An Outfit + That Time I Was Called Plus Sized

Since this is an outfit that I feel good about myself in, I think it makes sense to use as a backdrop for something serious. Last week, I wrote about the time I wore a swimsuit. It was difficult for me to do, as I suspect it would be for most women, and I went into it knowing full well that Internet trolls exist for this very reason. However, I never once thought it would become the time I was called plus sized by the company who sent me the swimsuit.

The day after I put up the post, the company  shared it on their social media. This normally would have been great, except that they titled a Facebook album with my post "Curvy Girl" and hashtagged all of the posts with #plussizefashion. There are a few things wrong with this. First, it was never discussed that this was how my photos were going to be used. Second, I know that I'm not plus sized, and I have never advertised myself as such on my blog. When I first saw the posts, I immediately felt a combination of hurt and embarrassed -- things I try my best to avoid. I pride myself on having a healthy body image; I know that I'm not stick thin, and I love the fact that I have curves. I do know that I'm not plus sized though. Like any human would, however, I couldn't help but see myself labeled that way and wonder, "wait, am I plus sized? Is this how other people see me?" And that's a shitty feeling to have. I spent so much time worrying about just wearing the swimsuit and then even more time worrying about putting up the photos. When everyone around me responded with such overwhelming support after I shared the post, it was easy to feel good about myself. So when all of that came crashing down with one silly hashtag, it felt like experiencing whiplash. It was as if all of that hard work toward positive body image was for nothing, and that's not okay.

After those brief awful moments of self doubt were over, they were quickly replaced with anger. I am a size medium. I ordered a size 36C top and a size 10 bottoms because I figured I should go up a size to be safe. Hell, the dress I'm wearing in these photos is a size medium, and I am almost always a size 8. Yet this company decided that this size was an okay standard for plus size. That alone is not only unfair to me, but it's unfair to girls who actually do consider themselves to be plus sized. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a larger size, and if I thought I were, I would completely own that. However, I'm not, and I don't think women who are would appreciate that label being used so carelessly. All of this isn't even to mention the fact that a man would never deal with being labeled as "curvy" or plus sized.

More than anything, though, I was angry at the lack of discussion in how my photos were used. The company never once approached me to say they wanted to use my photos to promote plus sized fashion. I fully understand that whoever used my photos this way had no intention if hurting me. As a company that primarily features tiny size 2 girls (others of whom they chose the much more flattering tag of #sexy), I get they wanted to promote that their product works on different body types. But since they never told me that was the goal, I can't help but feel exploited and used as a tool for likes. I'm fine with being labeled as curvy; I label myself that way. But when other bloggers are featured in a Facebook album called "lovely clients and bloggers," while my photos are put in a separate album labeled "Curvy Girl," it's hard not to feel like "curvy" isn't being used in the best sense of the word. It made me feel like the only reason they wanted to work with my blog was for my size, not for my content. My point is this: there's nothing wrong with any kind of body type or label, but I at least have the right to choose which label I want to give myself rather than have it chosen for me.

Since the posts went up, I've contacted the company and they've changed the album title and deleted the hashtags. For most of the first day, I was worried that I was being too sensitive and taking the label to hard. After talking to almost everyone I know (friends, family, my boyfriend, coworkers, other bloggers, you name it), and getting the same exact response from everyone, I decided that I had a right to be upset and express this to them. The woman I spoke gave me her sincere apologies and made sure the posts were corrected, which I greatly appreciate. I mostly sent the email in hopes that it would protect other bloggers they work with from going through the same thing I did.

I'm not writing this post to become a voice of the positive body image movement; what I experienced wasn't all that terrible compared to what others have gone through, and there are far more qualified women to lead that charge. And I am definitely not writing this post looking for comments about whether or not I am plus sized. I thought it was worth it to share, though, because however minor it may be, it's still part of a larger issue worth talking about. I've been so spoiled by the positive and supportive blogging community and by staying away from high fashion magazines and celebrity style for so long, that I've turned the other cheek. I'm grateful that the company handled my email appropriately and admitted to its wrongdoing, and I still plan on wearing the gorgeous swimsuit. I know I can't change anything about the Internet's effect of body image or what have you, but at the very least, I hope my tiny post will be another step forward, at least for myself. Whether I identify as plus sized or not is my decision, and I did not decide that.

Dress: Fleet Collection
Shoes: Thrifted
Sunglasses: c/o Zero UV


  1. Wow! I'm shocked. It seems that they weren't trying to hurt you but yes it IS hurtful! One silly little #hashtag can change the way a whole image it's attached to is perceived. Um... we are almost basically the same size when we shared clothing so if you're plus sized then so am I. I think you look great and it was very brave of you to post images of yourself in a two piece, I don't think I'd have enough guts to do that! I'm so sorry that happened to you girl! Don't let this destroy your self worth or image of yourself!!! You are such a beautiful person inside and out and that's a fact!!

