Representation is a fashion byword but brands are a long way from being size-inclusive. I don’t think they are even trying.
I am a solid size 16 UK; 18 to 20 in some styles (nonstretchy), so that’s 2XL-3XL. Unlike people who can’t be bothered, I actually like dressing up even if fashion snubs the plus size and what is supposed to be a form of self-expression has been a source of stress.
Before the pandemic, I would buy clothes from British brands in the malls. They were more expensive and styles were limited but at least they fit. Those stores have since closed.
Traveling came with the fear of losing my luggage in transit because I would never fit in “straight size” clothes, so I always packed an extra outfit in my carry-on, just in case.
I have worn jeans only in the winter, and those, too, were hard to find because it was embarrassing to ask for a size 40-plus denim (with allowance for layering) from a petite sales lady (“Ma’am, hanggang 36 lang”). My coats and thermal wear were bought from New York, thanks to my friend Lang, who lugged them to Manila.
Don’t get me wrong, plus-size clothes do exist in the Philippines—but they’re ugly. I am talking about matronly blouses and frumpy dresses, and they are always in black or hideous polyester paisley. Black is fine, but not all the time.
It’s 2021, and fashion brands are still ignoring fat people, or expecting us to get thinner, stat. Are brands not aware, or they just don’t care?
No one heard of “trend-proof staples for big women” simply because they don’t exist, at least in Manila. There are some from the United States, but expect bad proportions—too long sleeves and pant legs, too narrow shoulders. At times, I would buy a dressy jacket out of desperation even if alterations cost more than the actual clothing. Tailoring is an option but it takes time.
Finding ready-to-wear everyday clothes and office wear for anyone beyond size 12 (large) is a struggle. Forget sportswear and sexy lingerie; forget designer clothes as well (just get a scarf). One might try to baggy it up like Billie Eilish but there’s the risk of looking like Adam Sandler.
According to charts, I’m an “apple” like Oprah and Adele when she was still making music: “shoulders, bust, waist and hips are fairly uniform, but shoulders and hips may be slightly narrower,” but I feel cylindrical, more like a beer keg.
So when I find age-appropriate stuff that looks good on me, I buy them in all colors and make them my “uniform.”
‘Asian’ sizing a sham
The “Asian” sizing is also frustrating. “XXL” on tag is barely large and “fits up to . . . ” is a sham. Yes, it may fit, but the fabric would be so stretched out, and buttons would pop.
Aside from fit and style, fabrication is important in plus-size dressing, both for comfort and hiding flab. And since brands don’t seem to have larger people on the design team aside from heavily styled “plus” models, I started buying clothes with no brands online.
A quick “plus size” search on Shopee would yield incredible results: dresses, pambahay, “terno” (coords), bralettes! The unbranded clothes are mass-produced in factories in Taytay, Rizal, and fairly cheap, with basic V-neck shirts from P95 and oversized hoodies from P150. Dresses are actually chic and come in pastels. Popular fabrics are breathable cotton spandex, challis and a lot of neoprene.
The quality, at best, is “pwede na” and sizes until 5XL-6XL are available, but the problem with Taytay fashion is its unpredictability. The style may be the same but the fabrics would be different. Manufacturers simply follow trends. Retail consumers compete with resellers for stocks. Some designs are also ridiculous, like diamond-print joggers that look like clown pants.
Shopee offers thick women style but the clothes can be disposable. Still, online shopping has democratized plus-size dressing.
I am not, in any way, advocating an unhealthy lifestyle; I just want nice clothes. If Rihanna can create 50 shades for a concealer, why can’t retailers make proportional clothes for bigger people? We have buying power, too. INQ