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Melbourne Fashion Week Plus – The Political

Published September 11, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

What a whirlwind 10 days I had in Melbourne for Melbourne Fashion Week Plus (MFW+).  I think I’m still reeling a bit from just how full on it was, I know I’m still processing a lot of the feelings that bubbled up during the entire week.  I’m going to split my rundown of the week into two posts, this first one is going to talk about the politics and my own feelings about the event, and then I’ll follow up with the pretty fashions later, because I’m still putting together the photos and videos I took – I took a LOT!

I’m going to cover a lot in this post, so strap yourself in for a bit of a long read!

I had a lot of really intense feelings about being invited as a special guest to MFW+, mostly for two pivotal reasons.  Firstly because I’m not a fashion blogger in any stretch of the imagination – I love clothes, and expressing myself through the way I dress.  I love colour and texture and shape and I love the way putting an outfit on can make me feel.  But my focus as a fat activist is changing the way that fat people are both perceived and treated.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe clothing and fashion are important in fat politics – after all, access to suitable clothing is important to be part of society and because fashion and clothing can be really empowering, especially to those of us who have been denied access.  But to be invited and supported by MWF+ as an activist to be part of the event, knowing that they wanted my very political, feminist, fat active perspective to be included in the event means a lot to me.

Secondly, because despite being an almost 44 year old badass angry fat bitch who takes no shit from anyone, there is still deep inside me that heartbroken teenage girl who sobbed into her pillow because the popular girls had laughed at her and told her that she had no place even trying to wear nice clothes, because fat girls should never be seen and would never be as cool as thin girls.  There is still that tiny kernel of her in there and the thought of attending an event full of fashionistas, even be they fat ones, brought on a massive bout of imposter syndrome.  Even though I know rationally that it really matters nothing in the scheme of things in my life, those feelings are deeply formative and there’s still that moment of “All the popular girls are going to turn their noses up at me.”

The reality is, they didn’t (well, the vast majority of them didn’t, I did spot a couple of noses in the air though!) and the rational part of my brain is strong enough to remind me that I honestly don’t give a fuck!

So I flew down on the Saturday before the soft launch started and stayed a couple of days with the lovely Sonya Krzywoszyja (aka GannetGuts) and her famous kitty Dodge, who is now my BFF (best furry friend) who got me completely addicted to Melbourne coffee within 24 hours and was with me when a lovely woman in Brunswick stopped me in the street to tell me how much she had loved my appearance on You Can’t Ask That.  You haven’t lived until you see someone literally drop their phone with a “OMG gotta go bye!” and stop you in the street!  (Waves to Sarah, if you happen to read this – you made my day!)  We were on our way to the soft launch of MFW+ when that happened, and it was the first of many times I was recognised in Melbourne.  Both from within the fat community and from random people on the street – or in candy shops – I walked into a shop and the young woman behind the counter went “OMG YOU WERE ON TV!!”  It’s a really weird feeling but it’s so lovely to get some positive responses to my work instead of the usual garbage that hits my inbox!

It was wonderful to be able to actually speak to some of the designers and other people from the brands who were involved with MFW+.  I am sure some of them didn’t expect to have a middle-aged pink-haired mega fatty bending their ear on how the industry is failing so many of it’s customers.  But I wasn’t there to build people’s egos, I was there to agitate for change!  There is some amazing stuff happening with plus-size fashion in Australia, but there are also some really horrible gaps in the market that are ignoring the customers who have the most at stake when it comes to finding clothes that are suitable and desirable for their bodies.

One of the best experiences for me for the whole week was the panel I was lucky enough to be on, Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies.  Not only were my fellow panelists Sarah Harry and Meagan Kerr amazing women who approach fat activism from different perspectives but similar politics to me, but the general atmosphere of the event was incredible.  Several women came up to me after the panel and told me that they were amazed to feel welcome and included in a fashion event.  This is what we should always strive for – to right the wrongs of mainstream fashion, starting with inclusivity.

Meagan Kerr, Sarah Harry and myself at the Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies panel.

Meagan Kerr, Sarah Harry and myself at the Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies panel.

I’m a firm believer that not only can we be better at inclusive and ethical fashion, but we already are.  That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement – there’s a lot of room for improvement.  But I do see that fat fashion is willing to question where our clothes come from, who they are accessible to, who made them, who is making money from the customer and why some customers are left out.  We’ve taken more steps towards building a more equitable industry.

