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Of Hypocritical Societies and Personal Inspirations

Student reporter Ananya Singh explores the role of fashion brands in promoting body positivity

Of Hypocritical Societies and Personal Inspirations

“Approximately 46 million people in India are plus size”

Yet, how many times have we seen regular stores selling sizes larger than an XL? Do you remember the last time you saw a model who had the same girth as you? Which promotional videos or social media posts target plus size customers specifically?

The Oxford Dictionary defines Body Positivity as “acceptance and appreciation of all body types, including one’s own”. But just a few days ago I saw a group of people on the street laughing at a person in a wheelchair! How does society expect people classed as “different” to accept themselves when a wider audience doesn’t? Why are clothes for disabled people not advertised? Why are there just a handful of disabled artists in our cinema industries? The way I see it, the problem is one of acceptance, existing for plus size as well as disabled people. Focusing primarily on the plus size issue, let us come back to the question - Why is there such a limited number of plus size models?

Popular opinion has shown that plus size models are those with a dress size of 8 or higher. Interestingly, this criteria appeared to apply only to female models and not male models as “they are sized in the 30’s and every male model would be a plus size.”  But sidelining the fact for a moment, it was found that a study, “The (Ironic) Dove Effect: Use of Acceptance Cues for Larger Body Types Increases Unhealthy Behaviours” conducted by Lily Lin and Brent McFerran in 2016 suggested that plus size models encouraged an unhealthy lifestyle.

“The acceptance of larger body types result in greater intended or actual consumption of food and a reduced motivation to engage in a healthier lifestyle”  and that “people exhibit lower motivation to engage in healthy behaviours and consume greater portions of unhealthy food.”

This indicates that plus size models act as a negative motivation to society and the harm done is more than any increase in self-esteem of people. What would lead from this then is that thin models are better.

However, this does not appear to be the case as the recent New York Times post Bye-bye booty: Heroin chic is backwas met with great antagonism and people were majorly unhappy when this reemerging trend was showcased at the Paris Fashion Week and Miu Miu Spring 2023 show. Yet most sizes available in clothing brands don’t extend beyond XL, or at the most XXL. This is a serious problem for plus size people for whom it becomes difficult to find clothes.

To combat this issue, brands such as Amydus, Intermod Work Wear, PlusS, and Meera Creations are working to increase inclusivity by providing sizes from XXS to 6XL (and some to even 10XL!).

Amydus is an international brand selling in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE, US, and UK aside from India. It sells a variety of clothing, from dresses and pants, to kurtis and semi-formal wear. Unfortunately, it focuses only on women as customers and so is not a solution for plus size men.

Covering up this flaw, PlusS is an Indian brand providing clothes in the latest print and colours for men, women, and children! Their stores are located in New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Haryana, Jaipur and Punjab. Why not go and check them out? No size is too big or small!

Next up is Intermod Work Wear, focusing only on comfortable formal wear for plus size women, an extremely prevalent problem as formal wear is very rarely available in comfortable formats and sizes. Its limitations, however, include existing only as an online brand, without any physical stores.

Last, but not least, is Meera Creations. Started in 2012, by Priti Bhatia, the Plus Size Store by the same name was established by her daughter, Aanchal Bhatia, in 2018, when she was still in college. She decided on this particular client niche due to a personal journey of not finding clothes as a child due to being chubby. This made her constantly feel the pressure of losing weight and becoming thinner. Further research into the problem showed her that this was a gap in the clothing  industry which was often conveniently ignored. Initially, the struggle was in attracting audiences willing to try out plus size clothing as the idea was extremely new in the area back then, but the idea slowly gained traction as people accepted themselves and their requirements. Focusing essentially on traditional Indian wear in ethnic Rajasthani prints, their clothes range from XS till  10XL. Do try out their store for lehengas, kurtis, ghagras, anarkalis, etc in the popular prints of sanganeri, bagru, and bandhani.

The second problem of acceptance is applicable to disabled people, despite  “over 5 million people in India (who) have a disability in movement” at the very least. Why are the labels or instructions on clothes not in braille for blind people to understand? Do people with mobility issues not face challenges fitting into the clothes ‘abled’ people wear? Have we ever taken time to notice that everyday things are not adapted for disabled people? In fact, I don’t remember the last time I saw a model in a wheelchair, or a brand advertising clothing for them!

Research has shown that there are brands selling clothes for disabled persons, but they are not widely popular. In fact, many didn’t even have their own website! What’s even more upsetting is that many of these brands were created by disabled people themselves who didn’t have any other alternatives. Some of these are Zyenika, created by Soumita Basu, and Suvastra Designs by Shalini Visakan. Ms Soumita Basu founded Zyenika after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Unable to find outfits which were easy to wear and fashionable at the same time, she turned self-reliant and began designing clothes such as buttonless kurtas, and wraparound saris which could be worn while lying down! She then went on to expand her clothing for men including velcro and magnetic shirt buttons, trousers with loops, and much more! Similarly, Ms Shalini Visakan founded Suvastra Designs inspired by her husband who was diagnosed with polio. Many of her designs have been showcased on ramps as well, and her work has been featured in newspaper articles too. You can check all these out on her instagram page Suvastra Designs.

All hope is not lost. Baller Athletik, a sports clothing brand, designs clothes for abled as well as disabled people, showcasing true understanding and leading the way for acceptance in society. An interview with them showed the changing mindset of people in the clothing industry. They displayed a true sense of equality and logic in the treatment of disabled people.

If everyone deserves to have an equal chance in sport, then why not sportswear?

Our gear is designed and built for all athletes - including para athletes. The technology embedded in our clothing can positively impact our athletes in performance, recovery and sleep, and can be worn for work outs or other athletic pursuits. We’ve worked with a few wheelchair born athletes that have pursued careers in sports such as basketball, throw ball and recently Boccia, and they all saw improvements in their performance.”

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