The Oxford dictionary defines inclusivity as:
the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.
So what does that mean for fashion inclusivity?
When we hear about inclusive fashion we often hear about two main categories of inclusion: size inclusion and racial inclusion. In more recent years, there has been more coverage about disability inclusion in the fashion industry.
However, after sifting through tons of survey responses, having a multitude of conversations with designers and researchers in the space of inclusive fashion, attending a number of webinars regarding inclusivity and accessibility, and meticulously consuming any content related to inclusivity, I feel that there are two more categories to add to the list: gender inclusion and cultural inclusion.
This is not to say that this is an eternally exhaustive list of inclusivity sectors, but for now, the five sectors of inclusivity are:
It is important to recognize that these five sectors have plenty of overlap between one another and are not mutually exclusive.
The topic of disability inclusion is slowly gaining traction in the industry, but nowhere near fast enough. Even with what we see and learn about adaptive wear and disability representation, there are not enough brands actively working towards serving this community.
There are 1 billion disabled people worldwide. Not only are we underserving a significant portion of the world's population, but as a clothing company you are losing out on billions of dollars by not serving this demographic.
The most notable of this category is plus-size fashion as a means of size inclusivity. Plus-size fashion starts at size 14. That being said, in the US it is estimated that approximately 68% of women wear size 14 or above and are therefore considered to be plus-size. However, according to Statista, plus-size womenswear only accounted for 19% of the US apparel market in 2021.
These four sentences naturally raise some questions:
- Why are we considering things to be plus-sized if more than half the women in the US are in this category? Why are we othering the majority?
- If more than half of the women in the US are over the size of 14, who is benefitting from us categorizing the majority of women into a subcategory that ends up being considered only as an afterthought?
- Why is there such a large discrepancy between the number of people there are to serve and the actual market share?
This is only one aspect of size inclusion within the industry. Size inclusion refers to all ranges of proportion and fit.
The line that has historically separated womenswear and menswear is slowly blurring and dissolving. While it may take time for the complete eradication of these two categories, we must recognize the lifting of gender norms and the emerging acceptance of the fluidity of gender expression. Clothing brands take on the responsibility of being able to reflect this cultural and societal change in fashion.
Racial diversity may be the longest-standing form of inclusivity that has been publicly recognized and discussed. As it turns out, longest-standing does not mean adequately implemented. Racial diversity has been a long-lasting conversation, yet we still see brands today miss the mark.
This is an all-encompassing sector that is mutable as it changes in real-time alongside modern culture. Clothes are no longer just clothes. The clothing brands one chooses to wear and purchase from is another dimension of self-expression beyond the aesthetic of the clothing itself. The ethics of a clothing brand trickles down to its consumers. Now, when consumers choose between brands, the brands' ethics add another layer to the decision. Consumers wear clothing brands as emblems that symbolically represent their own views.
This is just something to start off the conversation. I will definitely be writing more in-depth about each of these sectors and having conversations on adjacent topics. I would love to hear what you all have to say about these five sectors of inclusivity that I came up with!