Then we picked winners, determining the best in each category based on those ratings and reviews. Here, we also considered factors like the cost of the item (does it feel reasonable for what you’re getting?) as well as reach and accessibility (if it was released several months ago, is it still available in a wide range of sizes? Can you get it across the country? Will you be able to return it if necessary?).
Ultimately, 75 winners (from 50 brands) came out on top this year. Some are classics (Adidas, Lululemon, and Reebok, hello!) and others, like Alder Apparel and Definite Articles, are newer to the scene, which makes us all the more excited to include them.
Back to the topic of sizing: Though our submission guidelines required eligible pieces of apparel to be available in at least a size 3X or 20, you’ll notice that a number of winning items—many of which are from big-name, mainstay activewear brands—only go up to a size 2X. As the submissions came in, we were met once again with a disheartening reality that, as fitness and health editors, we’re already quite familiar with: The athletic apparel industry has made some steps to be more inclusive of people with larger bodies, but there is still a long way to go. Many items that we knew, in good faith, met our quality standards—if not going above and beyond them—were also not available in sizes 3X or 4X. There’s also the fact that sizing is extremely inconsistent across brands—some of our testers who wear an XL in one top may need a 2X in another—and have proven inconsistent over time too.
Our goal is to direct you to the pieces that will do the job best, leaving us, at times, torn between recommending items that didn’t perform as well in testing and items that more people can wear. This is all part of a larger problem: Many brands with size inclusivity at the forefront of their mission tend to be smaller or not as well-funded; in turn, they may not produce new collections each year or have eligible inventory (a number of past size-inclusive SELF Activewear Award winners could not submit this year for that reason). Ultimately, we’ve seen, once again, that many retailers do not believe that fat people deserve nice, high-quality clothes, or that they can be fit, healthy, or athletic.