Refinery 29 has grossly misguided views on plus size

Since when in a size ten considered plus size? Apparently if you’re Refinery 29 it is. A size ten is NOT plus size. A size ten is NOT fat. A size ten is SMALLER than the national average, which is a fourteen.

In 2009, V Magazine had a spread featuring a “traditional” model, Jacquelyn Jabonski (a US size 2), and a “plus sized” model, Crystal Renn (a US size 12), wearing the same outfits and striking nearly identical poses. Crystal is considered plus sized in the modeling world, but in the real world she’s about a size 12, which is not plus size.

Honestly, I think both models look fabulous is these outfits.

Who in their right mind would call Crystal Renn plus sized?

Here’s the thing that really set me off with this tweet. We have enough issues with body image as is. Why does a highly-followed site need to help us feed that green-eyed monster we call jealousy and the insecurity we all feel? Why does this site think it’s OK to promote that size ten is plus sized? Because we let them.

We let Refinery 29 say that because we’re  don’t tell them not to. Shortly after this tweet went out, and myself and others were responding to them and letting them know it wasn’t OK to call size ten women plus size, they did respond to a few people saying, “sorry if we offended! Unfort, flash sale sites often don’t go over sz10–we’re celebrating a site that does!

But here’s the thing-  they missed the point ENTIRELY, which is that size ten (and up to a size 20) is not considered plus size. Do they realize that plus size starts at size 22? Apparently not, or they wouldn’t be telling us to celebrate a site that sells size ten+ clothing, because we’re all “plus size.”

Maybe I’m getting my panties get in a bunch over a stupid tweet, but I don’t care. I don’t need some random person working for Refinery 29 to make me feel bad because I wear a size 8/10. Yeah, that’s right. I’ll tell you what size I wear. And guess what Refinery 29? I am NOT plus size even though you seem to think I am. I can buy my clothes in the same “normal” store that you can. Maybe you should think before you tweet. Showing your true colors with an offensive tweet like this just proves to us what we should have known: You -and the fashion industry- really do think people wider than a twig are fat and therefore “special.”

And not in a good way.


EDIT: Thanks for all the comments guys! I really want to clarify that I’m more or less taking on the choice of verbiage more so than Refinery 29. I love that there is now a site catering to flash sale for women size ten and up (see that wording Refinery? THATS how you should’ve worded your tweet).
I think plus size is a stupid label the fashion industry puts on women they don’t know how to dress, because they’re not stick thin and hanger-like. I think it’s stupid that we, as women, have to be put into categories we may or may not agree with because some designer needs to decide how to label their clothes. It’s just stupid. I love how I look, I love my body. Plus size, minus size, regular size- label me what you want, but I’m not going to label myself. I am Suze, not a pant size, shoes size, gender or ethnicity.


48 thoughts on “Refinery 29 has grossly misguided views on plus size

  1. OMG your joking! I think the 12 look better in these images. Also I wear like an 8 or 10 in jeans do to my large hips but I am no where close to being plus size!!!

  2. The fashion industry has such a twisted view of normal that I gave up on them a long time ago. I’m not happy to see such a large company tweeting that. Personally I think the size 12 model looks super fierce.

  3. UGH!! I hate the whole size thing anyway. It’s a ridiculous number that really means nothing. The clothing in my closet ranges between a size 6 and 12, depending on where it came from, how old it is and how I want it to fit. And none of those are plus sized. Nothing I own was purchased in a plus-sized store.
    I also agree with you that women don’t need another thing to make them feel less than adequate or less than beautiful. Size is only a number. What really matters is how we carry ourselves, the grace we possess, and the dignity we all have. Good for you for writing about this. – Katy

  4. That is ridiculous and offensive that 10 would be considered a plus size. I’m honestly not sure what size I am because I have so many different sized pieces of clothes in my closet…. but I got over the number a long time ago. I wish ladies sizing was more like mens, where you get measurements instead of random numbers.
    And it is maddening how much the fashion industry gets away with when it comes to calling people who are bigger than twigs “fat and special”. It does make me appreciate the blogging world that much more. There are bloggers in every shape and size who share their passion for clothes even if they are “fat and special” according to the fashion industry.

