High fashion and quality choices have always been a challenge in the plus-size market. Sizing is limited to a size 10 for women or a size 36 for men in most brands. Retailers complain that it is not economical to carry larger sizes because there is just not the market for them, but that is simply not true. Stores that do cater to larger sizes for both men and women have experienced a significant increase in sales each year, 17 billion in annual sales to be exact (NPD Group) and growing. Retailers that do offer plus-size options sometimes have a catch or the section is hidden away in the corner. There was a huge backlash when some retailers like Old Navy started charging more for larger sizing. While there is technically more fabric needed to creating the garment, it just didn’t add up. 81% of plus-size women said they were willing to spend more on clothing if there were more options in their size (Modcloth Survey), but this isn’t how it should be done.
While plus size women’s clothing options are increasing steadily, the challenge becomes finding fashionable clothing. For buyers, it’s a never ending cycle of misinformation and demand not being met. Retailers, on the other hand, don’t fully understand the demand side of the equation because they do not offer plus-size options in their store and so don’t have the necessary data points. This mis-information is then relayed to the producers who, in many cases, do not purchase larger sizes. This leaves retailers who do cater to plus-sizes without very many options to choose from; in-store plus-size offerings are scant and offer very few options to choose from. This leaves the customer stuck having to choose from among frumpy and unflattering clothing. That said, choices for plus-size women have increased with the trend of fast fashion where pieces can and are created quickly and cheaply. This ultimately allows for more options in every cut and color. But what about the high quality fashion women want?
Creating clothing for plus-size women can be challenging production wise. For some designers it’s a basic fear of designing for a market they are inexperienced with. In fashion design schools, students simply aren’t taught to create clothing for the plus-size market. They are creating samples in the traditional size 2 or 4 and so are unfamiliar with laying patterns and creating items for plus sizes that are flattering for a variety of body types. The good news is that some schools are finally getting the hint. Syracuse University, with the help of Melissa Aronson (the worlds first plus-size supermodel), created a new program called “Fashion without Limits”. This program teaches students the basic skills to creating clothing for a full-figured woman. Teaching these young designers, at the source, is perhaps a step in the right direction when it comes to truly changing the future of high fashion.
Another option for higher end plus size clothing is custom clothing. This is what inspired designer Courtney Smith to create her line Rum and Coke. She offers a variety of lux and daily wear options. She creates everything herself, so if you want a dress in purple with a little bit more room up top no problem. Courtney wanted to send a different message with her line “You, woman, are enough. [Women] are beautiful in whatever package they come in.” It’s a more personable experience, but still has the price tag attached.
In the end, the good news is the we are making some headway, but we still have a long way to go until sufficient depth and breadth of options are available to plus size women.
Looking for quality plus size fashion that fits well and is stylish? Take our style survey and get matched with a personal stylist who will work with you to create a look that is uniquely your own.
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