What Is the Plus Size Movement? Failings and Future…

Who can tell when the plus size movement began getting traction, but nowadays I look around and see retailers selling specifically to the plus size market. They use plus size models wearing plus size clothing smiling at the camera. Colours and fabrics are plain with lots of peach, purple, blacks and whites. But is really what is what about, creating a separate fashion trend for those who are “plus”?

“Plus size according” to the online dictionary means “An extra-large or oversize clothing size, especially one for women’s or children’s clothing.”  Surely this is not what it’s about – either being “normal sizes” or “plus.” Aren’t we all just women trying to find the perfect outfit to make us feel beautiful and show off our best features?

Plus size yoga class – image credit newscom

Don’t get me wrong, I think the plus size movement is fabulous, but I do think that there are a few things that it has done that have created some fairly unhealthy messages.

Bad message number 1) Being obese doesn’t have an effect on your health.

A much as the plus size movement is an extremely important message there seems to be an elephant in the room. Being obese is actually bad for your health. And I don’t mean obese in the BMI sense, I mean obese in the sense that walking down the street is uncomfortable, sleep is disturbed and breathing is shallowed. Our bodies are beautiful but they are also machines and they need to be used so doing regular exercise regardless of your age, weight, size or sex is extremely important

Bad message number 2) You need to be a size 18 or above to belong to the club

Walk into any plus size retailer and you will see that clothes start at larger sizes. So what does this mean for the women who is on the cusp catered neither by the plus or the regular retailer?

These women, those in between a size 14 and 16 make up the large majority of women out there, yet no-one tends to specifically target them. Very rarely do you see models of these sizes wearing either the plus or the regular sizes. And yet, the plus size movement began (I assume) to make clothing available to everyone, to make no-one feel judged and isolated – so what went wrong?

Marketing professionals for many years lived by the mantra – “sex sells” so they used half-naked women to sell cigarettes, cars and beer. Then it began to emerge that we wanted to be able to “relate” to the imagery we saw so these same marketing professionals began using plus size models to target a plus size audience but what they failed to understand was the massive chasm that sat between them. The everyday women who has reached her early 30’s who isn’t “plus” but also doesn’t want to wear some skin-tight number every time she leaves the home.

This woman traditionally has spent her time at home raising the family but in the last few years due to changes in our society, she works, the reads and she has a credit card which she likes to use.

She is a demographic of immense power because she has dealt with her insecurities, she knows who she is and she’s comfortable in the knowledge she isn’t growing younger, blonder or taller. She is also very engaged and vocal.

These women will shape the future of fashion for the next 10 years and let’s hope for the next 50 because their message is realistic, positive and honest.

It’s the dawn of a new age (and size) of strength for women and I for one look forward to embracing it, curves and all.


Having struggled with my weight my entire life I have learnt a lot about how to eat, how to exercise, and more recently how to make women feel beautiful, even when they exercise through my business - Female For Life - activewear for everybody, everyday.

16 thoughts on “What Is the Plus Size Movement? Failings and Future…

  • January 22, 2013 at 8:06 am

    I’m size 13/14, my clothes sizes are either too small for me or too big. I need to alter them especially when it comes to pants.

  • December 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    The medical community are right. There is a tremendous weight of research that has stood the test of time – i.e. over 50 years – which repeats the same simple message – eat a balanced diet, do moderate exercise – and you will be able to maintain a healthy weight.

    People like yourself are frankly a menace to the general health of the population. You muddle up this simple advice and wrap it up in marketing and dubious research to give legitimacy to your particular “program”. Conventional diets as you refer to them are just similar screw-ups.

    However as long as there is plenty, and people can overfeed themselves at little expense, they will. We are animals driven by the need to take advantage of plenty in case hardship is round the corner. Self control is hard to achieve, and as long as it is, people will overfeed and then turn to whoever they can for a quick fix (another human frailty). Sadly modern medicine only has the tedious advice that it requires time, effort and commitment to reverse the damage. Hence we end up with a surfeit of charlatans with pills and programs.

  • December 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    An underlying problem with the “Plus Size” movement as you alluded to is that its basic message is that being overweight is acceptable – which is just a pretty lie to give self comfort to those who are overweight.

    The reality is that it’s unhealthy, and as a result, unattractive. We are at our core animals seeking the fittest genetic partner to mate with, and being overweight is a big (excuse the unintentional pun) signal that you are not a fit mate. The best clothes are not going to cover that up.

    • December 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm

      A bit harsh perhaps. If attraction was solely based on looks then only the skinny people would be procreating :)
      Also with comfort comes confidence and with confidence comes motivation to get healthy.

