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Winthrop High School's Premier News Site Since 2019

The Viking Times

Winthrop High School's Premier News Site Since 2019

The Viking Times

OPINION: Capitalism and the Plus Size Industry 


By Fran Conner

As new conversations about the fast fashion industry are brought to the table, I, a plus size and previously lower class individual, would like to discuss what it means to be plus size in a society that is centered around profitable fashion. I know what it is like to be shamed and judged for having to purchase from fast fashion industries, and I want to put to light why it may be difficult for plus size and lower class individuals to purchase clothes from anywhere else. I know that I, and many other plus size people live in an everlasting conundrum; what clothes am I allowed to purchase?

Fast fashion websites, specifically Shein, are currently experiencing a lot of thunder about the way they run their business, and rightfully so. There have been numerous reports of workers writing “help”, “help us”, and “help me” on the tags of clothing they package. There have been reports and evidence that there are children who worked forced labor at these factories, and that all workers are treated poorly. Not only are workers treated poorly, but the clothing items are very unsustainable and bad for the environment. It is understood that worker wages are low, and their hours are long. However, instead of blaming the companies and capitalists who created these conditions, teenagers have taken it upon themselves to take their concerns to social media, and blame those who purchase items from these stores. Instead of educating and showing people who buy from fast fashion ethical and affordable companies to purchase from instead, they blame and shame those who purchase from these sites, hoping that a small boycott will stop the ways of big business. 

But why is it important to blame the business, not the consumer? The fast fashion market is targeted towards plus size and lower class individuals. Because of the market capitalism creates, plus size people are stuck in a situation where the only clothes that fit them are 

  1. Extremely overpriced, some times costing over a hundred dollars just for a pair of pants
  2. Affordable but bad for the environment and an business built on exploitation 
  3. The very rare, affordable and ethical, but is very hard to find and is usually still on the more expensive side of clothing

This makes it very difficult for plus size people to find clothing that fits them. There is also added pressure from society to dress a certain way. This makes it even more difficult because not only do plus size people struggle to find clothing that fits, but clothing that is on trend and makes them feel more comfortable in their own skin. Not to mention how hard it is to find clothing when a person is poor, regardless of size. People in poverty or in the lower class can not buy clothing they enjoy or that is on trend because it costs so much. I asked a plus sized, impoverished student, “why do you buy from fash fashion”, and they answered,

“I buy fast fashion because you can get a wide amount of clothing for less money than if you went to a regular store. It’s also easier to find nice articles of clothing in my style and size…I remember going to the mall to buy some clothes, and 2 pairs of shorts cost $127, how is that reasonable?”. 

Because clothing, especially on trend clothing, costs so much, those who are in poverty or are plus sized (or even both) have no other option but to shop from fast fashion websites. This is why it is important to hold the businesses and systems that have created this dilemma accountable, not the people who fall victim to these structures.

Sure, it can be argued that plus size people can just shop in the maternity section of thrift stores, but how practical and ethical is that? It will always be upsetting to me that we expect victims of capitalist systems to find solutions to the problems that we as a society create, when we have the power to change them. The most ironic element to all of this, is that many big industries such as Apple, Nike, Adidas, Tesla, and numerous fast food industries have evidence against them that they also exploit workers and utilize child labor. Some of the most popular brands and businesses we see today partake in the same actions as the fast fashion industry, yet there is no public outcry about this. This is because most of the people who are speaking out against fast fashion, have never been in a situation where their only choice is to purchase from fast fashion stores. It is easy to deem consumers morally wrong when you are not in the consumers position, and this is why it is important to blame the industry, not the consumer. I believe that you can not pick and choose what business is and is not ethical simply on how easy it is to cut that business out of your life. I understand that people who have conventional body shapes and more money do not understand what it is like to have to purchase fast fashion, because if they did, not only would they stop buying from Shein, but they would throw their Iphones away too. 

The moral of the story is, it is not the consumers fault that they have been put in a situation they can not escape. It is important to practice what you preach, and be open minded and research research research!! Some ways that we as a society can help people afford cloths, and help oppressed laborers comes in many forms!

  1. Researching ethical and affordable clothing stores and boost them!
  2. Sign petitions and donate to oppressed workers! 
  3. Buy oversized specific clothes instead of buying clothing many sizes up so that plus size people can buy the clothes made to fit them without prices going up! 
  4. Sharing practical and affordable ways to stop shopping on fast fashion websites!
  5. If you do not need to buy from fast fashion…don’t! 
  6. Keep an open mind and listen to those affected by fast fashion (workers and consumers)! 

We have the power to change, don’t throw it away!

**This opinion article reflects the voice of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Viking Times as a whole. Like most news outlets, The Viking Times is a non-partisan media platform.***

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