Lack of Plus-size Representation in Sustainable Fashion

5 min readAug 12, 2021


Image via zerrin

With calls for racial and gender equalities growing stronger, everyday oppressions have also been scrutinized. In an area where inclusivity is valued, shouldn’t we also value those who come in all shapes and sizes? In addition, inclusivity should also include a space where both innovation and sustainability are equally prioritized. The ethical and profitable goals of businesses are still taking shape as they are operating within ever-changing landscapes. Without a doubt, we are in an era of trends and the constant pursuit of what comes next. In this fast paced environment there needs to be a reliable constant. Let that constant be inclusivity within an innovative, ethical business model.

Shortages in Representation

Image via loudbodies

Plus-sized women and men have never been a novelty to society. However, there has been an exclusion of particular individuals. Specifically, western cultures have consistently aimed to glorify thin bodies, promoted different methods of dieting, and perpetuated the idea that in order to be considered beautiful one must be thin. These ideals have been perpetuated in the fashion industry and as a result, plus-sized individuals have had a harder time shopping for clothing. And for fashion to be relevant and impactful on a global platform, it must be able to include everyone.

Cost of Manufacturing

The main reason that sustainable businesses do not keep plus-size clothing in stock is because of cost. If there happens to be a surplus, employers would rather funnel the money back into its other products and employees. Starting a new line or stocking a new size is expensive and unpredictable. Specifically, smaller brands struggle with the costs of designing, manufacturing, and testing new pieces. The unpredictability is also an unfortunate factor because companies have to place orders in advance and if there is not enough confidence that the sales figures cannot match, it would be unwise for the business to place the orders from an economic standpoint. There is a ton of risk that manufacturers take into account when they expand on sizes and decide on how much to stock in each size.

Price Points

Another reason why there is a lack of plus-size representation points to the issue that even when the clothing is ethically sourced, oftentimes the price is too high. At the moment, companies seem to be grappling with the issue of creating clothing that is both reasonably priced and environmentally friendly. What happens is that companies are not sure how plus sizes will sell, so they go into the market tentatively. They do not stock many plus sizes and increase the price as well. As a result, plus-size clothing does not sell very well which only further discourages companies from taking the risk. In the end, plus-size men and women are forced to look into fast fashion, an unsustainable method of producing cheap clothing.

Detrimental Impacts

Giv via voguebusiness

The lack of plus-size representation leads to negative impacts on the environment and individuals all the same. Without viable clothing options, individuals feel like they are not included in fashion and even society as a whole. As stated above, this leads them to buy into fast fashion. Fast fashion is unsustainable and constantly pushing consumers to buy new products. In order to keep up with the ever changing trends, companies utilize cheap labor in offshore countries, uphold poor working conditions, and ultimately pollute the environment with chemicals. Water pollution and textile waste are also quite plentiful. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of all carbon emissions with 85% of all textiles going to waste each year. In this destructive cycle there are simply no winners. Plus-size men and women are unable to see themselves fitting into society’s vision and Mother Nature suffers from constant degradation.

Combating the Issue

The most important aspect that will either lead to a positive or negative effect is the issue of visibility or lack thereof. There needs to be more covers of women and men with natural bodies and less photoshop. People of all different shapes and sizes need to be celebrated and they need to know that they are cherished. After all, clothes should fit our bodies, and not the other way around. By increasing visibility and representation, there is reason to believe that sales will increase as people begin to accept themselves as they are. This in turn would lead to profits and increased production of plus-size clothing. The business, consumer, and environment all benefit.

Moving Forward

Image via strate

An example of a company making leaps and bounds is Girlfriend Collective. They are a sustainable and ethical brand. With 100% of packaging recyclable and reusable, cotton tanks made only from waste by other companies, and leggings and bras made mostly from recyclable material it is safe to say Girlfriend Collective cares about the environment. In addition, they have sizes ranging from XXS to 6XL. As we can see, they are taking active actions in order to make sure every size and shape is accounted for. And unlike many competitors, they offer these inclusive sizes from tops to bottoms and everything in between. Being an activewear company, Girlfriend Collective sets a good example for the rest of the industry to follow.

When everything is all said and done, challenging the status quo has always been a necessary step for change. In fact, everyday is a day to do better and there is never a better time than now.

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Originally published at on August 20, 2021.




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