'Shopping centres barely cater to women past a size 14. We're fed up.'

Plus-size women are fed up with having limited options at mainstream shopping centres. How do I know this? Because I’m a plus-size woman and I’m sick of struggling to find stylish clothes that also fit me. 

Every time I go to a shopping centre and come back empty-handed, all I can think is it shouldn’t be this hard. 

Last week, the conversation I’ve been having in my head for years about shopping went viral. It was like it flew out of my head and ended up on the internet.

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Plus-size model and influencer Imogen Ivy put shared a post on Instagram about how grim the shopping situation is for curvier women in Australia, and she got a huge response. 

The post read: “Wakey wakey Australia. About time you step up... If you are size 14 in Australia there is a slim chance you can walk into any store and buy clothes, let alone clothes you want. Size 16+ even smaller chance. Size 18+ don’t even bother. It’s about time this horrendous fat-phobia stops.”  


It got instant traction online with many plus-size women commenting and discussing how difficult they found it to shop in store in Australia. 

It was a conversation that felt long overdue, and yes - while some brands are slowly beginning to extend their size range, in my opinion not enough are making this choice. 

The reality is that most brands in Australia still stop at a size 14 or 16, and that leaves a lot of women with money to burn out in the cold - literally, we can’t find coats in our size!  

When I spoke to Imogen about what prompted the post, she didn’t bother mincing her words, explaining: “I am an Australian curve model in London and almost daily I am asked by bookers, agents and brands, “What’s the plus/curve/fat representation like in Australia?” I am always quickly reminded there is minimal representation or exposure in comparison to the UK, US and Europe.” 


“I grew up as a bigger girl in Australia not being able to buy clothes that fit me by Australian brands. It’s so damaging, for young minds especially, to not feel included when shopping with friends if they are over a size 14, for example.”  


Of course, she’s right - think of the stores you see at your local shops like Glassons, Kookai or sass and bide.

These are all brands that stop firmly at a size 14, maybe a size 16 if you are lucky. This is incredibly alienating for curvy women. 

It means that when I go trawling for an outfit, I’m pretty unlikely to find something that fits me. 

How I am I meant to live my best Carrie Bradshaw life under these circumstances? There’s nothing glamorous about trying to find stretchy fabric in stores because that means maybe their size 14 will fit.  

Yes, there are some brands that do offer extended size ranges in Australia, but often it’s limited.  

Listen to Mamamia's fashion podcast, where hosts Tamara and Deni discuss Australian sizing with influencer, Katie Parrott. Post continues below.

Have you ever had the pleasure of walking into a store and having to walk past all the clothes you wished would fit you until you end up in a small section of clothes that will? It’s not exactly a fabulous shopping experience. 

Often the brands that do offer extended sizing offer it in a limited range of products, which isn’t exactly an inclusive approach: “Hey, we are a size inclusive brand -  well inclusive with four styles, everything else is actually in exclusive sizing.” 


I’m not the only one struggling at shopping centres. 

Fellow plus-size lady Kirbee Lawler shared with me her own experience: “Going to [the shopping centre] is fruitless - although I always have an idea of what I’m after, I always leave empty handed. So I’ve turned to online shopping, which means having to plan ahead and buy things at least two weeks before I plan on wearing them.” 

Similarly, when I reached out to Australian curve model Simone Vicious, she said this: “I’d rather grate my fists and shove them in Dettol than actively shop at my local shopping centre for new clothes. I know that sounds dramatic, but what’s the point when I know that I’m just going to be so disappointed and go into a vicious cycle of self depravation?”  


If I’m being honest, I now avoid physical shopping at these centres because of the self hatred it tends to ignite.

Not being able to find your size or find something that fits and makes you feel good isn’t exactly a recipe for positive body image. 


It just always makes me feel bad about myself. 

So instead, I’ve found my safe place online. 

While it’s been great to discover so many great size inclusive Australian small businesses like Edgeley, Made590 and Frida Las Vegas, it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be nice to be able to just pop into a shopping centre and grab a fabulous new top for an impromptu night out with the girls.  

It’s also important to note that it took me a while to find this online community of great shops.  

Growing up, my only shopping option was to go the local mall and the experience usually left me in tears. 

I grew up believing I was never going to get to be stylish and fabulous or wear the trends my friends got to embrace simply because I could hardly ever find my size. 

Now I’m in my 20s, I feel I’ve really hit a stride with my style and confidence and that’s because I have finally found fashion options that make me feel good - but none of these options are available at my local shopping centre.  


Ultimately, I think the reason Imogen’s post went viral is because it hit a nerve. 

It reminded everyone that the Australian fashion industry just isn’t catering to a whole group of women. 

I do think as a society we are really beginning to understand that women come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful. But it feels like the Australian fashion scene still hasn’t got the message, despite the fact that plus-size women aren’t being quiet about demanding more from them. 

I don’t know why change hasn’t come faster and why more brands have failed to understand this market and aren’t catering for curvy women. 

What I do know is that plus-size women deserve better.

Feature Image: Getty / Instagram/@imogenfkingivy

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