      • December 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm


        I work full time helping women with their efforts at weight loss and fitness and I read about fitness and weight loss all day, oftentimes 7 days a week, and I have never read a comment I DISAGREE with more.

        From a “core” standpoint:

        Those animals you speak of that seek the fittest mate have not EVOLVED as far as humans have so another way to look at it with obesity rates skyrocketing is that heavier people are the SELECTED ones who are becoming more and more favorable to survival.

        I’m not saying that is my view, I’m just saying that humans should not be living day to day for the sole purpose of surviving and reproducing in the fittest way possible — it’s not very fun and if you really think about it, it’s not very healthy either (humans uniquely have the ability to define what makes them happy and should use it – part of which for many is enjoying great food!)

        As far as health goes–I work with women of all shapes and sizes every day, and I find the ones with the most weight to lose to consistently be happy and well adjusted -they feel obligated to try to lose weight because of all the judgement passed on them by others — most are quite healthy -physically as well.

        On the other hand, I find the ones who are 5-10 pounds overweight (if there is such a thing) to be far more stressed and unhappy as they worry about every bite they eat and every pound then might gain. The “skinny ones” are loaded with their own share of medical problems every bit as much as the heavier ones.

        So generalizing that heavier women are not as healthy is nothing short of absurd.

        I honestly believe if there were fewer people with views like yours, that obesity rates would PLUMMET because women wouldn’t be brainwashed to constantly yo-yo diet to meet some insane standard of health and fitness set by people they definitely should not be listening to.

        They would not feel they need to “lose weight NOW” and could find a lifestyle that could gradually encourage a health and fitness level they can sustain and BE HAPPY WITH — whatever level that may be.

        FemaleForLife I applaud your efforts to bring attention to this issue. Health is a very relative term and I can say with certainty that the conventional weight loss and fitness industry, which encourages beliefs like the one above) is doing far more harm than good to impose their views as the “gold standard” that all women should try to attain.

        • December 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm

          Thank you Jon
          And am really fascinating with your comments around those women who are a few kilos / pounds off what they perceive to be their “goal weight” to be the ones more stressed about losing it. So so so very true, I hadn’t thought of it in those terms!
          I agree with you so much about the fitness industry – it seems to have been built on the standards of men – even a lot of the equipment is uncomfortable to use if you are smaller / shorter. It’s a tough one, but the more we make people aware of it the more these women will make their voices heard with their credit cards :)
          Have a great break and please join our fanpage http://www.facebook.com/femaleforlife and join the commentary :)

        • December 22, 2010 at 8:56 pm

          @Jon –

          If you believe that Humans have “evolved” further than animals then you have a very poor understanding of what evolution means. Evolution is simply a matter of suitability for survival in a given environment. You may feel more evolved than a fish but i’d challenge you to survive underwater for very long.

          I’d also suggest that the opinion of well balanced and statistically valid studies on whether obesity causes ill health caries much more weight than the anecdotal observations of an individual.

          AS for you ill-thought out comments about unacheivable standards – sensible weight and health can be achieved by a healthy balanced diet and moderate regular exercise – something the medical community is well agreed on. Being obese is a matter of ignoring both these simple tenets for a healthy existence. Most unhappiness felt by your clients is in no doubt a consequence of their guilt at their own inability to do this, followed by the disappointment that no easy fix exists.

          I may be somewhat blunt, but i’m not arguing for the public haranguing of the tubby – just presenting the case that however you dress it up, obesity is a cause of ill health, and ill health is not attractive – at a deep, primordial level.

          • December 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm


            We can agree to disagree on most of your comments, I can certainly say I see your points, even more clearly with your further explanation, but just don’t see it that way.

            Couple of comments that I definitely am more tempted to say you are WRONG about are

            1) The medical community can agree on the basic formula for weight loss and fitness but that doesn’t make them right

            Conventional diets have a 98% failure rate and I am on a personal crusade to shatter all of their myths about counting calories and food restrictions as well.
            — my business EET Fitness is 100% proof the medical communities opinions should be questioned and questioned HARD–EETers don’t count calories and we don’t have food restrictions (and we have clinical studies to show you don’t need to either). Plus, far more importantly, and our success for weight loss is FAR FAR higher than 2% and we are just getting started.

            2) you talk about the unhappiness of people trying to lose weight — as I told you it’s the SKINNY and FIT people that are far more miserable than the heavier people. The heavier people at least get to enjoy the foods they love — as opposed to feeling guilt and shame every time they eat something the medical community deems “unhealthy”

            Obesity may be unhealthy, I cannot argue that–but you should not ignore the tradeoffs of trying to cure obesity using conventional dieting methods–they work for almost no one (surely you cannot argue that–the stats are overwhelming) and they cause great harm and stress and unhealthiness in the form of yo-yo dieting.

