'I just burst out into tears.' The reality of plus size shopping in 2023.

There's a familiar coming-of-age montage that perhaps every woman hopes to have at least once in her life. 

You know the one. 

Where a girl dances her way down the aisles of a retail store, shimmies dresses off of coat hangers and shoves piles of linen and silk and cotton into the hands of a (presumably) disgruntled shop attendant

Watch: how to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

Then she will march to a changing room, with her wardrobe thrown over an arm, and she will be careful not to rip the tags, and she will try on everything. 

She definitely won't buy most of it. A shirt could fit weirdly. A dress might not sit snugly enough at the hips. It's not like a single pair of jeans can cater to every woman. 

Not everything will look right. 

But she will have tried it all on. 

She'll have inspected every frock, every garment and every inch of her body in the mirror with a microscopic eye because she wants to look perfect. 

Because she wants to feel beautiful in what she wears. 

This is a universal experience for many women. 


An utterly normal, completely ordinary, totally universal experience for many women — except for fat women.

Read more: 'I walked into a shopping centre as a size 26. There was nothing for me to buy.'

Shauna Ryan reminded us of that earlier this month when she marched into a flagship retail store, which proudly stocks plus-sizes up to an AU34. 

In any case, Shauna tells Mamamia she actually wasn't there to try on clothes. 

"I was looking for a bag," she recalls days later. "But then I had this vivid moment where I thought, 'Wait a minute. This is a really big store.' I made the assumption of thinking, 'There will be something for me here.'"

What happened next for Shauna actually is a universal experience for many plus-size women. 

She was told, after inquiring about the plus-size section, that they do not have her size in store. Perhaps, the shop attendant kindly told her, it might be better to try her luck online.

"She told me, 'We actually stock plus-sizes in store. We do have a couple of styles that might go up to an 18 if you can find them, but you'll just have to go online otherwise,'" Shauna recounts. "That is a response I've heard countless times."

But that time, it hit her. 

"I just burst out into tears," she says. "I have not cried in a store in quite a while. And it was just a reminder of how much, as a plus-sized person, I have to navigate additional feelings.

"There are things I don't think straight-sized people really think about at all."


Her experience led her to make a post on social media to her 6,000 followers where she wrote about the anguish she felt leaving the store. 

"This store is one of the largest in the world.' So why can’t I shop there?" she wrote late last week, later telling Mamamia she's a researcher by trade meaning she knew the exact size of the store she walked into. In fact, she knew it was one of the biggest stores in the southern hemisphere.

"As a size 18 woman, why am I constantly having to leave stores feeling embarrassed? Like there’s something wrong with me!? I’m typically just annoyed and tell myself, 'You should’ve known better Shauna,'" she continued.

"But today I couldn’t put on a brave face."


"I walked out crying. I’m exhausted again. The daily battle of trying to love what I see when I look in the mirror is quickly lost whenever I go to buy literally any clothes," she continued. 

There are plenty of inclusive retailers nowadays. The market size, measured by revenue, of the Plus Size Clothing Stores industry was $1.2 billion in 2022... So we know bigger women are ready to support brands that include them. 

We also know brands are now more than happy to cater to us. But in-store? That seems to be a different story. 

In Shauna's post, she says that online stores are not enough.

"I know there are many great plus size options online. I know there are incredible small brands paving the way in inclusive fashion, but the overheads of running a store are too much," she wrote. "I also don’t have the budget to spend $400 on a top and pants from a plus size brand, when straight size friends can buy something similar for $150.

"I want to walk into one of the biggest stores of one of the biggest chains in the world and be able to buy a f**king dress on a sunny day.

"I want to be able to walk through the city and try on clothes that aren’t just department store brands.

"WHY are more and more stores moving their plus size clothes to online only? We WANT to shop!"

Listen to this episode of Mamamia Daily. Post continues after audio. 


Shauna left quickly afterwards, even leaving behind the bag she came to purchase. 

But as she walked down one of the busiest streets of Melbourne, it dawned on her that being unable to walk into a shop and find clothes to try on isn't fair.

So she, like many other plus-size people, is pushing against the status quo. 

"If I'm out with my friends or if I'm exploring a city or if I have something last minute, I want to try something on and I don't want to be penalised and have to pay for postage just to try it on," she tells Mamamia. 

And if you're stocking your plus-size options online but not offering an in-store experience for those very customers? 

"You're not inclusive," Shauna concludes. 

"It's just not. It's great there are more options but I shouldn't be restricted to just buying shoes and jewellery in one of the biggest stores in the southern hemisphere."

Her advice is rather simple, too. 

"Do better. That's not really delicate advice but I'm really just only adding to the chorus of countless plus-size people who are leading the charge in this area," she says. "We have so much money to spend... It's just not fair. 

"There are plenty of brands that offer [clothes in my size] online but it's just not enough. We need full inclusivity."

Shauna Ryan is a freelance social media manager, content creator and writer. You can find her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Instagram @shaunashauna_.

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