Plus-size clothing for children as young as three

October 4, 2017 Published by

A high street fashion retailer has started to sell children’s clothing in “plus fit” sizes; the range is to be sold alongside the “slim fit” clothing line and is available for children aged three to sixteen.

The clothing, which is available online, is defined as being “more generous through the waist and hips for a comfortable fit”.

The retailer has come under fierce criticism for establishing the clothing range – but have they simply identified a gap in the market for children of a different shape (as they have done for slim children) or should we be concerned that there’s even a need for ‘larger’ clothing at such a young age?

Kim Roberts, chief executive of HENRY (Health Exercise and Nutrition for the Really Young) believes the need for the plus clothing size is a “sad symptom of the fact that childhood obesity is now the single biggest public health crisis in the UK”.

Obesity is incredibly difficult to reverse once established in children,” she said. “In fact, government data shows that just one in 20 children who are obese at age five will return to a healthy weight by age 11.

Kim Roberts seems to be saying that we should be addressing the obesity problem and not catering to the needs of those who require “plus fit’ clothing, but it isn’t as simple as that.

No-one can deny that we do have an obesity problem, and due to the serious nature of the health conditions that are associated with it, we need to confront it head-on.  However, the opposite is equally bad for children’s health. The number of eating disorders has doubled in the last 50 years, with children as young as six have suffered from Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia. Children are being constantly confronted by the idea of a ‘perfect body’ but often this is for appearance’s sake rather than for good health.   

What is needed is education; Dr Amanda Gummer believes that the government agencies (such as health and education) have a role to play in informing parents of best practice and supporting them in helping their child grow up successfully, and that includes being a healthy weight.

Child eating breakfast by themselves

At Fundamentally Children we are big advocates of empowering parents by giving them the tools and information to parent according to their own values.  But, as the population gets bigger and models in glossy magazines seem increasingly thin, how are parents expected to know what is ‘normal’ and what is cause for concern?

Dr Gummer believes that there needs to be monitoring of children’s weight to allow early intervention before a child becomes obese, but it must be delivered in a way that supports and empowers parents, not in a way that stigmatises and certainly not in a way that makes young children overly conscious of their body image.

So, is providing a ‘plus fit’ clothing range a step forwards, or a step back? 

All children should be able to access clothing that is comfortable and an appropriate fit – regardless of their size or shape.  And they certainly shouldn’t be hung up on body image. However, it is clear that more needs to be done about childhood obesity – both in educating parents and children on good nutrition and encouraging a more active lifestyle from childhood.

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This post was written by Claire Gillies

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