Only Plus Size When It Pays

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The “plus size” debate is growing tired. Who is, who isn’t, who can speak on our behalf, and why we even need the words “plus size” are all topics in constant media rotation. While the entertainment industry keeps handing the microphone to women who are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be beautiful (in Hollywood), the rest of us are out here getting called “fat bitches” and forced to buy polyester sacks in a strip mall.

It’s trendy to distance yourself from the words “plus size”. Would I love to shop at the exact same stores as my friends and not need industry terms to indicate where I can find clothing in my sizes? Absolutely, but we’re just as close to that utopia as money growing on trees. Those two words are vital to the discovery and navigation of plus size items in retail stores & online shops everywhere. Just as the activewear or outerwear categories are essential, so is plus size. Essential, but not equal, of course.

If you don’t believe that “plus size” is necessary, let’s try an experiment. Recently I was helping a friend search for a white jumpsuit for an event. I went to ShopStyle, an online shopping search engine, and typed in “white jumpsuit“.  864 search results were returned. Start the timer on your phone & see how long it takes you to click through the results to find a white jumpsuit in a size 18 without adding plus size to your search terms. Bonus round: searching for “plus size white jumpsuit” returns 18 results, but only two of the items are actually white. Isn’t being fat fun?

The ability to separate yourself from true plus size women – aka women who can’t walk into most brick & mortar stores to shop – is privilege.

The ability to separate yourself from true plus size women – aka women who can’t walk into most brick & mortar stores to shop – is privilege. The label has no meaning to these women because it doesn’t apply to them, and yet they believe that they somehow have a right in saying how it’s used. Instead of linking arms in solidarity and using their platform to support all women in the many challenges we face in today’s society, they use their words to divide us. Supporting actual plus size women, however, wouldn’t be financially beneficial. The concept of “the greater good” or “women everywhere” seems to be tossed aside the minute they cash their first check.

I’m a size 26/28 and I don’t have the option of walking into Phillip Lim to buy a leather jacket while I’m the face of a plus size brand’s latest fashion campaign. I also don’t have the ability to unburden myself from fat politics because being fat is my reality. It’s not socially acceptable, it’s not media friendly, and it’s not the latest trending Instagram hashtag. Being unable to comprehend the genuine struggle of women larger than you is more than uneducated. It’s ignorant, and if you’ve been handed the microphone, I genuinely believe it is your responsibility to educate yourself on the experiences of the women you’re claiming to represent.

Now tell me, good fatty, when was the last time a man refused to sit next to you on a plane?

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Sarah Conley
Focusing on style and self-esteem with her inimitable sass, Sarah has helped change the conversation about plus size fashion. She is a socially connected influencer, has been the star of viral videos, and helped lead an anti-body shaming campaign that earned an apology from O, the Oprah Magazine. With an approach that is more Role Model than Runway Model, Sarah has built a credible connection with the fashion community as a whole. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in TIME, CNN, Teen Vogue, Glamour, InStyle, Lucky, and more. As a consultant, her social strategies have been executed by former clients ELOQUII, Undone Beauty, NARS, MAC Cosmetics, David Yurman, Diane von Furstenberg, Nine West, Clé de Peau Beauté, and many more. Currently, she serves as the Director of Marketing for Arkansas’s only cut-to-order cheese shop, Sweet Freedom Cheese in Bentonville, Arkansas. When she’s not educating people on the wonders of artisanal cheese or taking her rescue dog, Blueberry Shortcake Flowers, for a walk, Sarah can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @imsarahconley.

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