A Major Plus: #styleforall

A Major Plus - The Dressed Aesthetic

I was browsing online to pass the time, and I came across a piece on the Modcloth blog that said they were eliminating the Plus Size category. I quickly read the details, which detailed that they were still carrying clothing in extended size ranges, but that they were banishing the term “Plus Size” from their website. Though some might see this as a pretty small step forward in the scheme of things, I sat back and realized this was a big, major deal.

I‘ve been shopping at Modcloth for years – I remember when I first discovered them and felt as though I was being beckoned home. Though I couldn’t immediately pinpoint what made them so unique, I grew to really appreciate their democratic approach to fashion and how they celebrated individuality through their Style Gallery. Unlike a lot of other sites at the time, it was refreshing to find a company that encouraged honest reviews of their products and worked towards building a body-positive community who proudly shared both their measurements and their insights into fit and quality of a garment to effectively improve shopping for all of us.

So, when I saw them shaking things up yet again with this recent change, I found it brought into sharp focus something that we pretend not to notice: We live in a size-ist world. And we turn a blind eye to the fact that the fashion and beauty industry often feeds into our insecurities and spends a lot of marketing dollars telling us that we’re not enough. That they put labels on us to remind us that we can (and should) always be striving towards something higher than where we are – be it a better complexion, fewer pounds on a scale, a more expensive pair of shoes – it’s designed to convince us that we’re never quite at awesome. And a lot of us (myself included sometimes) ignore those dark, negative aspects and only focus on the parts that we like. And I have to applaud Modcloth for stepping up and speaking out and saying a label like “Plus Size” is hurtful and exclusive and downright unnecessary.

A Major Plus - The Dressed Aesthetic

A Major Plus - The Dressed Aesthetic
Outfit styled using Dressed for iPhone

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When it comes down to it – most of us can fit into some form of “extended” sizing. Because try as they might, no one can really fit into “standard” or normal. Sewing has taught me the geometry of bodies, and how we can mold the clothing to fit our unique shapes, not the other way around. I should probably be shopping in the “Tall Girl” category or with the “Long-Waisters.” If I went to a website and found the “Ample Bust Size” category, I might be a bit offended. So, why has it taken all of this time for someone to realize that “Plus Size” is completely antiquated and we need to be taking steps towards breaking down the silent judgements we place on size?

The way we inadvertently exclude women from being beautiful – as if sending the subtle message that if you’re within a certain dress size, you must be separated because such a size can’t possibly be aspirational. And in removing the differentiator, Modcloth is stating simply and with quiet power, that style knows no size. Awesome knows no size. Aspirational knows no size. That all sizes, all shapes, all hair colors, skin colors, eye colors – they’re all uniquely beautiful and worthy of celebration.

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Some might think “who cares” – it’s just a label. Well, I care. I will be the first to admit that I don’t have to deal with it directly. I haven’t has to shop in a “plus size” store. I haven’t had to feel what it’s like to have a separate category created for me based on my size, where it was “appropriate” for me to shop. I haven’t had to feel humiliated while my friends went into stores that catered to the young and hip, while I wandered to a shop that catered only to my size. Because the former caters to the style I associate with, but society dictates I’m precluded from that. And because I haven’t had to face those things, I feel very privileged. But it doesn’t stop me from realizing just how much that has to suck. And enraged on behalf of those who do have to unfairly face it. And cognizant of how much higher the hurdles must be for women who have to carry that societal nonsense around and how much stronger their biceps have to be to fight through those messages and claim their beauty.

But, like all women, I’ve stared into a mirror and not liked what I saw reflected there. I’ve often felt separated from the world I live in, judged for how I dressed, quietly reprimanded for not fitting within the stereotypes of my profession. I’ve seen friend bemoan their hips, deny themselves food, convince themselves a few more hours on the treadmill and they’ll be who they aspire to be. I’ve questioned myself, doubted myself, let fear win a few times. But this small change in the scheme of things gives me hope.

Hope for the little girls looking through fashion magazines and questioning their body if they don’t look like the women they see among the pages. Hope that we can resist believing an industry that tells us our beauty caps out at 30. Or at a size 16. Or at our first sign of laugh lines. But I tell you this – I will be that lady dressed to the hilt when I’m 80. And I will embrace every wrinkle because it means I spent a lifetime laughing. And when my body settles into its new frame someday, I will pass on my beautiful dresses to the next women who will love them and say, “Enjoy them – cause boy did we have a few adventures.”

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And maybe that’s a whole lot of thinking to come from a small change made to website I frequent – but I think it warrants more thinking, further changes, and a push towards inclusivity. And it makes me proud to shop at Modcloth. Because this change extends to the millions of things we take for granted, accepted as fact. The messages we gloss over and absorb without even realizing it or questioning them. The statement “that’s just the way the fashion industry is” should seriously be bashed over the head – along with phrases like “boys will be boys” and other ways we blindly absolve people from abhorrent behavior.

Is this movement going to change the fashion industry overnight? No. It is going to cause thousands of designers to come to their senses – to not only abolish a “plus size” category, but to actually design clothes for all bodies? Sadly, probably not. But it sends a message. And I think it sends a ridiculously important one. Inciting change has never happened overnight, but it starts with an audit of our behavior, and a series of small shifts.

Bottom line – you are awesome. I have interacted with so many of you over the course of the year. Some are silent visitors to this site. Some write in on occasion. And some we chatter away like old friends. But I hope that, whoever you are, whatever category you fall into, you find a bit of inspiration in these words and leave knowing you’re awesome. Because of the things that make you different. Because of your beautiful mind and the way you swim against the current. Because you are not perfect. Because you are the kind of strong, amazing, hardcore person I find aspirational.