There are two areas that we do have a lot of work to be done though.  Size representation and affordability.

Unfortunately way too many “plus-size” brands are excluding the larger sizes still.   There is no valid excuse for this.  I hear a lot of brands say they want to expand into larger sizes, but the truth is that brands should be STARTING with the larger sizes.  This is the most under-represented demographic and a clientele that is clamouring for options.  Want to jump ahead from the competition?  Provide what your competition isn’t providing.  It was dispiriting to see so many brands at MFW+ who simply do not cater to my size, a 26/28AU.  The few who did really stood out and they have a captive audience of women who literally have almost no other options.

I know the MFW+ team worked really hard to find brands that both included larger sizes and would use models over a size 16, and that there are simply very few out there.  The thing I want to say to all of these brands who refuse to cater to larger sizes is that you’re not doing anything revolutionary by creating a plus-size range that only goes to 20 or 22.  There are so many brands doing that, just in Australia alone from all kinds of types of fashion and price points.  Size 16 or 18 or 20 is in no way cutting edge, revolutionary or radical.  It’s the status quo and it’s incredibly disappointing that so many of you do not have the courage to step up and do something really radical, which is create beautiful clothes for larger fat women.

Affordability is the next issue.  Now this isn’t a criticism of the brands who are providing quality clothes at a good range of sizes directly – they’re needed.  We need premium product.  But the issue is, we also need product from ALL price points – and that means high end fashion as well as a range of budget options.  As much as I would love to throw down $300 – $400 on a dress, it’s simply not possible.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have premium product out there – it means we need the diversity that is available in straight sizes.

I guess that is what it all boils down to – diversity.  Diversity of style, diversity of size, diversity of price point, diversity of range (ie everything from activewear to formal wear and all in between!)  Until we see diversity, the plus-size market is failing it’s customer.

The second panel on the Sunday was an industry one, comprised of brands and the head of a model management company.  I’m not going to name names, but frankly it was SO frustrating to have the head of the model company speaking over all of the designers, pushing to “drop the plus” and crowing that she was a “proud size 16” who wants to get rid of the labels, without acknowledging the reality that larger women do not have the options she does.  All of the brand reps there mentioned that they couldn’t get professional models over a size 20 and that they mostly sourced amateur ones to use, and the woman from the model company kept saying that no brand wanted models over a size 20, and then when the brands said they do, she told them that they should use “professional models because they’re so much better”.  That would be the professional models you don’t have because you say they won’t get work, forcing the brands to use amateur ones.   Frankly I was glad when the panel was over so we didn’t have to listen to her voice any more.  I felt deeply for the other panelists and for the panel chair!  I was so glad to be sitting next to the delightful Kobi Jae of Horror Kitsch Bitch so we could groan in frustration together!

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I mean, damn, look how cute we are! #SpaceChips

And then of course, there were the runways, with all those fashions.  I had so many feels.  While yes, it is disappointing and frustrating to be excluded from so many brands because they refuse (or consider it too hard) to cater to my size, there is something incredibly powerful about seeing fat bodies walking down a runway.  MFW+ worked like hell to get a diverse range of bodies down that runway, and while I know they got considerable resistance from some brands, to see women with bodies that looked like mine, or shared some of the features of mine was so powerful.  Round tummies, thick thighs, dimples, wide hips, big boobs, round faces… they were all gorgeous!  It felt so good!  All of the models, professional and street style, did an amazing job and kudos to the MFW+ team for their hard work to really make a difference.

So there you have it, a rundown of my thoughts on the political side of Melbourne Fashion Week Plus.  I am still working all on my photos and videos of the runways so I can share with you the actual fashion, but it’s important to talk about the way that plus-size fashion is changing the world and the way fat women can represent themselves.

Ashley Nell Tipton and JC Penney – Still Smashing it Out of the Park

Published September 2, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I was in the process of writing about Melbourne Fashion Week Plus, but then I saw these videos and it was just a matter of “Dammit, I’ve got to get this out there!”  So the MFW+ stuff will be following over the weekend sometime.

