The average woman in the UK is 5ft3, weighs 11 stone and wears a size 16. This means 45% of the female population is size 16 or over, (which can also be debated to not be an entirely healthy figure). Yet, the fashion industry still predominantly caters for smaller sizes. I do not agree with normalising obesity; however, I also think that punishing consumers using unrealistic 6ft tall mannequins with a 24-inch waist that aspire perfection, yet cause shame (as well as a distorted body image and eating disorders) is not the answer.
High-street retailers simply refuse to accept the size of their customers. Instead, average body sizes are now understood as ‘plus size’ with collections of this title, and a new collection from New Look is disturbingly named ‘curves’. This huge high street retailer has now created an artificial cut-off at size 14 where everything above is for those with ‘curves’. When did possessing curves become out of the norm? These ‘plus sized’ collections are already marginalised, because they make it sound as if they are catering for 10% of the female population, not the average woman.
Most high-street retailers even have price differences for ‘plus sized’ individuals, as if we didn’t feel quite discriminated enough. Boohoo charge £7.00 more for a floral peplum dress in plus size, and Forever 21 charge £11 for their Paisley Print mini dress and £15 for a plus size version. I’m sure the question of surplus fabric cost comes to mind; however, fabric is an extremely minor cost in the production of a dress, marketing and branding being predominant. Retailers are simply making more profit out of us ‘average’ consumers, and throwing in a bit of discrimination and humiliation as they do so.
If Marilyn Monroe was alive today, I’m sure she wouldn’t be slipping into a size 6 bralet with matching W26 ripped jeans. She’d have to choose from bullshit styles which label her body-shape as something abnormal and alien. I’m not saying that the image of the ‘ideal’, ‘perfect’ woman won’t revert to a curvier style in this vicious cycle of aspiring to be anything but ourselves. However even if it does, retailers will start discriminating other sizes: the petite collection perhaps will be named Skinny or Bony. Is this because retailers are thirsty for self-degradation so that their customers can torment themselves on aspiring to look ‘perfect’ and then feeling ashamed when we fail?
It must be true that retailers thrive on women’s hope to look better, so that they continue buying ill-fitting product after product after choosing clothes from a wardrobe designed for an entirely different body. In any case, it’s time for retailers and designers to get a grip and start to accept the ‘average’ woman; start using mannequin’s that are her size, models her size, more collections with clothes suited for her size and not add a ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ to degrade her and profit off the labels.