We’ve been hearing lots about body positivity lately—the idea that everyone should have a positive view of her body, regardless of societal expectations, media or cultural influences. It sounds dreamy, right? After all, we all want to love our physical appearance.
The thing is, very few of us actually do. Eighty-nine 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 drawn to body-positive brands—those 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 way is to wear body-positive clothing. Clothes that help you look and feel your best work to squash those oppressive, self-critical thoughts. And, bonus, you’re also contributing 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
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, does it take for a clothing label to be a body-positive brand? Let’s take a deeper dive to find out.
6 Traits of Body-Positive Brands
Help you feel good about your body
Fundamentally, any brand or retailer can be considered body positive if it makes clothing that supports self-love. 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, and encourages people to strive for an impossible 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 thankfully, this is becoming more the norm.
To be size-inclusive means to treat every single body differently. Fashion brands can do this by including the full gamut of body types—short, tall, round, thin, curvy—in their advertising, in their workforce and in their 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 supports the idea 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 live into today is that body type does not dictate what type of clothes you like to wear. Said differently, people of all body types like all kinds of clothing. Yes, plus-sized women rock crop tops and bodycons. Yes, skinny women slay in thong bikinis and low-cut tops.
Body-positive brands produce clothing in all kinds of sizes, but also in all kinds of styles for those sizes. Size and shape should not be barriers to taste or self-expression.
Feature women of different body types
Body-positive brands aren’t exclusively focused on plus-size wear. It’s more about being adaptive, with 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 Brands
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 so much more. 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 at least some of the above body-positivity principles, you can feel good about the societal impacts of what you’re wearing.