UPDATE: According to Gemma’s Twitter, some pieces will now be available in sizes up to 32: “Just so everyone knows girls I’m here for you all you curvy ladies although some pieces are 24 were taking it up to a 32 #excited xxx” YAY! Thanks Gemma for listening.

You know, it’s been a while since I had a good old angry rant here on the blog. But here we are, yet again, with yet another spectacular fail by the fashion industry when it comes to plus size fashion.

You’ve heard of Gemma Collins? Actually those of you overseas probably haven’t, but she’s on one of the UK’s combinations of The Hills and Jersey Shore, set in Essex, which is very popular. The joke is that they are all rich but classless, and impossibly dim. And one of them, Gemma, is “fat”. I have to admit I’ve never seen the show – I live near where it’s filmed, and it’s embarrassing enough to see in real life let alone watch it on TV – but I’ve seen a few interviews with Gemma and she seems really nice, and pretty genuine.

In the past few months – after she lost loads of weight at a fat camp, which should have rung alarm bells – she’s been touted as the plus size fashion correspondent in the UK, appearing on chat shows and in magazines, talking about how hard it is to be fashionable as a plus size woman. Then it emerged she was “designing” her own plus size fashion line. Awesome! She did appearances with Simply Be, the store manager at Evans in Marble Arch had the entire Swan collection bagged up to give to her. She always looks nice (in the stereotypical Essex way, granted) which I took as a good sign. So now, the collection drops this week on her website. Here’s what she has to say about her collection from the press release:

I am so happy to be able to offer bigger girls a clothing range that they can show their curves off in – why should plus size girls be stuck wearing black and try to cover up? Just because you’re bigger it doesn’t mean you can’t dress well and be glam – girls should be proud of their figure no matter what size you are – I am!

And guess what the size range is, peeps?

16 – 22.

No, that’s not a typo. And that’s British sizing by the way, two ahead of US sizing. A US12-US18.

Yes, I’m angry. I’m confused. There are a few places on the high street that go up to 22 in their collections: Dorothy Perkins; Next; Tesco; TU at Sainsburys; H&M; Asda; M&Co; Forever 21 (+ range included), Marks & Spencer. And more that I can’t remember. Even her straight sized co-star, Lauren Goodger, had her straight sized fashion collection adapted up to size 32 by Simply Be. So why stop at 22? Are we supposed to believe it’s plus size because of the absence of smaller sizes? That doesn’t really wash, though, as the suppliers the collection is coming from sells the originals in sizes as small as 6 (US2).

Look, shopping over size 16 is difficult, but it’s once you head over size 22 that the doors are officially closed to you on the high street. Over size 22, you’re considered so repulsive by companies they don’t even want your money, unless it’s via a remote transaction online. And here we have the current plus size spokesperson of the country, doing the EXACT SAME THING. How can that be viewed as anything other than an insult, especially when it comes with such “empowering” talk? “…[you] should be proud of their figure no matter what size you are” – but only if you’re bigger up to an acceptable point, is that it?

A plus size collection that ends at a size 22 is not a plus size collection at all. As Em put so succinctly on twitter: Curvy, plus size, fat acceptance doesn’t stop at a size 22. It begins there.

You know, I genuinely don’t think this is all squarely on Gemma’s shoulders herself, but the team responsible for this collection – well done guys. You just alienated the same women who needed you most. Don’t believe me? Check out Joanna’s post. If you really felt that catering for sizes over 22 was untenable financially, or – and this will REALLY piss me off if it turns out to be the case – irresponsible in the face of an “obesity epidemic”, why did you frame it as an empowering collection, catering to plus size women who have been ignored (just not by all those high street shops I mentioned)?

Did you guys really think you could appropriate fatshionista language, our movement and goals for your own monetary gain, leave half of us out in the cold and think we wouldn’t notice or care?