  5. Wow! Longtime silent reader here, coming out of my lurkdom to stand on a chair and yell YAAAAAY SUUUUUUUUUUZE!

    Numbers are stupid. Sizes, ages, weights, grades, meh. Silly numerical labels that can take you to the depths of despair, for no good reason, or the heights of happiness, again, for no good reason.

    SO GLAD YOU WROTE THIS! Now I’ll get down and stop yelling 🙂

  6. I’m 5’7″, and size 12, and I wish fashion people would stop acting like size 12 is some huge monstrous thing. No, it’s really not. Here’s the secret, fashion world — when we get TALLER, sometimes our skeletons get proportionately BIGGER, in all directions. Rib cages are bigger, shoulders are wider, pelvises are bigger, legs and arms are longer. It’s not like we all get taller but stay the same diameter as someone who is 4’11”. Size 12 is just the size I am, and I’m not an especially round size 12. It’s not a special size for fat chicks.

    Not that there should be anything wrong or stigmatized about special sizes for fat chicks. They need clothes too. Hell, maybe everyone who’s bigger than 4’11” and size 0 should just declare themselves Plus Size in solidarity and tell the industry to go fly a kite.

    I am Spartacus.

  7. Hi, Connie here–I edited the story that went up and constructed the tweet. I really appreciate your taking the time to let me know how the tweet made you feel, and I truly apologize for offending you. However, I have beef with your opinion:

    The resources that our website has to work with is unfortunately slim (both figuratively and literally) in terms of size inclusion–and we try our darndest to make every woman feel proud and empowered in their clothing. I don’t care if you’re a size 0, a size 10, or a size 20… as long as you love fashion, you’re welcome in our community. There’s no “other” in Refinery’s vernacular, and I really take offense that you consider our use of the word “plus-size” as a pejorative. There’s no widely acknowledged and accepted definition of what classifies as plus-size sizes, and we use it to mean the latter half of the spectrum when it comes to what’s available in stores–take Net-a-Porter for example, whose size runs oftentimes end at a very-average 12. That’s unfortunate, unfair, and an issue we regularly address. I agree with you that a size 10 isn’t fat. But I feel badly that you seem to think the word “plus-size” should elicit a response so upsetting that you felt compelled to defend yourself and your own size in the context of the word. The crux of our differences hinges on our feelings of the “plus-size label.” We think it’s just a word to describe larger sizes (just like petites and junior sizing are used to describe smaller sizes). You seem to think it’s something more.

    For the record, Refinery29 employs women of all sizes, from 0-20. We have people in this office that are four feet tall and people that are six feet tall. We span the world in our backgrounds and heritages. If you look at us from afar, some might think we look like a motley crew of misfits, but we love fashion and we believe that everyone should have an opportunity to participate in it, and that’s what unites us.

    The flash sale site brings that opportunity to participate in fashion to a demographic of women who feel frustrated at the limited size runs on Gilt, Ideeli, and other retailers. Clique to Know begins at a size 10. They market themselves as a plus-size e-commerce site. Those are the two facts that we presented in our tweet, and they are not incorrect, not exclusive, and definitely not suggestive of needing to feel ashamed of being labeled plus-size that your post suggests we do. If you have questions or want to talk more, I’d be happy to chat:

    • Hi Connie,
      I’m sorry you have a beef with my opinion, and I think you may have missed what I was trying to point out. I love that Clique to Know is going to offer women sizes 10 and up with a great site for flash sales, but nowhere in that post did you refer to those sizes as plus size (yes, I know you say Clique to Know says they cater to “plus size” women), but in your tweet you did, and that’s what upset me, and many others.
      We’re already bombarded with enough imagery about the “ideal” woman, and pretty much told through all sorts of media that we need to be skinny and a size 4 to make it anywhere in this world, so adding the words plus size to your tweet only help perpetuate that stereotype.
      I do not think that being larger than the US average of a 14 is fat, bad or anything to be ashamed of, I also did not feel the need to defend my size, I wanted to give my readers an example of me as a size 8-10 woman because I am considered plus size by this website and your tweet, but am not considered plus size by the rest of the world.
      It doesn’t matter who you employ and what they look like- that has no bearing on the choice of verbiage in your tweet. Neither does the website, the posting, Clique to Know or anything else. My issue is that we can’t just use the sizes or measurements. We have to define women of a certain size (whatever size that may be) with plus size, petite, etc. Why all the labels? Is it to make ourselves feel like we’re defined somehow or is it so the fashion industry knows where we all fit in? Certainly this is not your fault, something Refinery created or anything like that, but it was the wording of the tweet that compelled me to raise this issue on my blog. I think the fact that we have so many labels thrown at us every day is stupid.
      I will not be defined by my waist size, shoe size, pants size, gender or ethnicity, and that’s the point I was trying to make.

