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Plus-size fashion: Singapore's most stylish curvy women on where to shop size-inclusive clothing

Plus-size fashion: Singapore's most stylish curvy women on where to shop size-inclusive clothing

Ahead of the curve

Text: Ryan Sng


Image: Instagram | @dreamersrehab | @ranidhaschainey

Inclusion is an increasingly big deal in fashion, but how is the industry responding to consumer demand for diversity? We've joked in the past about Asian retailers' extremely narrow beauty ideals, but the paucity of clothing options for larger women in Singapore is no laughing matter. It reveals a culture that's wilfully blind to their practical needs and feelings. Nevertheless, several of our curvy friends have found ways to get their fashion fix on the Little Red Dot; we asked them to share their thoughts on the state of plus-sized fashion in Singapore below.

Rani Dhaschainey (@ranidhaschainey), entrepreneur and The Curve Cult co-owner

Where do you shop for clothing, both online and IRL?
Rani Dhaschainey (RD):
I co-own (‘plus-size’ clothing store) The Curve Cult, so I hardly shop elsewhere!

Who’s getting size-inclusive clothing ‘right’ at the moment?
RD:
Nobody that I know of in Singapore, because an upper size limit of UK14/16 cannot be considered inclusive. Even local brands that specialise in plus-size clothing mostly stop at UK18/20. That’s very disheartening.

What do you think of the term ‘plus size’? Is there a better term that is not in current usage, or do you favour the abandonment of the concept altogether?
RD:
I take no issue with it. In fact, I find it very helpful for shopping. It lets me know which stores are likely to carry my size, or I can head to the specific sections in stores without searching high and low for things I like... Only to be told that there aren’t sizes available for me in those styles. The terms ‘plus-size’ and ‘fat’ are just descriptors. It’s people that attach negative connotations to them.

Locally, are there any constraints when it comes to shopping for clothing in larger sizes? 
RD: Apart from many stores not stocking sizes above UK18/20, there is a sheer lack of options and variety. There are, however, a few local brands who are trying very hard to change the scene, like The Curve Cult and Kaylene Plus-size Designer Boutique.

Locally, is there anything you object to when it comes to portrayals of ‘plus-size women?
RD:
There isn’t enough representation. We could do better at diversity and inclusion. We not only need to see more bigger bodies and fat bodies of different shapes and sizes, but also more variety in skin colour, physicality, and even gender identity.

What are the attitudes specific to Asia/Singapore that need to change when it comes to size-inclusive fashion?
RD:
Local fashion businesses need to be called out on their fatphobia. Being fat is conflated with being ugly, lazy, and undesirable. It’s assumed that fat bodies don’t need to be seen, and are undeserving. Until these mindsets change, we will not have truly size-inclusive fashion.

 

Lily Hamid (@lilyhamid), SocietyA and Spur Shoes general manager

Where do you shop for clothing, both online and IRL?
Lily Hamid (LH):
I shop fairly often at Marks & Spencer and COS. I mostly shop online, though, because there are far more options. My digital go-tos are ‪Eloquii‬, Asos Curve, H&M Plus, Violeta by Mango, and A-Plus by Anthropologie. It’s a shame that while H&M and Mango have stores in Singapore, their plus-size ranges aren’t stocked here.

Who is getting size-inclusive clothing ‘right’ at the moment?
LH:
Eloquii doesn’t compromise on trends for plus-size women — not everything is an empire-waist style. They also recognise that plus-sized women are varied, and can be larger at the bust, mid-section, or hips. As a result, they have two fit categories for selected styles: Regular and Viola. Viola fits bodies with hips that are on average one to two sizes larger than the bust. I really appreciate that the brand is doing more than just making larger sizes. They really think about their customer. I’ve also discovered Sydney-based online retailer Fame and Partners recently. I’ve not ordered from them yet, but really look forward to doing so. They offer completely customisable, made-to-order clothing with sizes running from US0 to 22, and aim to be an almost zero-waste manufacturing platform. This idea of slow fashion supports sustainable practices and quality in production, and think more designers should adopt similar models.

What do you think of the term ‘plus size’? Is there a better term that is not in current usage, or do you favour the abandonment of the concept altogether?
LH: I don’t really have a problem with it. I think it helps to distinguish a customer base easier from a retailer or brand’s point of view. It’s a fit category like Petite or Maternity, not a generalisation or stereotype. What I don’t appreciate are stores that scream “size S to XXXXXXL” through gaudy signs that emphasise the number of Xs they carry. That’s tacky.

Locally, are there any constraints when it comes to shopping for clothing in larger sizes?
LH:
My challenge is always in finding intimates. Not many stores carry bras in my size, and the couple that do have ill-fitting designs. I only shop for my lingerie online as a result, although I wish I had more options so I could try stuff on before purchasing it. Measuring tapes and size charts can only do so much. Thankfully, many sites have fuss-free return policies.

Locally, is there anything you object to when it comes to portrayals of ‘plus-size women? 
LH: I’ve faced a lot of adversity throughout my life for being plus-sized, and was bullied growing up by my peers and family members. There’s this misconception that plus-sized people are lazy, sloppy, and obsessed with food, which I think should change. On TV, plus-sized women are typically mums, best friends, or nosy neighbours. It’s about time that we got leading roles, too.

What are the attitudes specific to Asia/Singapore that need to change when it comes to size-inclusive fashion?
LH:
Plus-sized women in Singapore and internationally are demanding to be acknowledged and catered for. I’d love to see more local plus-size specialty labels, more local labels extending their size ranges, and more international plus-size labels open stores within Singapore. We also need to have more representation for plus-sized Asian women within the fashion and retail communities. I think the absence of representation stems from the stereotype that Asian women are petite. You almost never see plus-sized Asian models. Diversity is gaining traction abroad, but we’ve still got a long way to go in Singapore.

 

Amanda Lee (@manwenisabao), On Pedder sales stylist

Where do you shop for clothing, both online and IRL?
Amanda Lee (AL):
I love but hesitate to shop online, because I’ve had several bad experiences with fit after an item’s arrived. I mostly shop at Zara, Iora, and COS in Singapore, where I wear the largest sizes. Even then, sometimes the clothes don’t fit.

What do you think of the term ‘plus size’? Is there a better term that is not in current usage, or do you favour the abandonment of the concept altogether?
AL:
I’m from Taiwan, where people use the term ‘marshmallow girl’, which is kinda cute. But it does imply that plus-sized women are fluffy. For girls like me who are fit and muscular, it’s not an accurate descriptor. I don’t love the term ‘plus-sized’, but if people call me that I’m fine with it. It would be great if society finally realised that we are also just women. I get a lot of people telling me that I “look great for a plus-sized girl”, to which I reply: “Nah, bro, I just look great for being me.”

Locally, are there any constraints when it comes to shopping for clothing in larger sizes? 
AL: It’s quite challenging to shop at local boutiques, which I think is a pity. Singapore is a multi-cultural society with girls of all kinds of bodies and shapes, but the market focuses on stereotypically petite, 'Chinese’ body types. It would be great to have more diversity in stores.

Locally, is there anything you object to when it comes to portrayals of ‘plus-size women?
AL
: To be honest, I’ve hardly seen anything locally that depicts plus size women. It’s probably not spoken about enough, but really needs to be!

What are the attitudes specific to Asia/Singapore that need to change when it comes to size-inclusive fashion?
AL:
People need to realise that women come in all shapes and sizes, and that everybody deserves comfortable, fashionable, and affordable clothing to wear.

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