Have you seen these yet?  The three promo videos about Ashley Nell Tipton working with JC Penney to bring out her new line?  No, well here you go…

THIS.  As well as the actual clothes being as cute as hell and totally my aesthetic, this is the way I want to be marketed to by the big box businesses.  This is what I want to see from major department stores.  This is what I want to see from the big businesses around the world who have got the lion’s share of the brick and mortar plus-size clothing market.  I want to see them using actual fat women in their marketing, positive, aspirational messaging that doesn’t shame fat women as though our only focus is getting or looking thin.  Marketing that shows a competent, talented fat woman doing her job and doing it well.  Clothes that are designed BY a fat woman, FOR fat women.  And a business that is PROUD of their upcoming plus-size range and putting some marketing money behind it.

I’m going to speak to the Australian businesses, but I’m sure that the ones overseas should be doing the same thing.  Where are you Target Australila, Myer, David Jones, Big W…?  I’ll add you Specialty Fashion Group – Autograph and City Chic.  Where are you right now?  Still streaming out a pile of boring, dark coloured sacks that look like something fat women would have worn 20 or 30 years ago?  Still offering half a page in a catalogue to show off your dull, dull, dull t-shirts and leggings?  Still not putting any actual fat women in your marketing material, just the same three boring size 10-12 models with no fashion styling or decent make-up, hair or photography?

It’s time to get your shit together and realise that your customers are fed up with your out-dated, poorly planned buying and marketing strategies towards plus-sizes.  It’s 2016.  You want your customer to spend money with you?  Then learn from those that are doing it well and step up your game.

 

Marketing to Fat Women – This Is How You Do It

Published June 19, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Oh. My. Glob.  Have you seen the new video from department store JCPenney “Here I Am”?  No?  Ok, watch this…

I mean what can I say?  It’s wonderful!  Including actual fat women, including fat women of colour.  Doing kick-arse stuff.  With nary a word about “health”.  No “plus-size” models that wouldn’t actually wear the plus-size range.  No faux-bo-po slogan accompanied by a bunch of tall, hourglass, white women.  Fat women actually speaking about themselves and their own experiences.  Fat women showing that you can have an amazing life, exactly as you are.

I am not ashamed to admit that this made me cry.  In a good way I mean.  I was just so overjoyed to see how fat women are represented in this video, I burst into tears.  Which is really saying something.  I don’t cry about fat stuff any more.  None of it ever reaches me emotionally – I’ve grown so jaded and frustrated at the way we’re portrayed, the way nobody has listened to us, the way businesses insult and disrespect us and then expect us to give them our money.  I’ve never felt represented by marketing that was supposed to be aimed at me, and certainly not by the media.

But this… this is everything I’ve been banging on about for YEARS, trying to get brands and marketing to understand.  That they can market to us in a positive, aspirational way that INCLUDES us.  That says “We see you, and here are some products that we’ve got for you.  We’d like you to shop with us.”

It shouldn’t be that hard.  I mean we’ve known for years what we want from them.  We’ve been saying it for so long, and until now, none of the major brands and marketers have bothered to actually listen.

I really hope that JCPenney continue this kind of marketing, and that they don’t fold at any of the bullshit criticism that you KNOW will come.  All that crap about “glorifying obesity” and “unhealthy lifestyles” – as though a group of amazing, accomplished fat women are somehow a danger to society.  As though fat women don’t actually need clothing to suit their lifestyles right here and now.  I know the hot takes are going to be coming out very soon, all the armchair experts are going to crawl out of their holes and try to shout JCPenney into ditching this campaign.

Well, we’ll just have to be louder.  Tell JCPenney that they’ve done good things with this, use the hashtag #HereIAm to share your posts, pictures, outfits etc.  Tell other brands that you wish their marketing could be like this campaign.  And if you can, buy stuff from JCPenney – especially Ashley Nell Tipton’s new range when it comes out, which I believe will run to a size 34US, which is bloody amazing.  They also have another range I understand goes up to a 5X.  I know I will be shopping from them as soon as I can, even if they don’t have something totally my style, I’m sure I can support their plus-sizes somehow!

Well done JCPenney – keep up the good work, and thank you to all those involved in this campaign, especially the amazing fat women who have put themselves front and centre to represent us.

Is Radical Fat Activism Dead?

Published June 9, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I was just reading this post over at Fatty Unbound, about why she no longer blogs about fatshion, and I was just hit with such a wave of sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why she, and so many others have decided to give up blogging – I have a lot of the same feelings myself and it makes it really hard to keep blogging the way I used to.  But understanding why doesn’t mean I’m any less sad that so many amazing, bold, innovative fat activists and/or bloggers are deciding to pack it in.

