In a move that should have been great news to many a budget-conscious fashionista, K-Mart announced last week that it would be renewing its fast fashion offerings in plus sizes. Its the latest brand to attempt to woo back the plus size consumer after previously shutting down its production of fashion-forward offerings to that customer — nearly 67 percent of women in America.
But what should be a celebratory moment for the retailer and the customer was completely soured by the decision to rebrand plus sizes to “fabulously sized.” While I’m sure their intention was one that absolutely came from a good place, it’s also, quite frankly, one which reeks of so many retailers’ vast misunderstanding of size inclusivity.
First and foremost, I hope every retailer hears me loud and clear when I say this: we don’t need fake names or flowery, vanity titles to feel good about ourselves. I’ve worn every size from a 14 to a 22. Across all of those spectrums, me being plus size has never once been something I’ve been ashamed to admit. So, you are not doing me any favors when you reduce something as simple as the number on my clothing tags to a fluffy, silly phrase that carries zero actual meaning beyond avoiding the fact that you’re scared to call us what we are. It is misguided at best, and condescending at worst.
In recent years, we’ve heard many a retailer and model decry the use of the term “plus size” as exclusionary and unnecessary. I would never be so bold as to discount anyone’s feelings about how they want to be addressed. It is neither my place nor my intention. But in that same breath, I would be remiss not to admit that every time I hear someone say that they do not wish to be associated with the term that it is difficult not to view the sentiment as rooted in anything but shame in being anywhere that is fat-adjacent.
For decades, terms like “plus size” have been synonymous with fat, lazy or even disgusting in a society that still views people who wear above a size 10 with disdain. It’s only in the last few years that body-positive bloggers and models have embraced the term not as a mark of shame, but simply a descriptor. I am proud of those women (and men) who have been at the forefront of change.
But if the centuries-long racial and religious struggles still so present in our often discriminatory, patriarchal society are an indicator of anything, it is that America is not a place that easily welcomes change. Fat women, especially the lower-income, fat women of color who are the bloodline of stores like K-Mart are among the most degraded and disrespected people in our society. While we have made strides toward size inclusivity with models like size 22 Tess Munster and size 16 Ashley Graham, who are both white, we have yet to see Black and Latina models break into the mainstream and land campaigns of the same magnitude. Even when they do, they remain the exception and not the rule.
While I applaud K-Mart for using a diversity of races in this ad, their placement and, perhaps more glaringly, their sizes, are not lost on me. Because the reality is that, a far more important attempt at inclusivity than the name change would have been to showcase models of different sizes, heights, shapes and complexions. Women above a size 18, especially non-white women, are traditionally erased from the narrative even though they are the very backbone of the body positive movement.
Ultimately, we absorb the messages we receive in fashion ads, especially those from which we are excluded. It would be much more beneficial to a community that is still so underserved to see themselves truly represented rather than to be referred to in ridiculous terms. Decisions like these do little but alienate millions of plus size women who already do not feel taken seriously by the fashion industry. It’s hard to imagine that you calling us “fabulously sized” is going to help that cause.