Joburg Itinerary: Plus-size friendly spaces

28 Jun 2023
Hi! My name is Sarah-Justine Ward and I’m a part of the Johannesburg In Your Pocket team! Recently, I came up with the idea of covering places and spaces in Joburg where I have had positive experiences as a plus-size person. While our team had the very best intentions with this feature, we completely understand how it appeared tone deaf or even performative. So I thought I’d share my story to give some much-needed context and clarity. 

I call myself plus size in the loudest and proudest way possible. I embrace my curves, stretch marks, double chin, and chubby cheeks the best way I know how. Unfortunately, I often feel that the world around me doesn’t embrace me quite as easily. Thankfully, there are a few spaces that have made me feel like my body deserves representation and inclusion as much as anyone else’s. 

Whether it's a restaurant, a retail store, or any public space, creating an environment where everyone feels welcome is essential. While it may seem like a small detail, the availability of comfortable seating, spacious changing rooms, and accessible bathrooms can make a significant difference in ensuring that people of any dimension feel valued and included.

It is a testament to our society's progress that this is gaining recognition in Joburg.  In this spirit, we've put together a list of plus-size inclusive spaces – from restaurants with optimal seating options, to clothing stores where fashion and fit coexist seamlessly. 

Cosy comfort at Peachy, 44 Stanley

Peachy's comfortable indoor seating. Photo: Peachy via Instagram. 

On warm evenings the pretty courtyard garden at this self-declared “cute AF” cafe-bar at 44 Stanley is an ideal spot for a cocktail or two; their outside loungers are comfortable and low-rise with plenty of space. A colourful and welcoming space, you can also head inside to enjoy some of Peachy's room-temperature or warming drinks (peach margarita or peach and apricot tea, anyone?) while you sink into their cosy couches by the fire. 

Size-inclusive fashion at Me&B, 44 Stanley

Colour and comfort collide at Me&B. Photo: Me&B via Instagram.

I recently started buying clothes from this awesome mother-daughter duo and for the first time in ages, I skipped the inevitable change room breakdown and went straight to feeling fabulous in what I tried on. This is why I felt so strongly about including this inclusive brand. 

Although there are places that cater to plus-size people, you'll find that the prices of certain items are often more expensive or unflattering compared to smaller sizes. However, at Me&B (also at 44 Stanley; we're sensing a theme here!), fit, fashion and affordability all coexist. This shopping experience caters to a wide range of sizes, from 32 to 46, with the store's carefully curated collection showcasing the latest trends, timeless classics, and unique pieces, ensuring there's something for everyone's personal style. This is often rare for bigger sizes, and you'll be singing their praises in no time. 

Read our interview with the duo behind Me&B here

Spacious seating and sushi at Chunky Chau, Rosebank

Edgy and spacious bar seating at Chunky Chau. Photo: Chunky Chau via Instagram. 

As a big body, my worst nightmare is going to a place that only has bar stools. Besides the uncomfortable hoisting of myself into the chair, it just isn’t fun to have zero back support all night long (especially after a few margaritas). I love the bar stools at Chunky Chau that are cushioned and have ample back support. It’s a great change of pace from the usual bar stool that always feels moments away from failing under me. We also love that Chunky Chau's website says, "‘Chunky’ does not have a negative connotation. In fact, according to some books on usage, native speakers [in Asia] sometimes use the word to indicate affection." 

On a weekend night at upmarket and intimate shopping centre The Firs in Rosebank, you'll no doubt catch fashionable and youthful people practically spilling out of this vibrant, pan-Asian sushi spot. Chunky Chau's tea-infused cocktails are the perfect thirst quencher after enjoying their sushi, bao buns, curries and more.


Bottomless mimosas and elegance at Bowl’d, Sandton

Elegant and contemporary seating at Bowl'd. Photo: Bowl'd via Instagram.  

Being able to cross my legs under a table is an underrated but relieving experience for me. The girls that get it - get it! Bowl’d has been a comfortable space for me where I can relax without having to worry about which angle I need to sit at. This restaurant-bar-lounge's bottomless mimosa special from 10:00 until 14:00 isn't the only reason to head to Sandton. Bowl'd is an elegant, contemporary spot with various kinds of comfortable seating both inside, and outside near the pool. They also offer private dining rooms, the dress code is strictly smart casual from 18:00, and we like that their website touts Bowl'd as "a place where difference becomes special". 

Exercise on your terms at Delta Park, Victory Park

Delta Park is a gorgeous location for a leisurely stroll. Photo: Xavier Le Roux via Delta Park Facebook. 

One of the biggest misconceptions people have when they look at me and plus-size bodies alike is that we hate exercise. Admittedly, many of Joburg's hiking, trail running, cycling and fitness scenes are not inclusive for bigger bodies. We wish that we had a Joburg version of Capetonian Amanda Rinquest's 'Hiking for Chubby Girls' (an inclusive Instagram page that reviews hiking trails around Cape Town for "short legs, different body types and the safety of women"). In the meantime, Joburg has no shortage of outdoor spaces, so why not gather a group of plus-sized friends and check out Delta Park; it's a great place to move your body without going on a strenuous, 'fitness freak' trail. I feel Delta Park is the loveliest place for me because I can take a walk without having to morph into an experienced hiker or rock climber. I can move my body on my own terms and treat myself to a really great coffee or sweet treat afterward at any of the awesome shops in Delta Central.

Shop around at the Playground Market, Braamfontein

A great way to spend a weekend. Photo: The Playground Market via Instagram. 

The Playground Market at 73 Juta Street in Braamfontein always delivers a jam-packed and diverse line-up of food, superb cocktail stalls, live music performances and the coolest collection of thrifted and local fashion items. Thrifting as a plus-size person can be difficult, but some of the vendors do stock a range of stylish items in a wide variety of sizes. The Playground Market is open every Sat, 10:00 – 18:00. 

All of these places may never have been built with the intention of accommodating all bodies, shapes and sizes but in my experience as a plus-size body navigating this city, they’ve made me feel good and welcome and I will continue to support them because they support me and this gloriously beautiful body that carries me through life. 

Myself and the rest of the team would love to hear your suggestions on more spaces and places to add to our growing list! 


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