  2. Excellent, excellent post, Elana. You put everything I've been thinking (both about your situation and my own) into words so perfectly. I'm very glad to know that the company corrected the situation, but it certainly highlights a much larger problem. I think in some ways, the body positive movement is just as misconstrued as the feminism movement, and when people don't fully understand it, it can do more harm than good. I also forgot to actually look at the swimsuit post before, and you look AWESOME. Brava!

    xox Sammi

  3. Perfect response Elana! I'm really glad they fixed the issue and were apologetic. I think their suits are really cute, but this would definitely make me hesitant to ever work with them and I have since unfollowed their social media. As someone who wears the same size as you, I definitely appreciate you speaking up! Also, this dress is so cute!

  4. This is a really prevalent issue, and you handled it with grace. And regardless of whether or not you're a pundit for the body positive movement, sharing your story can help a lot of people with your own issues, so thanks for bringing your bravery in all circumstances out into the open!

    The world can be a very crappy place, and it's people like you who help make it not suck so bad.

  5. Oy, I'm sorry that happened to you! It's so funny because I look at you and I think you are so refreshingly normal-- not a superthin model size, not a voluptuous plus size, but that great in-between which happens to be my favorite -- an average-sized person who wears fantastic clothes. Someone I can relate to, and think "I could totally wear that!" which is, to me, the best kind of person and blogger there is. So to hear that a company called you "plus size" is just... confusing. You're no larger than me (un-pregnant me, haha!), and I would not be labeled as plus size.

    I feel as though model-thin and actual plus-sized bloggers tend to get the most attention for various reasons -- thin being socially hailed as "ideal" and therefore more attractive somehow, and plus size credited for being brave to actually wear nice clothes (I love plus size blogs, and I think it is awesome that they show you don't have to be a perfect body to wear pretty things! But come on society, just because someone doesn't have an "ideal" body, whatever that may be, doesn't mean they have to waste away in the dark and never feel good about themselves), and I think companies tend to take advantage of this and are eager to classify their clients or blogger promoters as one or the other. Not super thin? Well, that means you're plus sized, because that's how to get the most clicks and shares while marketing.

    And it's sad that there isn't a larger spot in marketing for average sized gals like us. Women who sit in the middle, in the healthy body with curves, the not super thin or super muscular or really super anything except... super awesome, obviously. Companies have been so trained to either promote unrealistic ideals in thinness -- aspirations to women who are insecure and desperate to look like that -- or to promote what looks like groundbreaking bravery (and it can be, for some plus sized women, I'm not saying it doesn't take guts to put yourself out there as a curvier girl) in people who don't fit the mold -- plus sized women who are the exact opposite of the models we are used to seeing. There really needs to be a middle ground, too, and I think this whole situation shows that very clearly.

    Anyway. LONG rant, sorry! I'm so sorry that this happened, and I think you handled it appropriately. I would have been tempted to let it slide, too, but we DO need to stand up and confront issues like this, and I'm glad to hear the company handled it well.

  6. You laid out your points so eloquently Elana, and I agree 100%. That is not okay that they so carelessly labeled you something that you don't even identify with! The body image issue is one that's certainly getting attention today (thankfully), albeit the change is a slow one.
    Anyway, way to speak out and share your experience!

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

  7. I think the mobile site ate my original comment (stupid phone) but I wanted to say how proud I am of you for sticking up for yourself (and rightfully so)! It was really shady of them to not discuss how your photos were going to be used in the first place. I'm glad you called them out and were honest and thoughtful in your reasons for contacting them. Good thing they complied too--i hope they apologized and won't do it again in the future .

    On a lighter note, I love that fleet dress on you! Is it terrible that I ordered 3 more dresses when they were marked down even more? Oops .

  8. P.S. You sparked a lot of thoughts yesterday, and I'm so glad you did. I don't mean to be some sort of promote-myself-everywhere blogger, but I wanted to thank you for sparking my brain and making me write my own post about the subject!

    Stripes, Headscarves, and Thoughts on "Plus Size"

  9. I'd been looking forward to reading your thoughts on this since you'd mentioned it the previous post and this current post has been sitting open on a tab in my browser since it was posted; I've gone back to read it through multiple times. It just makes me think- always something appreciated.

