I love leggings. In fact, I love all clothing that makes me feel like I’m wearing pyjamas. My wardrobe would be full of leggings, jumpers and cardigans if I had it my way (if you try to talk to me about the “leggings aren’t pants” rule, I will studiously ignore you) – but unfortunately, there’s a few things stopping me.
Money is always a factor when it comes to buying anything good quality, and personally I’m pretty picky with patterns and colours. But the biggest barrier to fulfilling my wardrobe dream is the simple fact that very few retailers want to cater to my body type.
This week, yet another controversy has encircled activewear royalty Lorna Jane following recent comments she made about plus sizing and obesity in Australia. She declared she has no plans to ever stock plus-size clothing in Lorna Jane stores due to a lack of customer demand, adding she is concerned about the rising obesity epidemic in Australia (which, if true, you’d assume might lead her to make gym clothes for people of all sizes, not just the already-thin).
A quick Google search dispels her core argument of customer demand: in 2014, a petition written by a plus-size woman urging Lorna Jane to accommodate larger women gained significant traction. It was enough to force the brand’s hand but, unfortunately, they only added one extra size to their range, taking it up to an XL (which equates to an Australian size 16 – a number that isn’t even considered “plus size”).
Perhaps it’s true that not many women enter Lorna Jane stores (or similar activewear stores) and ask for larger sizes – simply because they know they aren’t wanted.
This isn’t the first time Lorna Jane has been pulled up for discriminating against certain body sizes and shapes and coveting others. Last year, she faced controversy over a job advertisement for a receptionist that detailed the body measurements the applicant should have, equating to a size 10 at most. A few months later, a former employee sued the company for constant bullying.
So why would women over a certain size or weight feel comfortable even stepping foot in a Lorna Jane store, let alone feel confident enough to demand they be catered for? Why would plus-size women – or those who simply don’t fit the very specific bill for Lorna Jane’s range – enter a space where it is evident that they are not only unwelcome, but might be judged?
But hey, it’s not just Lorna Jane that is committing this lazy, discriminatory transgression. It’s the majority of Australian independent retailers, it’s a huge chunk of online stores, it’s high-end fashion designers.
Millions of plus-size women are holding out their money, begging for retailers to take it. Yet, brand owners are not only refusing to take the plunge to embrace inclusivity, they’re also refusing to add to their already-ample fortunes.
Let’s look at the elephant (ha!) in the room. Fat people, and fat women in particular, are shut out of many facets of society – but I would argue that the fitness industry is one of the biggest, and most hypocritical, offenders.
It’s not just that there are few avenues to go down when it comes to buying the appropriate clothing to exercise in – it’s also same-same “fitness” environments, a damaging culture, and the overruling concept that fit is best, and fit = skinny.
For fat people who do want to participate, all they see is a constant shaming of their body type: on television shows, in tabloids, on the street.
That’s why it’s so disappointing when brands and women like Lorna Jane let down the team. Lorna Jane is impressive: she’s a strong, powerful woman who built a multi-million dollar empire of leggings from the ground up. She has the minds and money of hundreds of thousands of women at her disposal, and she could do so much good with it.
Imagine if, from the beginning, her brand had stocked size up to a size 30? Or, if, when discussion began surrounding her small sizing, she immediately added in a plus-size range?
I won’t lie and suggest that it’s easy to find activewear as a plus-size woman, but more and more brands are slowly popping up to cater to our needs. Active Truth, Running Bare, Blitz Active, and Elsa are all Australian brands with plus-size ranges, and word is that Sonsee will soon be stocking activewear. For those who don’t shop online, most major department stores – Target, Myer, Kmart – have a few styles of plus size activewear on offer.
And if you’re willing to go further afield, there are heaps of international brands out there that are doing incredible things with plus-size leggings.
But at the end of the day, women over a certain size or shape don’t need handouts or inclusion from companies that clearly don’t want us. As great as it would be for those brands to embrace size diversity, we’re doing just fine without them.
Personally, I’m going to take my money and my fat ass and shop elsewhere.