Fashion Lookbook

Your brand isn’t body-positive if you don’t make clothing for fat people

I recently saw an ad for a body positive t-shirt company online. Being a fan of slogan t-shirts, I checked it out. I was about to buy a shirt that said ‘Riots, Not Diets’ when I realized the shirt didn’t come in my size. The largest size was about a UK size 12, which is too small for me.

Browsing through the site, I realized that there were no T-shirts larger than a size 12. I also noticed that the models they used were pretty thin, too. It’s ironic to use slogans like ‘all bodies are good bodies’ if you only cater to some bodies.

Unfortunately, there are more brands like this that claim to be body positive but don’t make clothing for fat people.  There was a local handmade underwear brand that I used to love because they often posted whimsical photos of models with stretchmarks, captioned with lines of poetry about self-love. Eventually, I realized all their models were around a size 6, and that they didn’t make bralettes for people larger than 34B. When asked about this on Instagram, the company responded by saying bralettes don’t look attractive on larger breasts – something that’s both rude and untrue.

If you’re thin, you might not think about making your brand accessible to fat people. But the point that I’m trying to make is that you should. You can’t use body positivity to make money without caring about the people who need it the most.

Let me be clear: thin privilege is real. If you’re a thin person you might struggle to recognize it, just as a straight person might struggle to recognize their straight privilege. But it’s still there.

Weight discrimination alludes to the assumption that fat people are unhealthy (even though this is not the case – check out the site Health at Every Size if you’re curious about this). It means we assume fat people are lazy, slovenly, or undisciplined. It means that fat people are often concern-trolled about their health and eating – as if it’s anyone’s business. It means that fat people are less likely to be hired; if they are, they’re likely to earn less than their thin counterparts. It means furniture isn’t made for fat people. It means that fat people aren’t seen as the ‘norm’ sexually, and instead, they may be fetishized. For fat people, it also means it’s hard to find celebrities or models their size, and it’s difficult to shop for clothing that fits them. And, while skinny-shaming isn’t cool, it certainly doesn’t negate the societal power thin people have over fat people.

Fat people are oppressed by society because of their size, and thin people are not.

Thin privilege is something that happens on a spectrum; it’s not black-or-white. I have a little thin privilege over those who are larger than me. I don’t think I’ve ever been bullied for my weight, but models in mainstream magazines, even ‘plus-size models’, are usually smaller than me. I can find clothes for myself, but with difficulty as my size falls within the ‘plus size’ range. I fit into chairs and airplane seats, but doctors automatically assume I don’t eat well and suggest I lose weight.

Still, it’s hard to remember my privilege when I’m usually the largest person in the room/bar/restaurant. My annoyance at being unable to find clothing with certain brands online is a constant struggle for larger people. Many stores don’t carry my size, but some still do – larger people aren’t as lucky.

Compared to the problems fat people face on a daily basis, a t-shirt made too small might seem like a petty non-issue. But it epitomizes a larger issue: that fat people are being pushed out of their own movement.

Body positivity is a movement that started because of fat acceptance activists. Body positivity should include making the world more accessible to fat people. This includes clothing. Otherwise, you’re commodifying body positivity while excluding those who need it most.

Body positivity isn’t a trendy caption – it should be a part of a broader movement. If you’re using body positive platitudes but you don’t make clothing for people over a size 12, you’re not body positive. You’re saying, “Self-love is great, but only for people who basically already fit the status quo”. As the writer Your Fat Friend writes in this gorgeous piece, body positivity shouldn’t come with caveats about which bodies are acceptable.

Thin people, if you believe fat people don’t deserve to be discriminated against, don’t support these brands. Call them out. Ask questions about why their sizing is so limited. Put your money where your mouth is.

You can’t call yourself body positive if you don’t believe fat people should be able to access the clothing thin people can access. It’s a tiny, basic step towards fat acceptance. If you truly believe in body positivity, it should be a no-brainer for you.

By Sian Ferguson

Based in South Africa, Sian is the proud parent of three cats and numerous pot plants. Sian is a freelance health journalist. She has been passionate about reading and writing for as long as she can remember, so working as a writer and editor is a dream come true for her. In her spare time, she loves cooking, baking, and learning about astrology.