    On the onset, I just wanted to say I'm proud both that you shared the bathing suit photos (you looked FABULOUS, and that had to have been scary to share), and that you stood up for yourself in this situation and contacted the company. Also glad they were able to (somewhat) rectify the situation. Obviously, they cannot take back what they did, but it is good that things were changed after things were pointed out to them. Lastly, proud you shared this, as it couldn't not have been easy either.

    Still, the fact that this happened- that you, a woman who seems to have typical proportions and clothing sizes of most American women, were labelled plus size- seems a sign of a larger issue. It shows a really skewed sense of what is normal- both for women who are a size 8 (or who fall anywhere that range of bigger than a 2 but smaller than plus-size), but also for those who are looking for cute clothing in plus size range. How disappointing would that be- to be in need of plus size clothing and think you've found some, only to be told "plus size" is a size much smaller than you?!

    As a blogger, of course, I'm fascinated (and worried!) by what happened to your images and how they were used. Not sure if you had seen this news report, but a man took screenshots of Instagram photos, blew them up and is selling them for $90,000 each. No money being made by the actual photographers or the people in the photos. And apparently by putting it out there on the web-a public space- it means somehow you don't have copyright (at least, according to unsuccessful lawsuits against the man "rephotographing"). Obviously, this situation isn't quite the same. The company did have contact with you, and, as a company it is in their best interest to maintain a good relationship with you and other potential costumers. But between you and this article, it really makes one think about how quickly your images can be claimed by others for their own purposes! Well, at the very least, it certainly makes me aware of really asking in any future collaboration I do with companies to specify how they will use the images or content o their social media....

    Anyway, sorry for writing you a novel of a comment. You look great in this dress and you are an awesome person and blogger! Keep up the good work!

  10. I think it is terrible that they did not tell you beforehand what they planned to do with your photos and post, and not only does it make you feel bad, but I'm sure it probably had the potential to make other girls feel bad and start to think that THEY were plus-sized because they have a similar body to you. The standards today are pretty ridiculous.
    I headed on over to this company's website to see what it was all about. I went to design a swimsuit because it IS a cool idea. When I got to the size part, I was extremely disappointed. They only have 4 cup size options: A, B, C, D. As someone with a somewhat odd bra size of 32E, this was a letdown. What about people who are smaller than A? What about people who are larger than D? There are women of every kind of size and shape out there, and if you are going to offer a custom fit, then you need to offer more sizes than that. I ended up e-mailing them about it just now, so we will see if they respond!

  11. Whoa, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm glad things were sorted out, but you're right -- there's a certain connotation that goes with that kind of label. Especially when your photos are separated between "lovely clients and bloggers" and "curvy girl". Yikes!

  12. This is a really interesting post - thanks so much for writing it! The lines can be so blurred between different shapes and styles, but I don't think it's up to other people to choose which category you should be in, or even if there's any need to put people into categories at all! I know some of my pictures have been added to boards on Pinterest under headings like "Curvy girl wearing shorts", as if it was a brave thing to do, even though I'm actually a UK size 8 (size 2-4 in US clothing I've bought). I do have a "curvy" figure (large bust of 28H), but I don't think it should be up to other people to decide whether something is "brave" for me to wear.
    While I'm here, I just wanted to ask (and please feel free to ignore if you like!), but is 36C your usual bra size? I definitely can't be the judge by sight alone, but you look a fairly similar size to me. A 36C is meant for an underbust measurement of 36" and overbust of 39", does that sound like you? A lot of companies are misinformed by telling people to use the +4 method, whereas most people are much more comfortable in a band size that's closest to their underbust measurement. If you'd like more info, I run a blog at Big Cup Little Cup about it (this post might be helpful), but that's entirely your choice if you're comfortable anyway :)

  13. Never thought of you or seen you as a plus sized lady. I see you as a slim curvy girl, if this even makes any sense, I don't exactly know how to explain it :D Perhaps the company doesn't know what plus sized really means, but even so, they might have told you that they wanted to use different types of bodies to showcase their products. Kudos to them for editing their posts and to you standing up for yourself like that. I understand your worries, sometimes the internet can be a dick with so many people behaving like dicks >.<
    As for men, they don't get called plus sized or curvy, because they just get called fat, which is way more hurtful than the other labels in my opinion.

  14. I think you handled this appropriately and I totally agree with your reasoning. As a person who actually is plus-sized, it's so so SO disappointing to find cute clothes advertised as "plus sized" when they are...not actually plus sized.

  15. I think you handled this very well - especially when you weren't told before hand how that would be addressed. Plus-size is such a meaningless label anyway in my mind - everyone views it differently. I'm glad that the company was understanding and took care of it. I think you look fabulous in both the swimsuit and the dress in this post - so pretty!