Plus-Size Stereotypes and Representation in the Media (Op-Ed)


Image by Autumn Pagan

Plus-sized clothing is often overpriced, even for something simple like a t-shirt.

For many years, plus-sized people have been treated horribly. Whether it’s in person or even online, they are treated vastly differently than people who are thinner than them, all just because of their body size. Especially plus-sized women.

The way that some portray it is that we can not be beautiful nor healthy unless we are skinny, when this is extremely false. There are many conditions and medications that people take that can cause them to gain weight and alter their body size, such as steroids.

Regardless, people who are plus-sized are beautiful and should not be told otherwise. They too should be able to express themselves with their fashion in magazines, and even be able to post pictures or videos of themselves without being ridiculed.

Stereotypes Online

Oftentimes plus-sized people in social media posts are subjected to hateful comments, no matter what the post is about. If they are sharing a video of themselves dancing or just having fun, there are rude comments telling them unrelated things and making it about their body size. Meanwhile, if a skinny person posts themselves doing the same thing, they are praised for it.

Even if a person posts something about eating or doing something healthy, there are still people unhappy. The first place their mind goes to is claiming that the person is lying about eating healthy. There is a pervasive belief that plus-sized people only eat unhealthy foods and lie around all day, something that I believe is caused by the representation of plus-sized individuals in movies and TV shows.

Representation in Movies and TV

Often in movies and TV, plus-sized actors are often used as funny supporting characters, like Australian actress Rebel Wilson and American actress Melissa McCarthy. Because of this stereotype, it was hard for these actresses to get any serious roles. When they started to lose weight, all of a sudden they started to get casted for roles where they didn’t just play a part strictly made for comedy.

I believe that body size should not contribute to someone’s part in a movie or TV show. I mean, what makes plus-sized people so different that they are casted only for comedic purposes?

Generalizing Body Types

Another stupid stereotype that is made is that all women should have a tiny waist, which we not only see in the media, but even the stores we shop at. For instance, when I go shopping, specifically for pants, I often find that while the pant legs of the pants fit perfectly, the waist is way too small. They generalize body types, making it hard for people to find clothes that fit them perfectly.

Some advertisements for plus-sized clothing don’t even use plus-sized people to advertise them. For instance, as of February 2, 2023, the American Eagle website uses a few models to display their curvy jeans, which feature a model wearing a size 4 (small), a model in a size 2 long (extra small), and one model in a size 12 long (large). They also showcase the same model wearing a size 2 long for one jean, whilst wearing a size small (4/6) in another.

If these jeans really are made for curvy women, then they should use more curvy and plus-sized models to advertise them.

Another thing that I found interesting is that while the hip size of the curvy jeans at American Eagle are 3 inches bigger than the size of the regular jeans, the waist of the jeans are 0.5 inches less. Although it’s only half an inch difference, the waist of the curvy jeans are still smaller. But my question is why?

Design of Clothing

Plus-size and non-plus sized fashion for women are designed completely differently. While non-plus sized clothing is often good looking and comes in a variety of colors, it is the opposite for plus-sized people. Plus-sized clothing seems to typically come in darker colors and full of characters or words that can sometimes make it look quite unfashionable.

“I feel like it’s very discouraging,” said Katelynn Lee, freshman at Mt. SAC Early College Academy and president of the fashion club. “Like one time when I went to the store, I went to like the ‘regular size’ section…[and] they were all colorful and had good designs, but when I would go to the next floor and take a glance at the plus-size section, you would see that everything is like a dark, murky color.”

For some plus-size people, finding clothes in their size can be hard, unless they shop at specialty stores or online. One of the most popular stores is Torrid, which, according to their website, sells “sizes 10 to 30” or medium to a 6X. Now although Torrid does have some nice clothing options, some of their t-shirts can be pretty tacky, and full of characters or quotes that make the design look cheap. Not only that, but their clothing sells for a high price.

Going to a store like Torrid, which is specifically made to sell plus-sized clothes, you would expect prices to be not very expensive for some clothing options, especially considering it’s a store where some people mainly shop for clothes. Yet, this is entirely the opposite, even for something as simple as a plain t-shirt. For instance, the Everyday Signature Jersey Crew Neck Tee has a price of $27.50 (not including tax) before their sale. I don’t think I would ever willingly want to pay that much for something as simple as a white t-shirt, but I guess that’s the whole point of the sales there, so that people can afford to buy their clothes.

These clothing have what people refer to as the “fat tax”, which makes plus-size clothing much more expensive than it should be because their bodies are bigger.

Some stores that want to be more inclusive advertise that they sell a variety of sizes, yet if you go into the store, they have a very limited selection of plus-sized clothes, with the majority of them being tacky t-shirts and sometimes jeans. To find all the rest of the items that they sell, you have to shop online, where you face the struggle of possibly picking the wrong size since you can’t try on the clothes.


I wish that in the future, we are able to overcome these stereotypes, and let people be themselves. People deserve to feel seen, and should be able to see representation of themselves in the media without portraying these stereotypes. Everyone is beautiful, and we need to realize that the stereotypes and representation of plus-sized people in the media needs to be changed. They also deserve to be on the cover of a magazine, a star in a big movie, or just be themselves online without being turned away just because of their body size.