We’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about a phenomenon called “performative activism.” Well, you’re about to hear it again.
Inclusivity in the commercial space has been all the rage in the past years. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna pioneered skin-tone inclusivity in makeup, brands have been releasing Pride lines and launches, and even Band-aids now come in a variety of skin tones. These things are all good and dandy, but my mind raises a red flag on some of these. Even more so, my mind raises a red flag on the plus size “movement.”
Just like Rihanna was a pioneer for inclusivity in the beauty sphere, she was a pioneer for size inclusivity in the fashion sphere. Her lingerie brand, Savage X Fenty, made waves upon its arrival in 2018, and don’t get me wrong. Savage has some great qualities.
For one, Rihanna employs models of all skin tones, different sizes, and even pregnant people. Her line made an explicit relationship between fat and sexy, which is something many brands failed to do prior to its arrival.
There are areas for improvement, though. Since Savage’s inception in 2018, there have been complaints about bra cup sizes not having enough range. Beauty columnist Marquaysa Battle spoke on this, highlighting complaints that were made at the time. However, in 2021, plus size women have the same complaints.
Tweets from real women on Twitter read, “Savage X Fenty barely carrying proper plus size lingerie is their biggest lie tbh” “The plus size girlies are saying savage X fenty runs small” “3x bralettes and underwear fit more like a 2x. And a traditional 3x size is NOT EVEN the optimal endpoint to market the way Savage x Fenty does.” “I’m not watching the Savage x Fenty show this year because I’m tired of them using fat models in the show and not making those sizes available to the general public. They don’t make bras that fit me and I’m even on the smaller end of the fat spectrum.”
Savage X Fenty barely carrying proper plus size lingerie is their biggest lie tbh
— RoseGarden (@_bl3ssing_) September 27, 2021
The plus size girlies are saying savage X fenty runs small 😭
— TequilaMockingbird (@Holy_Vanity) September 27, 2021
Honestly, it's not inclusive nor is it sized for all. Their 3x bralettes and underwear fit more like a 2x. And a traditional 3x size is NOT EVEN the optimal endpoint to market the way Savage x Fenty does. (this is not an attack on you, just some feelings and explanations)
— emily is an inside cat (@nomnivorous) September 21, 2021
I’m not watching the Savage x Fenty show this year because I’m tired of them using fat models in the show and not making those sizes available to the general public. They don’t make bras that fit me and I’m even on the smaller end of the fat spectrum 😤
— Sam (@trixiegalore111) September 26, 2021
YouTuber Fab Socialism made a detailed video discussing and dissecting Savage X Fenty’s business practices.
This is an issue not just with Savage X Fenty, but with lines everywhere. An article by Pretty Progressive stated that:
“Disappointingly, just 3.3% of Topshop’s online products are plus-size friendly, with their range of clothing only reaching up to size 18 online. Hot Topic and Pull&Bear have just 0.7% and 1.7% of all available online items labeled a size 16 or above; the lowest scores on the list. Despite previous plus-size controversy, Urban Outfitters rank as the worst for their variety of plus-size dresses (1%). Although fast-fashion brand Misguided pride themselves on inclusivity, just 5.6% of their total online items is available in 18-28.”
These are some of the most popular American retailers, and yet, they provide a grotesquely low amount of fashions for plus-sized women.
Plus size women feel as though retailers are cutting corners and giving the illusion rather than the reality of inclusivity.
This leads me to my broader point. Brands create “Curvy” and “Plus Size” sections of their stores rather than simply incorporating those larger sizes in their already-existing designs and collections.
By doing this, brands are not making clothing more accessible to larger people. They are, rather, alienating larger people and forcing them to experience a segregated version of fashion.
Think about it through this lens. Would it make sense to create a separate line of foundation for Black and brown people? Would it make sense for Maybelline to create a separate foundation line for darker skin? Would it make sense for Nike to make a different line of shoes for larger feet? No. Those are not the norms, so why is it so normal to make this distinction in clothing retail?
I spoke to a couple of my peers who face these issues first-hand. Mariah, a fellow 17-year-old said, “You talked about plus size people having a different section and that is something I realized shouldn’t be a thing. Why do I have to go to another section to shop instead of being able to click on/pick an item of clothing and pick my size like everyone else? And although shops have a plus size section, we don’t get as many options or clothes as cute as smaller people. It really is frustrating. You also mentioned the sizing being off, that is something I have experienced. The clothes are too small and aren’t true to size. A 2x is 18-20 but some shops have clothes that are “2x” and fit like a 14-16. I’m sure people complain about these things but there’s no genuine effort to try to fix the issues.”
Another one of my peers, 19-year-old Janise, said that she mainly gets her clothes from Forever 21 and Rue 21. She said there are small sections of the stores catered to her size, and even then, she can only shop for shirts in those sections. She cited Walmart as being size-inclusive and high quality, which was a pleasant surprise for me! It’s shameful that supermarkets and former grocery-specific chains like Walmart have actual fashion retailers beat out when it comes to catering to different consumers.
It’s almost as if brands are looking for some sort of trophy. They make a big show of having larger clothes available to be able to have selling points when it comes to pushing their product. Rihanna is profiting partially off of a dream that many plus size women have that they can buy sexy clothing that’ll fit their bodies. Rihanna makes the money even if this dream isn’t fully realized. So do other brands.
If brands really cared about making clothing accessible, they’d stretch their sizes for all their designs. They’d fix their clothing proportions to fit more uncommercial body types. They’d hire people to model those clothes. However, there isn’t much of that going on, and right now, plus size people are being used as the sprinkles on the fashion industry’s cake of lies.