What is Size Appropriation?
Posted on April 05 2021
I first became familiar with the term size appropriation when I received an email a few months ago from Loft advertising new loungewear. I’ve been working from home for just over a year now, so I love me a matching loungewear set and would have loved to add a pink camo set to my collection. The email included a photo of what I thought was a plus-size or curve model (who we know are generally straight-sized or at the low end of plus-sizes, but this is a topic for a different blog!), so off I clicked to add to cart.
However, when I went to Loft’s website, I found that Loft’s Lou & Grey loungewear sets are offered up to an XL, with a handful of pieces in XXL. This was prior to Loft’s “announcement” that they are discontinuing their plus line in 2021. Looking back, this was the first of a few hints of their future plans.
By the way...if you haven’t heard about our petition to encourage Loft to re-think their plan to discontinue their plus line...you can:
- Learn more in this article by The Curvy Fashionista, including a quote from The Curvy Shop!
- Watch our interview with Marie Denee of The Curvy Fashionista here
- Sign the petition. As I write this, we need just 17 signatures to meet our goal of 1,000 supporters. I will be sending the petition to Loft’s executives this week!
This got me thinking about brands who use plus-size or curve models in their advertising, but don’t actually offer products to the majority of plus-sized customers. We’ve all heard of the term cultural appropriation, but what is size appropriation all about?
Vox wrote a great article on size appropriation a few years ago, referring specifically to instances when Madewell and Lululemon used plus models but did not offer plus sizes at the time. Madewell now offers items up to a 3X, and our last blog looked at Lululemon’s attempt at capturing their share of the plus-sized fashion market.
Here’s my take. Size appropriation in fashion means using plus-size or curve models in advertising as a means to attract plus-sized customers, without actually doing the work or selling products to cater to the majority of plus-sized people. Basically, it’s a teaser or a bait and switch.
Since quietly announcing that they would be discontinuing their plus-sized line, Loft continued to post photos on social media featuring curvier women and plus models wearing items in a size 14 or XL, yet the pieces modelled were not available in plus sizes. Followers took note and were definitely NOT happy!
We know now that Loft has decided NOT to do the work and improve their offerings to plus-sized women. Here are some other examples I came across of size-appropriation.
Zara offers select pieces in up to an XXL. I came across this article from Cosmo UK on “how to shop at Zara if you’re plus sized.” However, if they’re offering up to XXL in SOME pieces, this is roughly a size 14/16, so would maybe fit a 0X or 1X depending on your body type.
To me, this is an example of offering extended sizes up to the averaged sized woman. We all (hopefully) remember bell curves from school - if you’re offering products up to the average size, you’re missing out on a whole population of people who are above the average.
On the flip side, Zara doesn’t appear to use any different body types or plus/curve models on their website or social media.
Friends always ask me if I shop with Aritzia, as they’ve recently extended their sizing. I would love to cheer for them as they’re a Canadian brand, but even when I was straight-sized, their Size 12 didn’t fit me. I didn’t feel welcomed into their retail environments, and felt like they were targeting a very thin, petite, waify aesthetic.
Here is their size chart. Similar to Zara, this would be roughly a Size 14/16 or 0X/1X depending on your body type. I did come across this YouTube review by Sierra Schultzzie that shows their sizing may not always be true to size.
Articles came out saying Aritzia will “finally offer extended sizes,” like this article by Daily Hive. No offense but offering up to the average sized woman is NOT extended sizing! (See my point above re. bell curves.)
Similar to Zara, Aritzia rarely has any plus or curve models on their site. There are none on their Instagram page. But I did find a few examples of size appropriation. Here are some examples of bodysuits being modelled by a curvier woman. You can see the items only comes up to a L and XL. Hopefully you’re seeing a pattern by now of where plus women would feel teased and misled by these offerings.
Why is size appropriation harmful?
In my view, size appropriation is harmful because it perpetuates fatphobic and body dysmorphic beliefs. If a brand is advertising “extended sizes,” but really is only catering up to the average-sized female, this is problematic in that it may cause women to engage in behaviours such as overexercise, food restriction and more, in an effort to try to control their bodies so they can continue to fit into the brand’s clothes.
I also feel that this type of advertising is misleading. Like the Vox article linked above notes, these brands are earning brownie points with the plus fashion community, without really doing the work to properly serve plus-sized consumers. It’s 2021 - do better and be better!
When we shop, we vote with our dollars. There are so many other brands out there who are doing the hard work to meet the needs of the plus-sized community. We feature many of them in our shop and social media pages. Let’s continue to show inclusive brands like Universal Standard, Levi’s and Good American and many more some love!
Are there other brands you think are or are not doing the work to better serve plus consumers? Comment below!
Until next time, be well and stay fabulous!
Aymie - The Curvy Shop