Plus size model highlights the lack of representation in the lingerie industry: 'Listen to fat women'

Plus size model, La’Shaunae Steward, is speaking up about the lack of representation in the lingerie industry.
Plus size model, La’Shaunae Steward, is speaking up about the lack of representation in the lingerie industry.

The fashion industry may be showing signs of embracing diversity and size inclusivity as brands around the world expand their size ranges to cater to more women. But one plus size model is bringing attention to the fact that there’s still a big problem when it comes to representation.

Curve model, actress and designer La’Shaunae Steward took to Instagram on Tuesday to air her grievances against the lingerie industry in particular after she tried on a pair of underwear she purchased. At the time, she didn’t know what to expect in terms of fit because she wasn’t provided with an image of a woman her size wearing it.

“Imagine if companies finally made extremely hot lingerie for girls over a size 18 and actually had women over a size 18 modeling it,” she wrote. “Include bigger fats on your sites and in your campaigns bc [sic] we never know how s*** will actually look on us because we arent [sic] flat bellied.”

The complaint struck a chord with hundreds of people who commented on the post and shared their own similar experiences that result from the same lack of representation. But Steward tells Yahoo Lifestyle that it’s an issue that the industry feels they’ve fixed by creating clothing for women up to a size 24 or 26, and showing it on size 18 models.

“Fashion companies that carry plus sized things almost never include models of the size range that it goes up to,” Steward says. “You usually see curve models wearing the smallest size in plus size that the store carries and sometimes the clothes are even too big on them. It’s not helpful for girls who are over a size 18 to go on a site that carries things in our size just to never see our size represented, and to just become disappointed when receiving something we ordered online because it doesn’t fit or look the same on us.”

Another curve influencer and owner of August Raye Boutique, Kelly Augustine, echoes the same sentiment. She tells Yahoo Lifestyle that even the companies that tout size inclusivity don’t understand how to dress women of different shapes and sizes.

“I have the same piece La'Shaunae is wearing in the post and I have yet to wear them because of the lack of thought that went into designing it for a plus consumer,” Augustine says. “And no, ‘design for plus’ does not equate to ‘just make it a high-waisted cotton brief and take away all of the fun and sexy frills that make this piece unique and fun.’ I think there's still a very long way to go.”

Both Augustine and Steward make mention of brands who do a good job of making pieces for plus size women, including Cacique, Elomi and the soon-to-be-closed Premme. However, the lingerie industry as a whole is “incredibly resistant to change” according to Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail and founder and editor-in-chief of The Lingerie Addict.

“Some intimate apparel brands have listened and responded, those have almost universally been smaller, independent labels with comparatively little market share,” Harrington explains. “The big brands, for example, the ones you can purchase in department stores or that have their own mall-branded shops, are largely disinterested.”

Regardless of the industry’s current lack of interest, Steward believes that talking about the issues still facing plus size women will eventually get them heard.

“Make better options in plus sized fashion. Book more black women. Book more plus sized models over a size 18,” Steward says. “Listen to fat women. Listen to us.”

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