I’m just so sick of it, people. I’m so sick of this faux-body-love-within-slightly-wider-limitations-than-usual for money. I’m sick of larger fats routinely being shut out of even plus size fashion stores. I’m sick of seeing the endless parade of white, cisgendered, straight women who are a bit (but not too much!) bigger than usual celebrities framing size acceptance in a sickeningly heteronormative, binarist and cissexist way: “real women have curves!” and “you know real men like girls with some meat on their bones!” being the oft-heard culprits. I’m tired of seeing people exclaim that they love their bodies while looking for the next fad diet that will change it completely, or being all for acceptance “unless you’re REALLY fat, then you’re a drain on the NHS.” And so on.

It’s been said that the collection has been picked up by a retailer. I just hope it’s Simply Be, who can do the same as with Ax Paris and Lauren Goodger and have the clothes made up to size 32 – at least.

Okay. Rant over now!


  • http://twitter.com/boombands Em. x.

    Last year, Gemma posed as a size 20 for Heat Magazine. She was naked and I admit, I thought it was amazing.

    I started watching TOWIE and liked the Gemma character well enough, but always noticed how self deprecating she was, but also – how negative other characters were towards her. Other members of the show – even her friends, openly laughed at her, they also scoffed at the models in her “fashion show” and were rude about the possibility of her having sex. One particular scene struck me at my core where she cried because she felt guilt about wanting to eat food. She was on a diet, see – so why would she want a hamburger? It was sad. It was also something MANY women can relate to – which is nice to a degree – to see that reflected on television – but it certainly isn’t body positive – it instead showed the pain and struggle of someone unhappy with their body and their diet. In recent episodes the Gemma character has seemingly become more body confident – but I could never really tell if that was genuine or staged. It’s felt staged, especially since the character has tolerated horrendous bad mouthing (about her curvy body), from a man she apparently likes. It’s been cringey.

    To be honest, THAT’s the thing that confuses me MOST about the fascination with this character. I am more body positive on my blog. SO are you Lauren. SO are MOST bloggers. The Gemma character puts herself down, punishes her body, laments her size and shape. I’m not saying she doesn’t have a right to exercise and eat healthily – hell – I do those things – but not because I hate how my body looks or can’t stand how I feel. I retain the same weight and just live on. HAES and all that.

    I feel sad and angry about this whole size range situation with the “Gemma Collins” range. This SHOULD have been amazing. A woman LIKE us (albeit a bit smaller now), designing a range FOR US. The unfortunate thing about this limited sizing is that ultimately – I don’t believe you can be a plus size or body confidence advocate and then exclude plus size people. And what probably upsets me most about this limitation in size, is the pretence by Gemma for all these months that this would be a hugely inclusive range for “all the plus size girls” who need a little fashion. I can wear this range. Totally. MANY, MANY plus size women I know, or whom read my blog – can not.

    This could have (and should have) been an amazing plus size range, by a woman who’s been put under massive scrutiny, that included fashions for ALL plus size people (like her), who ALSO get put under such scrutiny. This isn’t a brand or shop doing a plus size line – this is someone who claims that their whole reason for releasing this line is to put forth body confidence and promote curvy fashion affirmation. THAT’s what she’s been saying. It therefore upsets me that by her definition, this stops at a 22. Clothing stores that stop at a 22 or 26 don’t pretend to be anything more than what they are. This range – for months – has claimed a kind of absolute inclusivity for all the plus size girls who want to “dress well and be glam”. Like yourself Lauren, I do hope this line – which only covers FOUR sizes – will be picked up and extended by a company that sees value in plus consumers and plus size people.

    I really, really wanted to love this. I really, really wish I could. It was hyped as being inclusive and amazing. The last thing I expected was to be let down. I truly hope someone like Simply Be picks the range up and extends it so it can still be inclusive and amazing. Here’s hoping. xxx.

  • http://twitter.com/theplussideofme theplussideofme

    Lauren, I love your ranty posts! Many fatshionistas don’t speak out about size 22+ or 26+ because it doesn’t affect them, but I always admire those who speak out for the super fatties. THANK YOU!

  • http://tutusandtinyhats.wordpress.com/ Laura

    Ugh, I am so sick of “plus-size” collections that leave out most fat women. I’m in the US, so I haven’t heard of Gemma Collins, but boo on her and her team for appropriating fat-positive language to sell the same old exclusionary shit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tracey.brocking Tracey Brocking

    Still shocked by the whole thing. I hope she reads your blog post and the comments made by Em below or they get shown to her. As someone who has opened Simply Be stores, fronted plus-size features on This Morning you think she’d know the importance of plus size clothes being avaliable in bigger sizes. You can’t be a spokesperson for a cause half-heartedly.

