Navigating Sustainability When You’re Plus Size

In the last few years, we’ve seen sustainability become somewhat of a new ‘buzzword’. Brands from the worlds of fashion, beauty, lifestyle and home are beginning to try and take more ethical responsibility with how they produce products and pieces and within fashion.

Men’s Blue Shirt – British Heart Foundation // Yellow Dungarees – Emperor’s Old Clothes // Shoes – ASOS

We are seeing more and more people turning towards sustainable clothing in a bid to reduce the extensive carbon footprints often left by the mass production of clothing, as well as focusing money towards brands who do not use sweatshops or child labour. As wonderful and as ethical (for the most part, depending on the brand) as this is, I’d say that in terms of accessibility and inclusivity, sustainability still has a long way to go. As much as I would absolutely love to start purchasing and lending myself into the whole sustainability thing, I still find it incredibly difficult to find brands that:

  • create sustainable plus size clothing which
  • doesn’t require a remortgage to buy and
  • still caters to my personal sense of style, featuring
  • current, trend-led pieces that aren’t boring or frumpy

Finding a piece of sustainable clothing that does all the above is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s an absolute rarity. Sure, we have online stores such as eBay and Depop (Which is slightly younger and more-trend led) where we can probably find clothes, but going into a physical charity shop is another pain in itself. I’ve often found that smaller people will buy up the plus size clothing in a bid to create an oversized look, or they end up cutting/customising the piece to create something completely new. That’s great and all, but it doesn’t really bode that well for larger people who may be wanting to shop second hand too.

There is also a genuine lack of stores that cater to plus-size people in general and the ones that do are mostly fast fashion. I sometimes receive comments on my Instagram after posting photos from people, chastising me for wearing ASOS and Pretty Little Thing. Sorry Karen, but until Topshop, Zara, And Other Stories, Monki, Whistles, H&M Conscious, Boden, People Tree and all the other mainstream brands such creating clothing that goes up to a size 28/30 (and beyond), then I’m forced to keep shopping with the brands that cater to my size.

Is there anything we can do in the meantime?

Most definitely! I want to trust and believe that in the future, brands will do more to be a lot more inclusive when it comes to sustainability, as well as the plus size brands we already shop at doing more to be more ethical with their fashion, but until that happens, here are a few ways we can kinda-sorta navigate the scene!

  • First and foremost, don’t let anyone guilt or shame you for buying fast fashion clothing if you’re a larger fat person, especially if they have a privileged body and can shop anywhere. You don’t know what it’s like to only have 0.2% of brands make clothes in your size, Karen!
  • I know looking online can be exhausting, but there ARE a few sustainable and ethical brands that can create clothing made to order. Plus Equalsis a FABULOUS Brighton-based plus size brand whose sizes start from a size 14 and go all the way up to a size 42!! Another Brighton based brand (look at Brighton, being ahead of the curve!) is The Emperor’s Old Clothes,who create made-to-order garments from vintage and dead-stock garments which I think is such a sick idea! They create everything from dresses, shorts, trousers and skirts, to their signature dungarees, and you can also create your own dungarees too like I did with these mustard ones that I’m wearing above!
  • In extreme cases, buy men’s clothing in vintage shops. Sorry men! I bought this blue shirt from The British Heart Foundation charity shop in Croydon a couple of months ago from the men’s section and I am completely in love with it! Obviously don’t go mad when it comes to buying men’s clothing, but also – fuck it. If it fits, it fits.
  • ASOS Curve have started introducing their Recycled range which is amazing. Now, you can buy recycled denim jeans, trousers, tops and specific bras from their range, which is a start!
  • Levis also have strong commitments to sustainability, with several initiatives such as the Water < Less initiative (using production techniques that use far less water, which to date has saved 1.8 billion litres of water), and their Better Cotton Initiative, which trains farmers to use less water, less pesticides and synthetic fertilizer when growing cotton, and the Authorised Vintage demin initiative, where they sell reused denim jeans (obviously after being cleaned and fixed up of course!). Levi’s also do plus size clothing, so great times all round!
  • Follow your favourite plus size influencers and keep alert to see if they do any clothing sales on their Instagram!
  • Be more thoughtful when buying pieces. Yes, organza sleeves are all the rage now, but will you be wearing it in 3 years’ time? Investment buys are the one – and investment doesn’t automatically mean it has to be pricey! If I come across a mid-length camel trenchcoat that costs £60, I’d consider it an investment piece as camel trenchcoats NEVER go out of fashion – Burberry made sure of that! Maybe start trying to curate a capsule wardrobe featuring pieces that you know will never go out of style?

 

Photography – Kaye Ford

 

Ultimately, when it comes to the fashion industry’s impact on the climate, progress won’t be made if sections of the population are not provided with the tools to change. Hopefully we’ll be able to see progress soon but for now, we just have to make do with what we have available to us!

 

 

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