What Makes Clothing Body Positive?
We’re constantly hearing things about body positivity, or the notion that everyone should have a positive view of their body, regardless of societal expectations, media or culture. We all want to love our physical appearance, but very few of us actually do—89 percent of women say they want to lose weight, while studies indicate a growing dissatisfaction in physical self-approval among men, too. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that more and more people are seeking out clothing labels and retailers that emphasize self-love.
At its core, being body positive is loving yourself, accepting your self-perceived flaws and spreading principles of positivity to others. But how do you do that? One of the best ways is to wear body-positive clothing. Not only does this help you squash those oppressive, self-critical thoughts, it also contributes to a broader social movement that could have a significant, lasting impact. Think of it like this: When you support body-positive brands, you’re supporting a body-positive economy, media and advertising landscape well into the future.
Body Image And Mental Health
This is a lot more important than it may seem on the surface, since body image is very closely entwined with mental health. In fact, according to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), reactions to a poor body self-image can trigger anxiety, self-disgust and even suicidal thoughts. Shockingly, as many as 10 percent of women have deliberately hurt themselves due to a poor body image. Interestingly, negative physical self-perception doesn’t discriminate. It affects people of all genders, races, ages and sexual identities.
So we know that body positivity in the fashion world is one super-effective way to help combat these massive cultural issues. But what, exactly, makes clothing body positive? Let’s take a deeper dive in to find out.
Body Positive Brands Are Brands That…
- Help You Feel Good About Your Body—Fundamentally, any brand or retailer can be considered body positive if it makes clothing that helps you love yourself. The idea is to step into a piece of clothing and feel wholly confident and empowered, not restricted or rejected. This means finding clothes that fit, flatter and cater to your unique sense of style. It also means feeling welcome and accepted in a retail location.
- Don’t Airbrush or Falsely Manipulate Model Images—Airbrushing and retouching models is so passé. The problem is that it sets up unrealistic expectations, leading to an impossible (and impossibly unhealthy) bar. If not even the most beautiful models in the world are good enough without retouching, is anyone? Several of the big players in the fashion game refuse to airbrush, so it’s becoming more the norm.
- Are Size-Inclusive—To be size-inclusive means to treat every single body differently. In the fashion world, it often means brands including the full gamut of body types—short, tall, round, thin, curvy—not only in their advertising, but also in their workforce and sizing options. It means showing models of different body types in their apparel to help widen the now-narrow definition of beauty.
- Don’t Use ‘Vanity Sizing’—Also known as size inflation, vanity sizing is the phenomenon of brands producing physically bigger clothing at smaller sizes (for example, a vanity size 2 might be a “real” size 6). Vanity sizing is not body positive because it plays into the notion that smaller sizes are somehow better. It’s also insulting to the intelligence. We’ve been dressing ourselves our whole lives, so don’t think we don’t notice when a brand tries to trick us into flattery!
- Include a Variety of Styles for All Figures—One of the things that forward-thinking clothing brands know in this day and age is that people with all body types like all kinds of clothing. Yes, plus-sized women rock (the heck out of) crop tops and bodycons. Yes, skinny women slay in thong bikinis and low-cut tops. Body positive clothing is clothing in all kinds of sizes, but also all kinds of styles. It knows that size and shape should not be barriers to taste or self-expression.
- Show Women of Different Body Types—Body positive clothing isn’t exclusively plus size clothing. It’s also adaptive clothing—apparel that’s specifically designed for people with physical disabilities or the elderly—as well as clothing made for tall people, short people, skinny people, pregnant people and, yep, even models. These brands show individuals of all shapes, sizes, skin tones and abilities wearing their clothing in their advertising, on their websites and on social media.
How To Find Body Positive Clothing
Not long ago, options for plus size clothing were few and far between. Women had to go to specialty stores with limited selections, many of which catered to a specific, and very narrow, style profile. Today, there are tons of major retailers and clothing brands accommodating a wide variety of sizes, silhouettes and styles. In addition to looking out for brands that exhibit some of the aforementioned characteristics, you can find body-positive brands on social media, through body-positive bloggers and by doing a bit of research online.
Why It Matters
We all want to feel fabulous, sexy and properly fitted in whatever we’re wearing, but body positivity is about much more than that. It’s about shaking up the status quo so that men and women of future generations don’t struggle to meet impossible standards, which can lead to a negative overall self-image, anxiety and depression. As long as you prioritize shopping at retailers that exhibit some or all of the above body positivity principles, you can feel good about the societal impacts of what you’re wearing.