Is 'one size fits all' fashion achievable? Yes, if brands are genuine about it

  • Style
  • Wednesday, 06 Jul 2022

Is 'one size fits all' the answer to fashion's issue of inclusivity? Photo: AFP

Long reviled as excluding and misleading, the one-size-fits-all concept is now re-emerging in a new light to make fashion (genuinely) more inclusive.

Brands are presenting one-size-fits-all collections of ready-to-wear and swimwear, using new stretch fabrics to fit as many people as possible.

The question is: Is one-size-fits-all really possible?

If the fashion industry has long neglected certain body types, in recent years the sector has been trying to reinvent in order to offer clothes suitable for the widest possible range of people.

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This was first achieved through "plus-size" collections – a notion that is ultimately not inclusive at all, since it differentiates collections intended for so-called standard sizes from those reserved for larger sizes.

Then came the "size-inclusive" concept, making a particular garment available in a very wide range of sizes, which is still far from being the norm in fashion. However, this approach could now potentially be overtaken by the one-size-fits-all concept.

Once criticised

It was in the mid-2010s that the one-size-fits-all concept really came into the spotlight, and certainly not for the right reasons.

Teen brands like Brandy Melville and Don't Ask Why tried to popularise one-size-fits-all sizing – or "one-size-fits-most" for some – with tops, shorts, skirts and other garments that were supposedly suitable for one and all.

It was a good idea on paper, but not so much in practice, since it essentially involved proposing clothes equivalent to EU size 34/36 (XS/S)... or at best a small 38.

In other words, this single size fostered, not inclusion, but the same old norms and standards related to thinness.

In the era of social networks, this misdemeanour did not go unnoticed and was the subject of a boycott by many users. But this appears to have been fleeting, however, given the enduring appeal enjoyed by some of these brands that still offer collections in a very limited range of sizes.

But if the one-size-fits-all concept inevitably suffered from these controversies, it now seems to be coming back stronger than ever.

With a genuine desire to dress all body types, it is paving the way for a new push for innovation in stretch fabrics – the new must-have among brands that want to make inclusivity the new norm in fashion.

One-size is back

The Ester Manas label is one of the first fashion brands to have made one-size-fits-all a true vector of inclusivity.

A finalist at the 2018 Hyeres international fashion festival, the brand has shaken up fashion's codes by offering sexy, often lingerie-inspired pieces that fit absolutely every body type, with a one-size-fits-all approach.

This is made possible thanks to different systems and ingenious tricks, such as choosing specific materials and cuts, but also using straps, hidden pleats, drapes or even lacing.

As such, fashion design is, for the first time, serving inclusivity – on all levels – with dresses, tops, skirts, T-shirts and the likes that can fit a (very) wide range of sizes.

This "smart sizing" has been welcomed by the industry, as well as by consumers, and could very quickly inspire other companies in the move towards inclusive fashion.

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No wonder Ester Manas – whose "make fashion big again" slogan is proving a hit – has won the Galeries Lafayette Prize and reached the semi-final of the LVMH Prize in 2020.

Brands in the swimwear sector have taken the plunge too.

In the spring of 2022, Etam stood out with the "One Size" collection of stretchy swimsuits available in a single size for body types ranging from EU sizes 34 to 44.

Made from a textured material composed of 97% recycled polyamide, the collection was designed to sculpt and flatter the figure without feeling restrictive or oppressive – another step towards breaking down the norms relating to thinness.

Not content with working on eco-responsible materials, brands could now also strive to develop stretch fabrics capable of suiting diverse body types, to (finally) combine inclusivity with sustainability. – AFP Relaxnews

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