How to Advocate for Plus Size Clothing in Sustainable Fashion with Marielle Elizabeth
Ethical fashion blogger and social media management firm founder Marielle Elizabeth is dedicated to making the slow fashion community more inclusive, calling attention to the inadequacies of being a plus size person, taking up space, and representing a body type so often omitted in the sustainable/ethical fashion movement.
Instead of heading to the fast fashion hills, Marielle is creating a platform focused on breaking down the barriers plus size people face when wanting to support slow fashion. Or as she likes to describe it, ‘Lady trying to dress herself’.
So, who are you? :)
I am a writer and photographer; I pay my bills working for locally owned businesses as a the founder of a social media management firm called 21st Century Nonsense. And I use those same skills to run @Marielle.Elizabeth, my Instagram and (sparsely published) blog focusing on breaking down the barriers plus size people face when wanting to support #SlowFashion.
Off the clock I improvise, write sketch, and perform stand-up. I love my cat too much. I mix a stiff cocktail and try (often in vain) not to kill the plants in my house.
I would love to learn more about your promotion of #SlowFashionForAll.
#SlowFashionForAll is a hashtag I started to encourage more variety in who we see in the slow/ethical/sustainable fashion space, especially with an emphasis on body diversity. Let’s be honest—slow fashion is (like most fashion) dominated by CIS, thin, white women. I truly believe not seeing people of size wearing slow fashion looks is a huge barrier for the industry. Who is going to drop $200+ on a garment they can’t begin to picture themselves in?! The hashtag and my account in general is focused on taking up space (quite literally) in this niche aesthetic.
How did you get started creating this platform and resource?
I wanted to grow as a photographer. I wanted to see people that looked like me, dressing in linens and silks. I looked everywhere for a person with my body (size 22-24) wearing the clothing I loved and I couldn’t. So I started the account I wished I could follow.
How do you describe your style?
Driven by drape and movement. I wish I had a singular word, timeless gets closer to it, but mostly the thing I’m attracted too is fabric. How it moves and swishes as I go throughout my day.
What is your go-to look?
Oh gosh, it depends so heavily on the occasion. For work (photoshoot days) it’s the LBJ from Gus Sloan (spring for the custom fit one if you’re considering; it fits like a damn glove). For traipsing about most days I wear dresses. I love Pyne & Smith linen pieces as well as my Elizabeth Suzann Harlow dress in silk (the movement is everything). And lastly I adore jewelry—vintage pieces mixed with modern pieces from Le Lou Ula and WKNDLA.
What's a piece in your closet you wear to make more of a statement?
Currently, it’s the white jumpsuit I own from Hackwith Design House, Poppy Barley cheetah heels and my WKNDLA mobile earrings. Although I’m waiting on a neon orange mesh dress from Wray that will likely take that title. Also I hear how that dress sounds described, but trust me, it’s going to be so good.
What is lacking in the slow fashion world? Why do you think more brands aren't being as inclusive as they can/should be?
Without a doubt size diversity. I shared this during SFF [Sustainable Fashion Forum], but that morning I checked out Garmentory—there were 11,000 dresses for sale. If I set the size filter to XXL that number available is 64. That’s less than 1% of 11 thousand pieces. And XXL isn’t even plus sized.
I think that sums up perfectly what it’s like to be plus sized, educated, and wanting to support ethical/sustainable fashion brands. It’s showing up for an industry that doesn’t even acknowledge you exist, despite being the majority.
How can brands do better and be more inclusive?
Hire fat people. Realize that starting your grading at a straight size 2 doesn’t work to expand into plus sizes so start grading from a size 16 and then go up or down. Hire fat people to read your press releases, to go through your website, to sit in on photoshoots, and then make sure that you’re photographing those same garments on a variety of body types. Pay fat influencers to review your pieces. Acknowledge the lack of understanding as a thin person that you have, because you can’t understand what it’s like to live as a fat person unless you are one. Oh! And stop saying ‘flattering’. You’re just saying the piece looks good, because it makes you look thinner and we’re over it.
How can consumers hold brands accountable and create change in the industry?
Talk to the people who make your clothes. Ask questions about size diversity just like you ask questions about ethical standards. Remind brands that this is an issue you’re watching. That this is something you care about and then stop supporting brands that have made it clear they don’t want to design for all body types.
What brands (and/or stores) do you love?
I have a full list on my website, but off the top of my head—the shop Hazel & Rose, Power of My People, Elizabeth Suzann, Hackwith Design House, State the Label, Nettles Tale, BEATON, Laasso, Heirloom Hats, Le Lou Ula (rings up to a size 12!), UziNYC, Vincetta, Revelle, Sotela, Block Shop Textiles, and as many tiny vintage hats as I can get my hands on.
What's your advice on finding a style and building a sustainable closet you love?
Pay attention to what’s missing in your wardrobe. Fill that gap first, instead of buying more of what you already have. Take inspiration from folks but don’t feel restricted to creating that look identically again. Accessories for me, are always the “fun” part to shake up staple pieces. Spend weeks, even months considered what to add to your closet. Hand wash your pieces, treat them with love to extend their life. Burn all the fashion rules we were raised on that said what you can and can’t wear. You get to decide that.
Thank you, Marielle!