Always one to be quickly responsive to the booming fashion trends, it’s puzzling yet counter-intuitive how there are enough options for plus size market but a real dearth of trendy clothing. With dedicated sections to men and children, where does one have to go to find the chicest XXL outfit? Often flung around disparagingly, the term ‘plus size’ is, unfortunately, a label not everyone’s willing to wear.
Rummaging Through The Racks
With only a handful of niche plus size e-commerce brands available, one can only imagine the challenges faced with finding the right fit whilst shopping online. Whereas the styles found in-stores are often outdated, more so because most brands play it safe and by the book with choices that worked well for them in the past. If even seen incorporating trendier silhouettes, they lack in quality of the material.
“Shopping for me is really disappointing at times – there have been so many instances where I would walk into a store and pick up a style I like only to find out that they don’t carry anything larger than XL. As a curvy woman, my options are very limited, and if there are any, they hang on my body like huge sacks or ponchos”, claims Alefiya Jane, a plus size model and entrepreneur.
Plus size fashion blogger, Aashna Bhagwani, can see some room for improvement, “In India, plus size fashion is still a new concept that’s in a space where it’s trying to compete with regular brands but can’t quite catch-up to new trends. Although, in recent times, I have noticed a vast increase in start-up brands in-store and on e-commerce platforms that are incorporating new trends and creative ways to make fashion fun for the plus”.
On the other end of the spectrum, international brands like ASOS Curve and Navabi offer trendy styles and are carving their trust among curvier women. According to an internal report by Jabong.com, plus size makes up for 8-10 % of India’s clothing market. So why aren’t more premium Indian brands taking the leap into the XXL’s?
The problem could very well lie at the core of education – fashion schools train their students to sketch designs on long-limbed, unrealistic figures all the time, namely the ‘nine head croqui’, wherein a realistic figure is stretched so as to achieve a taller more slender frame — a standard set internationally that doesn’t translate well to the Indian size demographic. Additionally, even draping sessions are conducted over nothing larger than size 8 mannequins. An unfortunate result of which, young designers will always resort to creating beautiful pieces only to fit the leaner lot.
Change Lies In Perception
Late in August last year, plus size apparel brand aLL in association with Lakmé Fashion Week hosted its first ever show for plus-sized men and women featuring real people. The aim was to break stereotypes and make a statement for a body positive movement in the Indian fashion industry. Persistent efforts like these are needed to promote a change in the way we perceive body types.
We have criticized celebrities for their inability to shed post-partum baby weight and we are the same breed that bullies athletic women for not having enough curves – in a country where diversity is celebrated, why aren’t different body types treated as one?
“I believe body-positivity is universal, it’s a state of mind which should be empowered by people everywhere. There are young girls who look up to fashion bloggers and models that make them feel different about themselves and most of the time, it’s not in a good way. Body confidence and women empowerment are not just trendy catchphrases, it’s an ongoing struggle. Either submit yourself to body shaming or take pride in your own skin – now that I am a part of the blogging community there is a big chance I can be a part of the solution and you can too!” adds Aashna.
It’s a hard truth that fashion is a very shallow and visual enterprise – from glossy magazine editorials to designer lookbooks and the Bollywood red carpet, exquisite designer wear is only showcased to look best on the skinny. This quixotic belief then trickles right down to the consumer and affects their self-image.
“When you talk of the plus size fashion world, it instantly brings to mind figures like Ashley Graham, Denise Bidot, Tara Lynn, and so many more that are pioneering the body positive movement internationally. I wish the Indian fashion industry would start encouraging and promoting a healthier body image than just a good looking one”, adds Alefiya.
We are in dire need of more fashion-forward icons that advocate body positivity in a way that feels aspiring. In a world where clothes are made for humans and not just hangers, does everyone feel welcomed under this big umbrella named fashion?