Between the unflattering fluorescent lighting and the challenge of finding a suit that actually fit both your top and bottom half just, swimsuit shopping can be a total nightmare.
Now repeat that experience say 20 – 30 times. That's about how bad it is for many plus-size women to find a swimsuit that not only fits but is actually stylish and pretty.
This point was recently illustrated best by blogger Aliss Bonython, who posted a picture of herself struggling in a dressing room, trying on a swimsuit that just didn’t fit or flatter her body. She captioned the photo with "The reality of bikini shopping as a plus-size woman".
Yes, Bonython's experience was every woman in a fitting room trying to find a flattering swimsuit, but it pales in comparison to what it would have been like 10 years ago for a plus-size woman to find a suit that fits. We credit the body positivity movement — and high-profile plus-size women like Ashley Graham and Robin Lawley — for helping this progress along.
It used to be easy for designers to ignore the plus-size market because we didn’t have the diverse representation that is now at our fingertips with mainstream media and platforms like Instagram. Now these women have a voice and as holders of a large share of the market – roughly 20 billon dollar a year market for plus – size swimwear, retailers are realizing they need to sit up and take notice and start offering quality, fashion forward pieces for women of all shapes and sizes.
Despite these steps forward, companies like Curvy Swimwear are a minority and there is still a shortage in the market for stylish, quality plus size swimwear.
Still, companies like Curvy Swimwear and Capricosca remain in the minority. There are brands — like Cupshe and Seafolly— that carry limited plus-size swimwear, but most mainstream brands still don’t extend their ranges to include plus size swimwear, and the industry as a whole remains largely uncharted.
What are the problems facing plus-size women now?
The biggest problem plus-size women are facing right now is the lack of options when it comes to swimsuit styles.
The styles are often one extreme to the other – either overly matronly or too sexy and designed to a one-shape fits all mould.
There has been a clear disconnect between designers and their customer and their needs.Designers aren’t approaching the process from a fashion point of view or they are working with pre-conceived ideas about what women actually want to wear. Just like all women plus size women carry their weight in different places and to offer 2 styles of swimsuits is ridiculous. One style is not going to fit all.
The plus-size customer has always been underserved when it comes to age-appropriate clothing that is stylish, fashion forward and fits well. No one has taken care of these customers until now. The stereotype has been she doesn't care how she looks, so why give her stylish clothing?
Things are starting to change in the industry, for one, women are beginning to speak up, like Aliss Bonython — which in the age of social media and viral outrage is forcing brands to bend (see: #GrabYourWallet's success) when called out. Models like Robyn Lawley and Ashley Graham, both of whom are plus sized, stepping up to help give plus-size women more options,calling the industry out on the lack of representation and working with brands to design swimsuits that cater to what the plus size woman wants!
What needs to change?
Once everyone realizes that, plus size or not, then it'll be easier to promote this idea that plus-size women not only want — but deserve — a quality, cute swimsuit like everyone else.
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