10 Ethical Plus Size Fashion Brands That You Need To Know About

Did you know that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world? Scary right.  The best way to beat this problem is to buy clothes that are ethically sourced and made from sustainable materials. In this post, we will look at some of the best retailers making sustainable size inclusive and/or ethical plus size fashion.

Why do we need ethical fashion?

The rise of fast fashion has seen many people buy clothes, wear them once or twice and then let them go to landfill. Some of these clothes are non-biodegradable and/or can’t be recycled and are instead polluting the planet.

Sadly, it’s not just an environmental issue. We are all very aware of the ‘sweat shops’ in places like China and Bangladesh where workers are paid teeny tiny amounts of money for the clothes that they make.

 But it doesn’t stop there.

 A 2017 investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches found this was also happening in the UK! A lot of the factories who make clothes for some of our high street favourites pay their staff less than half of the minimum wage.

We were shocked, just like psblogger Callie Thorpe who took to Twitter to talk about how upset she was. Highlighting the problem that turning to ethical fashion was not an option for many fuller-figured women. A lot of the ethical fashion companies don’t make clothes in their sizes. or those that do make ethical plus size clothing are very expensive. 

What do we mean when we talk about ‘sustainable materials’?

Sustainable materials are defined as providing ‘environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and the environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.’

While some synthetic fabrics are sustainable,  a lot of them are made using petroleum products (not sustainable) so when we talk about sustainable fabrics, they are mostly going to be made from natural fabrics like flax, hemp, bamboo, wool, and silk. (Read the InSyze guide to fabrics here.)

You would think that cotton would be a top of the list when it comes to sustainable fabrics but that is not true. There a lot of insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals used in the growing of cotton plants (not sustainable.) Organic cotton doesn’t use chemicals so it is sustainable.

Ethical Plus Size Fashion

There are 3 main types of ethical companies:

  • Fair Trade – brands who pay  ALL their workers a fair, living wage.
  • Made Locally – To cut down on the fashion miles your clothes do, a lot of ethical brands will make their garments in the same country where they are based.
  • Sustainable Fabrics – See  above

Each one of the companies listed here meets at least one of these properties.

Blue Sky Clothing

The fair trade, natural fibres and bamboo clothing of Blue Sky Clothing are for real people in sizes XS to 4X (UK 6-20.) All of the clothes in the range are made true to women’s body shapes for a great fit and the exclusive use of natural fibres means that they also soft, breathable and sustainable too!

On The Plus Side

On The Plus Side have been thinking green for over 30 years and work with the Sustainable Forest Initiative.  The exclusively plus size brand wants you to look and feel good, inside and out and uses natural fibres in 90% of all their clothes as well as less toxic, fibre reactive dyes. Sizes 2X to 8X (UK 16 to 28)

Birdsong

Expect more from your wardrobe with Birdsong. The London based design house live by the ethos ‘no sweatshops, no photoshop’ as well as supporting women’s organizations and charities.

Eileen Fisher

By using organic, natural fibres and dyes, U.S.A based brand; Eileen Fisher is all about ethical fashion. Whilst also supporting fair trade and empowering women and girls too! The Plus collection runs up to a 3X (UK size 18)

The Reformation

‘Fabric is Magic’ for The Reformation who use sustainable materials in their clothes as well as rescuing deadstock fabrics or even repurposing vintage clothing.  The Extended Sizing collection runs up a size 22 (UK 24)

Diane Kennedy

Canadian brand Dianne Kennedy makes eco-friendly, organic and sustainable clothing that are designed especially for the curvy figure. Comfort, style and fit come together in the range of gorgeously soft 100% organic bamboo fabric.

Hope And Harvest

Australia’s Hope and Harvest have been named one the world’s leaders in plus size fashion. The clothing range, based on modern urban living, supports local communities and all of their manufacturing is done in line with ethical practices. Sizes AUS 12-26. See our ultimate size guide for equivalents.

Smart Glamour

New York based Smart Glamour is an affordable, fashionable and ethically produced clothing line that is totally customisable. Catering for sizes from XXS to 15x and beyond (UK sizes 4 -50) Smart Glamour caters for  ‘straight sizes’ tall, petite, ‘plus size’  and everything in between. 

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For todays Spring 2020 group post we'll be chatting a bit about sizing. Size and specifically size inconsistency is a big topic discussed often within the industry by retailers and consumers alike. A few years ago, we created an indepth YouTube video explaining why size inconsistencies between brands occur - so please head to our YouTube channel to watch that if you are interested. The first thing I do in my college course, on the day we discuss plus size clothing, is to challenge my students to guess folks' sizes. This isn't any kind of graded assignment - it's just to stimulate a conversation about what sizes "look like." Even within fashion industry professionals, people tend to have skewed views of what varying sizes "look like" - and I believe this can add to systemic discrimination against plus size folks. If we can't picture people, or understand their bodies, we can not serve them properly. Beyond that - large companies are very often nowadays trying to pat themselves on the back for extending their sizes - when in reality, their larger sizes may not equate to what inbetweenie and plus size customers are accustomed to. They also, very often, still have a much smaller pool of available styles to shop from. In preparation for my course, I did research into Nordstrom + Net-a-Porter's online stock. Based on their size charts, I personally range from a size 12 to a size 16 - depending on brand. For reference, I wear an SG Lg/XL. The majority of items at Net-a-Porter stop at XL. Looking at those brands' size charts and garment measurements - I'd only fit 25% of those XL garments. On Nordstrom's site - in the Womens Designer Clothing section - there are 5767 items. If you filter is by sz 16/XL - the amount drops to 1263, which is a decrease of 80%. And I do not wear plus sizes - which the majority of American women + femmes do. This is just a quick and small example of how the majority of folks are left out of shopping experiences. The average woman/femme has a 38.1 inch waist - which would not fit into any of tthese 12-16 (aka XL, according to brand) items. Fatphobia must be addressed, discussed, and fought against within the fashion industry..cont in comments

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Lara Intimates

When it comes to ethical plus size fashion it’s not just your clothes and outerwear that count, underwear has an impact on the environment too. That’s where Lara Intimates comes in.

Lara Intimates subscribes to the triple bottom line ethos; people, profit, planet. Using reclaimed fabrics to make her underwear in an effort to have zero waste. The all-female team of seamstress make their bras up to a size 36F

HackWith Design House

The limited-edition designs of HackWith Design House are made to order to minimize fabric waste. As well their core collection HDH also offers a Plus, Swimwear, and Intimates range. We love that they have a sustain shop where you can send any broken, worn-out clothes that you have bought from them and their team of seamstresses will fix them up. (UK 6 to 20)

Buying ethical plus size fashion can be expensive so we know that it’s not an option for everyone.  You can still make a difference though by buying clothes made from natural fibres and by buying locally, e.g clothes made in the UK if you live in the UK. 

We are always on the hunt for more ethical plus size fashion brands in sizes 16-32. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments.