It’s time to talk about plus size activewear brands…
Plus size activewear has come a long way.
We are seeing more and more activewear brands offering plus-size ranges in fashion-forward but functional pieces that work for a myriad of active lifestyles.
And you don’t have to be an athlete to desire to wear activewear. Even if you’re someone who just incorporates movement in your life and casually enjoys yoga, walking and swimming, you are still worthy of having access to activewear in your size, that fits well and is quality-made.
We’ve seen many brands call themselves “size inclusive”, yet their size range stops at a size 20, 22 or 24. Some even offer up to a size 28, but that’s still not being size-inclusive.
It’s as if the belief is that the larger you are, the less active you are, so why offer larger sizes? That customer won’t buy because she is simply not active.
Photo, Katiuska Idrovo for Fitness By Sarah Taylor
It’s these stereotypes that alienate an entire segment of women, who can turn into customers that will spend their money. It also makes those women feel ignored and not cared about. I’m speaking from experience as a woman who wears a size 28.
Size inclusive means ALL so why do women of ALL sizes not have activewear accessible to them?
CJ Riggins, CEO and Founder of Rsport, an activewear brand that offers up to a size 6X states:
“I believe the question should be why isn’t it expected? National and International data from CDC and various body scanning studies over the last 4-5 decades have confirmed that humans are increasing in size, male and female, adults and children among all ethnicities and races. This isn’t new information. So, why isn’t industry moving faster to keep up with them?
Apparel businesses are created and find success in serving a community of people. Success doesn’t come from excluding them, but by building for their needs. Men and women should not have to battle getting out the door to participate in endeavors they love or would like to experience just because no one has made clothing for them that will support their chosen activities. The idea that anyone should or could be omitted is antiquated and ignorant.”
Rsport, a brand created with the mission to celebrate all bodies and their strength/ability to do incredible things with those bodies, really cares about catering to their customers from a community aspect.
Proof of that starts with how they refer to their customers, who they call “Athenas”. Riggins shares:
“Our goal is to build beautifully crafted, high quality, long-living products so Athenas and plus-size athletes can ignore their clothing and just enjoy their activities. No more pulling and tugging, your eyes should be on the prize – time with friends hiking, running, riding, walking, swimming, skiing… the list goes on and we want to be there to support that every step of the way.”
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As we have written previously on this blog, fashion is personal. So Rsport has the right idea with their mission and marketing to their customer while offering her size and making her feel included and “normal”.
Another brand that has been successful in this genuine customer approach is Superfit Hero, who carries up to size 30/5X.
Their focus is empowering customers to move, be confident and love their bodies now.
Photo, Superfit Hero
Case in point, their “Because I Love My Body” collection features tees that include powerful messages such as “I work out because I love my body, not because I hate it”.
Micki Krimmel, Founder of Superfit Hero shares:
“Size inclusivity is a feminist issue. If you believe it’s important for women to be active, then you need to include plus-size women, especially since women over size 12 account for the majority of the population. To be frank, it’s insane to me that we’re still even having this conversation. The fact that some of the world’s most popular brands still do not offer plus sizes is mind-boggling to me. At some point, the marketplace needs to hold them accountable for this decision.”
Krimmel brings up a valid point. How can we hold the marketplace accountable for not offering a full-size range and accommodating ALL women?
Brands like Superfit Hero, Rsport and DAY/WON are already off to a great start with being vocal about why they started their companies and made the decision to offer above a size 3X. If they continue to dominate in this space successfully while celebrating visually plus bodies, this sends a clear message to other retailers and brands that this customer exists and should be marketed to.
Photo, Anastasia Garcia for DAY/WON
DAY/WON was created by plus-size model Candice Huffine, who felt it was important to have a large size range of quality-made activewear for plus size women whose thinner sisters have easily had access to for decades. The brand offers sizes XS to 5X.
“Women of all sizes are active–and all women deserve performance quality clothes that will help them reach their finish line and feel like their best selves. My mission in creating DAY/WON was to ensure that women of every size and background feel empowered to crush their days, their workouts, and any goal they’ve set for themselves. So many performance brands give lip service to inclusivity without really delivering on this promise, creating a few pieces and checking the ‘extended sizes’ box.”
It’s also about changing the perception that (1) activewear is only for athletes and not those who casually work out and move, and (2) that beauty has a size and the larger you are, the less beautiful you are.
Photo, Fumie Hoppe for DAY/WON
Girlfriend Collective, launched by husband-and-wife duo Quang and Ellie Dinh in 2016, expanded their size range in 2018 to 6XL in their tops and bottoms.