            Bottom line, the obese people are not at fault–it’s the medical, diet and fitness community for continuing to tout a failed approach to weight loss and fitness.

            If 98% of people cannot follow it, then it’s a failure by any reasonable standard, and we should all be working on better answers because they are out there.

            This 2007 study might be of interest if you have any doubts about this:


  • December 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Melanie,

    I do agree with you about #1 especially in the U.S. although I know you are from Australia.

    I think it’s unintentional and a haphazard that comes with trying to communicate that we’re all beautiful and that there are beautiful garments in all sizes.

    Unfortunately, the clothing industry has NEVER been in good health’s corner. Those who make and manufacturer clothing do not care about health (that’s a strong statement I know); what they care about is selling clothing.

    Now that being plus size is actually becoming more normal (or at least there is a movement to normalize it), the plus size movement was birthed. But just think about the fashion industry and its emphasis on appearances, too. The fashion industry as a whole – whether traditional runway, or plus size clothing – is always about appearances. No one in the fashion industry is really talking about health and its importance.

    It’s a tough situation. Everyone needs clothes and wants to feel beautiful wearing them, and yet the message of a healthy body still needs to be emphasized. I’m not sure what the solution is.

    • December 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

      Tia you are so spot on!!! I worked in retail for years. The buying departments are usually filled with girls who essentially wear their underwear to work as their outer wear and eat celery for lunch. Slaves to fashion!

      It is a tough on really, but the more we talk about it the better and it warms the cockles of my heart to see the amount of positive body image websites / blogs etc popping up :)

      Also if you want to see what tohers are saying – check out my fanpage http://www.facebook.com/femaleforlife :)

  • December 21, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I’ve not known the Plus Size Movement to claim that obesity is not a very serious health risk. However, I can understand that some may assume that those who are “allowed” to feel good about their appearance while obese shall no longer feel motivated to change… Quite the contrary:

    Having been on both sides of the scale myself, I’ve been incredibly more motivated to continue improvements when I do look/feel good about myself “as is”. SOooooo… ironically… I believe that one is more likely to help those for which we are concerned by not continuing to add to any negativity. Ridicule may actually enable this growing problem in our society.

    Also, I believe that “Regular” sizes must take up that gap to meet where “Plus” sizes start… ASAP. ;)

    • December 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks Deb
      Agree Agree Agree :) I started Female For Life to try bridge that gap… hopefully it will stick :)

  • December 21, 2010 at 9:13 am


    Interesting topic and I love the way you write about it. Here in Australia the obesity problem is about what it is in America.

    Pains me to say it but it is now a fact. Even seeing a lot of obese children and that is very sad. Setting them up for adult health problems if not sorted properly.

    We too have plus size models, though I don’t think it is as big here….yet!

    It is almost as though we are afraid to tackle things that would upset anyone. Obesity is definitely bad for your health. When morbidly obese people lose weight, a lot of diseases like diabetes and hypertension vanish.

    Those of us who are fit, healthy and trim seem to almost be in the minority. I know when I go looking for clothes in small sizes often there are very few choices. Yet there are plenty to choose from in the larger sizes.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • December 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Patricia
      I am actually based in Australia and that’s why I started Female For Life, because I noticed the massive gap in the market for activewear for women with real figures. http://www.femaleforlife.com.au
      Thanks for commenting :)

  • December 21, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I agree with you that there is really a gap in available, cute clothing for women between what is usually defined as “regular” versus “plus” size clothing. I know for many women it can be difficult to find clothing cut to their body shapes, which can be frustrating and demoralizing.

    I’m curious about the first message you talk about. I’m wondering in what ways you believe the “plus size movement” sends the message that being obese isn’t bad for your health. I’m not debating the idea necessarily, but it’s something I’ve ever felt to be the case. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    • December 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Ashley
      Thanks for your comments :)
      What I was referring to is that there seems to be a fine line between being proud to be plus versus accepting that being plus often has health impacts.
      Recently a well known figure in Australia, an ex editor of Marie Claire (I think it was) and an advocate for the plus size movement commented on that women who wanted to be the largest women in the world to make money for her kids?!? (crazy) Essentially she (the editor) commented on the bad message sent to the her kids and the health impacts of eating oneself to that size and advocates for the plus size movement went wild and cut her down.
      It was the talk for days.
      I suppose what I was trying to get across is that its important to be catered for and its important to be positive about your body, but it is also important to be healthy and exercise regularly!
      I hope that answers your question?


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