This Is One Way Fashion Is A Feminist Issue

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When a woman says I am plus size she is self labeling. When the fashion industry does it they're knowingly creating a divide between fashion and feminism.

cami applequist body positive

The Body Positive Movement Is Every Feminist's Issue

There is a shift in the fashion industry right now. Plus size women are purposefully bucking the stigma that has traditionally been associated with their bodies. During New York Fashion Week 2014, Denise Bidot broke many barriers by becoming the first plus size model to walk two runways for straight size brands, CHROMAT and Serena Williams' HSN fashion line. On VProud there's an amazing interview with Denise where she opens the conversation about plus size labels and poses the questions who are they truly for, and how necessary and helpful are they really. Denise is one example of a woman changing the conversation about what does body positive mean to all of us and where the lines between fashion and feminism blur and overlap. Writer Cami Applequist reflects on this video and conversation from the perspective of someone who does openly claim and say I am plus size, but also as someone who questions the effects of literal and figurative labels. Take a look at what Cami has to say about this one way that the body positive movement and fashion are every feminist's issue and see how her thoughts reflect—or affect—your own thoughts on plus size labels.

—The VProud Team

denise bidot plus size labels

Should The Fashion Industry Do Away With The Plus Size Label?

By Cami Applequist for VProud

We all need to wear clothes or we’ll be arrested, or at the very least, cold. And a pair of pants is just a pair of pants, a shirt just a shirt, a dress a dress and so on. They are virtually all the same thing. Until the label is added. Some labels are helpful, others are not. 100% wool is good to know for seasonal purchases. An approximate size is good to know to save time in the dressing room. But these labels withhold judgement.

The labels created by the fashion industry for marketing are about judgment. They are about placing people in boxes and putting people in categories. Making money is the goal. Not making life easy or comfortable. By giving each of us a tidy place to reside in their stores and in their accounting books and a role to play in society, their business plan continues to run easily. They need their “plus size” label – their petites, juniors, missies, big and talls, oval rooms …

But we don’t.

They will never get rid of labels, hence, it becomes our job to do so. I have been wearing clothing labeled “plus size” all of my adult life. I have therefore labeled myself as a “plus size” person, just as I have every other woman who wears this label. We often find “plus size” fashion hidden in basements of department stores, off in lonely strip malls or only available online. So then, it is common to find “plus size” women ashamed and hiding out, unavailable both physically and emotionally. This is something I did myself for many years, feeling the shame of being a larger woman in a world that seemed to disapprove of me as someone who is different and must be separate.

I have spent several years fighting these labels both branded on me from the outside and accepted from within. There was a large emotional, mental and physical toll. Discovering the real issues that were to blame for the separation of large sizes from small sizes and learning about the feminist issues involved in fashion marketing of all clothing (and everything else) helped me to become critical about what I was seeing and the messages I was receiving. Understanding my own personal struggles with self-esteem that were unrelated to my own body size and resolving those helped me as well. The Fashion industry along with its close buddy the diet industry had succeeded 100% in sending me the message that all I needed to do to solve all of my problems was “Get a better body and all will be well! Lose weight and rid yourself of the ‘Plus Size’ problems now!”

We are the ones who need to remove the labels and the significance we place on them. Hopefully, the industry will respond to us when we stop seeing ourselves as different, as bad or ‘less than’. They will have no other choice but to stop treating us as different. We need to take away their power.

Models like Denise Bidot are doing this. Sure, the fashion industry is giving her clothes to model and a platform to speak from, but while they continue to limit “Plus Size” choices and hide those limited choices in basements, she is the one saying, “I don’t care what you call me. My body is beautiful. I am beautiful. You are beautiful.”

Tess Holliday and Melissa McCarthy are also leading the way. These women are already out there talking about their bodies without shame. Talking back to those who want to shame them. Looking people in the eye and saying, “Your label does not matter to me.” They know the label will not go away. They are making it not matter.

We are all just women. Who need to wear pants and shirts and dresses. We are all lovely wonderful people with stories and loves and passions and families. We are people with a trillion things that matter so much more than the label on our pants or the department in which we buy those pants.

We can jump out of the boxes they put us in whenever we want. We just need to say it does not matter. A pair of pants is just a pair of pants.

cami applequist vproud
Cami Applequist is a writer and artist in Lowertown Saint Paul who pays her bills by making art with kids as a workshop leader and nanny. She has written for the Emily Program blog and read a piece on body image at Listen to Your Mother 2014 in the Twin Cities. More of her writing, ramblings and info on where to see her art can be found on her blog. Join Cami's honest conversations on VProud.

Join This Honest Conversation 

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You go, Denise Bidot: Should the fashion industry do away with the "plus-size" label?

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