Why Does Plus-Size Always Have To Be ‘Pretty’?

Isn't that just another pejorative fashion word dressed up to be politically correct?


by Zing Tsjeng |
Published on

Lacy, belted frocks and sweetheart necklines galore: welcome to Isabel Toledo’s plus-size capsule collection. It only launched earlier this week, but the NYC designer’s line has already been hailed as revolutionary proof that 'plus-size can be pretty.' But what if you don’t care about looking pretty?


I’m not plus-size, but I know plenty of plus-size women who are uniformly fed up of being told to work with their curves and look ‘pretty’: in practice, it just translates to clichéd fashion that’s obsessed with disguising away from any so-called ‘problem areas’. Kiss trendy, fun clothes goodbye: say hello to bust-minimizing wrap dresses, thigh-skimming A-line skirts and ‘slimming prints’ (whatever the hell that means).


Even the fatshion blogosphere has caught flak for its disproportionate focus on a retro pin-up style. 'When you restrict yourself to a ‘curve flattering’ aesthetic that caters to all the traditional notions of beauty, you restrict yourself to a very small part of what fashion has to offer,' writes XoJane blogger Ragini Nag Rao. In other words, fatshion can be great for Bettie Page-worshipping girls – not so great if you want to experiment with any kind of style that started after World War II.

'If you're not into pin-up style, it can get really hard to find adventurous or even trend-led fashion,' Bethany Rutter, the plus-size fashion blogger (and occasional Evans model) behind Arched Eyebrow, tells The Debrief. 'There are some retailers that get it extremely right, like ASOS Curve. Others get away with creating the vicious circle of only making boring clothes for fat women, which means fat women think they're only allowed to wear boring clothes… It's frustrating and tedious.'

Newsflash: skinny girls aren’t the only women who want to experiment with androgyny or oversized sweatshirts. And they shouldn’t be the only ones who get to do it, either.

Fashion has a depressing habit of problematising specific body parts or types: as a flat-chested teenager, I followed magazine tips that told me push-up bras and super-frilly tops would ‘compensate’ for my chest. I ended up looking like an unnaturally busty Adam Ant.

The difference is, once I shook off the idea that fashion had to be necessarily ‘body-flattering’, I could actually find clothes in my size. Bigger girls aren’t so lucky: just witness the insatiable demand for plus-size blogger Gabi Gregg’s ‘fatkini’ – it sold out within hours and crashed her website.


You’d think the high street would be lining up to cater for this underrepresented group, but no: other than shops like Evans, which are specifically tailored towards larger sizes, most of the high street views plus-size lines as an afterthought to be tacked onto their main collection. So forget lace and flattering necklines: you know what would be truly revolutionary? If the high street stocked clothes for every size and shape – all the way up to size 32.

Follow Zing on Twitter @misszing

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us