Fashion for every size
If you’re a size 16 or above, you need this ultimate guide. Because it’s now easier than ever to look amazing and stylish.
Icall it tutu torture,” says fashion stylist Meaghan O’connor, 31, a size 24. “I want chic tailored trousers for work and gorgeous dresses for date night, but because of my size I end up with dowdy polyester trousers and juvenile tutus. It makes me want to scream, ‘Step away from the grommets, rhinestones and tulle!’”
On a more serious note, Meaghan adds, “It’s alarming that plus-size clothing is so limited, given how many women are plus-size. Why are we ignored by designers, shoved into a corner at chainstores, and forced online to buy our favourite brands?”
Meaghan’s frustrations are familiar to any woman north of size 16. Many well-priced brands, like Topshop, offer only sizes 16 and below; high-end designer fashion on average goes up to 18, though those 18s aren’t easy to find; and offerings from many plus-size retailers are often very disappointing.
When we took to Twitter to ask plussize shoppers their peeves, they named “tacky jeans with embellishments” and “tops that look like tents.” They also noted that plus-size collections from straight-size brands often aren’t as fashionable. Mostly, the women we heard from just wanted more.
“While everyone at my office looks sharp, I feel like I’m taken less seriously because of my clothing,” says Jodie Paine, 26, a size 18 web designer. “I wish I could find stylish pieces like leather skirts, but a lot of plus-size wear is cheap and dated, with unflattering suits and button-down jerseys.”
All of which means something is seriously wrong. According to reports, women size 18 and above only account for 17% of clothing sales. It’s not that we’re disinterested in fashion; 88% of us would spend more on trendy clothing if it were available. No, it’s that fashion hasn’t been interested in us. Need a startling example? While doing this story, we contacted a famous French brand about a size 24 jacket from its spring collection. After informing us that in-store sizing stops at a 10, the salesman paused, then suggested that we buy two and sew them together.
Sew two jackets – two expensive jackets – together? How did we get here, and why wouldn’t a sane label want to please a woman with money to spend? “That’s the million-dollar question,” says Sports Illustrated swimsuit-issue cover model Ashley Graham, a size 20. “Brands think that expanding their size range will dilute their image.”
Actress Melissa Mccarthy, who recently launched her clothing line Seven7, agrees – and points out that creating larger versions of straight-size designs can be challenging as it requires more than just making everything bigger: “Needing a little more room on your hips and bust doesn’t mean that your wrist is the size of a stop sign!”
But the good news is that things are starting to change. Plus-size brands are learning that their customers crave fashionable clothing, and some straightsize lines are beginning to extend into plus-size territory. And we’ve got tips for getting the best out of size 16 fashion and above on the next page.
Shoulders are sexy, and this is the best way to flash skin without being too revealing.
want to reclaim and redefine the word, my approach is to undo the whole concept of the word ‘slut’.
‘Slut’ shaming means implying that a girl or woman should feel guilty or inferior for her real – or perceived – sexual behaviour. You might have seen ‘slut’ shaming written as just plain slut shaming, but I always put the word ‘slut’ in quotation marks to convey my contempt for that word – and my assertion that a ‘slut’ is not really a thing that exists at all.
After all, how do you define a ‘slut’? Is she a promiscuous woman? A woman who has had too many partners? A woman who has casual sex? But what makes someone ‘promiscuous’? How many is ‘ too many’ partners? And what qualifies as ‘casual’ sex? Once we try to define ‘slut’, it falls apart pretty quickly. It can mean anything the person using it wants it to mean, from ‘someone with big breasts’ to ‘a girl with a bad reputation’. Its danger lies in its flexibility: ‘slut’ is a catch-all insult for disparaging and discrediting women.
I started The Unslut Project back in 2013 by blogging entries from when I was labelled the school ‘slut’ nearly two decades ago, at the age of 11. Sharing my story was an invitation for women everywhere to speak out about theirs, and the project has grown into a supportive online community where people can share their experiences of sexual bullying. I speak with women from all over the world, and the stories are all the same: we are judged for what we wear, whom we sleep with or don’t sleep with, what our bodies look like, flirting too much or not enough, or any number of other non-reasons.
I have heard from a woman whose ex-boyfriend ruined her reputation at work by circulating nude photographs of her without her consent. Another woman told me how someone had set up multiple Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of ‘slut’ shaming her. Just do a quick search for ‘slut’ on Twitter and you’ll see the way that social media is being used to continue this long, tragic tradition. (On second thoughts, please don’t do that search – it will totally ruin your day.)
Sometimes, we even ‘slut’ shame one another. It can be subtle. We raise our eyebrows at the newly single friend who’s been on her fourth Tinder date in a week. We roll our eyes and label someone an oversharer when they joke about their trip to the STI clinic.
I’m just as guilty of this; in my 20s, I used to catch myself thinking or saying judgemental things about other women. This day-to-day, low-level disapproval has become so normalised, it often feels awkward not to anticipate – but it perpetuates the problem. As Tina Fey’s character in Mean Girls tells her students, “You all have to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.” The film came out over a decade ago, but it couldn’t be more relevant today.
We see ‘slut’ shaming played out in the public sphere, too – from criticism of Taylor Swift’s dating life to commentators blaming Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities when their nude photos are hacked and shared without their consent. When we have women like 24-yearold Olivia Melville, who was abused and humiliated on the internet when a man screen-grabbed her Tinder profile (featuring sexual lyrics from a song by Drake) and shared it online.
We all suffer because of it – not just when we’re the target – because we internalise the ‘slut’ shaming messages around us. We tell ourselves