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Why Is Inclusive Sizing So Hard?

Something is very wrong.

variety of models wearing Elizabeth Suzann's little black dress Photo: Elizabeth Suzann

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Initially this was going to be a list, a straightforward database of inclusive brands that would live on Racked. Both a resource for anyone interested, and a reward for the brands that don’t make women who wear over or under a particular size shop in a different department, or click a separate tab; we’d update it as more brands jumped on board. But when I started to assemble the list, I couldn’t find more than three.

In the last couple of months, celebrities like Khloe Kardashian and Zendaya have made inclusive sizing a pillar of their fashion labels, Of Mercer and Elizabeth Suzann have extended their sizing, and Racked’s shopping team has made a concentrated effort to discover new inclusive brands, like Phylyda and Floravere. There are other outliers too, notably collaborations like Outlander for Hot Topic & Torrid (the stores themselves split by size) and Who What Wear for Target. But for the most part, women sizes 0 to 14 can shop in one kind of store, those sizes 14 to 28 in another, and those over a size 28 are just shit out of luck.

Much has been written about why this might be, from manufacturing problems (it takes more fabric!) to image problems (“No one wants to see curvy women”) to the belief that plus-size women don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes because they plan to lose the weight.

“I haven't really enjoyed clothing shopping in the way I think other women do since I left standard sizes,” says Hillary Dixler, senior reports editor at our sister site Eater, who is currently a size 16. “It sucks to not have anything to try on in basic mall stores like Anthropologie or J.Crew. And have you been to a department store’s plus-size department? I'm not trying to dress like Ina Garten while I'm 30.”

It was Hillary who got me thinking about inclusive sizing in the first place. I have my own problems with it at indie boutiques across New York, where I have to beg for a size 8 or 10 or — and I can’t decide which is worse — have the sales associate assure me, “We have bigger sizes in back!”

Hillary’s disappointment over the brands featured in Racked’s service content is totally valid. If our answer to where to buy the best work pants is Everlane, Artizia, Cos, and Theory — brands that only go up to size 12 — what was she supposed to do? Even if we only cast models over a size 6, the clothes we put them in aren’t available in a size 18. And if we cast a size 18, the clothes we put her in won’t be available in a size 6!

Racked will never be as inclusive and accessible as we want to be until more brands jump on board. Modcloth made headlines when it opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Austin earlier this month because they are selling sizes 00 through 30 on the same racks. After digging deep, I am pretty sure it’s the only store in which women of all sizes can shop off the same rack. That is crazy.

“A size 16 or 18 woman is trained so that if she walks into J.Crew, she’s just going to feel bad about herself,” says Katie Sturino, the blogger behind 12ish Style (and Toast’s mom). “That is the big key — and why women are so loyal to brands like Lane Bryant — because they make them feel welcome to have a shopping experience.” Until mainstream stores offer inclusive sizing, consumers can only shop with like-sized friends, which sucks.

So for now, we’ll keep highlighting brands that are spurring real change and demand it from the rest. Please continue to share your favorites with me —

Watch: Why women’s clothing sizes don’t make sense