The fashion industry has long been criticized for its lack of inclusivity, particularly when it comes to catering to the needs of plus size individuals. While Shein, a popular online fast fashion retailer, has faced its fair share of scrutiny, the relationship between Shein and the plus size community is not as cut and dry as it may seem. While it is important to acknowledge the problematic practices of fast fashion companies, it is equally crucial to understand the underlying factors that have contributed to the limited options for plus size consumers.
Reduced Clothing Options and Extended Sizes:
In recent years, the availability of clothing options for plus size individuals has been significantly reduced. Retailers that had just begun expanding their size ranges prior to the COVID-19 pandemic have been forced to cut back due to economic challenges. This has resulted in a decrease in choices for plus size consumers, leaving them with limited options to find trendy and affordable clothing.
Economic Challenges for Plus Size Individuals:
Statistics show that plus size individuals tend to earn less than their thinner counterparts. The median pay of the average American citizen is already low, and rising inflation has further diminished the buying power of the dollar. This economic reality places additional constraints on plus size individuals, making it difficult for them to find clothing that not only fits their size but also fits their budget.
Import Policies and the American Job Market:
One crucial aspect that often gets overlooked is the role of import policies and the impact they have on the American job market. The influx of cheap products from countries like China is a result of government policies that allow such imports to enter the United States freely. This practice has had a devastating effect on the American manufacturing industry, leading to job losses and economic hardships for many communities.
Blaming the Wrong Parties:
It is easy to blame influencers or individuals seeking affordable and accessible clothing for the plight of the plus size community. However, this blame fails to acknowledge the systemic issues that lie at the heart of the problem. The responsibility should lie with elected officials who have favored policies that prioritize cheap overseas production over domestic job creation.
The Plus Size Consumer: Last on the Priority List
The plus size consumer often finds themselves at the bottom of the fashion priority list, with limited options and inadequate representation. While it is crucial to encourage responsible shopping practices, it is important to understand that many of the asks placed on the plus size community are unrealistic given their economic circumstances. Holding the plus size consumer accountable for the failures of the fashion industry and import policies is unfair and counterproductive.
Sustainability comes with a higher pricetag.
Another significant challenge faced by the plus size community and sustainability advocates is the high cost of buying sustainable options. While sustainable clothing is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it often comes with a hefty price tag. As someone who purchases sustainable items, I have experienced immediate backlash when wearing pieces that exceed the $100 price point. These items, often sourced from black-owned businesses or produced in smaller quantities, reflect a commitment to ethical production practices. However, it is unfair to blame the consumer when many individuals simply do not have the financial means to invest in sustainable fashion. This dilemma is further exacerbated by the prevailing culture of capitalism, which encourages the idea of quantity over quality, favoring purchasing seven items for $100 over investing in a single item for the same price.
The relationship between Shein and the plus size community highlights the complex issues within the fashion industry. While fast fashion practices and the limited options for plus size consumers should be critiqued, it is equally important to address the systemic factors that have contributed to these challenges. Blaming individuals at the bottom of the fashion hierarchy ignores the larger structural issues that need to be addressed at the top. As consumers, we can strive for responsible shopping habits, but the responsibility for change lies with elected officials and policies that prioritize the environment, responsible production, and American jobs.