The reality is, body politics have been branded and corporatised.  Companies are taking the work that we did, for generations – remember fat activism has been around since the 60’s, and they sanitise it, sand back the rough edges, take out all the radical messages and sell it back to us, as this awful, bland, homogeneous pap called “body positivity”.  And so many people just lap it up.  Many through no fault of their own – they simply haven’t seen any alternative.  The brands and those who are keen to represent them simply have volume and a bigger platform than your average radical fat activist.

And look, I get it.  It’s bloody hard work to keep up as a radical fat activist.  This shit grinds you down.  It takes a lot of emotional energy to step up and put your life out there as a fat person.  There aren’t a lot of rewards for the average fat woman to put herself on the internet and speak up for fat women’s rights – unless you’re young, white, cisgender, able-bodied, a smaller fat, have an hourglass or pear shape, have a pretty face and have access to a lot of new clothes, makeup and photography, and are willing to smile and play along with the expectations of the brands who will fund you if you’re a nice, good fatty.

There are also a lot of negatives that come with being a visible fat woman.  The constant stream of concern trolling, ignorance and sheer bigotry you have to face is so corrosive, it eats away at your energy levels and is so frustrating dealing with people who refuse to listen or think about the ignorance they’ve swallowed and regurgitated for so long.  On top of that there is the abuse and harassment.  The constant barrage of shitty little people who have nothing better to do than either wank over you or spend every minute of their time trying to find some way to hurt you.  Or in many cases – both.  The same people who profess they hate you and find you repulsive are the ones wanking furiously over pictures of you.

These things are so bloody hard to deal with.  So I fully understand why so many fat women just decide “Fuck it, I don’t want to deal with this any more.”

But… I still feel sad that this is happening.  I feel so sad that brands and haters have pushed us out of OUR space.  It is ours.  It doesn’t belong to them.  They haven’t worked and fought so hard to carve out this space in the world, despite so many telling us we’re unworthy of it.

I feel sad that there are so many fat women who are missing out on what I found all those years ago – radical fat activism that blew apart my world and shook me to the core.  That helped me give up the endless cycle of self hate and suspension of actually living that was my life.  That inspired me to take up fat activism myself, and tell my story and start showing people like me that we do not have to be classed as inferior to people who have smaller bodies than we do.

I don’t really believe radical fat activism is dead – there are still some amazing people out there doing some incredible work.  I think I’ll do a post over the weekend with some links to the ones I really love.  But the numbers are dwindling.

What I really want is for those of us who feel like we’re being pushed out of our spaces and shouted down by brands and haters that we’re not going away.  We’re not letting them shove us out of our spaces, and that all of us that don’t fit their little plastic boxes are still here, we still have voices and we’re still going to celebrate who we are.  I want all the unruly fat women, the ones that are ignored by the brands and told they’re not good enough by the haters to put on an outfit that makes them feel good (regardless of what anyone else thinks about it), hold their head up high and stick their middle fingers in the air and declare “I have the right to exist and be seen in this world too.

Here, I’ll go first.

Photo by Paul Harris

Photo by Paul Harris

Dear Ashley Graham

Published March 16, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Dear Ashley Graham,

Please stop.  Just… stop.  Look, I know you’re the hot name of the moment in plus-size models and you’re getting a lot of media and marketing attention.  Congratulations, enjoy it.  But you seriously need to knock it off with the whole thing about not wanting the term “plus-size” to be used.  What am I talking about?  Well, there’s this…

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 7.56.39 PM
I get that you don’t want to be called a “plus-size” model because let’s face it, you’re not a plus-size woman.  Unlike myself and so many other women who shop at the stores you collect cheques from for modelling their clothes, your body is not fat.  To anyone walking past you on the street, you’re just a woman, and a very beautiful one at that.  But when I walk down the street, I’m a fat woman.  Nobody is going to dispute that fact.  That’s where the vast chasm lies between the models who are chosen and paid to showcase clothes for fat women, and the actual women who are buying them.

AG

A plus-size model.

