Plus-size clothing has long been kept in a separate part of the store from the “regular sizes,” if featured in a store at all. The only choices for plus sizes were usually utilitarian, unflattering items. No wonder why bigger ladies were considered unfashionable. If they didn’t make their own clothes, what choice did they have?
Consider Melissa McCarthy, a well-known actress who couldn’t find a designer to fit her for an awards show. They all said no. So, she started her own clothing line. As she stated on People.com, the line was a selfish venture. She said, “I started this line because I wanted to know: Where are the normal clothes?” She wanted a better closet.
If an A-list star has problems finding nice clothes that are stylish and current, what about the rest of the plus-size population? Is it all gloom and doom out there? Not quite.
There are designers that are stepping in to cash in on the lucrative plus-size market. The women of today are no longer afraid to step into the spotlight of fashion and say ‘enough’ to the limited choices and stigma attached to plus-size clothing.
Some designers are listening.
New York Runways
According to Glamour magazine, 27 plus-size models walked the New York runway for fashion week. Plus-size icon Ashley Graham and others walked for Michael Kors, Christian Siriano, Chromat and Prabal Gurung. Allure magazine wrote that the 2017 runway was the “most diverse ever.”
As quoted from an article on wwd.com, Gurung’s hope is that his involvement will allow people to look at beauty differently. “The definition of beauty is no longer size two, four or zero. It comes in different sizes. I just saw [the sector] becoming very stigmatized and treated in a very inferior way. It was snickered at. There was nothing positive in the way that it was handled. I just felt it was time. The world was shifting. To not be part of the conversation about diversity and inclusion is just so out of synch, out-of-touch and archaic.”
One of the surprising things that are driving this shift is the youth of America. According to a study released by The NPD group, the plus-size junior clothing market has nearly doubled from 19 percent in 2012 to 34 percent in 2016. And these teenagers expect choice, as much of a choice as their “regular-size” friends have. According to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD, “Teens are reinvigorating the plus-size market. Today’s young consumers know what they want and won’t settle for less. This energy will turn up the volume at retail for the plus size apparel market overall, which is important but sometimes overlooked.”
He also stated that retailers are learning that customers will go where the fashion is. “It’s the last hurrah for the retailer that’s been vacillating,” he said. “If you’re not going to have the product all the time, the customer will go elsewhere.” Teens love to shop with their friends, and the retailers need to understand that plus size choices will get the customers to return again and again.
National Chains Paying Attention
JC Penney and Target are two national retailers that are listening. Target has its Ava and Viv plus-size collection. Target is partnering with Victoria Beckham this year, with some designs going up to size 3X. JC Penney added it’s Boutique+ collection for millennials, in partnership with “Project Runway” winner Ashley Nell Tipton. They plan to expand their plus-size line this year with swimwear and accessories.
Wanting to offer physical stores for their mostly online shoppers, clothing stores Modcloth and Eloquii testing markets with pop-up stores around the country. Modcloth, acquired by Jet.com, which is owned by Wal-Mart, has taken the plunge and opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Austin, Texas. It has been an enormous success for the company, and the retailer plans to open more physical stores.
Social Media and Bloggers
Plus-size Instagram stars and bloggers are also showing the world how plus-size women love fashion and are not afraid to make statements with it. Margot Meanie, Kellie B, and Gabifresh are just some of the fashionistas letting their fashion sense shine through.
These Instagram accounts, with their large followings, are a testament to how much the curvy girl craves fashionable alternatives and wants role models to show them how to wear those fashions with pride. Instagram boutiques such as Posh Shoppe, Chic and Curvy Boutique, and Boutique 115 are stepping in to help fill the needs of these women for fashionable plus-size clothing.
It’s been a slow march for plus-size fashion, but more designers are quickening the pace. As designers watch other designers making money and gaining prestige in the plus-size industry, they want in on the action.
The woman with the wallet is going to lead the way, as she spends on the more stylish and trendy fashions she craves. As the plus-size population continues to increase, so does the proportionate amount of that community who spends on fashion. Money talks, and by design the designers will eventually follow.
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