A few weeks ago, I was pleased to catch up with a good friend, Liz. We discussed inclusive clothing brands. When I met Liz a couple years back, I knew that she was very interested in fashion. And loved to express herself with it. As a former fashion major myself, I definitely admire her eye for trendy and stylish looks.
When I took on the job of writing a blog about inclusive clothing brands, I knew I had to chat with Liz about her experience in the plus-size world! If you are only here for our listing of great inclusive clothing brands and stores. Please scroll down to the end of the blog for that content. While some of the brands are offering up to a 3XL ( 22/24 ), there is definitely work to be done. Thus, companies provide more inclusivity in sizing and ranges above 3XL.
The Meaning of Fashion
Fashion to many may seem unimportant or trivial. However, fashion is an area of great privilege in our society. For instance, self-confidence and self-expression can come from fashion. Hence, fashion is very important for mental health. Shopping and finding clothing is pretty easy for individuals who exist in smaller bodies. On the other hand, individuals in larger bodies do not always have an easy time. This is a complaint that is often voiced to me by clients. As well as those in larger and fat bodies. At Courage to Nourish, we advocate for Health at Every Size (HAES). We believe that all bodies are good bodies. We find it important to assist in continuing this conversation.
This article “Shopping When You’re Plus Sized Isn’t Therapeutic – Just Ask Plus-Sized Women” is by Eliza Huber of Refinery29. It is a great resource. In addition, it shares some shopping frustrations that individuals in larger bodies have experienced.
I mentioned earlier that I was a fashion major. After, I chose to go back to school to become a non-diet registered dietitian. I also worked and interned in the fashion industry for a number of years. I had an inside look at the industry during this time. I even volunteered at NY fashion week. In addition, I helped behind the scenes at fashion shows with the models. It is no surprise that the fashion industry is fatphobic. The industry is trying to sell us an image of the “ideal body”. Along with the “perfect life” that supposedly comes along with that. Check out “Here’s What Plus Size Really Means – Fashion Brands Take Note” also by Eliza Huber of Refinery29. She provides a glimpse into how the industry does not adequately represent the larger bodied and fat populations.
The industry’s engrainment in diet culture was a large reason that I chose to leave it altogether 5 years ago. At a young age, I learned that clothing is unfortunately not designed for our individual bodies. There are no sizing standards when it comes to producing clothing. This means that a size medium at one store can be entirely different from the fit of a medium at another store. This makes shopping very anxiety inducing. One can never really feel confident in choosing sizing.
Years ago, clothing was specifically designed for an individual’s body. This type of clothing was called “couture”. First, a client would order a specific garment. Then, a seamstress would adjust the garment to the person’s specific measurements. In fact, couture and made-to-measure garments still exist. However, they are only really affordable by the elite. They are not seen as the mainstream way of shopping. As it was years ago.
I believe it’s important to look at the industry holistically. How can we improve inclusivity for those in larger bodies? Also, how can we improve the industry standards that led to fatphobia and weight stigma in the first place? It goes deeper than just offering more sizes. Let’s get into it!
Inclusivity is defined as “the fact or policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc,” (Oxford Languages Dictionary). The “etc.” here leaves a lot of room for interpretation. At Courage to Nourish, we believe that the “etc” includes many other characteristics. One of them specifically being body size. For example, HAES includes providing respectful and inclusive care. Regardless of body type. Similarly, our care and recommendations as eating disorder dietitians do not change or vary depending on the body size of our clients. However, inclusivity is not just meant for healthcare alone. It should exist in all facets of life. Including but not limited to: access to care, clothing, transportation, safety, etc.
For the purpose of this blog, I am focused primarily on inclusivity within clothing brands. As well as the overall shopping experience. This has been a hot topic over the last couple of years. And rightfully so. One of the movement’s influencers ,Saucye West, has coined the hashtag #fightforinclusivity. Currently, the push is to offer sizing above 3XL (22/24) in order to consider a brand as inclusive. The article “Saucye West’s #FightForInclusivity Movement is Inspiring Change in the Plus Size Industry.” showcases an interview Mayra Mejia held with Saucye West. It puts pressure on fashion companies to include more inclusive clothing brands.