  • Karina Johansen

    I do not know Gemma Collins, but I always agree with you on your ranty posts! ;-) And I am really sick about this whole “let’s include curvier women and pretend we are expanding on the beauty ideals in fashion, but for God’s sake let’s leave out the really fat people”. That is also the people that considers a size UK12-14 plus size and feel all proud for featuring them in their magazine or on their website. ” Look at us we are soooo inclusive”.

  • http://twitter.com/blogtobealive Valerie De Pever

    Your rant fits well with my rant about no size 22 & above in highstreet stores. We are really going back instead of going forward. Sad times. :( Like I said on Twitter, it’s the same issue we have here. We only have one “real” plus size store called Paprika and it stops at 22 and it’s a very small 22 (can barely fit in it).

  • kaytee

    I am surprised by so many things about this range, especially given the hype that has been going on about it for ages, and the things that I have read or “heard” Gemma herself say. I was led to believe that she was designing the collection herself, not merely using some others designs, but in larger sizes. I saw her speak about the range, about how she had done the whole thing herself, including the financing, and was selling it herself through her own website.
    It didn’t even occur to me that the size range would be limited, as like you have said, many high street stores stock the regular range up to a size 22. And as a woman who came into the public as a size 20, this seems ridiculous. I also find it very odd and contradictory that she promotes plus size, yet spends her life being featured in magazines on various diet and excercise regimes, and constantly stating that she “has” to be a size 14!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510025303 Mel Chillag

    I am this magical size 22 that is apparently the biggest acceptable size to be as a fat person, and I need to start recognising my privilege more, but this has really pissed me off too. I am able to shop on the high street (and this collection will cater to my body) so I can’t really speak for or truly understand the struggles my fatter counterparts go through but I agree with everything you’ve said Lauren.. it just stinks that even though we’re seeing a rise in fashionable “plus size” clothing being readily available it stops at this arbitrary number just like it used to stop at size 18. Fat people aren’t going away no matter what sizing they choose to be most acceptable and it’s just sad that I have no clue what I can do to help short of start a clothing line myself!

  • cassie

    To be honest, I can’t imagine anything worse that dressing like this woman – this ‘Towie’ look is pretty much my worst nightmare! Having saId that, I still find this collection very odd – Very.com have collections from Myleene Klass, Holly Willoughby and Coleen Rooney (to name but a few) that all go above a size 22, and they’re not even specifically for ‘plus sized’ women. You’d have thought someone might have done a bit of research! I wish there were more plus sized women working in fashion, I think it really would make a difference.

  • Monica

    Where do these people lie? I am so tired of what seems like discrimination for people who aren’t big enough. Despite what many believe, most women who are a size 16 have trouble shopping because regular size 16 don’t fit. They are too tight in the arms, chest, and thighs. Big surprise, plus size 16 don’t fit either. They are too wide in the arms, chest, and waist. sizes 16-18 aren’t really accepted by any group. They aren’t considered plus by the larger women and are too big for regular stores. They don’t have their own stores like plus size women and the majority of regular stores only go to a 12-14. When someone creates a line that targets this unmet (and in desperate need) market, they have to deal with rants. Ridiculous!

    • Em

      I don’t think anyone is ranting because she is making the line for people who are size 16. I think people are mostly reacting to the fact she has claimed she is making a range that is accessible for ALL fat women who want to feel a little glam, and isn’t actually doing that. She has received hype and support based on that statement.

      You are missing the point if you think there is size discrimination here as regards smaller sizes, that just isn’t the case. This line will only fit women who wear clothes in the size range that Gemma herself yo-yos between. I don’t care if she wanted to make a range just for those people – she just should have made that intention clear from the start.