Quang told Vogue in 2017:
“There wasn’t a lifestyle [brand] for a person who likes to casually work out and has a feminine aesthetic but doesn’t want to wear leopard and galaxy prints. People complain about the fashion industry [not being inclusive], and you don’t see a lot of different sizes in the athletic market, either. We aren’t saying that you have to be an athlete with a six-pack. You can just be a person who wants to get in shape and feel like her clothes are having a positive impact [on the environment], too. Our mantra is that they’re clothes that matter to women who give a damn.”
Photo, Girlfriend Collective
Girlfriend Collective is one of the few sustainable and ethical activewear brands in the industry, where they state that each legging they create is made from 25 recycled water bottles.
For plus size women who also want sustainable clothing, this is major.
Photo, Universal Standard
Universal Standard, which launched in 2015, is the brainchild of powerhouse duo Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler, who have revolutionized the market by offering sizes 00 to 40 in all their garments.
They are looked upon as THE brand who is successfully inclusive, telling customers “You can sit with us”.
Waldman told Glossy recently in an interview:
“We really wanted to usher in a new normal that thought of women as consumers — not some women as consumers of this and other women as consumers of that.
Let’s face it, this is how we change the perception of beauty: by seeing it over and over.
If you’re just seeing one particular model — one face or one archetype — then you’re forced to judge yourself by how far you are from that archetype.
We live in a much more advanced world now, do we not? The understanding of what’s beautiful is much broader and much more interesting, so that’s what we choose to represent.
I think there’s a lot of hedging: ‘Let’s see who does this first,’ or ‘We want to be on the right side of things, but we don’t want to invest in this consumer.’ Whatever it is, there are a million reasons not to do it if you don’t really want to.”
Fit and details are also important when it comes to creating activewear for plus size women. One of the reasons many brands won’t expand their sizes is because they state it costs more. While that may be true, if a brand can get its fit right from the start, the costs are worth it.
“When I launched Superfit Hero, I started by interviewing hundreds of athletes about their biggest gripes with activewear. The biggest complaint was about fit. You can’t focus on your activity if your clothes are slipping down, rolling over, or bunching up in all the wrong places. In this world of fast fashion, meticulous fitting is not the norm, especially in active. This is what makes Superfit Hero unique. We test all our products on athletes across our entire size range to ensure that our products support your movement practice and become an essential part of your routine.”
“A designer has to think not only of the end-use of the product (i.e. rainwear would need DWR and/or a laminate), but also of the human wearing the product and how they move and interact with the product and how they care and store it. Athenas’ move and chafe differently than our straight-sized counterparts, so abrasion panels or high abrasion-resistant materials in places where skin or fabric rubs continually is important.
We have to be conscious of not raising temps from friction and by default, the body. We have more surface area to hold sweat so permanent wicking yarns versus surfactant finishes that wash off are equally important. Because we deposit fat differently from one human/athlete to another on our bodies, no two bodies are exactly alike regardless of our size, so patterning for the masses can be a challenge when our goal is to support as many varied body types as possible.
We know we won’t serve all athletes perfectly, which is why no one brand can take this mantle on alone. We’re grateful for our community and we’ll continue to support athletes to do what they do and love.”
Huffine, an avid runner and athlete herself, said:
“It’s less about the details and more about the fit. A mesh detail is cute, but if your leggings are falling down or your shorts are riding up, it becomes a disposable novelty. When it comes to design and fabric selection, we think of how our pieces will make it easier for women to perform at their best, feel comfortable, and look amazing doing so and that is the most important detail for us.”
Girlfriend Collective leggings are made from a compression material that never pills, which is a major issue women encounter. Universal Standard uses high-tech moisture-wicking fabrics in their activewear pieces, that move well with you.
With these incredible brands leading the charge to offer activewear in more sizes and catering to plus size women and their needs, we are hopeful that other brands (and mass retailers) will follow suit.
It’s all about changing perceptions about beauty and movement as well as embracing all women as customers, not just those under a size 24. Money is money, no matter what size that customer is. Every woman deserves access to quality-made clothing, including activewear. That is when we can truly say we are being size-inclusive.
You can visit the plus size activewear brands mentioned in this article via the links below:
Rsport – rsportlife.com/
Superfit Hero – superfithero.com/
DAY/WON – /day-won.com/
Universal Standard – universalstandard.com/collections/active
Girlfriend Collective – girlfriend.com/
Are you over a size 24 and want to see more activewear made in your size? Follow us on social media and let us know: @plusmodelmag: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter