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Size Matters

Why H&M's size range in stores is sending a terrible message to women

H&M have stopped stocking certain items in anything above a size 14. Here’s why that’s a problem.

EARLIER THIS WEEK, Andrea Horan, who you may know from her work with Tropical Popical and The Hunreal Issues, was shopping in H&M when she noticed something peculiar.

She was unable to find the skirt she was looking at in anything above a size 14.

Horan took to social media to express her disappointment at the store cutting their size range “down to a (small) 14″.

She was subsequently advised by H&M that customers could find a full size range – 6 to 18 – online. “Since our product range has grown not all stores are able to stock all concepts & sizes,” they explained. “Instead we offer full collections online.”

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High street stores are frequently criticised for not stocking more ‘plus sized’ clothes, but H&M’s restrictions are extreme even by their standards.

In eliminating larger sizes from their stores and telling customers to shop online, H&M are alienating a significant portion of their customer base and telling them that they’re somehow niche or abnormal.

Horan told that her “heart sunk” when she realised this wasn’t a once-off occurrence.

Sometimes in high street stores, the more high fashion pieces can sometimes have a really limited size range. I tend to buy the majority of my clothes in H&M as it’s difficult to find a size 16 in independent stores and I sweat for their collaborations.  So it was really disappointing to see a store that had always catered for the standard size range begin to limit their in store sizes.

Horan noted that it was disappointing to see H&M so out of step with the body positivity movement.

As we’re moving to a better place with body activism and the body positivity movement, you’d expect stores to be reacting to that and opening up their sizing rather than restricting it further.  It felt like we were moving forward with mainstream access to fashionable clothes for bodies of every size.  This proves the exact opposite.

Another complaint levelled at high street stores is the lack of consistency when it comes to sizing. Horan believes that there should be a “global sizing policy” to prevent things like vanity sizing.

There needs to be a global sizing policy to stop things like vanity sizing – seducing women into buying more by convincing them that they were a size or two smaller than they actually are — or high fashion labels who don’t want anyone outside of their ideals wearing their clothes making their so called L a standard S.

“The size labels on clothes no longer represent the size of an item, it’s the type of image a brand wants to project and how they can sell more,” she concluded. “The psychology of size is out of control and it’s all based on greed at the cost of women.”

H&M declined to comment for this piece, but told that this isn’t unique to Ireland. ”The size range stocked in Ireland is no different to the UK ( or indeed globally) but there is variation within different H&M collections,” a spokesperson told us.

This may be the case, but telling women who are size 16 and up that they must shop online is troubling. Shopping shouldn’t be an exclusionary pursuit reserved for people who fit a certain body ideal. Women should be able to walk into any shop and try on stylish, affordable clothing regardless of size.

And the quicker shops learn that the better.

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