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The “Fat Tax” for Plus-Size Brides: How the Bridal Sphere is Behind the Times in Body Positivity

The “Fat Tax” for Plus-Size Brides – Opinion Piece Written By Ranu Coleman, CMO of Azazie

If you’re not familiar with the “fat tax” then you’re one of the lucky ones who has never walked into a store and had to pay significantly more for the same item simply because it’s a few sizes bigger.

The fat tax is defined as “the difference in price between items– clothing, bikes, furniture etc.– made for those in the plus-sized community, usually priced higher than it would be for those who are not.” Considering that everyone is a different shape and size this is a ridiculous phenomenon, but a prevalent one nonetheless. Aside from the obvious financial inequalities that the “fat tax” perpetuates, increased prices also emphasizes the notion that women on the curvier side of the spectrum should pay more for the extra fabric used to fit their bodies–and it’s especially present in the wedding industry.

It’s no coincidence that “shedding for the wedding” is a common theme among brides–wanting to look perfect (at least by common beauty standards) is at the top of many women’s lists of priorities as they prepare for their big day. The first issue (of many) with the concept of losing weight before your wedding is that it reaffirms the notion that women have to be skinny to be deemed beautiful. Even worse, the intention of losing weight based on appearance isn’t sustainable and leaves women more likely to go to extreme measures to shed pounds that will be detrimental to their health in the long run, despite looking thinner for the moment.

We’re all for establishing healthier habits and even using your wedding as a push to make those changes, but shaming anyone (especially a bride–who is beautiful no matter what size) is never acceptable.

That’s why the recurring stories we hear about women having to pay extra for plus-size bridal gowns are infuriating. The bridal industry is notorious for pulling sizes for brides that are far beyond their normal “street size”, typically two sizes bigger. Bride Mary Jane O’Toole reflects on this exact issue sharing that her size 12 frame only fit into a size 18 and 20 dress, in which she recalls being charged a whopping $600 more. This isn’t just a plus size issue.

The combination of the fat tax for the extra fabric and inaccurate sizing reflects a massive need in the bridal industry for gowns that are designed regardless ofsize.

It seems that plus size brides are in a lose-lose situation when searching for the perfect bridal gown–either trying to drastically cut down on their weight while establishing unhealthy habits to achieve a desired look, or remaining body positive and deal with the potentially traumatic fittings at bridal boutiques where the dresses she tries on in front of her family and friends barely zip or worse are listed at a higher price point. With the average American woman somewhere between a size 16 and 18, the bridal industry and the associated rhetoric needs to catch up.

However, although the bridal industry is comparatively behind the times in terms of body positivity and acceptance, some brands are making moves towards bridal inclusivity.

Designer Christian Siriano’s 2018 bridal collection goes up to size 26, and one of the two models he chose to model his gowns is a size 16. For the Fall 2018 runway collections, four bridal designers/brands — Theia, Alexandra Grecco, David’s Bridal, and Rebecca Schoneveld — included at least one plus-size model on their runway or in a presentation, which admittedly seems colossally minuscule compared to a record 90 walking in 12 NYFW shows (up from just 26 from the season prior). But for the very traditional (read: resistant to change) bridal industry, this marks a significant shift in attitudes toward addressing size-diversity and body-positivity and thereby making wedding dress shopping a much more inclusive experience.

Yet, many high end couture designers, and even major bridal retailers, are still excluding plus-size women in their marketing.

It doesn’t take much investigating to notice that the majority of high end brands don’t use women above runway size to model their clothing. Not only is this a huge missed opportunity with $20 billion in the plus size fashion market, it’s also not representative of their consumers. History even shows that adding plus size options to your products, especially in high-end brands, increases revenue. It begs the question of why all brands haven’t made the push towards fashion for everybody

At Azazie, we take size inclusivity beyond the runway and provide designer quality gowns specifically created for all women. With the help of our team of designers, who have experience creating designs for couture brands like Vera Wang and Marchesa, Azazie team is making options for brides of all sizes and budgets where other brands had previously lacked. We also feature real brides and bridesmaids on our social channels and hire women of diverse bodytypes to showcase our gowns. Put simply–we want to celebrate what makes us unique.

This is also why we offer custom sizing for free – we know that not every woman fits perfectly into a box on a size chart, not to mention how inaccurate other bridal shops are in their sizing. As one of the first in the industry to offer sizes 0-30, any bride that visits the Azazie website will be able to find something that fits her vision of a perfect dress, and won’t have to settle for a gown just because it’s the only one in her size. We commend other brands that are doing the same and urge bridal brands on and off the runway to tap into the market of designing for women of all body shapes. Every bride is special, and that’s a key theme we want people to take away from our brand’s mission.

It is time that the bridal industry eliminated the fat tax.

A woman’s wedding day is the day she should feel most beautiful, and not having access to your dream dress because of your size simply isn’t right. We look forward to seeing fashion accessibility changes with continued coverage on what it really means to be a beautiful bride: confidence (and a killer dress!)

About Ranu Coleman

A seasoned marketing and communications leader with deep experience in the retail/fashion space, Ranu Coleman serves as Chief Marketing Officer for Azazie, the direct-to-consumer company focused on high-quality, custom-fit, affordable bridesmaid dresses and wedding gowns. Joining Azazie in February 2018, Coleman leads the marketing team in implementing brand strategy, driving awareness of Azazie’s product offerings and engaging consumers with the brand. Visit online at azazie.com

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