 

An actual plus-size customer. (Photo by Paul Harris)

An actual plus-size customer. (Photo by Paul Harris)

The thing is, women like me need the label “plus-size”.  We know that the label doesn’t refer to us or our actual bodies, but refers to the section in the store that we need to find – almost always a dingy corner in the back with no signage, poor housekeeping and terrible lighting – if we are lucky.  You wouldn’t know what it’s like to need that section because your body is catered to in most standard “straight” sized clothing ranges.  When you want to buy a swimsuit, you need to know where in the store to go to buy one right?  So you go to the swimsuit section.  Well, we need and want to buy clothes that fit our body, so we need to be able to find the section that has those clothes, and for the last century, almost anyway, there has been a conveniently named section called “plus-size” that we can seek out.  This saves us from wading through the other 90% of clothing that doesn’t include us.

When you, who have far more access to the media and marketing than we do, by the blessing of your pretty face, hourglass figure and relatively small size (compared to actual plus-size clothing customers) start trumpeting that the clothing industry needs to get rid of the term plus-size, two things happen.

Firstly, you stigmatise fatness further than it already is.  You might not be actually saying that, but that’s what many not-fat people, including the businesses who are supposed to be serving us, actually hear.  The corollary of that is that not-fat people and businesses stop listening to us.  They don’t listen to us much anyway, but your efforts are causing them to shut us out even further.

Secondly, businesses start thinking that they can “drop the plus” which means they start literally dropping plus-size product.  They downsize their collections.  They trim the size range, removing the larger sizes, which are already as rare as hens teeth.  So you are actively making it harder for many of us to find the clothing that we want and need.

While we’re at it, let’s touch on the “curvy sexylicious” thing.  I personally find it cheesy and childish, but you get to decide how you identify and you’re perfectly entitled to decide on that label for yourself.  But the reality is, the vast majority of women who actually buy plus-size clothing will never get to or want to be referred to as “curvy sexylicious”.  To start with, many of us a “boxy fat fabulous” or “roly-poly arse-kicking” or “shaped-like-the-magic-pudding awesome”.  We’re fat.  We don’t have neat little hourglass figures with a tiny tummy bump or a pair of thick thighs.  We have big, fat bodies.  Bodies that are still awesome, but they’re not being given the opportunity to model for Lane Bryant anytime soon.  Also, I can’t go to work in a lacy bra and tight skirt and call myself “curvy sexylicious” like you do when you go to work.  I need to wear something suitable for my job and call it “creative professional woman”.  Sexing up is all well and good, but we need more than lacy bras and sparkly evening wear (don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of lace and sparkle).  We need suits for the office, dresses for daytime, skirts and blouses to go to church in, smart casual gear to go to the school event in, all those sorts of thing.  When I go through my work day, I don’t make kissy faces and toss my hair – I have to answer phones and go to meetings and do a whole lot of innovative thinking, plus a lot of networking with people of all types – from management to politicians, from librarians to electricians.  That’s not exactly “curvy sexylicious” appropriate, you know?

Besides, not everything in plus-size has to be “sexy”.  In fact, not everything about womanhood has to be “sexy”.  Sexy is fun sure, and has it’s place, but women are worth far more than their worth to the male gaze.  We are more than valuable for our fuckability.  When I see models promoting plus-size clothing brands, they’re almost always naked, in lingerie or in some state of “sexyfication”.  I know why this is done – mostly for the shock value of seeing a body that has some small rolls or curves in a world where most models are ultra-thin.  We often don’t get to see the products actually showcased in the same way that straight-sized clothes are.  Which makes it so hard to shop for the clothes we want and need.  Particularly when our clothes are relegated to online shopping or badly maintained racks in the back of the store.  We need to see what an outfit will look like when we wear the whole outfit – very hard when we’re forced to shop online.  The lacy bra and tight skirt is cute on you in a promo shot, sure… but how do I know what it looks like with a jacket or blouse in the same range?   How do I know what it will look like on a body shaped like mine, rather than tall, hourglass and slim like you are?

What it really boils down to is that we need more clothing options than there currently are in our sizes, and we need to be able to see them in a way that reflects how we live, feel and look.  We need to see ourselves.  Your constant calls to lose the term “plus-size” don’t help that.  Perhaps if you don’t want to be called a “plus-size model”, it’s time for you to step back, stop collecting the cheques for jobs that are supposed to serve fat women and let some larger, more realistic to the customer, models take the jobs.

Yours sincerely
Kath
aka Fat Heffalump

Around We Go Again – The Plus-Size Retailer Merry-Go-Round

Published December 19, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

It seems every week we see the same conversation hashed out in social media/articles over plus-size retailers.  It goes like this.

