wellness

“It’s fatphobia. The consumer base is there.” Katie Parrott on ‘fat activism’ and the need for size inclusivity.

This post deals with eating disorders, and could be triggering for some readers.

People who are a size 16 or over, especially in Western demographics, represent about half of the female population currently in 2021. 

So why aren't clothing brands getting the message in Australia? 

Someone who is carving her space in this conversation is friend of Mamamia, Katie Parrott. 

Katie Parrott is an Instagram influencer who is on a mission to help ignite change in the fashion industry to represent consumers of all shapes, sizes and bodies.

In this week's instalment of Mamamia’s What Are You Wearing? podcast, Katie spoke about Australia’s problem with sizing - and trust us when we say it’s a pretty big problem.

Listen to What Are You Wearing? to hear Katie Parrott talk about Australia’s problem with sizing. Post continues after podcast.

For Katie, who is a size 22 to 24, plus-size clothing options are hard to come by in Australia.

“We are definitely behind, there’s no denying that. The options available internationally are incredible. For example, I love the outdoors and bushwalking, but I can’t find bushwalking clothes in Australia. I get a friend from Canada to ship those clothes to me.”

“It’s fatphobia. The consumer base is there. Brands don’t want us in their clothing because [we're] not an ‘aspirational’ demographic," Katie says.

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The idea of ‘aspiration marketing’ has been receiving some pretty well-deserved criticism as of late - case and point Victoria Secret’s decision to omit transgender or plus-size models because the show is a “fantasy”.

As Katie notes, "brands are trying to sell the dream – marketing fitness, wellbeing and beauty – and for those companies there is still a deeply rooted sense of fatphobia that views people like me as not aspirational."

Through her role as an influencer, Katie has worked with multiple brands and seen first-hand the lack of thought and care shown to consumers who are plus-size. 

“I see it as a consumer of clothing, and how difficult it can be to find things. I also see it as an influencer, because it was really common for brands to want to work with me on a campaign, but they would only have up to a size 18.” 

“I went on a trip as an influencer for a collection launch, and there was an entire room of clothing and they had not put out any bottoms in plus sizes. They knew I was going to be there; they knew what my size was. There were other plus-size people there, and I made a fuss.” 

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Podcast co-host Deni Todorovič shared their concern as well around the lack of representation in the fashion industry. 

“It does make me very concerned that we now live in this environment and culture where skinny is still being glorified as the aspirational end goal.”

“As someone who has struggled with disordered eating since I was 15, it’s a topic that is very dear to me and something I continue to be disappointed by the industry at large, especially in our country.”

So why is plus-size representation important?

“It’s a human right to move through the world with dignity and have access to clothing,” Katie says.

“For people who aren’t used to seeing themselves, they end up shrinking themselves and internalising that invisibility.” 

For Katie, shopping in-store has its challenges: simply because brands don’t often stock her size. 

“I want to be able to shop in-store. It sounds simple, but there are currently only two places in Hobart where I can find things my size in-store.” 

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Fashion is something that should be available to everyone, regardless of their size. 

“Fashion is such an important way of expressing who we are,” Katie shared on the podcast.

“I respect people who choose to wear the same thing to work every day, but it’s not for everybody. It’s how it makes you feel about yourself. A great outfit can make you feel great!”

There has been far too much resistance from the fashion industry to be more size-inclusive, Deni notes. 

“For a long time in fashion there’s been this rhetoric of ‘samples are cheaper to make in sizes four to six because we don’t want to waste money on fabric.’ You know what, that’s not okay anymore because humans exist in various sizes, heights, lengths, widths – they’re beautiful no matter what.”

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What is 'fat activism'?

According to Katie, fat activism is at its core all about normalising diverse bodies.  

“Sometimes when I’m talking about body activism, it falls into two strands. One is this body positivity movement, where it’s like ‘everyone deserves to feel good about themselves, everyone has body issues.’ And that’s legitimate. The other strand is fat activism.”

“Can I actually move through the world safely without harassment? Can I fit into chairs at work? Can I fit onto airplane seats?

As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, Katie was recommended by her psychologist to have a chat with her GP about medication. But when she went to the doctor, Katie immediately felt body shamed. 

“The GP said, ‘have you thought about trying weight loss medication?’ And I had to tell them, ‘I’ve been thin before and was depressed then too'.” Unfortunately, she is not the only person to feel fat shamed by a healthcare professional.

Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Yet through her incredible work online, Katie is having these great conversations about fashion, sizing and beyond.

“One of the things I’m really proud of as part of being online is encouraging people to be in photos. I get a lot of feedback from women, particularly older women who may have had children, that they don’t have any photos of themselves or with their family, because they are ashamed of their body. So, they choose to opt out of that moment. That to me is really upsetting. I get messages from these women saying, ‘you encourage me to live big’.”

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“I encourage others not to shrink who they are.”

Katie's fashion recommendations.

For easy and accessible department store options: “Best and Less is great and they are doing good things in their plus-size range, with up to a size 26 in-store. Their jeans are great at the moment!” 

Beyond big corporations, “Our Australian small businesses are really doing it better in the plus-size space," shares Katie. "SÜK Workwear is a Melbourne ethical workwear brand and they now stock up to a size 30, and have beautiful, structured pieces for shes, theys and others who work in trades.”  

"Vagary the Label are also incredible. They’ve just expanded up to a size 26 to 28. They do those beautiful flowy Boho dresses. The owner of that label is a friend who is also dedicated to reducing waste that comes through her supply chain. I shot a campaign with her, and we realised that I’m the first size 24 and above woman to have been in a fashion campaign in Australia.” 

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For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website,  here.  

Feature Image: Instagram @katie_parrott

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