fashion

"Why I can't stop staring at photos of these women wearing pyjama shorts."

I first saw them one night earlier this week, deep in a mindless social media hole while also simultaneously watching Netflix in bed.

They made my finger stop. I couldn’t scroll past them.

I’m talking about the marketing images on iconic Australian pyjama brand Peter Alexander’s website in the Plus Size section.

Specifically, images of women wearing pyjama shorts.

Ginger bread shorts, colourful baggy boxer shorts, silky shorts with lace trimming and shorts with puppy dogs on them.

Peter Alexander has been making ‘plus size’ pyjamas since 2016, but these images are new to me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them.

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There's a reason why I can't stop staring at photos of these women wearing pyjama shorts.

Their legs look like mine. They have cellulite, uneven skin tone, little dots from tanning or hair removal and random marks, perhaps from playing sport or a childhood jumping over fences.

Shorts in general are one of the items of clothing many women insist they 'just can't wear', largely because of those 'imperfections' listed above. Seeing (mostly) unaltered images of shorts made in an extended size, worn by a woman of that size is powerful and important.

Not just because of how they look, but what they say.

In my eyes, Peter Alexander's brand has always been in the glossy, unattainable space shared with the likes of Victoria's Secret. Lovely to look at, but from a distance.

For a good few of my high school years, Peter Alexander pyjama shorts were the go-to gift for birthdays and Christmas. I'd walk into the pink, fluffy stores and buy them wrapped in fun packaging for my friends, but never for myself, and if I happened to choose the pair wrapped up in Kris Kringle, I'd have to put them back or worse, stuff them in a drawer never to be worn or enjoyed.

That's why these images, and these shorts, matter to me. They're something I can be a part of.

The debate around whether brands like Peter Alexander have a responsibility to consumers to carry 'extended' or 'plus' sizes isn't new. It's also not cut and dry.

Showpo founder Jane Lu spoke about why extending their sizes to include from size 4 up to size 20 was a big, but lengthy achievement for the brand on Mamamia's Lady Startup podcast earlier this year. (You can listen to Jane Lu's full interview here if you're interested.)

"We've just extended our sizes, and I know a lot of people have said oh you should've done that in the first place, but trust me, it's not that easy. It took us a year to work with our factories... that traditionally don't make those sizes... to make our designs from size 4 up to 20, which we want to extend even further," she said.

Similarly, curve modelling agency Bella Management founder Chelsea Bonner has previously unpacked the logistics of designers providing larger sample sizes to be shot in magazines and editorials, which ultimately dictate what we'll all be wearing.

"Designers use an old school block - a block is the original sample size of, say, a shirt that they have a pattern for in a block size eight - to grade upwards [in sizes], so in order to change their sizes, they have to change the original block, which is quite a process... it doesn't mean it can't be done though," she told Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast.

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"[Some] retailers and designers say they can only sample in one size per season for media shots, so they choose the smallest size possible for economic reasons, apparently, but it's been proven that it costs no more, or a few cents more, to make a garment in a size 14 than it does to make it in a size 6. I think the buck stops with fashion designers, and the art and fashion directors who are the ones who have the power to make designers change their samples."

Body activist Taryn Brumfitt has a message she really needs you to see that'll brighten your day. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Although Peter Alexander sells sleepwear up to a size 24, other brands under parent company The Just Group don't, yet. But for the brands that have extended their sizes to include plus, and in some cases, petite - ASOS, Atmos&Here Curvy, Cooper St, Misguided, Showpo, Bohemian Traders, Boohoo, Shein, Peter Alexander - doing so was a commercial success.

In 2015, Missguided saw a 69 per cent sales increase after launching its plus and petite ranges (largely due to clever social media marketing) and The Telegraph reports Boohoo's sales increased by 129 per cent. That kind of success then trickles down to women like me, the consumer, sitting in front of my laptop, debit card in hand, looking for a checked blazer or a leopard print silk shift skirt.

How seeing an item of clothing in my size modelled by more than one body type makes me feel about myself shouldn't be underestimated. I credit ASOS' marketing of their Curve range for giving me the confidence to shop online again after many returned packages of clothes that just didn't fit right.

I don't know enough about the nitty gritty of the fashion and manufacturing industries to be able to solve the plus size debate, but what I do know is this.

I'm fortunate enough to have money to spend on clothes, and furthermore, I want to spend my money on clothes.

If you don't carry my size, I can't give you my money. Instead, I'll give it to the likes of Peter Alexander.

Do you think more brands should carry extended sizes? Tell us in the comments!

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