Fashion Trends: Why Size Inclusivity Matters
“Plus-Sizers” are NOT second-class citizens
Image via Eco Warrior Princess
The ideal body type and the concept of beauty are always changing.
There’s even proof that all these have been happening since the Paleolithic era - starting from the Venus of Willendorf statue to the Elizebethan era, right up to today’s portrayal of social media influencers as well as celebrities.
With all sorts of body ideals throughout history, let’s have a quick walk down history lane!
Paleolithic era: 24000 - 22000 BCE
Image via The List
The Venus of Willendorf statue serves as one of the earliest art-forms that symbolize ‘the ideal woman’. The statue is of a woman with big breasts, large hips and what used to be considered a healthy stomach. These features checked all the boxes of an ideal woman back then.
Elizabethan era: 1588 - 1603
Image via The List
The Elizabethan era was when makeup made its mark. In this period of time, Queen Elizabeth became the symbol of beauty, and people decided that the fairer one looks, the higher their status is. Having fair skin was a proud characteristic of the rich that symbolizes a luxurious lifestyle, rather than having tan skin that was frowned upon.
The ideal beauty today
Image via L’OFFICIEL
Fast forward to the 90s, this was the decade when the fashion and beauty industry began featuring some of the skinniest models of all time. Runway models and celebrities were way thinner than average.
As illustrated by the timeline, different times call for different standards of beauty. And today, we are marching towards an era where diverse shapes and sizes are celebrated. With this in mind, fashion brands are also joining in to support this shift.
1. Victoria’s Secret’s first plus-size model
Image via Allure
In 2019, Victoria’s Secret, a prominent American lingerie, clothing, and beauty retailer, featured its first plus-size model and influencer in a lingerie campaign. This came after the brand faced a prolonged backlash, and was trying to be more inclusive to appease the public.
2. Savage x Fenty by Rihanna revolutionised the lingerie market
Image via GLAMOUR
Rihanna’s lingerie line, Savage X Fenty, aims to promote diversity, inclusivity and body positivity by offering sizes that fit every woman. In a report by The Star, a fashion search engine, Stylight, recorded a spike up by 1,126% in number of clicks for the fashion brand in May 2020.
3. Good American by Khloe Kardashian and Emma Grede launches a wide range of sizes for swimwears
Image via Yahoo!
To honor all body shapes and sizes, Good American recently dropped its first swimwear line, and this collection includes sizes from XS to 5XL. In keeping to their vision, the brand has always been about “inclusivity and representation”, and they believe customers should find the best fit so they can look and feel their best.
But why are brands beginning to shift?
At the turn of the 20th century, the ideal beauty standards have often been set and portrayed by our fashion icons. But as we move towards a more diverse, ever-growing, and extremely interconnected era, we have to think about where the plus-size conversation is leading us.
The New Product Development (NDP) Group has shown that there is significant growth in the generated revenue in the plus size market from 17.3 billion in 2013 to 24.4 billion in 2016. According to Omnilytics, the plus size industry is estimated to be worth up to 24 billion by 2020. On a global scale, plus-size women’s market was worth about $165.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to have a 4.4% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the period 2018-2026.
Image via Pipe Candy Blog
Locally, the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) done by the Ministry of Health shows that in 2019, half of Malaysian adults are either overweight or obese, with 52.6% of adults having abdominal obesity and 30.4% of them being overweight.
As a result, fashion brands are joining in the plus size game and expanding their product ranges to be more size-inclusive to cater to this booming sector.
Mental Health and Social Comparison
Image via @lavieleblanc
The truth is, beauty standards set by society are the cause of the increasing rate of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders among women, especially those who are plus size. Thus, this is the reason why most of these women invest so much time and money to “improve” their body image.
Image via @anya_delventhal
A survey done by Cosmopolitan magazine proves that women, no matter their background, often doubt and question themselves for not resembling any famed social media influencer. This in turn cultivates a toxic mindset in which they believe that the only way they can be pleased with their own beauty is to look like the people they admire.
According to Social Comparison theory, individuals have the natural tendency to compare themselves to others in a quest to establish their own standards of beauty. In essence, women’s insecurities about their appearance is largely driven by the attractiveness of other women.
Online Media Representation
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Perceived beauty standards are widely influenced by the online media. Many companies create online advertisements with unrealistic beauty standards that are detrimental to society. Social media influencers and beauty bloggers are also partly to blame for promoting these beauty standards through the fashion industry.
According to StarNgage’s insight into influencer marketing in Malaysia, 86% of the most-viewed YouTube beauty videos were created by influencers. The same percentage (86%) of women turn to social media networks before buying anything, giving influencers and beauty bloggers a strong influence to dictate consumer behavior.
As female body stereotypes continue to be prevalent in the media we consume every day, it may be difficult for consumers to avoid detrimental beauty standards. But herein lies the opportunity for fashion brands and icons to make a change in this dangerous culture.
Hence today, more and more fashion brands are taking the initiative to be more diverse in terms of their products and models that represent their brands, while educating women and helping them to value their own unique beauty.
Fashion brands need to understand that as the world continues to evolve, standards of beauty will also continue to change. No matter what trends are set in the future, one thing is for sure: propagating unrealistic standards of beauty will not help brands go further. Fashion brands should embrace diversity in representations and sizes, spread positive values and assure everyone that they are beautiful just the way they are.