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Forever 21 gets roasted for using non-plus sized models for plus sized line

Forever 21 seemed to be on the right track when it created an Instagram account to promote its new plus-sized clothing line, but are already being slammed with comments complaining that the models on the site are, at best, average sized.

Social media flub

Clothing retailer Forever 21 seemed to be on the right track when it created an Instagram account to promote its new plus-sized clothing line. The account was opened just this month and has already gained 10,000 followers.

Unfortunately, the models depicted on the account are, well, distinctly not plus-sized.

Expanding representation beyond “average”

The brand has already been slammed with dozens of comments complaining that the models on the site are, at best, average sized. “I don’t understand how this girl is plus” someone challenged. Another angry viewer said, “this pisses me the f— off she’s average size not plus.”


Featuring medium-sized models on the page may seem innocuous, but it can be a real confidence killer for larger women, who already face weight-based discrimination. The movement for fat acceptance (Queer Fat Femme is a great resource if you’re unfamiliar with fat positivity) has made much progress in encouraging clothing companies and media to expand their representation of women beyond the stick thin super model type.

An insult to customers who increased their revenue

That’s why it’s, frankly, insulting that Forever 21 got it together to start producing plus-size clothing (and to increase their revenue by gaining plus-size customers) but insists upon using skinny models to display the clothing. If average sized women are being presented as plus-sized, where does that the leave the genuinely big girls? Said one Instagram user, “Wow I must be mega-size.”

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Part of the problem is that there is really no industry standard for the use of the term “plus-sized.” Forever 21’s plus-sized clothing line starts at a size 12; other companies often start categorizing clothing as plus-sized at size 14 and up.

Embracing all beauty

The good news is that, in response to the outcry, Forever 21 deleted some of the postings with “average-sized” models.

Linda Chang, Forever 21’s vice president of merchandising, told Digiday: “We always appreciate our customers reaching out when they have a concern and therefore have removed some of the images and are working to ensure all of our future posts accurately represent the Forever 21 Plus customer. As a majority of the content on our social media accounts are user generated by our loyal customers, we encourage them to continue to share their own photos to provide a true representation of our clothing, embracing beauty in all shapes and sizes.”


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Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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