·         Plus-size clothing brand puts out new set of photos of “curvy” women (all too often in their underwear rather than the clothes they are selling) with “Everyone is beautiful” strain of slogan.  (Note: “curvy” models are usually straight sized with breasts and hips, ALWAYS hourglass shaped, usually white and femme.  “Curvy” models are not fat models.)

·         Media sites interview the models.  Models say that they don’t want to be labelled “plus-size”, they want to be just models.  They say “plus-size” is derogatory.  Curvy models collect paycheck for a job they clearly don’t want to be doing.

·         Actual fat women who are forced to shop at these brands because there are little to no other alternatives (particularly in budget price ranges), say to the brand “We need the label plus-size, it saves us from having to wade through 90% of stock that does not include us, and we aren’t ashamed of being plus-sized.  Please use models who look like us.”

·         Plus-size clothing brand completely ignores what their actual customers want.  Actual customers have no option to purchase elsewhere.

·         Trolls turn up and say “Curvy is fine, but ew, not obese!”

·         Rinse and repeat to infinity.

I want off this merry-go-round!

merry-go-round and round and...

The problem really lies with the plus-size clothing brands – a) co-opting fat activism language to try to sell us products and b) refusing to employ models who look like their customers to promote their products.

The big box brands have realised that more and more women are hearing the messages that fat activists have been working tirelessly to get out to them, so they have started to use anything they can sloganise to cash in on that success.  They take all the touchy-feely bits, the easy positive stuff and repackage it as their own and then because they have a wider audience than fat activists do, sit back and enjoy the kudos that they are somehow “revolutionary”.  Yet those of us who have lived in fat bodies and worked to liberate fat women from the hatred, stigma and shame that is heaped on us know, this is in no way new or revolutionary.  It’s a vastly diluted version of the appreciation of fat bodies that really only celebrates bodies that are slightly outside of the margins of mainstream.  They take the work that is about improving the quality of life for fat people, and water it down to an advertising slogan to sell products.

The second part of the problem is that these same brands continually hire models who would not ever buy or wear those brand clothes in their day to day lives, often pinning the too large clothes or padding the models in photo shoots.  Not only does this create an unrealistic expectation of how the clothes fit on their customers bodies, but it also means that the customers of those businesses never see themselves represented in marketing that is FOR THEM.  And, with the way that the media works now, instead of asking the customers how they feel about products and the messages that these businesses send out, the media immediately turn to the models, many of whom do not want to identify as a customer of those businesses (ie, a fat customer).  One thing that is raised repeatedly by so many amazing fat activists, bloggers, tweeters etc is that these models are more than happy to collect the paycheque from these businesses, but they don’t want to be seen as a customer of the same business.  That’s pretty hypocritical attitude to take.

Unfortunately, unlike straight sized clothing customers, most plus-size customers, particularly those of us in the larger size bracket, can’t make the choice to simply no longer shop at these businesses.  Either because there is no alternative in their size bracket, or in their location, or simply because these big box companies are the only ones who are able to offer clothing in a lower price range.  I myself would LOVE to only shop with small, indie brands but the reality is that very few of them offer products in my size, and if they do, I do not have the budget to be able to spend a large amount of money on one or two items.   I have to maintain my entire wardrobe for my entire life (work, leisure, events, underwear and swimwear – everything!) with a budget that would only buy me one party dress or maybe two skirts from many indie designers.  This is not a fault with the indie designers – their products have more overheads and are usually far better quality than a mass produced product – it’s just that many of us just don’t have that kind of budget, particularly in these harsh economic times.

Shopping is serious business when you are a "Trendsetter"

IMPORTANT: That is not and will never be, the fault of the plus-sized customer.  I have no time for any business of any size/type which blames the customer for their business failures.  But it’s only plus-sizes really where you see the customers blamed for a failure of a business.  We are expected to hold up businesses whether they provide us a product or a price range that suits us.  You never hear of a business that sells only straight-sized clothes saying “Well, people won’t pay for quality.”  Because people WILL pay for quality IF they can afford it and if that quality is a product that they want and need.

Straight sizes have the luxury of choice – they can and do pick and choose which businesses they buy from – there are plenty of budget options for straight sized clothes out there.  If they don’t like how a business is marketing to them, they have the option to shop elsewhere.

