What Does Body Diversity Look Like in Media? 4 Advocates Tell Us Straight
We'll admit it: Body inclusivity is not quite the norm yet when it comes to fashion. Yes, we can currently reference many amazing designers who work continually with women of varying body types, can link to great retailers (affordable and more aspirational) that have expanded its sizes beyond a 10 or 12, and will excitedly celebrate industry leaders challenging the status quo. But while body diversity has come a long away in the last several years, it still has leaps and bounds to make. Exactly how far? Well, we went to the experts to find out.
In order to fully understand just what inclusivity looks like, we turned to those who champion it most. Namely, bloggers. After all, these individual voices—including Nicolette Mason and Marie Denee—are at the forefront of the conversation around style, acceptance, and individuality. And they have been before Lane Bryant's #ImNoAngel campaign, before Ashley Graham was landing covers for Vogue and had her own Barbie, and before designers like Prabal Gurung and Christian Siriano were casting runways that didn't solely consist of traditional industry sample-size women.
So with this is mind, we went directly to the four self-starters, style lovers, and advocates for body diversity below. We asked them to weigh in on how close (or far) fashion currently is to representing all women, if the "plus" label is important, and what their ideal inclusive world looks like. Their answers may or may not surprise you, but they certainly inspire us all to do a little better. Read on.
"I don't have a problem with the term 'plus size' as it relates to clothing sizes. I'd love for qualifiers not to be necessary, but until all brands, all media, and content are truly inclusive, it feels like a necessary part of language. Unfortunately, I think it can sometimes feel tokenizing or like an afterthought.
"[When it comes to publications], personally, I love when there are dedicated plus-size stories. It's so great to see curated content that I can look to for inspiration and know that whatever products featured will be available in my size. That said, I do think generalized content should integrate all sizes as much as possible!"
There's no limit to the extent which brands or publishers should represent size diversity.
"There absolutely has been a change toward becoming more inclusive, and I think more publishers are starting to include diversity across the board as a matter of best practice. But there's no reason, at this point, why market edits shouldn't have a certain level of size inclusion. And there's no limit to the extent which brands or publishers should represent size diversity—67% of American women are plus size, and our media isn't close to reflecting that accurately."
"The conversation around the use of 'plus size' needs to be dropped ASAP. It sends a troubling message. When a model declares she does not want to be labeled 'plus size,' just a model, it does more harm than good. The plus-size woman has embraced, owned, and come to terms with this. To throw this debate around, it distracts from the main issue of inclusion of options and recognition.
"One of the main issues with how publishers speak about plus-size fashion is the generalization or lack of understanding the community and industry that already exists. Recognize the thought leaders rather than regurgitate sound bites. Acknowledge models, designers, and influencers of color and size who also have impacted the industry. 'Body positivity' is not a trend. The plus-size industry is not 'new' and has been a grassroots movement that has helped revive brands, launched careers, and with the advent of social media, it has given the plus-size woman a voice to challenge society's perception of us."
'Body positivity' is not a trend.
"It is nice to see publishers including more posts about plus-size fashion, however, it would be nice to see a more consistent, in-depth, and integrative use of plus-size fashion—as well as highlight the varied voices from within the industry in order for it to feel meaningful, rather than a 'me too' feel.
"There has been a change in how the publishing world has included plus-size fashion, but it could be more. Instead of one page or post, integrate plus-size models and brands throughout coverage. Highlight and feature the women of color who have innovated and sparked trends and movements. Include and feature models size 16, 18, and 20+."
"This is such a complicated topic, and there is so much sensitivity around the 'plus' labeling. The average woman in this country is a 14/16, so I always happen to find it amusing that a separate category has been devised to call out the average size. However, there are women who are a size 20 or 22 who do not consider a size 14, 16, or even 18 to be truly plus. Everything is so subjective. Do I consider myself to be 'plus?' No. But at this point in time, we are so new to size diversity in fashion publications that, yes, we need a distinction."
The biggest mistake that a fashion blog or publication makes is assuming that all of its readers are a certain size.
"Although the options for plus-size women are growing thanks to brands like Eloquii, I can't help but feel as though the options included always seem like an afterthought. I think the biggest mistake that a fashion blog or publication makes is assuming that all of its readers are a certain size. If you start to shift the perspective and serve everyone who is reading the publication, it feels a little more open. Publications are starting to toss in a plus-size option or two in certain stories, but what about making it equal?
"A 'plus-size dress' story might occur once a week versus the 10 to 20 stories offered to straight-size women on the publication every day. It's funny to think that someone who is a size 4 could be excluded from shopping a story they like when women in my size range live with that as the norm."
"Things have certainly improved overall, but there's still so much work to be done. Options for size 14+ are often not included in magazines or websites, and when they are, they're still segmented out. When it's a slideshow on a website, a plus-size woman will assume there's nothing in her size range, because that's too often the case. Fashion magazines and websites should be pushing brands to be more inclusive, since having that inclusivity would only help them create better, more diverse content. If an article wants to be truly inclusive, they should be focusing on either only including brands that offer a wide size range—like XS to 4X—or split the offers into half for sizes 0 to 12 and half for sizes 14+."
Fashion magazines and websites should be pushing brands to be more inclusive, since having that inclusivity would only help them create better, more diverse content.
"I've found that the best plus fashion pieces I've read were written by a plus-size woman, someone who appreciates their body and isn't approaching fashion as a way to disguise 'flaws.' Too often I can tell when a piece is written by someone who has never worn a size 14+. It comes across condescending, like bigger women don't know how to dress themselves, or it shames them, saying what is or isn't 'flattering' or how to cover unsightly parts. I hate that antiquated mind-set—there are no fashion rules that I want to follow, and being told time after time that I can't wear something due to my size or shape makes me want to wear it more and prove them wrong.
"It still surprises me how much of a debate swirls around 'plus size.' Both the term and the marginalized group of women who actually make up 67% of the women in the U.S. Still so many publishers, brands, and designers either refuse to include the size 14+ woman altogether, or have seem to have forgotten she even exists. I personally have embraced 'plus size' as a descriptive—it's necessary, at least until ALL brands are size inclusive. I don't see people up in arms about 'petite' or 'tall,' but they're labels, just like 'plus size.'"
Shop Summer Essentials in a Range of Sizes
ASOS Curve Lisbon Midrise Skinny Jeans in Abbie Wash ( $43 ) ($30)
These are the ultimate classic skinny jeans.
Eloquii Color-Blocked One-Piece Swimsuit ($120)
That little sliver of pink really pops against the blue color-block pattern.
How else do you think the fashion industry can improve when it comes to size diversity? Weigh in below, and then catch up with these fashion week moments that were the ultimate signs of girl power.