Mainstream fashion has come far in terms of diversity, but as an industry, it is still mired in beauty conventions that are outdated at best and detrimental at worst. Thinness as a marker of beauty and worthiness still pervades our popular culture, even though the median American woman wears a size 16. Retailer Madewell, known for their high-quality pieces at fair prices, is stepping up to the plate. They are addressing this disparity with both their visual marketing and size offerings.
On Tuesday, the J.Crew-owned retailer announced that they are offering their denim in a wider range of sizes. Their signature jean line will now run up to a waist size 35, with the smallest size starting at a size 23. Madewell is also debuting a new Curvy fit for their best-selling skinny denim jean, which will feature a higher rise, a wider thigh area, and a contoured waistband. The Curvy fit is marketed towards “those with an hourglass shape (translation: booty),” copy that falls in line with Madewell’s approachable aesthetic.
The brand has also quietly begun featuring plus-size models on their website. It’s a move that wasn’t announced by press release, though anyone browsing the site over the past two weeks would have noticed the difference. The plus-size models aren’t relegated to the end of a product photo carousel either — they’re shown prominently on the brand’s Denim Bar’s main splash page.
And another unexpected addition to Madewell’s site: so-called in-between models, who represent the millions women who don’t fit into sample or plus-size categories. As an in-betweener myself, it’s refreshing to see a version of my body represented; with so much (necessary) attention paid to making plus-size consumers feel welcome, sizes 6-12 are a blind spot in visual marketing. While we almost always have the privilege of being able to find clothing in stores that fit, it’s still rare to see models who can offer an approximation of what the clothing will look like on in-between bodies.
Commenting exclusively to Yahoo Lifestyle, Madewell says that including more retail sizes and body-diverse models go hand-in-hand. “Madewell is committed to creating denim for everyone, and we aim to reflect this in our product and imagery,” they said in a statement. It will also be an ongoing process: “We’re also continuing to expand our size range, fits, and styles, so all of our customers can find exactly what they are looking for.”
Madewell started their push towards inclusion with denim, but told Yahoo Lifestyle that customers can expect to see styles beyond denim modeled on in-between and plus-size models. “This isn’t exclusive to denim — we are working to reflect this in all style offerings,” shares Madewell. “We have customers of all shapes and sizes, and it’s incredibly important to us that our models and brand imagery reflects that.”
Of course, celebrating a brand for doing the right thing can feel a bit tiresome. Shouldn’t it just be a given that brands include diverse bodies in their products and marketing? After all, social accountability aside, the plus-size market represents a majority of women, all of whom need to wear clothing — which translates into a lot potential money to be made. Plus-size apparel is seeing the biggest growth in fashion retail. When a wider range of bodies are included, women respond with their dollars.
Madewell now joins retailers like Aerie and H&M, who’ve included plus-size models in their advertising — both to financial success. It remains to be seen if Madewell’s gamble will pay off, but given the dearth of attention to the plus-size market, it can only be a positive move for the brand.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- How this curvy blogger hopes to change the fashion industry’s diversity problem
- Aerie model opens up about ‘bacne’ and ‘lines of love’
- Is the term ‘skinny’ outdated?