Back in the 80s, a million years ago when dinosaurs ruled the earth, being plus-sized was the sartorial kiss of death. Clothing for “big girls” was generally either cheaply made, hard to find, or, if it was good quality, expensive. There really weren’t a lot of places to find plus-sized clothing, and the variety left a lot to be desired. By and large, if you were large, it was assumed you were also an 80-year-old church lady. Fashion did not exist for most of us.
When I first busted out of “normal” sized clothing, the sizing that didn’t make any sense to me. Being that I was MUCH smaller on top than on the bottom, I could find shirts and such. Pants, however, were painfully difficult to locate. Pants, rather than 18, 20, etc. were marked 32, 34, 36, etc. They really were being sold by waist size. Which, as I’ve explained, was a good deal smaller than my hip size.
On top of the sizing was the issue of WHERE to buy clothing. I believe there were small (and by small, I mean 3-4 rounders of clothes) at Target, K-Mart, and Richman-Gordman (or later, Half-Price Store). As I grew older, I would go to the mall. Trust me Lane Bryant is a tame name compared with “House of Large Sizes” (now the name of a punk-alternative band) or “Pretty Plus”. While Sears offered “husky” sizes for girls (I also think under the name Pretty Plus) in the catalog, there wasn’t much in real life. In fact, most of my shopping was done by mail-order catalog where I would save my pennies for a cute skirt that I hoped was stylish.
Mind you, by the late-80s and certainly into the 90s, plus-sized fashion was much more accepted. Designers did a better job of creating fun, young, flirty fashion for the “alternatively sized” person. Now, it’s a booming business. Just this last week I ended up ordering some cute (and let’s be honest, super cheap) tops from Forever 21. Not the regular store, the PLUS SIZED side of the store. In fact, now The Limited has an entire plus size line and shop, and the Macy’s at Westgate San Jose has half a floor devoted to those of us not skinny.
I’m sure a lot of this has to do with the sheer number of women who are now plus-sized. In my day, there was one or two fat kids in class. Now, it’s closer to half the class that is chunky. While I’m not crazy that obesity levels have risen, I am happy that a whole generation or more of larger girls will be able to comfortably conform to teenaged fashion trends because they (and their mothers, aunts, and friends) are now viewed as a viable income source for designers. Meaning, of course, that they have fun clothes to wear.
For those whose style is not merely dictated by shoes and accessories, I say, “LUCKY!”