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The Year in Plus: There’s Little Consensus on What Size-Inclusive Means

This year, it seemed like everyone wanted to proclaim their size inclusivity. But how inclusive is inclusive? And does it matter that the definition, and size range, can vary wildly from one brand or retailer to another?

Take eShakti, for example. The customizable fashion e-commerce company that lets shoppers pick their neckline, sleeve length, hemline and more, in addition to tailoring apparel to their height, rarely makes headlines nor does it tout inclusivity, but its sizes span XS, or a size 0, all the way up to a 6X, or 36W.

In some senses, size inclusivity in 2018 was about the squeakiest wheel getting the grease—or, in this instance, the headlines. That’s not to say that the progress brands and retailers made this year wasn’t important or meaningful. Nordstrom successfully pushed several brands to fill in the outer edges of the size spectrum with athletic apparel, denim, swimwear, lingerie and other items in 0, 2, 14, 16 and 18. And J.Crew, in the midst of a reinvention, tapped size-inclusive experts Universal Standard for its push into plus. The preppy staple brand also executed a capsule with Universal Standard but now carries all of its women’s apparel in up to a 3X.

For its part, Universal Standard made major strides in 2018, broadening its mostly plus-size range into what could be the most inclusive in the world, offering sizes 0 through 40. The pivot from plus to inclusive was intentional from the start, according to creative chief Alexandra Waldman; while it was important to offer a traditionally underserved customer elevated design and quality, it was even more crucial to execute an integrated brand and shopping experience in an industry that loves to segregate “special” sizes—whether that’s plus, petite, maternity or tall—into their own little ghettos. In its new long-term SoHo pop-up store, shoppers across the size spectrum can browse the same thoughtfully designed and manufactured essentials, whether they’re a size 2 or 32.

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Gwyneth Paltrow is already showing her support for size inclusivity as a Universal Standard investor but her popular Goop lifestyle brand recently made an even more public stance in favor of extended sizing with a five-piece capsule created in collaboration with the fashion startup.

Fellow celebrity Amy Schumer is getting in on the size-inclusive act, too, have launched a new line last week called Le Cloud in a nod to her need for comfort and reported refusal to wear anything besides sweatpants. Initially available in sizes 0 through 20, the brand will be stocked at Saks Off Fifth and will reportedly expand to match Universal Standard’s 0-40 size range.

Adding to the flurry of activity in the plus arena is longtime designer and Vince co-founder Cynthia Vincent who launched early this month a new line, Baacal, named for screen siren Lauren Bacall and offering sustainably manufactured tops, coats and dresses in sizes 10 to 22. Baacal is sold direct-to-consumer via e-commerce with prices ranging from $95 to $795.

“This is something I wanted to do 10 years ago, but the model didn’t allow for it,” Vincent told The Hollywood Reporter. “I had to rely on retail stores, which only bought small sizes, even though I knew the number one size selling out was 10. I love that technology has fueled this and that now fashion is about being accepted for who you are.”

Though it’s encouraging to see more options for female shoppers whose dress sizes falls outside of the typical straight-size range, it’s puzzling to see new labels stopping short of size 24W, which is usually the highest end of standard plus-size collections. 11 Honoré, another direct-to-consumer start-up that offers designer apparel in long-ignored plus sizes, also offers very few size 24Ws, though founder and CEO Patrick Horning said he’s always nudging designers to expand their sizing even further.