologists…haha). But, it’s starting to get a little better. I see Cacique (Lane Bryant’s lingerie and underwear line) advertising in mainstream outlets and those Dove commercials where the “real” women have curves. So, there is some movement. Dana, Atlanta

If dieting what size are you trying to get to?

I don’t think it’s genetically possible for me to be under a size 10. I have let myself go a bit in the last two years and want to get back to my fighting weight! :) I just want to fit into my pants and not see my gut hanging over the waistband. 10-12 is a good size for me. Stacey, Alabama

Back to my high school weight of 160, which translates to a size 12 or 14. I would never want to be smaller than that – it would not be natural on my hourglass frame. I don’t find people who are overly thin attractive at all, and I would rather have more fat than a skeletal look to me. Toya, D.C.

Size 12 Nicole, N.Y.C.

I’m not dieting because I don’t think that’s a sustainable lifestyle. But, I do swim laps at the local gym almost four times a week to try to get it together. In terms of a size, I’d be satisfied/elated if I got in a regular size 12. If I went any lower, I’d definitely have to get my shine on in one of those workout infomercials that come on at 3 am on a Saturday night.
Dana, Atlanta

Where do you shop and are you satisfied with the selection? Why or why not?

I usually hit up Target, H&M, and Forever 21 for tops. Bottoms are hit and miss. Some premium denim like Citizens work for me. Occasionally, I can find a pair of pants at Gap that fit. I have a hard time finding pants that fit, even in my thinner days that was the case. I guess it’s b/c I am short and bottom heavy (i.e. hips, thighs). I had also been looking for dresses and most today are made of cotton jersey that show every little bulge. Some of my heavier friends shop at Old Navy, Lane Bryant and hit up sites like Kiyonna. Stacey, Alabama

I shop everywhere I can, but I tend to shun the plus sized shops. I can fit into most large sized tops, and I tend to purchase bottoms from Target, until I can fit into what size I want to. Plus-sized shops are a bit of a joke to me – ill fitting clothes designed for a (white) large body, and that fails to encompass how weight manifests itself on different people. The clothes are often matronly. Also, plus sized clothes are way over priced – why am I always forced to pay $80-200 just to find on thing that fits well, whereas my small friends can pop into Forever 21 and find things for under $40?

A lot of the trendier plus sized stores – like Torrid – have a style that doesn’t reflect me. I am not very punk/gothic, so I don’t like their skull and crossbones happy selections. Some of their wares are cute, but again, expensive. However, I am glad they are here, as Lane Bryant and Avenue are not really options in my mind. Toya, D.C.

I shop at TJ Maxx, Dots, Ashley Stewart and no I am not satisfied with the selection. Nicole, N.Y.C.

Right now, I’m in between sizes. My top three stores would have to be Lane Bryant, Banana Republic, and Macy’s. I’m pretty satisfied with the selection; however, I’ve backed off LB quite a bit because with so many plus-sized divas walking around this town–I hate seeing people rock my EXACT outfit down to the accessories. Banana Republic and Macy’s are my career-wear staple stores. BR could step its game up and make its 14/16 a little fuller in the hips….but it is what it is. Dana, Atlanta

What assumptions do you you think are made about Plus-Size women?

I think people assume that plus size women don’t care about themselves and that they can’t possibly be happy with the way they look. When in some cases that couldn’t be further from the truth. Stacey, Alabama

From the media: fat, slovenly, issues with eating and self-control.
For plus size black women in particular: loud, sassy, annoying, promiscuous.
From the clothing industry: all large women have fat stomachs and torsos, and they like appliqu̩s and designs on everything. (This large woman has a very small waist, not much of a stomach, a large behind, and wide hips Рplus sized pants tend to gape in the front or back.) I also like plain designs Рwhich plus sized designers seem like they are allergic to.
From the community at large: Being plus sized cannot possibly be healthy (which is bull.)
Toya, D.C.

That we are obese. I don’t like that! All of us are not obese! Nicole, N.Y.C.

I don’t. Women, of any size, are so dynamic and different. As much as I would like to say all plus-sized women as strong, confident, smart, beautiful, and accomplished. It’s not true 100% of the time. But, it’s not true 100% of the time for ANY category or group of women. Dana, Atlanta

What advice or encouragement would you give a Plus-Size woman?

I would say if you are happy with who you are (no matter what size) then just continue to do you! However, if you are unhappy with the way you look or are concerned about your health, then you should do everything in your power to change what you can and learn to accept the things that you can’t change. Stacey, Alabama

– You can be big and sexy.
– As long as you take care of yourself, you do not need to answer to anyone.
– Fashion is fun – so do not be afraid to experiment with your looks.
– Never fall into the trap of thinking that your life would be so much better if you were smaller. Stop putting your life on hold. Live your life NOW and take each day as it comes.
Toya, D.C.

Work it. Do your thing! Nicole, N.Y.C.

Be happy in your own skin, learn to live with and love your curves. But, don’t let that confidence and love translate into a go ahead to let yourself go and not take care of yourself. Go to the gym (show those skinny heifers that you can last longer than them in that kickbox cardio class) and eat right. Dana, Atlanta

How can we change the images on TV, Magazines and other outlets to help with improving the image of Plus-Size women?

By not giving in to the notion that there is only one standard for beauty. I think publications like Clutch should continue to refuse to put beauty in a box by featuring all types of beautiful women, regardless of size. Plus sized women should also not support retailers who don’t support them, like stores who only offer plus sized products on-line, but not in the store. Call popular magazines, tv shows, retailers, etc. and let them know that plus doesn’t equal ugly. Let them know plus sized women aren’t invisible and we want to see equal representation. If enough people make noise, then they can’t be ignored! Stacey, Alabama

By being open about how disturbing these images are of one single ideal. Shocking thinness is not beautiful (look at Nicole Richie) but that is lauded as such. Having beautiful, healthy models of all sizes and supporting shows/magazines/movies that show different standards of beauty. Toya, D.C.

I think it’s starting to get better with the Dove campaign and stars like Toccara, Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Monique. Nicole, N.Y.C.

Feature them more–awareness is the best way to improve any situation. Make the public aware that these women exist, are beautiful, and make a difference. America Ferrera has challenged the Hollywood “type” by becoming a symbol of mainstream beauty via “Real Women have Curves” and “Ugly Betty” (when she’s not in character). Dana, Atlanta

Do you think the fashion industry misses out on a major market when they don’t mass produce fashion items for women over a size 12?

Yes! Especially b/c most women are size 12 and up. How the fashion industry continues to ignore this is beyond me. “High” fashion is all about aspiring to have something that only an elite few are supposed to be able to have access too. People who are overweight or poor are considered ‘undesirable’ and can be weeded out since they can’t fit into or afford luxury clothing items. Many in the fashion industry don’t seem to care that women are starved for great fit and great fashion, and are willing to pay for it!! Stacey, Alabama

Hell yeah. Plus sized women spend money too! Where is the plus sized Forever 21? Toya, D.C.

Yes. Big time! But I hope to enter the plus size fashion industry real soon. My sister and I are planning on opening a plus size clothing store. We will launch online to start. I’ll keep you posted! Nicole, N.Y.C.

Hell yeah! If statistics show that 70% of all American women are size 10/12 or above. That means you are only truly capturing 30% of your total market. Lane Bryant has all but monopolized the plus-size market (there are some smaller ps boutiques) and blown up in terms of revenue. But, it’s not about mass production of fashion items….these items have to be flattering to fuller figures. Otherwise, you run the risk of “just because they had your size doesn’t mean you had to wear it” violations all over the place. Dana, Atlanta

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