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Vintage Clothing and Plus Sizes

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  • Post last modified:17/12/2023
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Plus size clothing

Plus size clothing is designed to provide a more comfortable and flattering fit for those with curvier or larger figures.

The phrase ‘plus size’ has gained currency in the last decade in fashion—a moniker most designers and brands are quick to make their own to authenticate their offerings with an ‘inclusive’ tag.

Dig a little deeper, and you will find most stakeholders in the industry play fast and loose with the term ‘plus size’, often colluding to deny women with larger bodies the opportunity to dress in looks they actually like. Instead shrouding them in ill-fitting clothes that do nothing for them or complement their extra curves or larger physique.

Back view of unrecognizable young fit woman with blond hair in sportswear standing near plus size female friend against white background
Credits: SHVETS production

Vintage clothes growing popularity

Vintage clothing can be a great way to add a unique flair to your wardrobe, giving you a timeless look with a modern twist. Vintage clothing is often made from higher-quality materials lasting much longer than modern clothing.

Finding plus size vintage clothing can often be a challenge which we explore here.

Assorted Clothes on Hangers

The Covid pandemic has spiked conscientious shopping, which also helped transform the vintage clothing industry into a burgeoning industry rooted in nostalgia and exclusivity.

With the vintage clothing industry continuing to be popular globally among fashionista and shoppers, the second-hand clothing market is expected to double in the next five years, reaching $77 billion. But does this segment have a plus size problem?

Shopping for plus size vintage clothes

When shopping for vintage clothes the selection for plus sizes becomes limited. The options sometimes verge on non-existent. The problems with plus size vintage clothing is finding clothes that are high quality, a fair price point and sustainable materials.

Finding vintage pieces in bigger sizes seems to be near impossible. Just visit your local swap shop or go online to popular vintage marketplaces. Many plus size shoppers will tell you that shopping at a vintage store often comes with a lot of embarrassment, from asking if they have bigger sizes, to asking to try things on.

Woman in Black Leather Jacket  Standing Near Clothing Rack
Credits: Ron Lach

Shopping for vintage clothing can be a great way to support local businesses. As many of these clothing items are not available in chain stores, so it is often best to shop around at local businesses when buying these types of clothing.

While vintage clothing stores have existed for decades, many new small businesses have entered the vintage market via popular online platforms and social media stores. Many of which only stock small sized items, with little to none plus sized items.

The lack of plus size vintage clothes

The problem of the lack of plus size vintage clothing may not be down to the vintage shops or the vintage clothing platforms. But more that the problem lies in the fact that many vintage pieces are the brainchild of deeply ‘fatphobic’ designers in that time. Many of whom believed a thin body should be the gold standard of how women’s bodies globally should be celebrated.

Historically, fashion fat-shaming has been a major problem, along with ageism and racism and other prejudice.

The catwalks were filled with white skinny young models, with maybe with one token plus sized model walking each show.

This type of past prejudice by designers is the likely the biggest cause and explanation as to why plus size vintage clothing are lacking in numbers and difficult to find.

Photo of Runway Model Modelling a Black Outfit
Credits: SK

What’s changing for plus size

The global plus-size market is estimated to have a global annual worth of $194 billion. Fashion is for everyone and every shape. As well the trend of buying second hand clothing continues to grow and we are in an era where attitudes are changing. The historical gold standard is no longer recognised as more people value diversity.

We are in an era where vintage clothing actually works better for plus sized. The shift to size zero and embracing ‘thinness’ has only occurred in the last 20 years. What is a ‘medium’ today was a ‘small’ a few decades ago, primarily in the 60s and 70s. People and clothing manufacturers back then and now are more open to the idea that people come in different shapes and sizes.

The size debate is actually an emotional one, as it is very personal. Brands and businesses are becoming more conscious of that and are changing their sizing and products to reflect the new attitudes and views on diversity and acceptance.

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