A small change. A major plus.




Outfit Details:
Dress: Modcloth (similar herehere & here
or pair this top with this skirt!)
Necklace: ASOS (similar here & here)
Bracelet: Gift, Swarovski (similar herehere, here)
Handbag: Tuesday Rose Vintage (similar here, herehere)
Shoes: Seychelles (similar here & here)


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The Dressed Aesthetic

6 comments on A Major Plus: #styleforall

  • skye

    I see where you’re coming from here. I really do. But I also think…perhaps we should be less quick to decide what other people should find demeaning or empowering. I’m a plus-size woman, albeit just barely, and I view the term as descriptive. Not prescriptive. I can’t help but feel that all the outcry about the term makes it more charged than it has to be.

    I don’t mind the term “plus size”, just as I don’t mind “petite” or “maternity” or “tall”. I’d like to defang those words instead of obfuscating them. There’s a lot of power in reclaiming stigmatized words. Look at “slut” and “queer” – hell, look at what’s starting to happen with “fat”. I don’t want those words to have power over me, and I’m concerned that by doing away with them, we give them far more power than they deserve.

    Just a few thoughts. Let me know if you’d like to talk further.

    • kara@dressedapp.net (author)

      Hi Skye – thank you so so much for your comments. Definitely given me a lot of food for thought! And I agree, the last thing we want to do is give words power over us. I guess where I see the issue lie is in the fact that there are so many women who don’t empower themselves to think the way you do. They DO see terms like “plus size” as prescriptive and they let it control the way they feel about themselves. A good friend called herself a failure when she had to buy a plus size dress (which is wrong on so many levels, but speaks more tot he way she views herself). Deep down, perhaps the real problem is the mindset of women and the ways we perceive ourselves to “fail” when we step outside the norm, when it fact we should be celebrating it. Maybe “Plus Size” is just a symptom (for some who perceive it as negative), not the disease.

      Perhaps what I liked most about this change, is that by moving Plus Size into “Extended Sizing”, it then becomes just another descriptor (as you say), alongside xxs and tall and petite and other forms of extended sizing, where it belongs. As it’s own entity, my concern it that it’s unnecessarily exclusive. I 100% agree with you that we have total control over the words we empower, and we have a choice whether we let them rule our lives and define who we are. I hope all people feel they don’t have to be defined that way…but I’m not sure we’re there yet.

      I completely hear where you’re coming from and like that you’ve challenged me to think about it. On one hand, I don’t want to speak out and give undue credence to a word that should essentially hold no power. On the other, I worry that by NOT talking about it and making these changes, so many women (and men) won’t feel they have any right to not be okay with that term. Almost by silencing it and not auditing the way we do things from time to time, we’re invalidating those who DO feel the term is insulting? Or who feel on the outskirts, somehow unworthy of style. I hate the thought of both. I don’t think this solution is perfect…but it does give me hope that we’re moving in the right direction.

      Lots to think about – very happy to keep a dialogue going. I find your perspective really interesting. I think that’s what blogging is about – being thought provoking. Self-reflective. Taking nothing for granted. xxx

  • Lindsey

    I couldn’t agree more, Kara! Fantastic post! You are always such an inspiration, as is ModCloth. That company has made some serious headway in the fashion game, in such a positive way. I am so happy to have found the ModCloth community. 🙂

    P.S. Your dress is absolutely stunning on you!! Everything about it is perfection!


    • kara@dressedapp.net (author)

      Thanks Lindsey! It’s so interesting to see the way one shop can challenge the norm – and it makes me very happy to continue to support a shop that does! I feel so happy to have found the Modcloth Community as well – such a happy, celebratory bunch! 🙂 And THANK you for your lovely compliment – I love everything about this dress! Perfect for the summer we’re supposed to be having. 😉 xxxx

  • SaraLily

    This is why I love ModCloth so much – they are always ahead of the industry with simple things like eliminating the term plus size and opting to never photoshop the heck out of their models. HOORAY! Someone GETS it!

    We make it so unfair and impossible for women to be happy with themselves. If you’re not thin per se, you get ridiculed on being too big or too heavy but if you’re a petite gal or a thinner gal, you’re told “ew eat something” or that you’re “too skinny.” OMG COME ON! We all need to stop worrying about other girls and focus on ourselves. The goal should be to just be HAPPY!!!! UGH!!!!

    On a side note, I love this dress. I have it as well and it was a perfect summer dress that I am trying to work into my fall wardrobe. I just love the cute buttons and how there is one on the back! Details, details!! =)

    • kara@dressedapp.net (author)

      Here here! I agree with you – And on top of their mission not to Photoshop, (which is sadly SO not the norm), I’ve also always loved the diversity in Modcloth models. I’ve read so many heartbreaking stories of women from a range of ethnic backgrounds who have felt so excluded from modeling because they told they weren’t (and I quote) “mainstream enough.” I feel so encouraged that someone is willing to put a big magnifying glass up to some of the seriously messed up parts of retail marketing.

      I agree with you about women’s perception of their bodies – I just responded to a really thought-provoking comment by Skye, and it got me thinking the REAL heart of the issue comes down to how we view ourselves. If women felt as amazing as they truly are, words like “plus size” and “too skinny” and whatever they come up with next wouldn’t hold any power. And if women stopped being so critical of other women (as you say), and instead we built each other up…we could seriously take on the world…

      I hope to see you wear this dress sometime soon! I absolutely love it (the buttons slay me with their cuteness). I love to see how fellow bloggers style the same items – really shows how our individual personalities shine. 😉 xxxx

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