Style Nest: Urban Outfitters and the fear of Plus size

By Colette-Janae Buck, Copy Editor

The on-trend, millennial-market focused clothing outfitter, Urban Outfitters, has come under fire recently for featuring a plus-size model in their diversity campaign, “Class of 2017,” who wears a shirt in a size the store doesn’t even carry in stock.

Barbie Ferreia, the model featured in UO’s campaign, is a self-proclaimed body activist and plus-size model who is measured at a waist size of 33.5 inches. In the ad campaign, Ferreia is wearing a Hanes t-shirt to match all the other featured models in the campaign. The Hanes shirt, which goes up to a 3X on Hanes website, is only carried at UO in up to a size large. The large is projected to fit up to a 33 inch waist, just half an inch smaller than Ferreia’s. While that may not be a very big difference, and Barbie may undoubtedly be able to fit into that large if she wanted, it’s still important to analyze and think about the message UO is sending out by featuring a plus-size model in their diversity campaign who can barely fit into the largest size offered at their establishment.

Essentially, Urban Outfitters is offering a surface gesture to appeal to the masses. They care just enough about their image to appeal to diverse and body positive customers while still continuing to pursue and promote a straight size, sizes 00 through 12, standard that leaves those who are plus-size out of the fashion trend loop.

To me, Urban Outfitters’ stance on offering plus size clothing echos that of other large chain brands such as American Apparel and Hollister, it’s an attempt at appeasing the more body diverse buyers. While these brands do offer up to an extra large in women’s, unlike UO, they still do not cater to those who are above an extra large.

Other brands, such as H&M and Forever 21 do offer plus size clothing, from extra large to 4X, but yet, I still find their offerings to be lacking in the type of item diversity and style choices straight-sized clothing wearings are afforded. Plus size individuals are often left to choose between items of clothing that are poorly constructed and don’t fit, like jeans, or feature weird prints and patterns that match none of the other styles or prints featured in the rest of the store. Not to mention the fact that often times, plus size clothing items are excluded from storewide sales and items are barely changed from season to season.

In both the Spokane Valley Mall H&M and Forever 21, plus-size shoppers are even segregated to a small portion of the store in the far corner where the merchandise is shoved on to racks and thrown in weird place away from the rest of its similar items. Currently, plus-size clothing at the mall’s H&M does not even have its own section.

Instead, clothing for those extra large through 4X has been set to the side lines in an unmarked area that is unkempt and rarely updated. At one point, the plus-size section was actually placed within the maternity wear.

Plus-size women and men deserve much better than a messy dark corner in the back of the store where the clothing that is offered is outdated and ill-fitting. Thankfully, stores like American Eagle are taking point from the mistakes of their competitors and have begun to introduce a more body-positive message in their ad campaigns and in the sizes they offer. It is still rare to find above a 14/16 size pant in American Eagle, but individuals who are sized larger can find options through American Eagle up to a size 18.  

Its pity gestures like the ones offered by H&M and Forever 21 that go back to UO and their “Class of 2017” ad campaign; it is all just for show. Despite the overwhelming amount of support for diversifying fashion and the sizes offered by brands, repulsed, divisive and defiant attitudes toward plus-size individuals still exist within the fashion industry, and to me, it’s rather inappropriate and rather immature.

Our world is changing and growing. We are becoming accepting of more and more things as the years pass and you would think that an aspect or portion of our society that has been so influential over the years, the fashion industry, would be the first to jump on the next trend.

Even though Urban Outfitter’s has since issued a statement claiming to be working toward offering a wider range of sizes in their stores, I still can’t help but take issue with the fact that in 2017, Urban Outfitters still only carries up to a large in women’s and an extra large in men’s. I don’t want to even mention the other negative messages UO has spread about bodies in the past, the “eat less” shirt if anyone was wondering.

Fashion is not a luxury of those who are considered thin in today’s society anymore. We are all at liberty to dress however we want because that, in my opinion, is the true embodiment of fashion, the industry and its trends — it’s relative.  It’s just sad to see a brand that claims it’s so on trend ignore the fact that trends are changing while still attempting to profit off those changes. I sincerely hope Urban Outfitters begins to carry larger sizes as everyone deserves to dress how they want. Like I said, that is the true expression of fashion.