Women Health

The ‘Plus-Size’ Label: Is It a Celebration or Discrimination?

The last several years have witnessed a cultural shift in both the world of advertising and that of fashion. Today, modelling is no longer only for tall, waif-like models or even of images edited to unrealistic and ridiculous proportions. Instead, we are currently seeing real women, of all sizes and shapes. Still, there’s a demographic that’s currently celebrated more than any other, which is plus-size women.

While the debate still rages on regarding what actually constitutes plus size – for some retailers it is as small as size 16 while for the majority it is size 18+ – there’s clearly no doubt that plus size is a label taking the fashion world by storm. Considering the fact that the average size of women in the United Kingdom is currently about 16, it is about time.

Plus-Size in Fashion

Typically, popular culture trickles from the top down. So, it is great that young people get to see the likes of plus-size models such as Tess Holiday and Ashley Graham grace the runway and taking the plus-size message to the public. However, is it just a celebration, or has the label ‘plus size’ actually been viewed as discriminatory by some?

The truth is that it is a bit of both. The rolling out of plus-size lingerie shapewear within the high street stores is definitely something to celebrate. Still, issues persist, such as the hiding of plus-size ranges in the back of stores and the lack of standardisation of sizes.

Size discrepancies can be found in lower size ranges as well. For instance, a size 10 in M&S isn’t the same as a size 10 in Zara. However, everything becomes even more confusing once you move to the plus-size range. Is a 24W the same as a 6X. The struggle is real, as you can see.

Then comes the label itself. According to Wikipedia, plus-size clothing is defined as being proportioned for obese or overweight individuals. That’s a major part of the problem. Indeed, at size 16 it means that most women are in this category. So, are all women currently obese, or with improved nutrition are they not just currently curvier and perhaps the ‘norm’?

Should the ‘plus-size’ range be actually a thing? Or should we avoid using that label and instead display all sizes together? Should they range from a ‘petite’ to plus size in a constant flow that ranges upwards from a size 6 to a 26, for instance? You can probably agree that this would help in preventing much of the frustration and stigma associated with the need to shop in a separate ‘plus-size’ section.

Plus-Size in the Workplace

Unfortunately, in spite of the push for inclusivity and acceptance, plus-size women are still facing workplace discrimination. It is often said that in interviews, interviewers make up their minds within the initial five minutes of the interview. It can only be based upon demeanour and appearance, which is why there is still a somewhat negative attitude towards plus-size individuals.

Research from LinkedIn actually shows that up to 25 per cent of employees feel that they have missed out on job opportunities or even promotions based on their weight. So, by perpetuating the label, are we also perpetuating the idea that something is actually different? If we get rid of the label, would this change?

Whether or not the label itself actually makes a difference, we hope that the push for workplace inclusivity will put an end to this form of discrimination. Perhaps what starts out as a celebration within the world of plus-size fashion will help in improving such attitudes.