The release of the Mango Violeta collection has caused more complaint than pretty much any plus size line I’ve seen in ages. Maybe ever. I’m actually not too distressed by the clothes, which I think are conservative but chic and simple as opposed to frumpy. What has really taken me by surprise is the complains over the range of sizes available. I have seen criticism after criticism of the fact the range runs from a 12 to a 24. This has been going on since the collection launched last week, and I’m still hearing it now. The issue I have with this is that 90% of the criticism is focusing on one end of that size range: the 12. But both ends of the size scale speak to fatphobia in their own ways.
Starting the range of sizes at a 12 has been met with wails of ‘but a 12 isn’t fat! It’s not plus size! What’s the world coming to?’ which carries its fatphobia on multiple levels. One: what constitutes ‘plus’ is getting lower and lower, and more and more women are being included within the ‘plus size’ label. I actually don’t consider this to be a problem because I don’t consider being considered to be fat to be a problem. Two: it means I have to listen to women cry on the internet about the fact they’re being considered fat. Obviously some people have specific histories of serious body dysmorphia and eating disorders, and I’m sorry for that. But until there is a cultural prize attached to fatness and a cultural stigma attached to thinness, we can never have meaningful discussions about why it’s so important that women get to retain their badge of honour for being considered thin.
It’s ending the range at a 24 that’s the problem to me. I actually don’t give a damn that it starts at a 12 because I can’t bring myself to care about the ‘hurt feelings’ of size 12 women, when the fact is that women over a 24 are being excluded. The size 12s and 14s are literally complaining about being INCLUDED at a time when women bigger than them are being routinely and systematically EXCLUDED from fashion. Imagine that privilege! To be able to complain about a retailer making clothes available to you, rather than keeping you away from their clothes at all costs. Focusing on the fact that ‘wow what a horror, a size 12 is considered fat’ is almost entirely occurring at the expense of examining why larger fats are being pushed further and further out of fashion. I haven’t seen a single thin woman who’s raised complaints over the plus collection starting at a 12 identify the tandem problem of the fact it excludes women bigger than them- neither by virtue of including size 12s, or as an additional but related factor.
I guess what I’m saying is: when we talk about plus size fashion, can we focus on the plus size women?