Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fast Fashion and the Plus Size Consumer

I think generally people are getting more clued in as to why fast fashion is a problem. I recently read this post on Vogue and got thinking about why ethical fashion isn't so easy when you're plus sized. I thought I'd write a post about it because even fashion is political.

I understand that fast fashion has bad parts. People are often exploited in the developing world to make clothing for the developed world. I watched Stacey Dooley's documentary on fast fashion and us wanting a t-shirt for £4 has a huge environmental impact too. What I would say is that for fat people, buying a t-shirt for £4 isn't possible, and that's not fair. It costs more to buy plus size clothing, even if the difference in fabric is accounted for.

It isn't always easy to buy clothes as a fat person anyway, especially as, speaking from experience, someone on the upper end of the size spectrum. Many ranges stop at a size 24. While smaller fats can often buy things in supermarkets and straight size places like River Island, I can't. While smaller fats can, for instance, buy from a choice of 478 dresses on Simply Be right now, the choice at size 30 is half of that number, at 245. This disparity has to be acknowledged by everyone but especially by smaller fats, who often seem willing to throw bigger fats under the bus when they are catered for.

People who want us to stop buying fast fashion often say to shop in charity shops. Yeah, at my size that's not possible. You rarely see anything above a size 22 in charity shops. That's one reason why I love the clothes swaps we have. I get to swap with people my size! Who have things I like! And I get to try on loads of stuff and see if I can make it work for me. At the last swap I picked up a size 24 shirt which I love, and two skirts which are a size twenty, but look good on my body. I love the opportunity to pick things up and take a risk on them, and if I find that they don't work I can take them back to the next swap with no harm done and, crucially, with no money spent.

I would love for there to be charity shops with bigger sizes, though. If I had money, that's what I would do. I do love eBay for plus size clothing - I've bought quite a few Scarlett & Jo dresses from eBay as I had that term saved and got emailed updates. I often buy swimming costumes off eBay because they're SO expensive and I have no qualms about wearing second hand costumes, although I realise that may vary for people. I swear if I was a millionaire I would have bras and swimming costumes hand made for me. I would also recommend joining some fat positive groups on Facebook as they often have sales which is good.

I recently got a cardigan at TKMaxx, it's labelled a size L but was on a size 18 hanger. It fits me, and I think it looks cute. I think it's always worth trying things on and see how they look. I found a very cute cardigan with cherries on, but didn't buy it. I've been on many shopping trips with other fat women and I find them really empowering and encouraging, and I'd recommend doing the same if you don't feel that confident in yourself.

As for so-called ethical clothing, I would like to see them expand their size ranges. Many don't have any plus sized stuff at all. They can also cost a lot and this will exclude a lot of people, so if you do have the money to buy ethically and you're at a size to which it is available, please acknowledge that privilege because lots of us have neither. I understand too that acrylic materials are bad for the environment and may be contributing to plastic in the sea and things like that, but I also want to point out that buying completely natural fibres in plus sizes just isn't possible. Almost everything has some stretch to it, which is made of plastic. Almost nothing is made purely of cotton or wool, and if it is, the price tag would be astronomical. Again, if you can buy natural fibres please be aware that not all of us can.

Lastly, I think a lot of fat people struggle with fear of scarcity. A lot of us, growing up, didn't have many options at all. When I was an older teen, at 6th form, I was sized out of most places at a size 20, and had to rely on a few paltry pages in the La Redoute catalogue, since I didn't like anything in Evans. I understand that there are more options now, but the fear that they might just disappear is really real and can be quite distressing. It's not helped by the fact that while maybe five years ago there were Simply Be shops all over and Evans were demonstrably trying to win new customers, those shops are now closed and Evans has gone back to being all frump all the time. It feels like we've regressed since I started this blog six years ago, and I don't like it. I love the clothes I have now, but I worry that in the future I may not be able to buy such lovely things again. If you've never felt like this, please realise it's probably because you've always been overwhelmed with choice.

I speak only from my experience as a fat woman - I know that for disabled people and non-binary people clothing situations can be even worse, and especially if many minorities intersect. I just kept reading about how we should eschew new clothes and fast fashion, and while I by and large agree, I also wanted to note that for some of us, it just isn't possible.

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