Accessibility is one’s ability to “approach, reach, enter, speak with, use or understand” something (Oxford Languages Dictionary). In terms of human rights, accessibility also means that one can benefit from said system or item.
Some examples of this within the fashion industry include:
- Providing inclusive clothing sizes in stores. Not just online.
- Incorporating inclusive sizes into all areas of the store. Not just 1-2 racks in the back.
- Placing all sizes on sale. Not excluding plus and inclusive sizes.
Accessibility means that the target market for which the clothing items and sizing were created for can easily find said items.
Representation is, “the description or portrayal of something or someone in a particular way or as being of a certain nature,” (Oxford Languages Dictionary).
Some examples of representation include:
- Using models of size.
- Showcasing different races and ethnicities in models.
- Having mannequins to size.
- Not using photoshop programs to change or edit models.
We tend to find both accessibility and representation within the fashion industry. However, it’s rare to find both of them in one package. That should be the gold standard for all brands. Not just inclusive clothing brands.
Let’s review why this is not taking place as often as it should.
Online shopping has opened many doors for society. For example, it made shopping possible during the pandemic. Many loved the ease of not having to leave the house. And being able to have almost any product delivered. However, let’s focus more on privilege. Those in smaller bodies do not need to use online shopping. Unless they want to for some benefits described prior. In contrast, for individuals in larger bodies, sometimes (and often), this is the only option to find the sizing they need. Unfortunately, some stores only offer these sizes online.
Liz did explain to me that some of that makes sense. This is because those in larger bodies have often experienced negative events or situations in the past because of a fatphobic society.
Some examples include:
- Fitting room trauma.
- Other trauma out in society.
These events often make people fearful of shopping or going out into more public environments. Therefore, online shopping has become a positive experience for them. Just like there are some of us who prefer online shopping, there are just as many who enjoy the experience of going to a store and being able to purchase something in their size. Fashion companies are not doing enough to make larger bodied and fat people comfortable in their stores. They are not enticing them to come walk through the door. These companies will be the first to say that offering inclusive clothing sizes in stores is not “worth it”. Without taking ownership that they truly have not attempted to make the store a place worth coming to for their target market in the first place.
The gray area of online retailing and entire selections of inclusive sizes is the infamous back of the store rack. We have heard many stories that stores will promote themselves as offering inclusive clothing sizes. Unfortunately, these sizes end up being on one rack in the back corner of the store. Liz also confirmed this during our discussion. Often, these racks have limited styles. They are often out of season as well. Therefore, this limits accessibility for those in larger bodies. People are diverse and exist in all different body types. In turn, clothing stores should reflect this. Instead, having one rack set apart from the rest of the store isolates individuals. As well as limits their ability to find clothing that reflects their style and needs.
Some companies will say that it is not financially smart to market to plus size and fat populations. This is so wrong and, in fact, a human rights issue. In reality, this is a major market to tap into. We know these companies care about money. Therefore, the fat and plus size market can make them so much money! These companies are not advertising their plus size options. They are not putting any effort into building a comfortable atmosphere and experience for their target market. If you do not advertise something, how is anyone supposed to know about it?
The Material Expense Myth
Another misconception is that larger bodies equal greater expenses due to materials. Yes, for larger sizes you will need more fabric. That’s just simple math. However, if a store can offer sizing from 0-16 without increasing the price based on materials, they can do the same for larger sizes. In turn, they can offer sizes 16-40+ without passing along that price to the consumer.
Liz explained that plus size fashion has improved over the years. There are some brands that are doing things really well. These companies deserve some recognition. On the other hand, there are some that need some work. In the past, plus size fashion was geared towards trying to hide one’s body. Many of the newer brands are getting more stylish and trendy. Individuals appreciate and are definitely looking for this!
ELOQUII was previously owned by The Limited Brands. Their “plus-size fashion line” was created in 2011. It was created to meet the need of all plus-sized clothes. However, the line was only carried in a few stores in smaller markets across the US. Therefore, consumers were forced to purchase items online.
The label never got as much visibility as the mainstream collections. In 2013, The Limited Brands chose to shut down ELOQUII entirely. As a result, the target market was incredibly upset by this. The brand had been creating clothing that women in larger bodies wanted, despite limited accessibility. Additionally, they were creating quality materials and affordable, fashionable styles.
