I have been watching. Sitting back and observing an interesting shift.
the Shift in Plus Size Fashion
From the time that I started blogging until now, there has been an interesting shift and evolution that has me both excited and curious. But before I delve in, let me first preface this article with this, I have worked in retail for 12 years before blogging in various roles and levels of management. I do have my MBA in Marketing in which I dedicated to the plus size market.
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I share this because when I address issues within our community, I come at it from both a business and personal place. Not just out the side of my neck or without merit.
Now, as I was sharing…
Plus Model Magazine, Mark Fast, Crystal Renn, CNN, V Mag, Velvet D’Amour, FFFWeek, Beth Ditto, Melissa McCarthy, Evans, Plus North, Good Morning America, British Plus Size Fashion Weekend, Qristyl Frazier, Big Love, Curvy Girls, Elle Quebec, Vogue Italia
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to name a few impactful points over the past few years.
There is a shift, an evolution, a slow change happening in the plus size fashion industry.
And from the looks of things, I like where this is headed.
Now why do I note a shift? Well, there are quite a few key indicators that have raised my interest that leave me intrigued and hopeful:
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- On the heels of a successful 5th annual Full Figured Fashion Week, this has allowed designers and brands to create collections more on the schedule- already presenting their pre-fall collections (years ago at the start of FFFWeek) this was not the case.
- Mainstream media’s talking points have shifted AWAY from delving RIGHT into “obesity” and have now started to focus on other staggering numbers: The nearly $16B of retail revenue and the 67% of the apparel-purchasing population.
- Mega fashion media darlings like Christie Brinkley from Wall Street On Style, calling out retailers and designers about this money left on the table? Well hello ma’am and thank you.
- We cannot forget Media Planet for their inserts on plus size fashion in USA Today.
- EVEN Huffington Post, Jezebel, XOJane, and various other fab sites have acknowledged and questioned the presence and state of plus size fashion!
- We have students who have addressed the plus size fit model and have created a form to help address fit issues!
- And then we have Business Insider who has so eloquently addressed and acknowledged the shift, change, and evolution of the plus size industry– thank you Margaret Bogenreif for your amazing breakdown of this (and also my inspiration for this post).
We cannot leave out the magazines that have paid attention to the consumer. We have Marie Claire, In Style, and Rebook taking note in their print publications. Lucky Magazine has dedicated a presence online (Heyyy Margie!)
So what does this all mean? Why is this something to note?
As I shared in a past post,
At the end of the day, it is all about the dollar
In this case of plus size fashion, SIXTEEN BILLION DOLLARS.
Does this mean poof! Plus size fashion will be fixed? Nooooo, and with any great change, it must happen slow and steadily in order to stick. I have written my Open Letter to the Fashion Community… I have, along with other bloggers and social media mavens voiced our irritations, concerns, and frustrations about the state of plus size fashion.
While mainstream media and straight sized designers are taking note and watching, there are a few things or suggestions I have in order to bring about some great change…
For the mainstream fashion industry:
- PLEASE introduce plus size fashion design into your design schools. How can one learn the intricacies of the plus size form and her aesthetics if you do not study OR include her?
- Designers, STOP blindly sizing up your patterns, opt for a plus size fit model or two to help ensure a proper fit which will then only help your sell through and bottom line. Regardless of size, a great fit is paramount to any design.
- Please do research into your plus size shopper. We are not a monolith. We have varying styles, preferences, and price sensitivities. We mirror the straight sized shopper just like your current target audiences. We are drawn to the SAME items which leads me too…
- STOP watering down the fashions as they FINALLY reach us. If you have a thigh high slit in straight sizes, then give us a THIGH HIGH SLIT in plus. If you have structure in your jacket, please DO NOT change our version to a ponte knit. FIT CAN BE perfected.
For the Plus Size Fashion Community:
- We must hold each other accountable in and on various levels. If we want to be taken seriously, then we must deliver. Designers, boutique owners, bloggers, models, online stores, magazines, every facet must understand that:
- There is room for everyone
- There are those who do it for a love of, passion, full-time jobs, hobby, and have different objectives and this is fine and doesn’t mean more or less than you
- With the various options and opportunities, there are ways you can be a part of the community beyond being a model. We need more women AND MEN in and on the business side, infiltrating, learning, making change from the inside out as well as the outside in.