To be honest, I wonder if the big box plus-size businesses intentionally foster that environment.  They perpetuate the myth that the customer is somehow at fault for there not being range, price and quality, blame us because “Those lines just don’t sell.” knowing full well that we don’t have the luxury of choosing to go elsewhere.  It’s a very effective method – keep the options to a minimum and perpetuate the myth that variety doesn’t work so that other businesses don’t bother to try, and know that they have a captive market that can’t go anywhere else.

So what has to be fixed?

The first thing that needs to happen is that plus-size businesses need to be proud of their product – or start stocking product that they can be proud of.  How often do you see website front pages and storefronts for plus-sized clothes that don’t even  have the clothes front and centre of their marketing!  I mean why are they promoting plus-size clothing with naked or underwear-clad women?  Or why do they use other props in their windows instead of proudly displaying their product front and centre.  I think a lot of them know their product is mediocre at best so they try to distract their customers with gimmicks and cheesy props.  Show us the clothes!  And if people aren’t attracted to the products when they see them, get better products!

The next thing is they need to start marketing their products properly.   They need to stop trying to co-opt body politics and start actually promoting their products in a positive and aspirational way.  And when I say aspirational, I don’t mean thin, white and hourglass shaped.  Aspirational means so much more than that.  By marketing their products as fun, luxury, quality, fashionable, stylish, and positioning themes around friendship, success, professionalism, entertainment/enjoyment etc.  I want to see aspirational marketing campaigns for plus-sizes that have messages that we see all the time in other marketing – simple things like “Spoil yourself – you’ve earned it!”  or “Look great – feel great!”  Give me some happy fat women modelling the clothes front and centre any day over another “All bodies are beautiful” with only white, small, hourglass shaped models in their undies.

And most of all, we need to see the actual women the clothes are made for modelling them.  That means no more “plus-size models” which are anything between a size 8 and 14 and some actual models size 16+.  Preferably a range of sizes between 16 and 32.  I need to be able to see what the clothes look like on a body like mine.

Heil Shopping

What can we do to drive that fix?

This is the toughest one since we ARE so limited in our options.  We need to keep telling these companies we want to see their clothes and we want to see them on bodies like our own.  Where financially possible, we need to support indie businesses who DO market well and provide things we want and need.  We need to stop expecting models to be the spokespeople for body politics and we need to tell the media that they’re not appropriate spokespeople for body politics.  We need to tell the big box companies that we have money that we want to spend, if only they would provide us the clothes that we want and need.  We need to tell them when their product is poor quality, over-priced, or simply just un-fashionable.

But our biggest power lies in word of mouth.  That’s what sells a product, and particularly so in the fat community.  If a company is doing great stuff, tell people about it.  Tell your fat friends.  Post it on your social media.  Blog about it.  Post on the company’s social media telling them that you love what they are doing, please do more of it.  They ARE listening, the fact that they’re co-opting our work is telling us that, so get out there and speak up!

Australian Brands Plus Size Research – Can You Help?

Published November 29, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve been contacted by a student who would like some assistance with some research she is doing.  Ana Maria Gonzalez is studying a Master of Commerce and is a textiles designer who loves fashion and new ideas.  Currently, she is doing her final project research about the marketing communication strategies of the Australian Plus Size Brands.

If you are in Australia and would like to help Ana Maria, please copy and paste the questionnaire below and reply to her in an email with your answers.  You can email her at this address.

Plus size Australian Brands Questionnaire

  1. Please, let’s start for the basics. Name:___________________________________
  2. For how long have you been engaged with the curvy fashion industry?
  3. What was the motivation to start the blog?
  4. How do you find the Australian Fashion options for the “plus size” customers?
  5. Which are your preferred Australian “plus size” brands? Why?
  6. Regarding brand communication, which kind of models do you find more engaging in the plus size brands, the ones that are at the lower end of the sizes or those than represent a larger size? If so, describe.

    Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 10.52.56 AM

  7. Do you have or you faced any difficulties in finding good fashion items in Australia?
  8. Do you consider that the Australian plus size fashion brands manage an open and empowering communication to their clients?
  9. What is your opinion about the advertisings used in for the plus size fashion vs those used for “the regular sizes”
  10. Is there something that you would like to see different in the instore communication of the plus size Australian brands? Could be photos, staff, disposition of the space, fitting rooms, etc….
  11. Do you like to participate in the Facebook pages of these brands? What is the response that you got?
  12. Do you also engage with the other social media sites of the Australian plus size brands?