In 2014, the store reopened online. Ex-Limited employees led the way. They had seen potential in the undeserved plus size and inclusive markets. ELOQUII opened brick and mortar stores. And interacted with customers in real life. As soon as the pandemic began, they were forced to close all storefronts and go back entirely online. Hopefully as the markets adjust and grow, they will be able to open stores again.
ELOQUII online offers sizes from 14-28. There is talk that there is a push to get up to a size 30 offering for them. Other benefits from ELOQUII include free exchanges and runway inspired styles offered daily with new collections each month. As well as ELOQUII Unlimited, which is their rentable fashion line.
ELOQUII Elements was opened in 2020. ELOQUII Elements is Walmart’s in-house brand of ELOQUII. Per Mariah Chase, the CEO of ELOQUII, “ELOQUII Elements has the same quality, fit and fashion expertise from ELOQUII but is a more casual and versatile everyday fashion line.” The prices are typically lower. However, they are not as sustainable in their fashion. If that is important to you. Again, part of accessibility is price point. Additionally, this line does it for those individuals who need to (or would like to) make more budget friendly choices in regard to their fashion.
Universal Standard is “bringing fashion for all up to a universal standard”. They operate with the idea of “revolutionary inclusivity”. They believe that a size 6 should have the same exact shopping experience as a size 36. So, they made it happen with their brand. All of their styles actually go up to a size 40. Additionally, they ship sizes 00-40.
The main idea behind their sizing is that they believed conventional sizing was wrong. They wanted to shift the spotlight to reflect the true bell curve of womens’ bodies. The average woman wears a size 18. Therefore, Universal Standard believes that a size 18 should be a Medium. Additionally, sizes should branch out in either direction from there.
We encourage you to visit their website to learn more about their values.
What They Stand For
This statement gives you a good idea of what the owners stand for. “Universal Standard started with the two of us, but we actually wanted to do it for all of us. We lived in a world in which access was limited. We couldn’t shop together; one of us could hardly shop at all. It felt unfair, but moreover, it made no sense. If 67% of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 or above, why were their options so dismal? It was clear that all women weren’t given the same level of style, quality, or even respect.”
Another program Universal Standard offers is Fit Liberty. It is described as, “a revolutionary shopping program that allows you to buy for the size you are right now, in this moment. If your size changes, we’ll replace your clothes and send your new size – for free.” The program, “gives you the freedom to change sizes without fear, anxiety, or added expense.”
We also love that they support community efforts of social justice. Including Black Owned Businesses and Anti-Racism Resources.
For the sustainable folks, Girlfriend Collective is a great activewear company. They have inclusive marketing and models. Additionally, they offer up to a size 6XL. All of the items are ethically made from recycled materials. To learn more about them, be sure to visit their website.
In August of 2020, Old Navy launched BODEQUALITY. Their goal was to redefine what size inclusion means. To offer every women’s style in every size with no price difference. They will be the first retailer to offer sizes 0-30, XS-4X for all styles at “price parity”. The brand also has embraced a more inclusive environment. Including merchandising all sizes together. And educating employees on fostering an inclusive shopping experience for customers.
The Women’s and Women’s Plus collections have been merged in the online shopping navigation menu. Styles are shown on models in sizes 4, 12, and 18. Customers also have the option to select their preferred default model. While we would like to see models in sizing over 18 as well, this is a good start. Old Navy has also redesigned their fit process and standards for sizing. In order to offer a more comfortable fit.
Target had a good selection of inclusive clothing and styles. As of late, Liz shared that it has disappeared. We are left wondering where it might have gone?
Many know or have heard of Torrid. This was one of the few stores back in the day that individuals in plus and larger bodies could go to shop. The brand was created in 2001. Torrid is a plus size exclusive clothing store. This is great for representation and accessibility. However, it plays into isolation when individuals want to shop with other friends or family. They offer sizes 10-32 and are very true to size. Additionally, they are relatively sustainable and based out of California.
