There's Finally Plus-Size Clothing for Kids & of Course People Are Being Jerks

plus size clothing for kids
Courtesy Next
It should come as no surprise to anyone that human beings exist in all shapes and sizes, and that this includes children. Even so, the recent news that UK retailer Next makes plus-size clothing for kids has been met with abject disdain from many people all over the internet. What a shock: The world hates fat kids just as much as it hates fat adults.

On September 14, the Telegraph reported that Next -- a household name in Britain known for its trend-driven, budget-friendly wears -- carries a "Plus Fit" line geared at children and teens ages 3 to 16. According to the publication, these pieces can accommodate bodies that are two inches larger than the "standard" fit styles. The "Age 10+" fit, for example, would be suitable for a person with a 27-inch waist, as opposed to a 25-inch one.

The news has slowly been spreading across UK media, with scaremongering headlines like "high-street retailer Next is selling plus-sized clothing for children as young as THREE years old as experts warn UK is sitting on a childhood obesity timebomb" accompanying it.

All the while, commenters are gracing the posts with their "helpful" observations. "Let's not offend children by calling them fat or doing anything about their obesity," one Daily Mail reader wrote. "No, let's accommodate them with diet soda drinks, low fat crisps, a Wii (it's exercise isn't it?) and larger clothing until they grow out of it." "Disgusting parents," wrote another. "Just wrong," wrote another still. One reader even mused, "Bet the stores in the more affluent, educated areas don't sell as many as the dumbed down poorer communities," because classism and fatphobia so often intersect.

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Here's the thing, though: Plus-size children exist. Chubby 3-year-olds exist. Portly 7-year-olds exist. Fat 10-year-olds exist, too. We can all use whatever term we feel most comfortable with, but children, like adults, aren't neatly packageable into a one-site-fits-all uniform. 

  • Kids Need Clothes, Plain & Simple

    Next's "Plus Fit" range focuses on denim and schoolwear. That is, pieces that would be suitable for the school uniforms common in both Britain's public and private education.

    This just in: Plus-size kids are kids, too. They even go to school. So, um, they kind of need the clothing necessary in order to go about their day-to-day activities, be it strolling in the park, walking their pet, or sitting in art class. 

    Next is one of the only "high street" British brands catering to the plus-size junior market, but the simple truth is that every retailer should be following suit.

    The only thing one particular troll got right on the Daily Mail was this: "If [brands] see a want for it, why wouldn't they stock these sizes?" There is clearly a want; and quite simply, catering to it would help both the children who probably crave versatility of sizes and styles in the things they wear, and the brands that'll make a profit from more inclusive ranges.

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  • The Existence of Plus-Size Clothing Won't Make Your Kid Fat

    Much of the coverage and surrounding outrage over Next's extended children's sizes seems linked to the fear surrounding "the obesity epidemic," and the "childhood obesity epidemic," in particular. The thinking seems to be that access to clothing in larger sizes will only encourage children to grow lazier, unhealthier, and rounder.

    This simply isn't the way the world works, people. Just as the word "epidemic" is misused to describe fat individuals (whose bodies are not and have never been contagious), the notion that clothing could make anyone gain weight is almost laughably absurd. 

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  • There's a Link Between Clothing & Identity

    Whether we care to admit it or not, our clothing options are inextricably linked to our unique and varied identities. If you speak to enough fat people who were once fat children, it probably won't take long before hearing about how many of them never felt at ease in their body because they could never dress it in the ways that were emblematic of their most authentic selves

    The only lamentable thing about Next's "Plus Fit" collection is that there isn't more of it. Body- and fat-positive communities led by grown-ups fight for more diversity and options in plus-size retail, but what is often forgotten is that this should include the children's sector. Kids as young as "THREE" have developing personalities and interests. They should be able to start exploring the many ways clothing can allow us to wear those personalities and interests on our sleeves.

  • Just Let Children Be

    If there's anything that the sudden interest in Next's "Plus Fit" collection has proven, it's that fat shaming is taught behavior. Chances are that the majority of the Telegraph and the Daily Mail's readers are grown-ass individuals. Plenty of them clearly have deeply rooted prejudices toward fat people (whom they believe to be grotesque, greedy, a drain on the economy, or unintelligent) and plenty of them will teach their own children to feel the same.

    It's no wonder that 10-year-olds are more afraid of getting fat than of getting cancer. It's no wonder that body-image insecurities start to plague kids as soon as they're old enough to understand what a body is. 

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    So, the long and the short of this story is as follows: Children of all sizes exist. Children of all sizes should have access to clothing that comfortably fits them. And children of all sizes have the right to not hate themselves. Let's stop trying to teach them otherwise.

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