While acknowledging that the journey toward truly inclusive fashion still has a long way to go, it’s undeniable that significant strides have been made in the past ten years. Mainstream giants like Nike, Anthropologie, and Madewell have expanded their collections to embrace plus sizes, marking a massive shift towards body diversity in the fashion landscape. Even the runways, once exclusive, now showcase plus-size models, thanks to designers like Versace and Christian Siriano, to name a few. Size inclusivity has become the norm for any new brand entering the space.

Yet, the future of inclusive fashion seems more uncertain than ever. Amid the heightened presence of GLP-1s like Wegovy and Ozempic in media, and the disappearance of plus-size lines from multiple retailers, it’s hard to tell which way is up. Are things getting better, or have we reached the peak, signaling a descent? Regardless of your stance in the debate, one simple fact remains: Everyone, at every size, deserves access to great-fitting and stylish clothing.

Join us in this blog post as we reflect on the transformative journey of the fashion industry towards inclusivity over the last decade and explore the intriguing question: what’s next?

The Era of Body Positivity

The rise of social media in the 2010s sparked the modern era of plus-size fashion, bringing a transformation in the discourse around fashion and style. These new platforms helped to weaken the hold traditional gatekeepers like magazines had on style content and authority, and new voices emerged. Influencers like Chastity Garner, Nicolette Mason, and Gabi Gregg played a pivotal role in pioneering conversations about style in larger sizes. A New York Times piece that profiled these three women in 2012 was the spark for starting Dia & Co!

These bold voices ushered in a new era of body positivity – one that challenged societal norms and unrealistic body standards while encouraging consumers to accept their own bodies as they are today. From Gabbi Fresh stepping out in a bikini and starting the #Fatkini movement in 2012 to the rise of theCURVYcon in 2015 – an event known to insiders as the “Superbowl” of plus-size fashion – the leaders of the body positivity movement were incredibly effective in leveraging new media to galvanize millions of consumers around their cause.

By the second half of the decade, the body positivity conversation had successfully moved from the sidelines of the internet into the mainstream. From Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated to Curve models walking the runways at New York Fashion Week, the general public was now aware of a growing movement challenging the stranglehold thinness had on fashion. More and more women opted into the conversation, and remarkably, deeply entrenched norms around body shaming went from being a mainstay of the zeitgeist to increasingly unpopular.

Ashley Graham, the first size 16 model on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Ashley Graham, the first size 16 model on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (Sports Illustrated 2016).
Precious Lee on the runway at Dia & Co’s New York Fashion Week Show during theCURVYcon in 2017.

Size Inclusivity in Retail

Led by the prominent voices of the body-positive movement, demand from consumers for more inclusive fashion options prompted a surge of brands into the plus-size category from 2014 to early 2020. Major retailers like Nike, Anthropologie, and Madewell extended their size ranges while featuring bodies of all shapes and sizes in brand campaigns. New brands popped up that were size-inclusive from the get-go, including Good American, Skims, and Parade. By 2019 theCurvycon, once on the fringes of New York Fashion Week, became more established in the general public as seen by the sponsorship of the event by mainstream retailers like Target, JCPenney, and Macy’s. This acceptance and advocacy of the plus-size category marked a significant change in the fashion industry and a lasting shift to customer expectations – we all believed and hoped these changes would be permanent.

CeCe Olisa and Chastity Garner in live conversation with Chrissy Metz at The CurvyCon (People 2017).

Reversing Progress and the Impact of the Pandemic 

Just as it felt we were making progress, recent examples have shown us have given us cause for concern. Many retailers have divested from or shuttered their plus lines entirely.

Adding to the reversals, the onset of COVID-19 dramatically altered the entire retail landscape – shuttering stores, curbing consumer spending, and reshaping shopping behaviors as we knew them. Over 30% of plus-size specialty doors permanently closed in the last three quarters of 2020, shifting most spend toward e-commerce as the in-store shopping experience nearly disappeared. Many retailers struggling in the post-pandemic economic landscape were the first to pull back on non-core initiatives – plus fashion being an unfortunate victim. While the pandemic can’t be entirely to blame for many retailers’ divestment from plus, it certainly added pressure.

LOFT had a high-profile launch in February of 2018 only to close their plus line completely three years later, citing “ongoing business challenges” as the reasons why it was too hard to maintain. Old Navy’s “BODEQUALITY” campaign launched with great fanfare in 2021 with the promise of a fully inclusive offering in all of its stores; less than a year later they retreated from that promise stating “We have not seen the expected demand for extended size products in our stores channel and as such, will be further realigning our in-store inventory later this year to better meet demand.” This subtle retreat has not gone unnoticed within the plus-size community, causing ongoing frustration.

When the dust settled on the era of expansions the picture in the plus-size market was different than most expected. It didn’t reflect the dream of mainstream brands offering plus styles across their full assortment with equal representation in media and a robust in-store experience. Instead, it was a fractured experience with scarce pockets of inventory from many brands – a little bit here, a little bit there – with little understanding of where to find it all.

Is Plus Disappearing? The Onset of GLP-1s and Changing Body Ideals

Whereas body positivity slogans dominated the airwaves and curve models walked the runways at increasing rates in the late 2010s, by the end of 2023 we were observing a complete boomerang illustrated by the resurgence of terms like “heroin chic” and the popularity of GLP-1s (like Ozempic or Wegovy) for weight loss among Hollywood, influencers and consumers. Body ideals have been changing rapidly with extreme thinness coming back into vogue.

This cultural shift is reverberating loudly in the fashion world, marked by a notable reduction in plus-size styles and models on fashion week runways throughout 2023. Vogue Business’ analysis of 9,137 looks across 219 shows revealed that only 17 brands featured at least one plus-size (defined as size 14 or above) look during fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Even brands that expanded their offerings to include plus-size clothing, such as Gucci (A/W23) and Chanel (A/W23), omitted plus-size models on the runway—a stark contrast to the heralded diversity of the Spring 2019 runway season, deemed by MIC as “the most diverse ever.”


Ensuring retail serves the plus customer exceptionally well in an environment that includes, inspires, and empowers her is more critical now than ever. In the path forward, let’s fully embrace the extraordinary progress achieved over the last decade. From our extensive shop featuring hundreds of brands catering to sizes 10-32 to witnessing body diversity grace high-end runways, the fashion landscape has undergone an irreversible transformation. However, we acknowledge that sustaining progress in the future of inclusive fashion rests in our collective hands, both as brands and consumers. We hope that brands continue to iterate, genuinely listening to customers, and adapting to their needs. As for consumers, we urge you to demand a higher standard, pushing all of us to consistently raise the bar while staying open-minded as we work to meet your requests. At Dia & Co, we will continue championing size 10-32 customers in every aspect of our work, collaborating with brands that share this unwavering commitment. Plus is a team sport, and the Future of Inclusive Fashion is only bright if we all work together.

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