Our Confused Highstreet‏

More and more highstreet shops now have specialist tall, petite and curve lines, it finally seems like we’re all being catered for doesn’t it. Nice and simple. Except, it really isn’t…and all it takes is a quick look from shop to shop to see why we’re so confused.

So you saw our statistics: we asked 150 students the simple question ‘what size is plus size?, with sizes 16-18 receiving the most votes by far. In agreement with this, Missguided, New Look and H&M all begin their curve ranges here. It all seems reasonable so far, until we look a little further.

ASOS advertises their curve range at 18, but infact sells size 10 clothing labelled as plus size. Our poll was just a small sample, but we didn’t have a single person classify size 10 as plus size, so how representative is this? Mango follows closely behind with their curve range starting at 12, and Zara classify size ‘L’ as 12-14. Less than 3% of the people we asked agreed with this, so why are shops selling clothes to us in this way? Even SimplyBe, the ‘specialists in the area of larger size womenswear’ starts at a size 8.

Mango Curve Range – skirt: £89.99; ASOS petite range – dress: £35

Petite and smaller sizes are no different either. There was no clear size that highstreet brands tended to start their collections at. From ASOS at a size 2, to River Island at a 6, there is once again no consistency to be seen. The largest highstreet sizes we can shop for? Size 32 at New Look, 16 at Topshop, still no clearer then.

Of course there is no shame in any specialist collections, curve, petite or other, but how are we expected to have reasonable attitudes towards body image when the message given to us by the shops that surround us is so chaotic? In recent years, magazines and social media have become somewhat of a body image scapegoat. We blame them for bombarding us with images of unrealistic or extreme body types, but are we not forgetting the key role the highstreet is playing in forming these stereotypes? From the ranges we considered, we felt Mango’s curve range was by far the best, with ASOS reigning supreme for petites. We just wish there was a little less effort taken to navigate what should be normal.

Molly Shanahan

Cover image – ruthrose.co.uk

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