Once in a while, a single post can spark a movement. In the summer of 2011, Gabi Gregg, who writes the blog GabiFresh, went on a quest to find a bikini; at the time, bikinis were hard to find in large sizes. When she found one, she posted a picture of herself in it, calling it a “fatkini.” (Gregg says that she got the word and the idea from a Tumblr user.) The picture, and a follow-up article for the Web site xoJane, the next summer, went viral, prompting a wave of copycat posts. Plus-size women took bikini pictures and tagged them #fatkini. Gregg ended up on the “Today” show, and the retail landscape changed. Gregg told me, “Out of nowhere, all these plus-size brands were suddenly making bikinis.”
The fatkini movement—and plus-size fashion in general—has occasionally sparked a backlash. “Being really visible when you’re a plus-size woman is not for the faint of heart,” Conley told me. Many blogs attract lewd and misogynistic comments, but the more mild-mannered critics cite health concerns. “There’s a fine line between anti-body-shaming and obesity-glorification,” one reader wrote, at the bottom of a Buzzfeed article about the fatkini trend. Another added, “Celebrating obesity seems a bit ridiculous.”
—Lizzie Widdicombe, writing for The New Yorker about the rapidly evolving plus-size fashion industry. For Gabi Gregg, being a pioneer in a shifting retail landscape has been lucrative—she now designs her own line of swimwear, and her most popular suit sold out in twenty-four hours.
Photo: Gabifresh, Instagram