The summer weather (defined as anything above 12 degrees in Scotland) brings with it a clothing dilema for us 'plus-sized' gals. For once you are beyond a size 16 then you are beyond fashion too. You pass into the alternate universe of plus-sized fashion or 'fatshion' as I tend to call it. How I hate the term 'plus-sized'; if you're going to have a separate range of clothes then at least give that range a more body positive name; after all, you would never expect to see 'petite' marketed as 'short'. Some brands such as ASOS have introduced terms such as 'Curve' which is definitely better but while it has more positive connotations, it is still a label and still a separate category. I don't want to have to shop in the segregated section at the back of the shop or have to shop online only. I don't want to have limited options of what someone thinks I should hide under. All I want, what I really really want, is the same clothes selection as everyone else just in my size.
With fashion the underlying judgement is that you have to fit the standard to earn the right to buy nice clothes. Ugly clothes are a kind of punishment (as if we needed more) for not being the beauty ideal and that is slim. But, I hear you say, there's so much more about 'body positive' these days and it's true that I see more variety of models in advertsising that are not the ubiquitous size 8. That's great, and I hope more than a trend, but when you actually look at the clothes on offer nothing has really changed. There's a huge (excuse the unintended pun) market out there for women who want to be able to buy the same clothes as their slimmer friends and not a poor quality tent dress or a frumpy smock. If you've never had to look through the fatshion range then you probably think that there's the same choice as in the standard section. There's not. Rather than go with the fashion, plus-size sticks with the same cliches irregardless as to what's in vogue and will charge you more to boot. It's the 'same old, same old' totally limited disarray of unimaginative and often downright hideous clothes. If you don't believe me then let me take you on a guided tour. I've divided this into four 'fategories' with some pictures of actual current offerings from the high street and online brands.
1. Back to Black
It might be summer but if you filter plus-sized fashion by colour then black is the most common - they might add some scratchy lace or old lady polka dots but essentially black is the colour of choice. Yes it's often slimming but that's because it disguises any kind of contour; there is a point where it is no longer flattering but instead creates a shapeless black block with no definition at all. What's more, you will absorb all sunlight until you melt into a black puddle. I call this shapeless number - the slug
2. Checks, Stripes and Abstract
At the opposite end of the fat spectrum to black are the truly horrible patterned numbers. You will never see stripes so ghastly or patterns so grotesque as in the plus-sized section. The thinking seems to be 'more is more' rather than something subtle. If you're big then you obviously need big stripes, enormous geometric shapes or cabbage sized flowers.
3. Random Additions
For some reason plus-size seems to mean plus writing too. You might find something acceptable in style and shape but you can bet if it's plus- sized then it will have the unwelcome addition of a random word or cliched expression - 'Be Happy', 'Paris', 'Diva'... Alternately the addition will be some kind of generally childish applique. Why as a grown woman in my 50s would I want a cute rabbit on the front of my t-shirt or hearts and cherries? It's as though the underlying message or expectation is that plus-sized is all cutesy chuckles and fun, fun, fun rather than anything mature, seductive or business-like.
Never has bohemia been so ugly. Frills, florals, tassels, frumpy sleeves and cheesecloth. Apart from looking like Gypsy 'Roly' Rose, materials that inflate rather than drape leave you in real danger, on a windy day, of sailing across the lawn.
It is possible to design something attractive and stylish in a larger size but the key word here is 'design' and that's the missing element. Where are the designers that understand bigger shapes and sizes? I challenge you to provide a much needed service and banish fatshion for good. Bring on the biggerlicious!