  8. You already know how I feel about this, but thank you so very much for writing this. I understand what they were trying to get at, celebrating a site that now offered a wider variety of sizes, but there was absolutely no need to bring in the term “plus size”, especially when referring to size 10, which is two sizes below the average American woman.

    People really need to think before they speak, or type.

  9. That is ridiculous…their explanation doesn’t make sense, either! Just because designers don’t make it often doesn’t mean it’s now called “plus” size. Also…can’t they think of a better word? Petites aren’t called “minus” sizes. But I digress.

    I love those editorial photos you posted. I think Crystal Renn is absolutely gorgeous and looks much better (and healthier and in better shape) than the size 2 model. I get that “plus” models are preferred to be smaller than regular plus sized women, since “regular” models are also much smaller than most regular sized women. But to place that kind of classification on the rest of society is unreasonable.

  10. “But here’s the thing- they missed the point ENTIRELY, which is that size ten (and up to a size 20) is not considered plus size. Do they realize that plus size starts at size 22? Apparently not, or they wouldn’t be telling us to celebrate a site that sells size ten+ clothing, because we’re all “plus size.””

    As a woman in that size range, I’m sorry to tell you that most retailers consider a size 14 and up a plus-size. Many of the most popular plus size bloggers are a size 14. So saying that the range 10-20 isn’t plus size is a bit inaccurate, on both ends– 10 and 12 aren’t considered plus-size, but 14-20 are.

    Like, I’m a size 18/20. I’ve never been smaller than a size 12. I know plus sizes, and I can guarantee you that at a size 18/20, I’m plus sized.

    • You’re gorgeous. Can’t I just call you Ashe instead of labelling you with a size?

      and thank you for the added info!:)

      • I’m happy to just be Ashe! It’s always been sad though, because I cant shop at places like Express or The Limited anymore, who have pieces I love, because they stop at 12 in shop and 14 online. That’s when places like Lane Bryant, Torrid, etc etc pick up.

        Frankly, I think it’d be great if all clothing manufacturers just labelled pieces by measurements, like menswear!

        • YES. Why can’t we just have measurments? Why does women’s clothing need to have numbered sizes? I just don’t get it.

  11. Great post. We need to be careful not to villianize the term “plus-size” as well. It’s frustrating all around – vanity sizing, classifications. Arg. Let’s just find clothes that fit us well, make us feel good & are comfortable. Clothing manfacturers & designers seem a bit out of touch at times – ok, a lot out of touch.
    I still love clothes & I’ll keep buying them, but I’ll be more considerate of where I spend my cash.

  12. I one of those who got that reply from them which I didn’t think seem genuinely sincere. If they didn’t even use the word plus in the first place, there wouldn’t have been a problem. I I think if they didn’t use the word plus in the first place, there would have been a problem. Using that term is just another way to make us normal people feel inadequate about our bodies.
    I’m tired of the fashion industry making a big deal about certain body types. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and it should be celebrated every day and not for special magazine issues.

  13. I wonder why you went a bit g-chat silent this afternoon and now I see why. Like many of the others have mentioned it’s a little disheartening to see that Refinery29 missed the point on this topic. Sadly, there is a lot of misuse of the term plus size and I’m not sure what is going to take to make some changes – but blog posts like this surely help in the fight.

  14. The first time I looked at the pictures I thought it was the same girl just in different angles. Then I looked closer and I much prefer the ‘plus sized’. Being ‘plus sized’ myself at a size 12-14, I thank you for writing this. I remember being in my teens and never feeling like I could find anything or that I deserved to shop in a ‘normal’ store. Now I understand that sizes are arbitrary and this is just what I look like. But I still feel that there is stigma and power within words and they should be used carefully and with grace.

  15. Seriously! That annoys the poo outta me. I am not plus sized. Neither is Chrystal Renn. I mean, I get that I’m not a teeny tiny size and I can’t fit into cheap stores like H&M and F21, but still. Plus sized? So not buying from Refinery 29.

