When all of your friends are a size six or smaller, shopping together can be an emotionally exhausting pity party. If you are like me, nestled comfortably in the double digits, you will find yourself buried in the accessories section. After all, there is no such thing as a “plus size” handbag.
But here is the thing: according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average woman 20 years and older is approximately 166.2 pounds with a waist circumference of 37.5 inches. In other words, an US size 14 is the norm.
So why do we endure the need to hide?
It is virtually impossible to feel like you are the national average (let alone that your body is worthy of love and respect), when you are banished to a small corner in the back of the store and being forced to choose between a shapeless black shirt or a shapeless black dress.
Black may be your favorite color, but it should not be your only option.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have, and always will, vary between a size 12 and 16—teetering between being too big for a “normal” store and too small for a “plus size” store. Yes, body-hugging dresses are my enemy, and I would sooner take a nap than run a marathon. However, that should not stop me, or anyone else, from participating in trends, engaging in self-love and being deemed worthy by the fashion industry.
Feminist writer Anne Theriault tackled body shaming best when she said that there is no singular body that is the “champion of sexy.”
“All bodies are good bodies. All bodies are real bodies. All bodies are worthy of love and respect,” Theriault said.
Another feminist writer by the name of Gemma Cartwright echoed a similar stance.
“’Normal’ doesn’t exist, and while every body is different, all of them are brilliant.”
In looking to engage body positivity on a deeper level rather than a fleeting moment in popular culture, “plus size” supermodel and activist Ashley Graham has made it her mission to help other women find their confidence.
“I don’t want women to hold themselves back,” Graham said. “I know my curves are sexy and I want everyone else to know that theirs are too. There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt.”
In using her clout as arguably the biggest name in the “plus size” industry, Graham hosts viral TEDXTalks, composes op-ed pieces for publications like Lena Dunham’s “Lenny Letter” and continues to pave the way for big girl representation by landing campaigns with companies like H&M.
While waiting for the day where all body shapes and sizes are respectfully represented in and around the store, online companies like ASOS Curve, Eloquii, ModCloth, Mei Smith, Fashion to Figure and SimplyBe are working on making it easier for women to embrace their curvy, bold and beautiful styles.
Ultimately, the point is that in the pursuit for self-love, acceptance and that perfect off-the-shoulder top, we are all deserving.
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