Why it’s hard to shop sustainably if you’re plus size

As the detrimental effects of climate change take form, we’ve seen various industries change their production processes in hopes of slowing the rising sea levels and keeping up with the consumer demand for sustainable products. Among this list of industries moving toward progressive change, the fashion industry has slowly expanded its realm to include sustainable options such as recycled or ethically produced products and fabrics. However, even as the fashion industry inches toward a sustainable future, there lies a group of people left behind in these efforts: the plus-size community. 

A key struggle as a plus-size shopper that is not widely known is that plus-size clothing is often expensive. Brands such as Old Navy often charge more for clothes that go beyond size XL, and specialty brands for plus-size women rack up high price tags because of the “specialty” design that plus-size bodies “require.” This markup has been coined the “fat tax.” Brands often argue that because plus-size clothing uses more fabric, it should cost more. Although this idea has been debated among various professionals, this tax especially impacts the world of sustainable fashion, where brands have only just begun to develop affordable regular sizes. Sustainable plus-size clothing does exist — but what is sustainable for the planet is not always sustainable for our lives or our wallets. 

 As someone with experience within the plus-size industry, it is hard to shop sustainably. This often leaves me with a feeling of guilt of for not contributing toward helping our planet but also anger due to the limited access to sustainable options available to the plus-size demographic. The present reality for plus-size shoppers leaves me questioning the legitimacy of the fashion industry. There has been an increasing demand for more affordable plus-size clothes in general, and yet, the only industries that have answered have been fast-fashion industries. So, is there a real desire to be more inclusive to various bodies or is it simply performative? 

As the fashion industry slowly becomes more sustainable, there is undoubtedly going to be a demand for affordable sustainable clothes that suit a plus-size body. However, if trends continue, this demand will be overlooked until it becomes necessary to address it.  

Contact Isabella Carreno at [email protected].

About Linda J. Picard

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