Plus-size women reshape fashion market with calls for inclusive, innovative clothes

TORONTO — Former reality show star Roxy Earle didn’t have a formal fashion education to rely on for her new plus-size fashion line with collaborator Le Chateau.

Instead, she turned to the real-life experiences that many established designers don’t seem to have a clue about: the ways plus-size clothes are failing the women who wear them.

Earle says she took heed of the constant frustrations expressed by her army of Instagram followers, many of whom rallied around her hashtag #MySizeRox and its message of body positivity.

She says she’s on a mission to reinvigorate plus-size clothing with Roxy Earle by Le Chateau for sizes 0 to 22W.

“So much of fashion leaves people out, makes people feel miserable — you look at fashion ads and they’re not inclusive,” she says.

“They make a girl feel bad about herself.”

Earle says she deferred to Le Chateau’s experts for technical details like construction, but she had final say on colours, patterns and how plus-size clothes should fit.

Despite her bold and brash reputation, the former star of Slice’s “The Real Housewives of Toronto,” says she wasn’t always as confident as she is today: “I’ve cried in many fitting rooms like many women have because it’s demoralizing. And then I decided the time is up, I’ve had enough. I’m going to change this.”

It’s a slow movement, but things do appear to be evolving as brands consider the input of average customers, suggests plus-size model and blogger Ruby Roxx.

The Vancouver resident says it’s shocking to see how badly an established brand can botch the fit of clothing when they simply enlarge it for bigger sizes. There are many different shapes within the plus-size category, she adds.

“There needs to be adjustments other than just a bigger size,” says Roxx, pointing out the countless experiences she’s had returning items, like a recent dress she purchased.

“It fits my hips perfectly, it fits my boobs perfectly but it won’t do up at the waist. My husband said, ‘Why the hell would they make a dress that would fit those hips and those boobs and not do up at the smallest part of you, the waist? It doesn’t make any sense.’”

She knew the reason: “It’s because they made it for straight-size models and people.”

One of Roxx’s favourite designers is Diane Kennedy, owner of Cherry Velvet, a retro-inspired Vancouver brand that offers sizes XS through 4X.

Kennedy says her goal is to fit the widest array of people, and despite more than 30 years in the business, she believes there’s still more to learn from customers about how designs can be improved.

“If somebody comes in to try dresses on and they can’t find something that fits, I feel like I’ve not done my job well,” she says.

Ryerson School of Fashion professor Ben Barry says vocal customers are forcing brands to respond to their demands. Social media, especially, has handed plus-size women a megaphone to shift ideas and attitudes.

And with that, the notion that a designer’s vision should be sacrosanct is eroding.

“The really savvy designers and brands are realizing they not only need to listen but really engage consumers in the process if they want to succeed,” says Barry, who specializes in diversity issues.

The professor tries to instill this philosophy in a new generation of creators, believing that while a designer plays a critical role in creating clothes, everyday wearers also have “essential expertise.”

“Part of the problem has also been embedded in the design process — the fact that fashion has operated so much on this hierarchical design process where this one creative director is the source of knowledge and consumers are not part of the process,” he says.

“You put a lot of pressure on one person or one small team to come up with a lot of ideas, without actually understanding how are people wearing clothes in everyday life.”

And then there’s the fact so much of the fashion industry revolves around “this idea of thinness.”

“Even selling to plus-size women… brands have been worried that this might harm” them, says Barry.

Of course, the professor would like to see more brands embrace the plus-size market, but he also calls on them to acknowledge their role in creating a “negative view of fatness” and do their part to undo harmful stereotypes.

Fashion blogger and designer Jessica Biffi says part of the change is coming from plus-size women taking the reins to launch their own fashion lines.

“It wasn’t always the case,” says Biffi, a former contestant on “Project Runway Canada” who now runs the blog justbiffi.com.

“I’ve worked with (plus-size) brands and been the only plus-size person in the office.”

Earle, too, takes issue with a business that purports to embrace diversity but remains predominantly male, white and skinny.

The needs of plus-size women have been misunderstood for too long, says Earle, as she bemoans a preponderance of dark colours, loose silhouettes and simply unfashionable patterns. Her line includes blush floral pinks, linen suits and bold reds.

“There’s so many misconceptions about who a woman is, what kind of income she has, what kind of clothes she wants to wear,” she says.

“I don’t know what people were thinking — but glamorous, incredible women who are willing to invest in beautiful clothes come in all shapes and sizes.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Rappelling down Red Deer’s Stantec Building a thrilling, scary experience

Advocate reporter chronicles his trip down the 13-storey buildling

Red Deer raises $60,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation

27 brave residents rappell down Stantec Building

People hurt in rollover near Red Deer

Occupants of a vehicle that rolled south of Hwy 11A were airlifted… Continue reading

Eager-beaver cannabis entrepreneurs already waiting outside Red Deer City Hall

Appications will be accepted on a first-come basis starting on Tuesday

Like father like son: Red Deer area Dreeshen family dedicates life to public service

There are three jobs that could be considered the Dreeshen family business:… Continue reading

WATCH: Gazebo groundbreaking in Waskasoo

Fifty per cent of the $100,000 project is funded by a provincial government grant

Woman killed in collision near Olds

A woman is dead after a collision west of Olds Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

Evacuation numbers remain at nearly 1,000 as B.C. wildfires rage on

SUMMERLAND, B.C. — Officials in British Columbia’s Okanagan region hope that fire… Continue reading

Survivors recount deadly Missouri duck boat sinking

BRANSON, Mo. — “Grab the baby!” Those were the last words Tia… Continue reading

HMCS St. John’s to return to Halifax after six-month deployment overseas

HALIFAX — The countdown is on for the homecoming of a Halifax-class… Continue reading

Trump says lawyer taping him may be ‘illegal’

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — The Latest on President Donald Trump and his onetime… Continue reading

Spieth part of 3-way tie for British lead as Woods lurks

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Jordan Spieth has a share of the lead in… Continue reading

WWII hero’s lost Purple Heart returned to his family

NEW YORK — A lost Purple Heart medal has been returned to… Continue reading

California girl, 2, accidentally shot and killed by boy, 4

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Authorities say a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month