Updated: Feb 16, 2022
We all have to wear clothes. But the whole process can be pretty overwhelming. Deciding. Spending. Trying on. Returning. Feeling disappointed, frustrated, upset, and uncomfortable. Feeling the shame creep in...
Women often tell us that shopping for new clothes, and getting dressed every morning are some of their most vulnerable body image moments- particularly when their bodies don’t look like the models the outfits were sold on.
We know how it goes- you feel like you have nothing to wear so you go online or into stores, and they make you feel worse about your own body, so you either panic and buy something that you don't actually need, or just don't buy anything at all. Either way, it doesn't end well.
The good news is that so many great body positive brands that have emerged- so read on for our expert-approved, evidence informed guide to plus size shopping and style.
Accepting your body is the first step
Acceptance is everything. You don’t have to #loveyourbody, but women who have a more accepting, neutral approach to their body have much lower levels of depression and anxiety, and much higher quality of life.
Unfortunately the majority of adult women feel some level of dissatisfaction towards their bodies- and although we often focus on adolescents in relation to this issue, the science shows that these levels of poor body image don’t actually improve until after the age of 65… A lifetime of body shame is something that can be hard to shift, but the main thing you need to know for now is that there is no benefit to body dissatisfaction- you can’t hate your body into the shape that you wish it was in.
Accepting your body means that you focus on keeping it nourished and healthy because it feels good, not in order to change how it looks.
Want to get started? Show yourself some body kindness. When you notice yourself having a negative thought or feeling about your body:
Name it- “I’m noticing that I’m thinking about how uncomfortable my stomach feels when I sit down today. It’s making me feel shame”
Know you’re not alone- “so many women struggle with how they feel about their bodies. I am not alone in feeling this”.
Say something kind: (Imagine what a kind friend would say): “My belly brought my babies into the world. It is soft and comforting for them to cuddle. I am so much more than my stomach”
Self compassion has been proven to have so many benefits for physical and mental health. Try using this 3-step process in the moment, and utilise some other self compassion resources to really change your mindset.
Find bloggers and influencers to inspire your style
A feed full of models who make you feel bad about your body is never a good idea.
Follow the people with bodies like yours- it will help with your body confidence and give you more ideas about what to wear and how to wear it.
One of my favourites - who has literally taught me about how to dress myself in my growing and changing body- is Natalie angel from @letmetrybeforeyoubuy . Watch her daily clothing try-ons from affordable Australian size-inclusive brands, and subscribe to Friends with Nat for more instructional videos and weekly newsletter. She's fun, and she's helpful. You will love her.
Other amazing content producers to check out :
There are so many- and we would love to know your favourites- so fill your feed with body diversity and body acceptance and let us know who is making you feel good.
Also- hot off the press is new fashion tech app Mys Tyler - soon to become one of my go to's for scrolling for fashion inspo. When you set up your account, you enter your own height, clothing size, bra size, hair type etc, and their special FIT algorithm shows you a range of 'like-minded, like-bodied' women that 'match' your own profile. Real women, wearing real clothes in their real lives. Not overstyled insta-hype. If you like what they are wearing, you can shop the pieces directly from the app. Now I love me some good tech, but this is actually genius.
Go beyond the big brands
We’ve all been subjected to the subtle judgement of retail staff, and had a negative in-store experience in the major fashion stores.
Although they might make your size, sometimes it feels like they don’t really want you there- or want to help you… Here’s the thing. The brands that have the best plus sized- clothing generally specialise in plus sized clothing.
My new favourite for affordable fashion is Women's plus size specialist You and All. With a huge selection and a great website where all of their size 14+ clothing is modelled on Size 18 models, it's a dream to browse online, but they also have a surprising number of retail stores in NSW, QLD, and WA to pop in and try some stuff on.
Not so new, but Little Party Dress are also firm favourites here. Stocking size 6 to 22 and including diverse models of all all shapes and sizes, they have a large collection, and specific 'bump friendly' and 'nursing friendly' collections- or my favourite 'pockets only' to shop only for dresses with pockets- a dream come true!!
Online shopping is convenient, but sometimes you just want to try on new styles to see how they work with your body. Sometimes I go into Kmart, Target, or Big W just to try different styles and get an idea of what works (ok, and I buy some stuff too)… and then you can look for those styles at your favourite online retailers and feel more confident about your purchase.
For those wanting to invest in a few quality pieces Commonry promises sizes 10-22. 365. 24/7. Think more muted colours, and classic pieces similar to Witchery, Trenery, and Seed, but all made specifically for more realistic body sizes and shapes. Their website really is a refreshing online shopping experience. There’s not just the occasional larger body. Every single garment is modelled on a size 16 model. You can toggle back to a size 10 if you like, but scrolling through everything feels like it creates a new normal.
