Body positivity might be alive and well online but often, it doesn’t seem to translate into real life.
Plus size collections in many high street stores are often sparse and boring and it’s not too often that you come across larger women dressed in fabulously bombastic outfits.
Why? Well, partly because most jobs require you to schlep about in mundane colours and cuts, but also because society tries to shame those of us who are above a size 10 into ‘dressing for our size’. And that often translates as ‘make yourself appear as slim as possible by fading into the background’.
But you know what? There are maverick dressers out there who rock their own unique style with aplomb and imagination, and finally, there’s a coffee table book out to inspire and celebrate these plus-size fashion gurus.
PLUS+ is the brainchild of blogger Bethany Rutter, and it’s basically made up of pages and pages of style inspiration for all shapes, sizes, colours and personalities.
We caught up with Bethany to talk about the book, the politics of the term ‘plus-size’ and all things body positivity.
What made you decide to create PLUS+?
I felt like Plus+ would fulfil the dual criteria of being beautiful and useful. I like it when work I do can be both of those things.
Sure, it’s a beautiful object, but it’s also useful – you can find style inspiration, interesting people to follow, new ideas of how to think about your style and your body.
How do you feel about the term ‘plus size’?
I’m very pro the term ‘plus size’.
I’ve never encountered a better one that would get mainstream use (it feels like the world still isn’t ready for ‘fat’ yet), and I’m not sure how else people above a size 18 would shop for clothes without signposting. I need ‘plus size’ because it means I can be sure of where to shop, I can search effectively, I can figure out which brands are catering to me and which aren’t.
I’ve noticed most people who are against it are models at the very bottom end of plus size who don’t want to be associated with actually fat women, and I’m not going to take their lead on this!
What’s next for body positivity?
It’s really hard to know where body positivity will go next. I don’t really love the term ‘body positivity’ because it seems quite evasive of that fact: it seems to say that bodies are discriminated against because they’re bodies, not because they deviate from Western beauty standards.
I think it would be much more useful if we were honest about which bodies are discriminated against and why. Which bodies are viewed with negativity and why. For example, fat bodies, disabled bodies, trans bodies, black bodies, scarred bodies deviate from what is considered acceptable and/or profitable in our culture, so I’m interested in specific discussion around how to subvert the negativity attached to those bodies, especially where they intersect, rather than a general ‘body positivity’.
What do you say to people who say that body positivity has gone too far, that the discussions are too ubiquitous?
I think the fact is that body positivity isn’t going far enough, because it’s been held back by its assimilation into mainstream culture and advertising.
It’s become profitable, so it’s going backwards in how useful it can be.
Is ‘fat phobia’ an ongoing issue and should we be talking about it more?
I would love to talk more about fatphobia, but it’s exhausting.
Whenever I talk about the reality of life as a fat woman and how I’m treated in different spaces and industries, it becomes impossible to use my Twitter account for the next day because I’m bombarded with people telling me how wrong and disgusting I am. It would be good if mainstream publications took on that work for us, and helped absorb some of the backlash.
Who are your main plus size influences?
I think one of the best fat-positive writers in the world is Virgie Tovar. I find her style inspiring but I find her writing and advice life-changing. It’s realistic, compassionate, useful and humane. I adore her column on Ravishly.
In terms of style, I would say Mo Handahu is my number one style crush. She blogs as Miss Lion Hunter.
Best plus size style tip?
My plus size style tip would be the same I would give anyone of any size: make sure what you’re buying is really you.
Six days out of seven, I want to wear a shirt or a t-shirt tucked into some high-waisted trousers, so it doesn’t make sense for me to buy a lot of dresses even if they’re beautiful. They’re just not me.
Knowing your style and what you actually want to put on when you’re getting ready in the morning will save you so much money on clothes you only wear once in a blue moon.
Where do you love to shop for clothes?
Most of my clothes come from navabi, where I work as social editor, ASOS Curve or Marks & Spencer.
I also adore Premme (I’m wearing a really cute skirt from there today!) and because I like quite a minimal style a lot of the time, I also want to buy more from Universal Standard. I would love if there was a UK equivalent of Universal Standard!
What’s the main takeaway from the PLUS+ project?
The main thing I’ve learned from putting Plus+ together is just how repetitive many features on plus size fashion can be. They highlight the same people every time, when Plus+ shows how many incredible people there are around the world with amazing style who never get half the exposure.
There’s room for all of us, and I want to shine a light on people who we don’t usually get to hear from. I hope others take away some style inspiration from new sources.
PLUS+ is out now and you can get it for £11.74 here.