Question: Can fashion and body positivity ever truly mix?
We’ve made some progress since the pioneers of body positivity started paving the way for inclusivity decades ago, but we still have a long way to go. The body positivity movement has gained substantial momentum, but some fashion brands have appropriated that movement for their own financial gain.
Victoria’s Secret’s #PerfectBody campaign and Dove’s decade-spanning #RealBeauty campaigns (and their gratuitous use of the phrase “real women” to make it look like they’re not perpetrating exclusivity and marginalisation — I’m not buying it!) have gotten it so very wrong. Thankfully, there are truly inclusive fashion brands making a name for themselves.
These retailers are getting it right, proving that body positivity can be supplemented by awesome and sustainable fashion choices that empower everyone.
So, what does it mean to get it truly right?
In order to harness body positivity — not just as not just a marketing tool, but as a means of connecting with what their customers seek — brands need to:
- Think of their customers as more than just a sales statistic;
- Not be directly invested in making customers feel insecure and convincing them that the company’s products fill some fabricated void; and
- Think more deeply about what body positivity entails.
It’s one thing to slap a token “Just love yourself, ladies!” sticker on a product or campaign and call it a day. It’s another to have your business embody body positivity and all of its core values, including diversity, representation and inclusivity.
Here are 7 body positive brands that are changing the fashion industry for the better:
1. Smart Glamour
Mallorie Dunn, the designer and brains behind Smart Glamour, has created true inclusivity with her garments. Size inclusivity is paramount for Smart Glamour, and with sizes from XXS through 6XL and beyond, there’s something for everyone. All garments are customizeable, and Mallorie’s dedication to using everyday women in her promotional shoots is commendable.
Smart Glamour’s recent runway shows have defied the runway’s traditional ableism, showed trans inclusivity and left women around the world cheering.
And as a bonus, not only are Smart Glamour’s designs ethically and sustainably produced, they’re also pretty damn affordable.
Thinx makes underwear designed to absorb period blood. The company not only empowers women who menstruate, it also sends funds from every pair to a partner organisation, AFRIpads, which trains women in Uganda to sew and sell washable, reusable cloth pads that African girls can buy for an affordable price, allowing them to attend school when they’re having their periods.
Thinx’s designs are comfortable, attractive and range from sizes XS to 3XL. They totally take the archaic stigma out of menstruation. I’m sold!
ModCloth boasts a beautifully diverse customer style gallery, inclusive sizing from XS to 4XL, and unique designs. It’s one of the few brands that has been consistently getting it right since it was founded in 2002.
Bonus: ModCloth pays plenty of attention to its customers in its style gallery and regularly brings them into campaigns. ModCloth discovered Rye Silverman in its style gallery and made her its first transgender model, naming a dress after her. It’s that kind of inclusivity that has kept their customers loyal!
Related: Last Minute Body Positive Gift Ideas
RebDolls‘ motto is “unapologetic fashion,” and boy oh boy, does it follow that motto. A quick browse of its website and Instagram reveals its models and real customers alike oozing confidence, free from socially constructed limits. Its designs focus on daring silhouettes that accentuate curves. Most designs are available in an admirable range of sizes, from small to 5XL. And most designs are between $15 and $50.
One of the best things about RebDolls is that its sizes aren’t separated into “regular” and “plus-size” categories. They’re all happily coexisting together — as they should be!
5. Chubby Cartwheels
Plus-size-focused brands are becoming easier to come by these days, thankfully. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of brands that don’t quite grasp that plus-sized folks want clothing that’s attractive, on-trend, comfortable and sexy.
One brand that does understand this is Chubby Cartwheels. Founder Shawna Farmer offers free custom sizing and fabrics, and her garments are all about helping customers feel sassy, confident and in charge.
6. Bluestockings Boutique
The body positivity movement is making some headway, but we need to do a lot more to be inclusive.
Trans individuals, in particular, are often excluded. Bluestockings Boutique is working to change that. This awesome lingerie boutique made headlines in 2015 for its trans inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ focus. The company aims to empower those marginalised by mainstream lingerie brands and provide them with “an experience that reflects their identities, their bodies, and their values,” according to Bluestockings’ queer-identified founder, Jeanna Kadlec.
YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES.
7. Neon Moon
Dubbed “feminist lingerie for body-positive women,” Neon Moon is proudly sweatshop-, objectification-, sexualization- and Photoshop-free. Founder Hayat Rachi is committed to diversity among models and allowing customers to define beauty for themselves.
“I created Neon Moon in 2014 on the back of my frustration towards the lingerie industry’s body-shaming of women. I couldn’t understand why there was so much pressure applied for women to look a certain way, and to buy lingerie in order to be an object of the male gaze. So instead of buying from brands I couldn’t affiliate with, I created Neon Moon,” she says on Neon Moon’s website.
As a start-up, Neon Moon’s sizing is more limited, but it’s taking sizing requests here. However, it has replaced numerical sizing with descriptors such as “Lovely,” “Gorgeous” and “Beautiful.”
In 2016, I hope to see more fashion brands embracing diversity among models and sizing, and finding new ways to improve the fashion world. Making body positivity a core part of a fashion business model — rather than simply paying it lip service — is a recipe for success.