Size restrictions in the fashion industry

Alex Gervas comments on the ways in which size restrictions in the fashion industry still perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards.

Alex Gervas
5th November 2020
Beauty canons have varied throughout the years. During the Renaissance, it was considered beautiful, at least for women, to be chubby or curvy - these traits were associated with wealth and fertility.

Nowadays, beauty canons are completely different, far more focused on aesthetics and symmetry. In a society obsessed with finding ‘the perfect body’, fashion has always played its part. It has become an important tool used to determine whether a body follows a given time’s rules of beauty; if so, then it’ll surely show off that particular body-type too. 

The immediate stereotype  when talking about models continues to be the thin, tall woman and ripped, tanned man

The prime - perhaps extreme - example of the relationship between size and fashion is the modern catwalk. It is true that in recent years, fashion shows have included more plus-sized or curvy models, making fashion week events more size-diverse. Yet, the immediate stereotype  when talking about models continues to be the thin, tall woman and ripped, tanned man.

With such a direct association between beauty and fashion, it’s to be expected that clothes will mainly be produced for and marketed using the sizes and bodies that are deemed to be ‘normal’. Consequently, manufacturers are prone to perpetuate beauty standards over meeting the size needs of a customer-base. Hence, it is typical for those over a trousers’ size zero to have difficulty finding clothes that suit their body type - that particular customer-base being the majority of the global population!

Aja Barber wrote an article for the CNN Style saying: “The world treats you differently in a bigger body than a small one. And you can’t possibly understand it until you’ve witnessed the scorn of a sales assistant who tells you point blank that there is nothing in that store that will fit you.”

Personal stylist and activist Aja Barber wrote an article for the CNN Style saying: “The world treats you differently in a bigger body than a small one. And you can’t possibly understand it until you’ve witnessed the scorn of a sales assistant who tells you point blank that there is nothing in that store that will fit you.”

On top of finding something that will make you feel comfortable in your own skin, you have to add that not all sizes are the same in all shops. While a sized M t-shirt from Primark might fit you like a glove, a t-shirt with the same size label in H&M may well be a bit too small. In the aftermath of a shopping spree, it’s easy to feel as though size tags are completely randomised, holding no real meaning whatsoever.

The fashion industry is moving forward and becoming more representative of customers’ needs and activists’ demands, but no proper change will come unless we accept that the 21st century beauty canon is not always achievable

As a UK size 8-10, I’m no stranger to the struggles of finding correctly-fitting clothes. I cannot imagine the difficulty and disregard felt by those that many fashion outlets do not even give a second thought toward. The fashion industry is moving forward and becoming more representative of customers’ needs and activists’ demands, but no proper change will come unless we accept that the 21st century beauty canon is not always achievable. Fashion should not be restricted by size, and that should be okay.

Featured Image: Pxhere
All other images courtesy of Instagram

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