Disclaimer: I’m going to mention a few different clothes brands in this post. Please note that I’m not affiliated with or endorsed by any of them, nor have I received any incentive to write about them. Sizes mentioned are UK sizes.
I am also writing based solely on my personal experience as a white cis woman in a plus size body. I acknowledge that there are many other challenges people face when shopping for clothes and would love to hear further insights and perspectives in the comments!
I grew out of children’s clothes pretty young. At 10 years old, I’m pretty sure I was already wearing adult sizes rather than the age 9-10 or 10-11 range. I was fairly tall for my age, my boobs came in early and of course I was a bit of a chubster. My teens became all about disguising or at least compensating for my size – camouflaging my tummy, thighs and arms, accentuating my chest. I guess I wanted people to think, yeah, she’s fat, but at least she’s got great cleavage!
I could still shop on the high street as a teenager, though I was already wearing the top end of what they tended to stock. I could never find anything above a size 14 in H&M and was lucky if I came across a size 12 in Topshop. Bearing in mind this was 10+ years ago, I appreciate (and hope) that things have changed. I generally stayed within ‘standard’ sizes until my late teens – it was after I went to university and continued to get bigger that clothes shopping became more of a challenge.
I resisted buying clothing designated ‘plus size’ for a long time. I remember my mum suggesting that I cut the labels out of my size 18 knickers to help me stop obsessing about it, ashamed of a silly number that only I saw. Each time I went up a size I felt like more of a failure. Though I could still buy clothes in my size from places like Primark, Matalan, and the clothing departments in supermarkets, they tended to be ill-fitting, bulky and drab.
A common problem with clothes that exist from a size 8 all the way through to a size 22, for example, is that the large sizes are literally just scaled up versions of the smaller ones. What’s the problem with that? Well, think about a plus size person. We’re not just scaled up versions of thin people – we might be the same height but carry more weight, in different places. We may have curves where slimmer people have straight lines. This is where plus size clothing, along with other ranges like tall and petite, come into their own.
I think I was around 22 when I first went into a plus size clothes store. It was Yours in Leeds, and there was a beautiful dress in the window. The fact that it was a dedicated plus size store terrified me – I think I felt like shopping plus size would be giving up, admitting my failure to lose weight. But I HAD to try that dress. So I did, and it changed my life.
Since then, I’ve bought a LOT of clothes from Yours. It’s not just that the clothes look good – they feel good. They’re comfortable, flattering and have been made with bigger bodies in mind. The dresses are my favourite, though I’ve also got some tops, shoes (wide fit!) and shorts. Quick note on shorts – it’s SO HARD to find good plus size shorts. They’re either so short they allow major chub rub, or they’re past your knees. THERE IS A MIDDLE GROUND, PEOPLE.
While Yours is a dedicated plus size brand, an increasing number of clothes brands and high street stores also have their own plus size ranges. In my experience, these are pretty hit and miss. I’ve had great success with some online retailers – ASOS, SHEIN and Boohoo all have pretty extensive collections and I own a few pieces from each – but there is still an overwhelming tendency for plus size ranges to be designed to hide and disguise bigger bodies rather than celebrate them. They’re also often so DULL! Fat people like bright colours and prints too, you know!
The plus size clothes market is expanding faster than I did in my early 20s. This is often blamed on the ‘obesity crisis’ – we’re all getting bigger, which clearly indicates a massive moral failing and we should all go on restrictive diets immediately. Jokes aside, I think the body positivity and fat acceptance movements are having a huge impact. More and more fat people are being empowered to live life to the full, wear clothes that make us feel good and fight the outdated idea that we should constantly be working to make ourselves smaller and hide our bodies away until we do.
Another term that’s becoming increasingly popular when it comes to clothes brands is ‘size-inclusive’. Size-inclusiveness is the idea that no matter what your size and shape, you will not be discriminated against. For a clothes brand to be size-inclusive, they must cover as many different sizes as possible and also cater for different body types (i.e. not just provide the same clothes scaled down or up!). This includes plus size and fat bodies, but also of course petite, tall etc.
So far, the brand I’ve discovered that best embodies size-inclusiveness is Snag Tights. There’s been a bit of buzz online recently about Snag, as they were hit hard under COVID-19 and as a result launched an SOS appeal to their supporters (affectionately known as ‘Snagglers’). The response was so immense that they’ve been saved and will hopefully continue producing size-inclusive tights (and their AMAZING chub rub shorts) for many years to come.
The team behind Snag Tights “believe that anyone who wants to wear tights should be able to have tights that genuinely fit in comfort, regardless of size, shape, age or gender”. Their website stresses that they are not a plus size brand – their tights are made for everyone, and as such they even have their own unique sizing system. Though this means you have to navigate an unfamiliar method, their size guide makes it extremely simple, and even includes a variety of photos showing real people wearing each of the sizes for illustrative purposes.
Before the SOS appeal, my only Snag product was my faithful pair of chub rub shorts. I’m now the proud owner of few pairs of tights – following the size guide, I’m about 5’7 and usually wear a UK size 18-20, so I went for size F, which fits perfectly. They’re a great brand in other ways, too – female-founded and female-led, LGBTQ+ friendly and at the time of writing for every pair of tights ordered they send a free pair to the NHS. This is the kind of brand we need to be supporting to promote an inclusive, accessible and sustainable future!
I hope this piece has been interesting and helpful for you. If you’ve been considering buying plus size, go ahead and give it a shot. Yours is a great place to start for real quality plus size clothing – honestly, you’ll feel the difference!
Until next time – so much to say, so much to do, somuchkat.
BONUS: Cute picture of Simba, who was rolling around on the bed behind me while I took pictures in my dresses from Yours!