    I hate also that people use the term “curvy” to be synonymous with overweight or chunky. That’s not what curvy means!

  16. Wow, the photos in the spread really show how skewed most clothing and product ads are! I think both women look great but I would certainly be more inclined to purchase the pieces worn on the “larger” AKA AVERAGE sized model than the stick-thin one. The vocabulary that the fashion industry has developed, words like “plus-sized” defined as size 10 and up, prove how out-of-touch and unrealistic their standards and ideals truly are. Good for you for shining a light on that- Suze, I love that you aren’t afraid to be a dissenting voice in a sea of gushing followers.

  17. I love that magazine spread.. everytime I see it I think “Gosh, ‘typical’ models look so childlike next to a real woman”. I mean, I know that some people do naturally have that body shape, and that’s totally healthy, but when it’s all we see in the fashion world, a US12 is refreshing.
    I understand why you could be upset by refinery 29. And I don’t mean any offense by what I write, I am just putting a healthy perspective on things. I live in Australia, I wear a size AU12-14 (US8-10) and here, plus size is considered 14+ which would be what refinery said, (10+). I personally take no offense to that, after all, it is only a number used to aid us when we buy clothing. Clothing size is not a true representation of health at all. I know people much smaller than me carrying around a lot more fat than I do! If we went off clothing sizes for an indication of health, then that would be like putting someone like me at 168cm in a size 12 and someone standing at 150cm in a 12 and calling us equal.
    I get that you’re offended by it though.. I mean theres such a stigma around the word ‘plus size’ that it actually means ‘fat size’.. but really it just means above the old average. The fashion world all over needs to rethink their clothing sizes for the average woman.. but I also think that they need to keep it within a healthy limit.. After all USA and Australia do have ridiculously high obesity levels. Gosh I just feel like deleting this comment because I sound really mean haha

    What I’m trying to say is that me and you are the same size, and in my opinion, neither of us are fat! But at the same time, there are people wearing smaller sizes who are ‘fat’ simply due to their smaller frame allowing them to fit into that small size. I think people just need to stop looking at the number and start looking at their body. If they feel unhealthy, do something about it. If they want to gain or loose weight, do it the healthy way! If you’re not sure how your weights going, calculate your BMI or visit the doctor for an examination. I know that my BMI only just fits into the healthy range, and frankly, thats fine with me.. I know that my body could be in better shape, but whose couldnt!?

    I really hope I haven’t come off as someone mean, but I just read things like this and cannot help but not so much say “yes it is plus size, which means your fat” but rather say “anyone can be unhealthy regardless of the size on the tag”.

    I really think that people have just come to accept being overweight as ‘okay’ when for medical sake, it actually isn’t. Life expectancy dramatically drops, and disease risk dramatically rises. So regardless of size, as long as you are healthy and treating your body well, getting your exercise and doing your best; what does a number matter!

    • It’s not that Refinery 29 is roping me into their definition of plus size, it’s that the choice of verbiage is stupid. I don’t understand why fashion companies choose to use the term plus size, because our sizes don’t go “10, 12, 14, +++,” you know?
      It’s the label that they put on us and we put on ourselves that bugs me.

  18. Thank you for posting this!!! You are absolutely right! It is a shame what the fashion world does to normal people making them feel fat and giving young girls’ eating disorders trying to be “skinny”. Crystal Renn is gorgeous and not at all fat! And same to you!!

  19. The whole sizing system – and categorizing sections of it – doesn’t take into account the varying shapes that our bodies come in. It’s the reason some stores’ jeans don’t fit quite right while others’ do. Body image begins with the language and attitude we have toward ourselves and our bodies, and this particular flippant treatment of a whole category of women is unfair and often damaging.

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Have you guys seen any recent pics of Crystal Renn? She’s super skinny now. So do we call her minus sized now?

  21. Ugh, that’s horrible. Size ten is not at all plus sized! I’m a 10 myself and my family (okay maybe they’re a bit biased hah) are always telling me how fit and thin I am.

    It would have been so easy to just say “New flash sale site now includes sizes 10 and up!”

    I’m glad you spotted that and said something about it though, that’s not cool.

  22. Well said Suze! A well known UK plus size retailer started selling size 14 (US 10) a couple of years back – what kind of message is that sending out?

