Plus-size model and designer Catie Li talks size inclusiveness in the fashion industry – exclusive
Catie Li — a Chinese-American plus-size model, fashion designer and influencer — is grateful that the fashion industry is finally giving plus-size women the attention they deserve, but she also believes the industry needs to do a lot more work to size are included. She’s been modeling for about nine years now, and while progress has been made, Li still feels that many brands treat her and other plus-size models as if they were only on a shoot to check a diversity box.
She is often the only plus-size model on set. Sometimes she even has to bring her own clothes because the wardrobe department doesn’t have anything that suits her. And more than a few times, Li has been “put into many situations where I felt uncomfortable.”
For Li, the wildest thing about the lack of representation in the fashion industry is that the average woman looks like her, not the thinner models that surround her on every shoot. Yet they are barely represented – and women taller than them, of which there are millions in the US, are not represented at all. in a exclusive interview with our sister site Health DigestLi explained why size inclusivity is so important and how the fashion industry can do better.
Size-exclusive fashion and media
Catie Li didn’t grow up seeing people like her – plus-size, Asian and biracial – in magazines, on television or in movies, and the lack of representation had a huge impact on her. She internalized the message that her body was out of order because it didn’t look like the one she saw. Li thinks the only way to counter that message is to give plus-sized bodies the same attention that thin bodies have been receiving for decades.
“The more kids – and even us – see” [body diversity]the more it will change our way of thinking, and we can feel comfortable,” Li insisted. She said the fashion industry is exacerbating the problem by dictating what types of clothes are sold in stores and what sizes are available.
“My mom would take me to the Misses department and she’d say, ‘This is where you need to find your jeans and stuff.’ It was traumatizing,” Li revealed. “It really bothered me. I wanted to shop at Limited Too and Justice, but I didn’t fit there at all.” Again, she got the message that all plus size girls get – that their bodies are literally too big to be fashionable.
What fashion including size looks like?
To solve the problem of the fashion industry’s inclusiveness, Catie Li thinks the industry needs to change the way they interact with the plus-size market. She pointed out that companies don’t pay attention to the kinds of clothes that plus-size women want to wear.
“They didn’t research what we wanted [or] some research on fit,” she said. “Then they pushed something out. It was ugly, and then they had to close their stores because nobody bought it.”
She also said the way many clothing companies are expanding their sizes doesn’t really work for plus-sized women. “For a lot of fast fashion… they go to the vendors they get them, out of downtown LA, and they say, ‘Can you add three inches? Just keep adding three inches.’ That’s all they do,” Li explained. “They don’t really put it on people.”
Li insisted that if the fashion industry really wants to be size-inclusive, not just say they’re size-inclusive, it needs to focus on the things that matter to plus-size women. Concentrate on how the clothes fit and look on larger bodies; don’t just add inches to the pattern. Make trendy clothes, not Misses department clothes. Treat plus-sized women as if they matter as much as thinner women.
For more updates on Catie Li’s work, follow her on Instagram†
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