Picture the scene. There you are, at work, minding your own business, sipping your grande Americano when disaster strikes. You spill your coffee down your brilliant white t-shirt. And you’ve got an important meeting this afternoon. Of course that’s no problem, right? You can just nip to the shops and pick up a new one.
I spent a drizzly Thursday afternoon pounding the pavements of Oxford Street, visiting as many clothing shops as I could, to see how my thought experiment would pan out for me, a woman in the market for the simplest of things: a plain white short-sleeved t-shirt. The only catch? In a size 22.
And the results? Well. They speak for themselves. I went everywhere from the biggest department stores to fast fashion brands to discerning fashion lady shops. It was bleak. I went to more than 20 shops and found one (1) white tee in my size. Let me break it down for you…
Topshop – absolutely not
Miss Selfridge – no chance
Zara – ha ha ha
H&M – not a plain t-shirt to be found in the weird jumble that is their plus size section. Maybe if I really had spilled coffee on myself I would have settled for one of their ugly shirts with a grandad collar.
Bershka – lol
River Island – I naively believed there was still a plus size section in one of the River Island branches on Oxford Street. I was wrong. It’s gone.
Warehouse – nope
Urban Outfitters – not for the likes of me
Uniqlo – at the well-establish home of basics, I couldn’t find a tee above their XL, which they say is a UK 18.
Reiss – nothing
Arket – I thought maybe there would be something cool and oversized that would fit me. Nope.
Whistles – alas no
&Other Stories – the largest size was a European 42, which is a UK 14
John Lewis – the largest white t-shirt I could find from their own brand, John Lewis & Partners, was a size 16. The brand generally goes up to a 20, but coverage was limited.
House of Fraser – the largest white t-shirt was from the brand Great Plains but it was a size 14. Useless.
Gap – it may have been a staple of the t-shirt scene of the ’90s, but once again there was nothing above an 18.
Debenhams – I found this Jasper Conran t-shirt in a 20 which is better than some but no good for me. It’s also not a classic white t-shirt, with a round neck and regular sleeves, but beggars can’t be choosers or something.
Forever21 – I was pleasantly surprised to find a physical plus size range in their basement, but all the clothes were quite A Lot rather than basics. No white tee for me.
M&S – FINALLY! A white t-shirt in my size! It might not have been a cool boxy one like thin women could buy, but it was, indeed, a white t-shirt in my size.
We keep hearing about the UK high street being a ‘challenging retail environment’ right now, and may I suggest that this might be because it’s not making clothes for many, many potential shoppers?
How is the high street meant to survive when it’s not even meeting the most basic of needs? A cheap, basic item that you need right then. Not something you need for a wedding in three weeks, or a new pair of jeans to replace a pair that you know are going to wear out soon. Something you need right now. That anyone who isn’t plus size could buy with no trouble at all. Maybe the death of the British high street isn’t so tragic after all.PlusSize.co.uk is funded by navabi (https://www.navabi.co.uk). We do this to push for fairer representation of plus size women in the media. If you share this goal, please do share any article you agree with. (And, of course, do feel free to browse 10,000+ dresses, tops, suits, etc at navabi.co.uk if you'd like to support us further.)