Redefining Body Positivity: Plus-Size Stores & Influencers Blossom
Before plus-sized clothing became readily available, shopping was a traumatic experience for me and many others like me.
Before plus-sized clothing became readily available, shopping was a traumatic experience for me and many others like me.(Photo: Priyanka Bansal/The Quint)

Redefining Body Positivity: Plus-Size Stores & Influencers Blossom

In a move that was more controversial than it should have been, Nike recently introduced plus-size mannequins at one of its stores in London. Of course, the move was hailed by the body positivity crowd, but it wasn’t all adulation.

Body Shaming? Still Very Real

While Nike’s move made us rejoice, it left many critical of it for apparently “encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle.” Sadly, this argument has become a commonplace counter to the body positivity movement.

Those who use this argument often self-appoint themselves as our fitness mentors and ask us to “just work out” instead of being inclusive and respectful as we would prefer them to be. But the hypocrisy here is hilarious.

For me to exercise effectively, I would need proper gym gear, which remains the hardest to find. Then how is a sport brand trying to be more inclusive of body types a problem?

A piece by The Telegraph reignited the debate and fueled the naysayers of the body-positivity movement. It reflected a pretty narrow understanding of the issue.

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The Shopping Struggle

For a plus-sized person, many things in life become a wee bit tougher than usual. I battled with feeling confident, striking conversation, and the most frustrating of them all: finding clothes that fit. I’m sure my last point resonates with many.

I spent my formative years either shopping from the men’s section or wearing unflattering and ill-fitting clothes. I had no other option as no stores would carried my size. I wasn’t a fan of my style and neither were those around me. 

A point many of them made very evident. Their ridicule of my clothing was expressed in generous amounts of bullying.

I still remember seeing an advertisement in the newspaper about a plus-size store opening in Delhi. It almost felt like God himself had come to my aid. I bought my first set of clothes that weren't picked up from the men's section or didn’t have to be altered by the neighbourhood tailor.

Also Read : Dear Victoria’s Secret, Let’s Talk When You Are More Inclusive 

It was also, maybe, my first tryst with body positivity. Simply speaking, I realised I am not a ‘misfit’. There are other people with a body type like mine and it is okay to look the way I do.

Over the years, many things changed for the good. The bullying and the ridicule persisted, of course.

On the brighter side, however, I saw more plus-size stores mushroom across the city. Exclusive stores. They gave us, who don’t wear conventional sizes, the choice that we had previously lacked. It is no longer a game of hoping and praying for a store to keep something, anything, in a larger size. We can finally choose what we want and what we do not.

Online Clothing & Influencers: Divine Interventions

Even though plus-size brick and mortar stores offer much variety, they lack some essentials like lingerie, gym wear, formal wear and evening wear, which is where online stores like Shein, Stalkbuylove, aLL... come to the rescue.

These websites offer a lot of range, in terms of both the clothes and their sizes. Some websites keep sizes as far as 5-8 XL, which are sometimes not even accessible at plus-size stores, leave alone regular ones.

Since we can return and exchange items, ordering clothes online isn’t accompanied by worrying about getting stuck with ill-fitting clothes.

Social media, especially Instagram, has helped the body positivity movement gain momentum. Many ‘influencers’ disclose their own struggles and inspire the community to stand proud.

Also Read : Stop body shaming, everyone is special: Vidya Balan

India’s community of plus-sized influencers is burgeoning. They pose in all sorts of clothes, from sarees to bikinis to boudoirs, fiercely trying to subvert the ideal of the ‘desirable’ body type. 

I follow many such influencers on Instagram and they give me the strength to be confident, not just in how I look, but also in who I am.

Big Brands Dip Their Toes in the Plus-Size Game

Every time Ashley Graham, Kate Wasley and many others like them strut down the runway, they make a positive statement for the plus-size community. They allow for us misfits-no-more to be represented and validated, a ray of hope after being made to feel different all our lives.

Sadly, there aren’t a lot of Indian plus-sized models who walk the ramp. Special fashion shows with plus-sized models have received a lot of love and hopefully, will soon be inducted into the ‘mainstream’.

Top fashion brands have started looking beyond conventional sizes and are incorporating the XLs and the XXLs. We might be going slow but we are certainly not going to stop till the plus-size community is given the respect it deserves.

A few high-end brands have also begun to offer plus-size clothing.
A few high-end brands have also begun to offer plus-size clothing.
(Photo Courtesy: Mango screenshot)

Also Read : Body Shaming is Real and It’s Making Life Very Hard For Women

Still a Long Way To Go...

People who think the only reason for someone to gain weight is their “unhealthy lifestyle” really need to update themselves. Multiple conditions – medical, genetic or otherwise – can result in weight gain. Losing weight, without the politics of it, isn’t just about “getting off your ass and going to the gym.” Hence, we call for inclusivity.

While the movement has achieved quite a lot, we still have a long way to go. More power to us body positivity warriors, who are trying to level the playing field one size at a time!

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