I have always been a lover of great style. This has usually manifested itself in my efforts to make my home as beautiful as possible. Then a little more than 5 years ago, I turned my attention not just to making my home more beautiful, but also making it greener. Because after all, truly great design should aim to be as easy on the environment as possible. So we started buying greener cleaning products, started shopping for vintage and sustainably made furniture, changed out personal care products, started carrying reusable shopping bags, etc. But there is one area of my life in which I am often forced to compromise: Fashion.
When I started blogging about all things green and beautiful five years ago, I was hopeful about where green design was headed. For the most part, I haven’t been disappointed. There are so many more eco-friendly products and designers on the market now than there were when I started, and even brands that aren’t exclusively green are adding green products and principles to their collections. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have carried over to plus-sized fashion.
While I am on a journey to reclaim my health and lose a significant amount of weight, I recognize that it will take a while for me to reach my goal. So dammit, I still want to look good in the meantime. And I’d prefer to look good in eco-friendly threads. Alas, there are still very few designers out there who are making sustainable clothing for women of my size. And there are almost none who are making said clothing at an affordable price point. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not above paying for quality, and for the right piece, I’m more than willing to pay what it’s worth. But the fact is that I, like most women, can’t afford to spend $100+ for every item in my closet.
It seems that plus-sized fashion in general has exploded in the past 5 years or so, with many more retailers and designers finally accepting that the average American woman is not going to fit in a size 6, or even a size 10. So there are a lot more options for curvy fashionistas these days. Given my renewed interest in fashion in recent years, I sincerely appreciate that.
So what the heck is up with eco-friendly designers? And for the record, offering an XL at the back end of your straight sizes does NOT constitute a plus-sized collection. The fact is that organic or otherwise sustainable clothing in XXL, or (gasp!) actually designed for curvy women and not just sized up from smaller sizes, is scarce.
I will give credit where credit is due. There are a few designers out there who are doing justice to plus-sized ladies with a sense of environmental responsibility:
Mewv Sustainables by Saffrona: $$$. Available in sizes up to 4x/26-28.
Diane Kennedy: $$$. Available in sizes up to 3x.
Rawganique: $$-$$$. Hemp and organic cotton clothing in sizes up to 3x.
There are also some designers on Etsy who make eco-friendly items to order, based on your measurements, like Sandmaiden. Otherwise, these are the only ones I could find who make truly plus sized clothing. And ALL of these are brands who’ve been doing this for years, as published on this list by Green Grechen years ago. But do you notice something? All of these brands are pretty pricey. As in $68 for a basic camisole and $100+ for a basic pair of black leggings. Which means that the dressier items cost even more. I hate to say it, but this is just out of reach for the average shopper. So when I want a new outfit, I have only three options:
- Spend more than I can often afford
- Shop consignment and thrift stores in hopes that I’ll find my size
- Buy traditional cotton or freaking polyester (can you tell I’m not a fan of polyester?)
I hate to admit it, but I’ve gone for the third option quite a bit over the last few years, particularly after spending too much time searching secondhand racks for pieces that were stylish and could actually fit. The polyester I bought was cute, to be sure, but I would’ve much preferred other fabrics. Or RECYCLED polyester, at the very least.
So what would I like to see happen, ideally? Simple:
- Plus-sized fashion designers, brands and retailers, I am begging you, please start offering eco-friendly options. Give us some organic cotton, viscose, linen, cruelty-free silk, hemp, etc. I’m happy to consult with you to help you make more sustainable choices as you’re building your collections.
- Eco-friendly fashion designers and retailers, please start making clothing for plus-sized women. Remember that the average woman these days is larger than she used to be, and a LOT larger than the stick-thin models most fashion houses choose to represent their brands.
- In both cases, try to keep them as affordable as possible. Because while many of us would pay a premium for eco fashion, the truth is that most of the time, we just can’t afford to pay that premium.
Trust me when I say that these choices would not be a bad investment. There are women out here who are starving for options like this. And if you make it, we will come.