However, it is important to note that lately they have been involved in some controversy. Liz explained to me that many individuals are demanding more trendy items. Individuals will typically purchase staples and basics from here. But for trendy on-fashion styles, individuals are feeling unsatisfied.
Some more of the controversy includes the silencing/deleting negative online comments from consumers. Along with a decrease in quality and design over the years. Additionally, offering styles that are not fashion forward. And instead more geared towards hiding one’s body rather than showcasing it. There has been a push to roll out sizes 5x and 6x in the near future. Which is promising for this retailer.
Torrid is also the first brand to get IPO and to be publicly traded on the stock market. There is a lot at stake for them, and the inclusivity movement, to do well. This could be very encouraging to other inclusive brands to grow. In Torrid’s prospectus they stated, “The average plus-size woman has historically struggled to find stylish products that fit well and 78% of plus-size women reported that they would spend more on clothing if they had more options available in their size.”
Madewell has gorgeous pieces. They launched in 2018 with denim and have expanded to every category since. They are true to size, offering 14W-28W and 1X-4X in their plus sizes. On their website it appears they are beginning to offer select styles in 5X and 6X. It is currently Madewell’s mission to expand these offerings to online and in store. Learn more about their inclusivity goals here.
Anthropologie launched about 2 years ago and is owned by Urban Outfitters. In February of 2021, they released a collaboration with designer Peter Som with sizes ranging from 00P-26W. This collection helped further Anthropologie’s goal for size-inclusivity. As a result, they began offering petites in 2012 and sizes 18-26 sizes in 2019. It took them awhile to get to plus sizes, about 7 years. Despite this, many shoppers are happy new styles and sizes are currently being offered.
Forever 21 has offered “inclusive” clothing for a while now. Unfortunately, it is usually on one rack in the back of the store. In addition, their sizing often runs small. The same can be said for H&M. Forever 21’s sizing has always run small. This begs the question as to whether or not their sizing is really inclusive for the majority of those in larger bodies.
ModCloth is exclusively online, but are way ahead of the game for inclusivity. They go up to a size 4X and are true to size. They always use models of size. But they are US based and not as “on trend” as some other retailers. However, we do believe they have their own “style” of clothing. CEO and founder Susan Gregg Koger stated in an interview with Upworthy: “The shopping experience should be defined by types of clothing, and not by types of bodies.” Which is why the company recently removed the words “plus size” from their website. Instead, they offer all styles together in one online shop.
See this article “Modcloth is Ditching A Separate Plus Size Section – See Why Their Plus Size Shoppers Are Cheering” by Erin Canty of Upworthy for more information. It makes business sense. In 2014, size 16 and above was the fastest-growing category for ModCloth. It accounted for 20% more of online orders.
Unique Vintage is based out of Burbank. They have done a great job in offering fun and flirty vintage styles for larger body types. Many people love vintage styles at thrift stores. Despite this, the styles from years ago are not offered in inclusive sizes. Unique Vintage is here to bridge that gap. However, some sizing runs small. Individuals recommend using size charts to find the best fit. Check out their website to learn more about their story.
Maybe you have further information regarding inclusive clothing brands. Perhaps you think we might have missed any inclusive brands. If so, please reach out to us! Our goal is to advocate and assist in continuing this conversation surrounding inclusivity. Part of that includes listening to those living in larger bodies and individuals experiencing bias. Our door is always open to learn more and grow in this space. We want to better serve our clients in their recovery.
Courage to Nourage includes practicing eating disorder registered dietitians. We have offices in College Park, Maryland. Columbia, Maryland. And Alexandria, Virginia. We also see clients virtually across Virginia. Maryland. Washington DC. Colorado. And Pennsylvania.
Courage to Nourish services include eating disorder recovery services, support groups, and more. Check out our additional resources including our blog. Our blog includes tips on intuitive eating, recovery, and more. Please contact us to schedule a discovery call. You deserve full recovery. As well as a team you trust.
Lauren is an eating disorder dietitian at Courage to Nourish. She specializes in working with clients in recovery from anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Lauren uses the principles of intuitive eating and Health at Every Size in her work. She is currently holding virtual sessions with clients. To set up a discovery call with Lauren or another Courage to Nourish dietitian, complete our contact form. View Lauren's full bio here.