Fashion brands and media outlets are reaching out to women of all sizes.
It’s a well-known fact that the average woman is not a size 4. In fact, a new study found that the average American woman now wears a size 16. So why does the fashion industry still insist on featuring an unrealistic body standard?
This week, Refinery29 launched The 67% Project, which highlights a stark truth: In the United States, 67% of women wear a size 14 and up. Most American women are plus sized—yet plus-sized models are nearly invisible, represented in less than 2% of fashion imagery.
As part of the initiative, Refinery29’s website and social channels will shift their focus to plus-sized women, making sure that at least 67% of the bodies featured are plus sized. The site has also partnered with Getty Images to to produce The 67% Collection, a collection of stock imagery featuring women of all shapes and sizes. Actress Danielle Brooks stars as guest creative director.
“Plus-size women are not a niche, but the norm,” wrote Refinery29 editor in chief and co-founder Christene Barberich in the Huffington Post. “Not just a lone column in a magazine, website, or community—they are very much the community itself.”
There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and they spent a collective $20 billion on apparel in 2016. In fact, sales of women’s plus-sized apparel have risen faster than the rest of the market since 2013.
Led by fearless models like Gabi Fresh and Ashley Graham, today’s plus-sized women don’t want to be relegated to “slimming” options or online shopping. They want to shop for the same trends as everybody else.
There are signs that the industry is beginning to recognize this reality. At New York Fashion Week in September, Christian Siriano sent five plus-sized models down the catwalk as part of his runway show, while Chromat cast body-positivity advocate and plus-size model Iskra Lawrence in its show.
Among retailers, ASOS, Forever 21 and JC Penny have added plus-sized collections in recent months, while Aerie and Lane Bryant—both partners in The 67% Project—have won praise for their size-inclusive collections and marketing. A new H&M ad also features plus-size model Paloma Elsesser—although the chain has since come under fire for removing its plus-sized collection from some of its stores.
Overall, “these moves were very much the exception, not the rule,” said Tim Gunn in a recent op-ed blasting the industry for ignoring its average customer. But as more people join the conversation, it’s clear that retailers can’t ignore them much longer.
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