    Over here size 16 (US 12) is considered plus size, but most stores stock their entire range up to a size 18 (US 14) and some even up to a 22 (US 18). I know the definitions differ both sides of the Atlantic, but as far as I know Refinery 29 aren’t British. And even if they were, calling a UK14/US10 plus size is completely unacceptable.

  23. I remember that fashion spread in Vogue and even to me the “plus size” model was on the skinny size fo me. It’s absolutely crazy that they consider a size 10 plus size! Do they know that the average woman is a size 12?? I mean I understand that they are trying to high light a flash site that caters to “bigger” sizes but come on! I bet you even that site doesn’t carry anything 14 and above. It really kills me that those of us who are in the 14 to 16 size category have an even tougher time finding fashionable clothes….man I could on for days about that!

  24. I do not like this one bit!! I fluctuate .. mainly depending on brand between an 8 and a 12( just bought my first 12 at Old Navy the other day). I don’t buy clothes by the number. I go by the fit. On that same old navy shopping trip I bought a plain t-shirt in a small. But tried on another shirt in a large. Because it was flowy and if I got it long enough I could wear it with leggings. I don’t like the words “plus size” at all. Who cares? Yes I may wear a 10 or a 12 in pants (you can thank my white girl ghetto booty for that) but I can wear a small in Tshirts. Everyone’s body is different and doesn’t need labels like “plus size”. I will say that I could use some exersize to get into shape. But I don’t care what the scale says or the size on my jeans. As long as I’m happy with myself, that’s all that matters!! 🙂

  25. I would also like to add-

    Marilyn Monroe, THE sex symbol of the 60s, would wear a size 12 or 14 by today’s dress sizes.

    Chew on that, Refinery 29!!

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  29. Way to go Suze for brining this issue to light! I could not agree more, first, why are they not called “normal” sized models or just “models” in general and maybe size 2s should actually be called mini-sized or “minus” since they certainly are not normal sized and in many cases not healthy (yes, I know, some women can be completely healthy at this size, but it is certainly the exception rather the norm, at least in the US, looking at national averages).

  30. Well, now I’m confused. I’ve heard that plus size is over 6, over 10, over 12 and from you I’m hearing that it’s over 22! I’m a size 8 and I don’t care if I’m labeled “plus” or not, but I’m still confused on what that means, exactly. Oh well.

    • Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever be clear on that.
      I wish clothing companies would sell items the same way they for men – measurements!!

      Plus, I think “designers” and “mall stores” each label their sizes differently. Ugh.

  31. You know I always thought plus size was size UK16 and over because when I was that size I couldn’t find anything to fit in regular shops. I have lost weight since then a fair few years ago and must admit I have no idea what size shops go up to these days, there really should be more of a range. Then there is the confusion of UK and US sizes, and well I don’t even know what a flash sale is?? Is it like a sample sale? Argh what a headache!!

  32. I’m going to word this very carefully as this is a sensative topic and my goal isn’t to offend, but offer a different perspective.

    I agree with the commentor that said women’s clothing should be sized like mens, using measurments that would make things easier. But its not. I think there is a need to categorize sizes, not in a derogatory why but so that people know where they can shop! I’ll give you a recent example. I am tall and a size 2. I can’t tell you how much I hate saying that because people place all sorts of judgment on you when you are below average sized (I’m also in my 30s, an adult). I have a hard time finding clothing long enough and went to a store that have a section labeled ‘above average’. Silly me. I thought it was for tall people. Nope. It was plus sized. It was really annoying to have made a trip only to find out I couldn’t shop there.

    Stores can’t cater to every deomographic either, so I don’t expect all stores to carry size 0-24. I think that’s asking a bit much.

    Also I think the women in both pictures are beautiful. The both look strong and fabulous.

    One more thing. I couldn’t help but notice this plus size/fatshion/really pushing plus size/anti thin seems to be mainly on american blogs. I’ve come across a uk blogger who is a plus size advocate.why is this?? Any thoughts???

  33. One more thing, a commentor mentioned that they couldn’t shop at H&M and F21 because of size limitations. Well I have trouble shopping there as well because they never have my size in stock. I rarley find anything smaller than an 8 or a 6. Its a problem too but I don’t feel like I can actually complain about it because people would get angry.

    Also I found your comment about labeling Crystal Renn minus sized offensive.

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  35. I had a huge response but it’s trite so I just want to say I totally understand where you’re coming from (also a 10).

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