Earlier this month, Topshop announced they would be selling jeans in half sizes; rather than the waist size of their jeans increasing in two inch increments, they will now be sold in one inch increments, almost doubling the number of sizes currently available. Women everywhere were delighted, there was celebration all over Twitter and hundreds of article headlines rejoicing over how women no longer need to fit into the cookie cutter sizes that the fashion industry sets out for us. All good stuff, right?
Here’s my issue: Topshop currently only sells clothes up to a size 16, occasionally a size 18 online. The average size of the UK women in 2017 was a size 16. This means that Topshop currently only caters to just over half of UK women, with their biggest size being the average size of the population. Despite this, Topshop has decided that their priority is not to expand their size range so that the other half of the population can finally experience the heavily celebrated magic of the Joni jean, but simply to make their jeans fit the section of women that they already cater to slightly better.
Topshop currently only caters to just over half of UK women, with their biggest size being the average size of the population.
This is a completely illogical economical decision. Joni jeans are not completely resistant to criticism, however, the only criticism I have seen is always far more focussed on the fact that the jeans lose their colour after two washes rather than issues of size. The fact of the matter is that Topshop, like so many fashion brands, do not want their clothing being represented by ‘fat’ women. This is true on the catwalks of London fashion week, it’s true of fashion editorials in magazines and it’s true of 95% of clothing brands advertising. This is systematically telling plus-size women they are not worthy of the same control over their fashion and the way in which they express themselves as straight-size women.
Topshop is unfortunately not the only brand that is guilty of this kind of sizing issue by any stretch of the imagination. Zara came under fire last year for their jeans advertising campaign featuring two very slim models with the slogan ‘love your curves’. Countless articles came out slamming H&M for their sizing, with size 12 women being incapable of zipping up size 16 dresses. However, many brands out there are making a move towards size inclusivity. New Look and Primark regularly go up to size 18 or 20 in their main clothing lines regularly. Boohoo, Missguided, Asos, New Look and River Island all have plus size ranges. Boohoo recently launched an advertising campaign featuring models diverse in race, ability and size. Even H&M, the target of so much sizing scrutiny, has a plus size range that is fairly available in stores, not just online. Topshop has done none of this. For them, maintaining an image of what they perceive to be a desirable size is far more important.
As a plus size woman, I can say that over time this kind of thing has an incredibly detrimental effect on your mental health.
As a plus size woman, I can say that over time this kind of thing has an incredibly detrimental effect on your mental health. Not being able to shop in the same shops that your friends do because 50% of high street shops aimed at the under 30 age range don’t sell clothes bigger than a 16 becomes pretty painful. Missing out on shopping trips, or going on shopping trips with your friends and having to explain to them why you’re not trying anything on is really, really difficult for a teenage girl, and it’s still pretty damn hard at 21. And this is not something we talk about. So many of my friends who I do talk to this about are shocked by the fact that I literally cannot buy clothes from some of the biggest retailers in the UK because I am one size larger than the national average.
I’m used to this kind of purposeful oversight from fashion brands at this point, but this one hit particularly hard. Joni jeans are a wardrobe staple for most female students, and being excluded from this, especially when so many people on social media are celebrating the apparent body positivity and inclusivity of this latest update, feels very much like being denied access from the cool gang. The body positivity movement is stronger and better than ever, and with the rise of social media surrounding yourself with beautiful, size inclusive images and advertising is easier than ever, but until the fashion brands can join this movement, put aside their own outdated standards and make not only the kinder but also economically smarter decision, plus-size women will continue to have their self esteem chipped away at every time they try to shop on the high street. In the meantime, however, Primark does a killer pair of high-waisted skinnies for a quarter of the price which I highly recommend.