      Ultimately, this range will hopefully get picked up by a rad, forward thinking and inclusive brand (like Simply Be, perhaps), to then be extended. Someone creating a line that only covers a size 16, 18, 20 and 22 isn’t designing a fashion line for fat women, she is designing a highly limited range for smaller plus sizes (of which I am one, by the way). There has been bragging in the media about how much money Gemma will make off the back of being “fat” and creating this line – which says a lot about her actual intentions for creating this range. She’s also said the “haters” can kiss her ass. Well, we aren’t haters. WE are the fat girls – the girls for whom she has claimed to be making this line. My readers are these girls. My readers are ALSO the size 12 girls who consider themselves in an inbetweenie range or the size 12 girls who think they are too fat, or even too slim. My readers are of all sizes – including the size 2-10 girls who just love ALL fashion and don’t care if they read a blog oriented towards plus size or not.

      The question to you has to be, have you even read how disappointed some of the size 24-26 girls are? Let alone the size 28-32 girls. While size 16 girls may have a difficult time finding clothes for their shape (indeed, don’t plenty of girls who run through the different sizes with different body shapes and types??), you better trust that a size 28 girl has a much more limited choice.

      • http://pocketrocketfashion.com Lauren

        Thanks Em, you said it. I actually fit in this collection myself – but I’m not about to throw my larger friends under the bus.

    • cassie

      Wow! What stores only go up to a 12-14? Even Topshop goes up to a size 16. Size 16 is extremely well catered for – I know this because I go shopping with my best friend all the time and she is a busty size 16. Getting the right fit / cut for your individual curves is a different issue altogether and is problematic for every woman (whether your a size 8 or28!) because we are all different. If size 16 girls don’t fit into any regular size 16 clothes then they might actually be a standard size 18 – nothing wrong with that, and many high street stores provide that size too. How many women have to size up to accommodate a large bosom or a big bottom? MILLIONS! The fact remains that any collection that is advertised as a plus collection is pretty crap if it only goes up to a size 22. Justified rant Lauren.

  • Anna Sellheim

    I don’t know this woman, and I agree with your argument. That said, based on the picture this line is gonna be tacky as hell.

  • Laura

    Hi all, I read this post and went on to the website and had a look at the dress, a couple I thought were horrific but there are some really nice pieces. I have read around a bit, and since it has gone online a couple of the dresses are offered in a 24, and apparently more will come up to a sie 32. Now I totally agree with you, why couldn’t this be done straight away, its ridiculous and the only thing I can think of it CAN (gemmas management who have launched this website) were seeing if the pilot collection did well enough to warrant this. the fact that there has been posts like this, AND that they are now expanding is surely only a good thing because it sends out the message that 22 plus women ALSO want trendy fashion and will have a voice on social media, and are willing to pay for this. So I decided to take the plunge and order the ‘essex’ dress as I really like the cut and style, I ordered in both black and pink and while a little snug I honestly feel amazing in them, particularly the black the fit and the lining is really well made.
    So on this occasion, rather than jumping to the negative as it is so easy to do, I want to say thanks to Gemma for getting this line out – fingers crossed for more lovely outfits and get the bloody sizes 24-32 on the way!

    • http://pocketrocketfashion.com Lauren

      Aww I think you made the right choice, the Essex dresses are definitely my favourite. I didn’t aim to be negative, I mean I’m guilty of championing brands that have limited size ranges (Carmakoma and ASOS Curve are my faves and they stop at 26) but I just got tired of it keeping happening. I’m really glad they listened, though, if not to me then other fans saying the same thing. :)

  • http://www.divadellecurve.com/ divadellecurve

    I hear you so much on this dear and at least in Uk you have evans and yours, in italy if it wasn’t for a few foreign companies like H&M we would only have the expensive brands wich are not in young women’s budget. Whenever you ask to have a decent REAL plus size range (here the so called plus size lines mostly end at 20-22) they tell you they cannot promote obesity. I was told to lose weight instead of asking for nicer and cheaper clothes and some people even told me I am ‘sick’ because I am ‘fat’. Even the bigger names which are more expensice don’t want to use curvier models and even with bloggers (in italy I can only name another curvy blogger with me who goes beyond size 20) they tend to prefer those who are not too plus size, even though they carry big sizes… This is why i keep on blogging and I do it in Italian!

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  • People Shirts

    The collections are really good.

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