Forever 21 Revamps Its Plus Size Instagram, But Is A Separate Account Truly Inclusive?
Forever 21's plus size Instagram account has been the subject of some controversy for predominently sharing images of the brand's curve models — a move many felt didn't represent the actual customers purchasing this line. On hearing the feedback, however, Forever 21's plus size Instagram account underwent a little revamp, as Cosmopolitan reported. Rather than only posting shots of models, F21 is now reposting pictures of its customers rocking the plus size range. Not only can the brand's diverse audience now see themselves represented in the imagery, but they can actually serve as representation for others to see as well.
This shift proves that Forever 21 was able to listen to its clientele and make changes in accordance to said clientele's views. However, some remain unconvinced about the steps taken, believing there shouldn't be separate accounts for straight and plus sizes regardless. As Racked asked of the plus size Instagram account, "Why is it necessary to segregate plus size styles in a separate Instagram in the first place?" Forever 21 has yet to respond to Bustle's request for comment.
That said, I feel the point of the separate Instagram account isn't about segregation, but celebration. By creating a safe space where plus size women and their clothes are flaunted, rather than tokenized or used sparingly, plus size people get a chance to see themselves represented in the same way straight size people and straight size brands have long been represented.
It should be noted that many other brands offering both straight and plus sizes haven't taken this route for their own Instagram accounts. ASOS has one Instagram page for both size spectrums, but also touts brand ambassadors — such as curve model Felicity Hayward — to give a varied and importantly realistic depiction of the Curve line's customers. Brands like Boohoo and Tara Starlet also integrate their plus size advertising into their standard brand accounts.
I thought I'd reach out to three plus size bloggers, writers, and fat activists to hear their viewpoints on Forever 21's plus size Instagram account and find out whether or not they believed the separation was a good thing: Aarti Dubey, Alysse Dalessandro, and Chloe Elliott, all of whom celebrate their unique plus size fashion tastes online and on Instagram. The consensus was varied, but if I took a majority ruling, the separate Instagram account is largely perceived as a positive. And not just in terms of offering visibility to plus size women, but because plus size women have no practical need to see the clothing straight size women are purchasing — unless it also became available in their sizes.
Elliott and Dalessandro had very similar takes. Elliot tells me via email, "It tends to be much more of a positive space when it's plus only. I'd much rather see images of girls with more similar body shapes to mine, and for that reason I rarely follow straight size brands that don't make clothes to fit me. I noticed the change in the F21+ accounts images straight away."
Dalessandro echoed the sentiment. "I'm always in favor of mainstream brands that carry both straight and plus sizes having separate accounts and the main reason for that is that if they don't, you will typically see one plus size image for about every 10 to 15 straight size images," she says. "Quite frankly, I'm tired of people complaining about dropping the term plus size or wanting to be included alongside straight size because it really fails to illuminate all of the work that still needs to be done for any of that to happen."
Dubey, however, makes a convincing counter argument, explaining straightforwardly, "I don't see why the plus size account should be separate from the main Forever 21 account. Sure, some might prefer to have an account just for plus size Forever 21 fashion, but what does that say about size acceptance? That is what strikes me as problematic here."
I can understand both sides of the argument: Most of us don't want "plus size" to be socially othered, but we also don't want to be seen as the same until that's true. Doing so dismisses the work that fat acceptance and body positivity have achieved and have yet to achieve.
I don't believe that carving out a corner of the world to celebrate plus size beauty will ever be a negative, but I can see why some others feel segregated. Until both sides of the size spectrum are actually perceived equally, however, then an all-inclusive Instagram account just doesn't make a lot of practical sense.
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Image: Forever 21 (1)