The plus-size fashion community has been abuzz with the news that the women’s clothing retailer Loft has made the decision to stop selling plus sizes this upcoming Fall season.
Loft’s plus-size collection was originally launched in 2018 and offered sizes from 16 to 26. This was very exciting for plus-size women like myself who were elated to see a more inclusive size range at a mainstream store.
Although the plus-size collection was largely available online, as opposed to in stores, it felt like a much-needed move toward including bodies like mine, and a way for the retailer to be in touch with the reality of our population, considering that the average U.S. woman is now reported to be between a size 16 and 18.
Loft made the move to decrease the range of size offerings quietly and without public announcement, only to be discovered later through the company’s responses to plus-size models and influencers on Instagram and Twitter.
One version of the announcement reads, “Unfortunately, due to ongoing business challenges, we have had to make some difficult decisions, which does impact our plus collection. Come fall, our size offering will be 00-18/XXS - XXL. We sincerely apologize for any disappointment.”
When asked for the reason behind its decision, Loft cited the pandemic and the challenges it has caused. I’m not questioning the reason, but the decision to do away with the company’s plus-size range — especially during the pandemic, when people’s bodies are changing — sends a harmful message about the value of larger bodies.
This move was particularly striking to me because it seemed to say that the business and needs of plus-size women were not as important and valuable as those of straight-sized women. As a plus-size woman, I’ve heard this message time and time again in one way or another.
Whether it’s the people who tell me I’m so pretty … for a plus size girl, the countless movies and TV shows focused on “transforming” bodies like mine, or the ever-present diet industry reminding me that my No. 1 goal should always be to get smaller, existing in a plus-size body means constantly hearing that you are not good enough and need to change.
This message is not only harmful; it’s also wrong. There is evidence to suggest that what we know about body size is constantly shifting and that the tried-and-true facts on weight and weight loss may not be entirely accurate. And even if that isn’t true, that doesn’t mean that people in larger bodies aren’t important and valuable exactly the way we are.
This isn’t just about Loft’s decision. It’s about systematically devaluing and deprioritizing an entire group of people because of the size of their bodies.
Finding clothes has always been a challenge for me, first because I am a wheelchair user who has a disability, and now because of my body size. Even when I was at my smallest, my body didn’t fit into societal norms and expectations. I couldn’t always wear the same trendy clothing as my friends, even though I desperately wanted to, and my limited choices in fashion made me feel left out and frustrated with my body.
As I got older, I was able to find clothing that worked for me and allowed me to express my own personal identity, but when my body got bigger, I felt limited again.
It was frustrating not to be able to go shopping with my friends because nothing in the store they shopped at would fit me. It made me feel like my body was broken and wrong. Seeing more mainstream retailers offer plus-size clothing was so liberating because it signaled that my body mattered just as much as everyone else’s, exactly the way it is.
A lot of people think fashion is trivial, but it’s not. Clothing is one of the first ways we signal to the world who we are and how we want to be seen. This is especially important for people like me — a disabled, plus-size woman whose body doesn’t meet traditional standards of beauty. Fashion is one of the tools that gives me the power to craft the image I show the world and fight back against those false assumptions that I am somehow less beautiful or less desirable because of the way I exist in my body.
Making a wide range of clothing available to diverse body types allows people to create their own narrative and fight back against harmful stereotypes about what it means to live in a certain type of body.
I was heartbroken by Loft’s decision to cut back on size diversity in their clothing, not just because it means I will have one less option when shopping for clothing, but also because it reinforces the idea that there’s something wrong or less worthy about existing in a plus-size body.
I spent years of my life believing that. I sacrificed happiness and peace in my never-ending quest to be thin and meet society’s standards. I starved and binged and purged, wrecking my body and soul from the inside out all because I falsely believed that my value was determined by the number on the scale or the size on a tag.
As we begin to emerge from this pandemic, many people are struggling with the way their bodies have changed over the past year in isolation. Many of us are coming out of quarantine with significantly larger bodies than we entered it, and when companies like Loft decide to stop selling a wide range of clothing sizes, they are echoing society’s false narrative that there is only one way to have a body.
This isn’t just about Loft’s decision. It’s about systematically devaluing and deprioritizing an entire group of people because of the size of their bodies. It’s about sending the message that plus-size women are less valuable than non-plus-size women, and it’s about perpetuating the idea that you need to change your body to fit into clothing instead of fighting to change society to be accepting of all bodies.