Want to be plus size AND fashionable? Finally, fashion brands are catering to you

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Billie Bhatia and Hannah-Rose Yee
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With the news that Universal Standard has become the most size inclusive fashion brand in the world, the options for building out your wardrobe when you’re plus size just got much better. Here, two writers explain why it’s about time. 

Rare are the moments when I see a plus size woman in a great outfit and I don’t know exactly where each piece came from.

That’s not because I am a slavish student of fashion – far from it. But the options for clothes – not even stylish ones, just garden variety clothes to put on my body – when you are a plus size woman are so dire that you become instantly acquainted with the brands that do cater to you.

Like Universal Standard, for example, which recently announced that it would create its range of pared-back basics and wardrobe staples in every size from US 6 to 40, making it the most size inclusive brand in the world. While these aren’t plus size dresses for a summer wedding, or the kind of directional piece from an under-the-radar Korean brand you’d see hanging up in your coolest friend’s wardrobe, it’s a start. And, hopefully, a conversation starter. Maybe, when other brands see how effortlessly Universal Standard has expanded its size range, catering to women of different sizes will no longer be a depressing afterthought.

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Maybe. I drafted in Stylist’s fashion news editor Billie Bhatia to talk about why it’s so hard to find nice plus size fashion, and why Universal Standard’s new range is proof that change is finally happening in the industry. 

HRY: Billie! You and I first bonded when we discovered that we had purchased the same dress – a black sack-like number with confusing waist ties – from ASOS Curve to wear to a party. (Luckily, you opted for a different, sparkly one from ASOS Curve so we weren’t matchy-matchy). 

Our wardrobes are comprised of literally the same pieces, most of them from ASOS Curve. It begs the question, why is it so damn hard to find nice plus size fashion?

BB: That is the million dollar question. Actually, correction, that is the multi billion dollar question – because that is how much the plus-size fashion industry is worth and how much brands that are refusing to cater behind a certain size are missing out on. When I find a fashion-forward, or cooler-than-average piece of clothing that comes in my size I am quite literally shook. So much so, I buy in bulk. That easy throw-on (yet mildly confusing) black dress Hannah mentioned above… I bought three. One I chopped down to more of a midi length, one I slashed up the leg and the other I left as is… just in case. 

HRY: You are so crafty! Look at you go! But seriously, how exciting is the news that Universal Standard has expanded its size range to run from US 00-44, or UK 4-48. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a brand with a size range as inclusive as this. 

A caveat, the brand is predicated on wardrobe classics and basics, so it’s not exactly Off White or Ganni-esque party frocks. I live for the day when plus size women like you and me have as many options as everyone else when it comes to shopping. But this is certainly a start. How do you feel about the range?

BB: It is totally unprecedented for a brand to have such an inclusive size range and it not be split into different categories like mainline, petite and curve - this is truly a brand that is catering to every woman. And in such a smart way because how can you build a timeless wardrobe if not on the classics, on stylish staples to then layer your trend lead pieces with. 

In all honesty, these are the hardest pieces to find, when did you last find the perfect white T-shirt? One that is a little oversized and isn’t cropped to show the widest point of your hip? Or a pair of jeans that didn’t sag at the knee or gape on the waist?

HRY: It’s so true. Finding those good good basics when you’re plus size is like finding a little crock of gold. But you made a great point to me about the way the clothes are actually photographed on the website…

BB: OK, this is so exciting because I have never seen anyone do this before. Universal Standard have shot on a range of women who represent every style available, for every single item on the website. Which means, finally you can actually see what you would look like in the clothes! Fancy a satin biased slip skirt but have only seen it modeled on a sample size, and you are unsure if you can pull off the same look? Well, now you can check. Feel confident that someone, whatever your size, is wearing it too and take the plunge to try something you may have felt excluded from before. How good is that?! Before you get too excited, there is one small glitch… Universal Standard doesn’t ship to the UK just yet, although lucky US readers (or anyone in Asia, Australia or New Zealand) can shop the range right now. 

HRY: That is very true. But let’s say you have a mail forwarding service or you have a trip to the US planned in the next few months… What pieces will you be adding to your cart? I love a good pair of overalls so I want these dungarees to add to my collection. And then this trench coat could finally be the trench coat that changes my mind about trench coats.

BB: We can twin in the trench! I think it’s about time I invested in grown-up outerwear. For everyday, the slip skirts are already in my basket. Especially because I have been on the hunt for navy and blush pink in my size since last year. I also loved the Rodarte collaboration. I am working on widening my wardrobe to incorporate more feminine pieces (and less slobby-looking oversized sweatshirts), so this ruffle dress in black (baby steps) gets my vote.

HRY: Seriously, one of the things that excites me most about this Universal Standard news is having another website to add to my online shopping rotation. Because when it comes to clothes, my shopping list is pretty much exclusively limited to ASOS Curve. Sweet, sweet ASOS Curve. What brands do you love? 

BB: Same! In fact I can’t actually remember the last time I went into real bricks and mortar store to shop for myself probably because I know the sizing will be so exclusive and I can’t face the humiliation of walking out of Zara with nothing more than a hair clip. Which means most of my shopping happens almost exclusively online. ASOS Curve and I have a deep bond but I also really enjoy fellow US brand Eloquii, Violeta by Mango and Simply Be.

HRY: Ah yes, that lovely feeling of humiliation when you wander into a high street store knowing that nothing is going to fit you. Don’t you just love that feeling? That’s truly the reason why inclusive sizing is so important. Because when you’re shopping for plus size fashion the more options the better. 

Plus size consumers deserve as much choice as any other. And now, finally, it looks like things are (slowly) changing. One trench coat at a time. I’ll shop to that.

Images: Getty


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Billie Bhatia and Hannah-Rose Yee

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