Cue the Curves is another new tech solution we're loving. Their byline is 'Plus size shopping sucks- so we fixed it'. On a mission to support and empower women and reinvent the plus size shopping experience, their nifty Brand Finder works by linking you to plus size brands according to your size and style- such a great idea. Cue the Curves is based in the US but many of the brands shop internationally. Their IG content is also a lovely mix of fashion inspo and body positivity messaging.
Aim for flexibility
Bodies change over time. In size and shape. That's ok. That's what's meant to happen.
Read that again.
So many women are afraid to purchase their actual size, ever-hopeful that their bodies will get smaller, or 'go back' to a previous size. This is not only means you are uncomfortable most of the time, it isn’t great for your your body acceptance journey.
But maybe it’s about rethinking what we purchase that is so unforgiving to those very normal body changes.
Some incredible plus size clothing producers in Australia are now innovating in this space so that we can buy something that feels comfortable for now, and know that it will fit over a longer time when our bodies inevitably evolve.
Chasing Springtime is an ethical, sustainable, Melbourne-based brand for 'intelligent, thoughtful women who value quality'. I love them for their gorman-esque bright prints in size 12-26. But they are much more than just pretty colours, they have classic black work pants with an adjustable waistband- hoorah. This brand also puts in the effort to get you the fit you need from an online shopping experience- with guidance for how things fit for curvy bums, or curvy tums, and lots of measurements and descriptive detail.
US brand Universal Standard are revolutionising sizing- stocking size 00-40, and calling a US size18-20 ‘medium’- because that’s the average. Sizing according to the bell curve is one thing, but they also have a ‘Fit Liberty’ collection. If your size changes within a year in one of your pieces from the collection, you can exchange for your new size for free.
Invest in quality pieces
Good quality plus-sized clothing can be expensive- but so is all ethically and sustainably produced clothing in small batches by boutique producers. It's just like an artisanal sourdough costing more than a home-brand loaf of sliced white. Some brands doing great value-driven work include:
Eloquii - US-based label that describes itself as “Trend driven. Fit obsessed” and specialising in sizes 14+.
Avila - ethical, sustainable athleisure designed for comfort. Their bamboo leggings are also literally the softest things I have ever worn- and softness is very important to me!
Field the Label- Rural QLD-based start-up centred around feminine, floral, and flattering dresses that are trans-seasonal and timeless to maximise cost-per-wear. They have thrown out conventional sizing, and created their own alphabetical adjective-based featuring size 'Fabulous', 'Gorgeous', and 'Heavenly (conventional size 16,18, 20). Anyone who has followed the journey of this brand on instagram knows just how hard Edwina has worked to bring this range to life.
Find clothes that work for your specific body shape
No two bodies are the same- no matter what size you identify with. Some size-inclusive brands are now starting to specialise according to body shapes - further specialising in the technical aspects of creating garments that fit particular bodies.
Peach the label- Australian boutique specialising in clothing size 16-26 that fits 'women with booty'...
And watch this space for the launch of new label Pear and Square- Founder Michelle has so much experience in technical fit for pear and rectangle- shaped women, we can't wait to see what she creates!
Don’t forget what’s underneath
Feeling ‘divine and empowered’ isn’t often something that women associate with their period. NZ Indigenous-owned period underwear brand AWWA wanted to change that. AWWA is derived from the Māori word 'awa' meaning river or flow, and Māori referred to their period as te awa atua - ‘the divine river’.
AWWA provides people of all shapes, sizes, and identifiers with innovative, sustainable options to effectively manage their periods- including period underwear and swimwear up to 4XL, with teen and maternity options for postpartum, as well as cute first period packs.
Get in that water!
The range of plus size swimwear options is growing… and we’re here for it.
There's Andie Swim with classic styles for size 0-26, and options to shop according to bust support, bottom coverage, and torso length- so important for one-pieces!
Capriosca Swimwear- Not exactly new- the've probably been around for the longest of any plus sized swimwear brands. But this experience pays off with their inclusive sizing for a range of body shapes, and a huge range.
and Meet Curve- an affordable US-based swimwear store that ships to Australia.
And then there’s the brand for those of us who are plus sized, but without the ‘curves’ up top - leaving the cups half empty… Batoko has classic styled one pieces with bright prints and all made from 100% recycled materials. Their focus is conservation and sustainability, but their sixes range from UK 6-20 (XS-XL), and their glorious insta feed @batoko features real women, not models.
So there you have it- a round up of new and innovative brands that will make you feel good about getting dressed again.
Did we miss someone? If you've found a new brand doing great things to make women feel good about themselves when getting dressed, please let us know!
Dr Zali Yager is the Executive Director at the Body Confident Collective and an Honorary Associate Professor in the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University.
Bringing together the best research and evidence with lived experience, and fresh knowledge from a 2021 survey of over 900+ female fashion consumers from around the world, Zali works with brands and retailers to embed authentic body positivity and radical inclusivity from the inside out.