During the movement for more sustainability, particularly in fashion, Shein was touted as the poster child of fast fashion: a term used to describe the mass production of catwalk designs at cheap cost. Through social media platforms like TikTok, I’ve read comments condemning users for buying clothes from Shein in “transportation” videos and individual videos about how unethical it is to buy clothing to Shein for contributing to clothing waste.
What Shein’s reviews overlook, however, is that Shein is one of the few companies that offers fashionable, fashionable, and affordable clothing for plus-size people. As I said in a previous column, options in malls are lacking when it comes to plus size fashion. In most malls, options tend to be off-trend and expensive, while Shein offers a wide variety of clothing styles that can be found in straight sizes (sizes 0-14) and plus sizes.
A separate argument is made that tall people should consider saving instead. While this is a good idea in theory, in practice there are other issues. The main problem is that there aren’t enough plus size options at thrift stores. Whether it’s Plato’s Closet or GoodWill, the options tend to be unstylish and limited in quantity.
The cute clothes that people can buy at thrift stores often don’t make it into the plus size section. When they are, however, they don’t dress a plus size body. On the contrary, the 1X–3X options are bought and worn by straight-sized people to give an “oversized” look to their outfits. Tall people already lack options for clothing and fashion and having those options squeezed by people who have a whole market for them makes ethical shopping even more difficult.
A separate issue affecting savings as a whole, however, is the resale of clothing through platforms such as Depop. Some second-hand shoppers will raid their local GoodWill for what’s hot at the time only to sell it later for more than it’s worth. This ended up driving up prices for thrift stores as a whole. Although thrift stores remain an option, variety and affordability are declining.
Between the lack of size and style options and the higher resale prices, it’s no wonder plus-size people want to buy from Shein. Why keep browsing places to find a good option when there is a website that has thousands of good options?
To that end, plus-size people shouldn’t be shamed or criticized for buying from Shein, especially by people who have easier access to clothing in general. Tall people are not ashamed to buy from Shein. Straight-size people are often the ones who choose to comment on plus-size people shopping on Shein.
Sustainable consumption is a multi-layered issue, and summing it up to blaming plus-size consumers for shopping on a website that offers affordable and trendy options doesn’t solve any sustainability problem.
Jillian Craig is a journalism student at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The post office. Want to talk more about it? Let Jillian know by tweeting her at @JillianCraig18.