Why can’t I find ethically-made, plus-size clothing?
I’ve asked myself this question over and over again in my quest to support ethical, environmentally-friendly clothing and accessory brands. Let me tell you: it’s hard. With a a handful of exceptions, there is little to no plus-size clothing that fits my personal criteria for an ethically-made or sourced garment. In a country where the average woman wears a size 16 (and is constantly facing discrimination in the realm of the fashion industry), why haven’t ethical and sustainable retailers caught on to this gap in the market?
Sara of Sara Laughed, a fabulous blogger and fellow curvy girl trying to live more ethically, offered some insight on the issue. Sara thinks that the choice of whether to offer plus-size garments is complicated for ethical and sustainable clothing brands. Many of these clothing and accessory brands are starting from the ground up, and since their market is relatively niche, designers often economize by limiting their size range, at least from the get-go.
“[For ethical clothing brands,] catering to plus-sized bodies means creating new patterns and making their already limited items available in a broader range of sizes, which can be a risk if a company is struggling to get off the ground or stay afloat,” she says.
While this might explain the hole in the market, though, it doesn’t justify it. “The fact is that while making clothes for plus-sized people may seem like a financial risk for a small ethical company, it actually expands their market,” Sara explains. “The desire to live ethically and sustainably isn’t exclusive to straight-sized people, and I think as the market grows, ethical companies are catching on to that.”
Sara’s advice for plus-size babes on a budget looking to shop more ethically? Thrift stores are a great option, she says. After all, textile waste is a huge issue for the environment, and there’s nothing more sustainable than recycling gently-used clothing.
“If it’s important to you to support ethical companies, start small: email the company with your support, tell your friends, and share about them online, or buy smaller items like accessories until you have the budget to really invest,” Sara says.
Recently, Sara compiled an awesome (and extensive!) list of ethical and/or sustainable clothing lines or fashion retailers that cater to the plus-size community. With just over 20 options, a significant increase from Sara’s first iteration of this lineup, it might seem like a victory. But Sara believes there’s still plenty of work to do on this front.
“A lot of the more popular ethical brands aren’t carrying plus sizes yet, so I think there’s absolutely room for growth,” she says.