Growing up in the North I had always shopped at Sears either in person or via catalogue. I never gave any thought to being plus size and how difficult it must have been to shop for clothes. It wasn't until I began having problems finding clothes at size 18 that I realized there would be a problem finding clothes. I had never heard of plus size stores and there certainly wasn't anyone around to tell me about them and there definitely was no Internet. When I moved to Southern Ontario I was introduced to plus sized stores Addition-Elle, Penningtons and Cotton Ginny. They introduced plus sizes as 14 - 24 (occasionally 26) which is pretty much the industry standard. I was surprised to have learned I had been plus size for so long and didn't know it (at least according to retail brands).
Then there is the whole fashion industry that dictates plus size models are anywhere from size 6 - 10. These are the ones modelling the size 14 - 26 clothes we are shopping for (although, I must admit, some stores currently have a bigger range than the average). Personally, I think it's great that the fashion industry has even allowed some form of plus size to exist for this long. And even better news is they seem to be opening up a smidge at time and what was unheard of may soon be main stream -- a size 16 model. Then there's Hollywood, also ruled by the land of Zeros and Size Twos. Any one above that must be fat. I instantly think of the latest brouhaha over Jennifer Love Hewitt's thighs (how dare she wear a bathing suit in public looking like that - Come on!) and wonder who dictated she must stay a size 0 and cellulite free forever. It certainly wasn't me. I think she looked gorgeous ten years ago and she looks gorgeous now. I also think Velvet d'Amour is gorgeous. I know people want change over night but that doesn't happen in any industry and if you look at it as a whole it is making some progress albeit slower than we would like. It's happening. We just have to keep asking for it.
Over the last year I've heard a new categorization declared from the plus size community. "If you aren't a size 18 you aren't plus size!" Is plus size becoming elitist? Sometimes I think the plus size community is just as prejudiced as everyone else. If you are a size 16 and want to call yourself plus size then go for it. If you are a size 18 and don't want to call yourself plus size then don't. Whatever makes you happy. But understand that the retail industry has their standards and the fashion industry has their standards. The dream for most is that someday we can all shop under the same roof in any clothing store we want but personally, I like a store devoted just to me. The skinny girls have had their own stores for decades. I'm not ready to share yet.
While different industries and opinions can't really seem to agree on "what is plus size" I think we can all agree on a few things. We all want to be treated as normal, functioning, talented and unique human beings who deserve the same love and respect (and manners) as the person next to them; no matter what their size.
Answer related polls or comment in What is Plus Size forum thread.