Future of Body Inclusivity

Graphic by K8 Strassman

Future of body positivity = body neutrality + inclusivity

WHAT’S UP ⬆️: Body Inclusivity

Changing the stigma about body sizes is not a new conversation in the US. What is new is the way that brands, companies and organizations are working on evolving their definition of inclusivity.

The greater movement towards inclusivity traditionally centers around race, gender, socioeconomic status (SES), etc. Now companies are starting to recognize that body sizes are another dimension of the inclusivity movement.

What will it take to fuel momentum for the body inclusivity movement?

Torrid, a momentum master and the largest direct-to-consumer plus-size apparel brand in North America by net sales, closed above IPO price earlier this month — a clear indicator that the body-inclusivity movement is gaining momentum and will evolve from a high velocity topic to one that has growing mass and mainstream awareness / acceptance.

Graphic by Trevor Briggs

Along with Torrid, brands and influencers are working to fuel momentum for the body inclusivity movement…

WHAT’S DOWN: Body Size Boxes

WHAT’S NEXT: From clothes to everyday activities, People of all sizes and proportions want true representation — they don’t want to feel like they are in an “other” category or a separate “size box”.

Particularly because “plus size” actually encompasses average American sizes.

The mean weight, height and waist size of an American woman is 171 pounds, 5’3 and 38.7 inches, according to the CDC, which translates to a U.S. size 16 at Torrid and H&M, 18 at Athleta and 20 at Old Navy… So while “plus-size” actually encompasses average American sizes, more than 90% of clothing sold by major retailers like Macy’s and Net-a-Porter are under size 16 — the point at which the plus-size labeling starts.

DEEP DIVE: Here’s how influencers & brands are leveraging all 5 drivers to fuel momentum for body inclusivity.
DISRUPTION: TikTokers are leading a movement to change mindset / perspectives about body size — to promote inclusivity and empowerment for all sizes.

INNOVATION: Brands like Torrid, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty Lingerie and Kim Kardashian’s Skims are changing the plus-size industry through innovation in fit, style and the way they communicate with their consumers — sparking FOMO and getting consumers excited to be part of their brands.

Most importantly, they are addressing one of the biggest challenges with the plus-size industry: beyond a lack of larger sizes, there are also problems regarding consistency and style when it comes to plus-size clothing.

  • Torrid: Torrid’s recent IPO could spur more investment in plus-size apparel market.
  • Torrid CEO Liz Muñoz says they focus intensely on fit, using a process that relies on real plus-sized people rather than mannequins, takes customer feedback into account, and avoids just sizing up non-plus sized clothing. Torrid emphasizes consistency in their fit and sizing, and brand community and an exceptional fit room experience in their brick and mortar stores.
  • Savage x Fenty: Fenty has established itself as a truly inclusive brand, offering all of their styles for men and women in plus-sizes, and even removing the “plus-sized” label. Fenty also features both plus-sized men and women in its advertising.
  • Skims: Skims is leading the shapewear category. Born out of Kim Kardashian’s own experience having to cut and sew her own shapewear to get the right fit. Skims offers shapewear meant to accentuate a wide range of size-inclusive body types.

POLARIZATION: Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality

The traditional “body positivity” movement, which calls for self-love of all body shapes, is gaining increased criticism for being co-opted largely by influencers and corporations to promote general self-love for all bodies rather than the marginalized bodies it was originally created for.

The more recent “body neutrality” movement, which focuses on what your body can do for you rather than what it actually looks like, is gaining momentum as a replacement to body positivity for some, and as a stepping stone to body positivity for others. Ashley Graham, Bebe Rexha, and Demi Lovato have established themselves as key voices in the positive vs. neutral conversation.

  • Ashley Graham: Ashley Graham has been recognized for her support of both body positivity and body neutrality. Recently, she partnered with body-care and hair removal brand Flamingo to create a collection that “embraces choice,” and encourages women to accept their bodies and do whatever they feel is right for them. Ashley also recently started the “Self Love Challenge” on TikTok, where users share what they love most about their bodies.
  • Bebe Rexha: Bebe Rexha recently joined the body-positivity movement, using TikTok to show off her own body with the message “let’s normalize 165 lbs.” Her video has over 12M views.
  • Demi Lovato: Demi Lovato has been a strong voice for body acceptance and body neutrality, crediting her ability to accept her body, even when she can’t love it, with aiding her recovery.

SOCIAL IMPACT: The greater movement towards inclusivity traditionally centers around race, gender, SES, etc. Now, brands are finally starting to recognize the potential & need for size inclusivity, too. While many brands are trying, few have been able to master size inclusivity.

Fenty gaining market share on traditional lingerie leader Victoria’s Secret illustrates the impact of inclusive sizing on social inclusivity.

As the push up bra maker continues to flail under their antiquated practices, Savage x Fenty has proved that diversity and inclusion in sizing, access, and marketing has led to an even greater goal, equity in feeling sexy.

Increased awareness about mental health is also giving momentum to the body positive/body neutral movement. In April, model Hayley Hasselhoff made history as the first ever plus-sized model to be on the cover of (and pose for) Playboy. She drew attention to the influence of body image on mental health in her Instagram post about the cover: “my relationship with my body has always stemmed from my relationship with my mental wellbeing.”

“I’ve done so much work in the body activism world, but a couple of years ago, I had this shift where the connectivity between body image and mental health and how my reflection of my body image was always poor when my mental health wasn’t on track… So, I wanted to flip the conversation. Go live your life… Your body is beautiful right now and the more that you start to be able to live in a state of acceptance, the more that you start to take the power and the ownership for yourself again.” Hayley shared.

STICKINESS: Conversations about plus-size and inclusive sizing have traditionally centered around aesthetics and clothing. Now the conversation is calling attention to the daily treatment of “plus-size” (really average size in the U.S.) people and how their daily lives are impacted by their size.One movement focuses on travel: TikTok star Mary Fran Donnelly started a “Traveling as a Fat Person” social media series, where she pokes fun at the limited amenities afforded to overweight travelers.

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M