Ethical Fatshion: A Mythical Unicorn?

Yesterday I caught up with Sonya and her mother to do some shopping at the Boxing Day sales at the massive Chermside shopping centre. To put this in perspective, according to the centre’s website, there are 69 stores that cater to women’s fashion. Of these, there are three dedicated plus-size stores – Autograph, City Chic and MySize. Of these, City Chic is the only one that is geared towards a younger demographic. There are some others that cater up to a size 18 or 20, but generally speaking, most stop at 16 (or a 14).

Standing outside the door at 8:45am, waiting with a crowd of other plus-sized women, I began to feel irritated. The Courier-Mail online covered the sales, and City Chic actually got a name-drop, with the author noting that there were 30-40 shoppers waiting outside. My irritation stemmed from the fact that here we were, people lining up to get some nice clothes at a decent price, and yet retailers continue to insist that fat people don’t spend money, aren’t fashionable, ad infinitum.

(I bought a dress and a top, by the by).

But today, while talking to a few other like-minded fat people about store policies and supporting businesses with practices we agree with, I began to wonder: do stores that produce ethical clothing for fat people even exist? It is so damn difficult just to dress in the styles that I like, it seems like ethically produced plus-sized clothing must be like a frickin’ mythical unicorn.

I know that ethical fashion can have a wide range of meanings, from non-sweatshop produced garments, to retailers that treat their staff with fairness and follow the law, to just not treating their customers like fools, and who are pro-body acceptance. I can’t think of any Australia-based ones that I’m aware of.

When I think about what I’d like to see, it’s mostly to do with the third point. I simply adore Re/Dress NYC for this reason – they are explicitly pro-acceptance, in all forms. And since they stock mostly used and vintage clothes, I could shop there with a clear conscience. Sadly, being on the other side of the world from them makes it a bit difficult to get there regularly.

I’d love to see more retailers that engage with body acceptance. I’d love to see the moderators of the City Chic and Evans facebook pages delete shaming and negative comments, for example. (There were some simply horrible comments on a photo that Gazel of Bonjour Gazel entered in an Evans comp that were incredibly hateful).

The holy grail, of course, would be a pro-body acceptance, non-sweatshop-based, fair-wage-paying retailer that provided on-trend and classic pieces for men, women and everyone in between in a wide variety of sizes. Hey, a girl can dream.

So tell me – what do you want to see from your retailers? What does ethical fashion mean to you? And do any plus-size ethical fashion retailers exist?

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  • heavyaura

    I didn’t start shopping at thrift stores out of necessity, but now they are absolutely the only way for me to affordably clothe myself and my family. Really, I can’t even afford to pay full thrift-store prices (they are on the rise, it seems), but I’ve learned the best days to go. I am lucky to have a good selection of thrift stores in my area that I have access to, and they all have special super cheap racks, or incredible weekly sales days. Even though I don’t always share politics with the organizations that run these types of shops (although I usually avoid Salvation Army), I like the feeling that I’m supporting my community more than a corporation, even in a small way, as far as ethics. I know many people don’t have the time to put in to sorting through lots of stuff to find wearable items (especially when larger sizes may or not be well represented), but I have definitely had tons of luck. My “style” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it makes me happy, and thrift store shopping has allowed me to cultivate a wardrobe that I enjoy.

  • VivZilla!

    Honestly? I’d just like a fair price for plus size fashion as a start. I got a dress from City Chic today on sale, but its RRP was about $120/$130 and I know if I was buying a dress for that price in straight sizes I (probably) would be getting something of a higher quality.

  • Living 400lbs

    In the US, one of the advantages of Making it Big is that much of their clothing is made by legal workers in California. Imports are only from companies that treat their workers well. Of course this means the clothing is also more expensive.

  • Anonymous

    Something that has always baffled the bejeezus out of me (which my husband can attest to, as he ends up on the receiving end of my rage induced foaming at the mouth rants about it) — most retailers and manufacturers whine that theres no market for trendy, “cool”, or fashionable plus size clothes. Which maybe there is and maybe there isn’t, I wouldn’t know… because I don’t want to BUY trendy, cool, or fashionable clothes!

    I want to be able to buy those stupid tshirts and sweatshirts with nauseatingly cute iron ons of cats and birds and glitter. The stuff you see little old ladies wearing. I like that kind of thing. They make tshirts and sweatshirts in my size, and shockingly an iron on works just as well on a size 4x as it does on a size 4. If there is a market for straight size shirts like that, and supposedly omg 68% of the US is fat… then it follows there would be a market for plus size also. And since they already make plus size plain colored tshirts and sweatshirts that are, as far as I can see comparing them side by side, the exact same pattern just larger… would it REALLY kill their profit margin to throw in some plus sizes when they’re slapping iron ons onto the straight sizes? Really?

    Not that I have money for clothes right now anyway lol… I know a couple mail order shops where I can get what I want for like $26 a shirt. It just irks me.

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