- Community is key. What we have done thus far is quite commendable and notable. As Margaret shared, “Instead of simply accepting the fashion industry’s refusal to acknowledge this marketplace, these key players have created a community that rewards those retailers eager to cater to the plus size shopper while punishing those shops that fail to live up to traditional consumer standards.”
So you see, there is a lot to be proud of, hopeful for, and excited about. While there is still a ways to go and changes still to be had, these are just a few indicators and observations that I have noticed that make me smile. A few reflections that get me going and thinking.
For the plus size fashion community, keep on doing what you do! Knocking down barriers, kicking down doors, and using your voice to affect change…
They are finally listening and hearing us.
I have seen a increasing awareness and offerings of pus size designs, there have also been epic fail like eloquii (going out of business). At this point it should be a norm to see the racks going from a 0 to 28 or whatever, there should not be a plus size section or distinction it should be just another size on a rack. That is what I am waiting for but I am not holding my breath because I like living (lol). Nice post I really enjoyed it.
I’m still waiting to see the change and hoping that you’re right. I haven’t felt any of it yet from a “lay person’s” standpoint – a non-blogging fat gal who’s not part of the fashion scene. I just buy plus size clothes, and prefer them to be reasonably priced, well made, and hopefully less trendy and more stylish (i.e., less youth-oriented; I’m all for more clothes for fat teens, but not in exchange for stylish clothes for the rest of us). In the past year, it looks like things have been falling backwards. As _book swagger_ mentioned, eloquii went out of business. Target’s plus size section has only continued to dwindle in favor of youthful, trendy styles that fall apart after 2 spins in the washing machine. Last year, the parent company that owned Lane Bryant, Catherine’s, Fashion Bug, and a couple of other plus size stores was bought out by another company that promptly closed all Fashion Bug stores. I wasn’t much of a Fashion Bug shopper, but the idea that we lost another plus size brick&mortar store didn’t make me happy. So I’m hoping the change you write about here soon becomes a tangible reality and we see new plus size retailers who aren’t just courting the teen market, and creating something affordable with a little style.
I so agree with your post! I am particularly angered by stores like Target that continually reduce the content and quality of their plus size offerings. You can’t even buy pajamas or undergarments at Target. I’m also distressed by the end of Eloquii and the potential demise of JC Penney’s. As much as I love to dress in the latest trends, I am a high school teacher and a lot of the clothes are inappropriate. I’m also not quite ready for the clothes offered by Alfred Dunner and similar manufacturers.
I don’t know if this is a valid point, but I feel that the growth of online shopping hurts what we can get in the brick and mortars. Any business that sells plus size clothes in their store has a bigger selection in its online storefront (if it has one). I surely don’t mind paying more for the clothes themselves, but I DO mind paying for shipping, handling, and returns. In my mind, this is a form of discrimination.
By the way, my husband is 6’4″ and I think he has a harder time finding clothes than I do. I think we, as a Country, have a long way to go to battle size discrimination. Keep us the good work, everyone!
I hear you. It must be hard to find *any* clothes if you’re 6’4″! I rarely see anything for people that tall. I had a woman friend with size 11 feet who had a hard time finding cute, stylish shoes. Every time we’d go shoe shopping, the store might have 1 or 2 pairs of size 11 shoes and they’d usually be sold out by the time we got there.
I’ve also been hearing rumors of JCPenney’s demise. I hope they make it. I also work in public education as a high school counselor and used to shop frequently at JCP. Like you, I’m not ready for some of the more “matronly” styles (Alfred Dunner, this means YOU!) I see in some stores, but I often found comfortable, stylish clothes at JCP. In the past 2 years, however, I haven’t found much there that suits my style, or isn’t a re-tread of something I already have in my closet. I’ve been disappointed with JCP and keep hoping with this new revamp, they’ll get better.
In lieu of JCP, I’ve been doing a lot more shopping on QVC.com lately. Like JCP, Kohl’s or similar stores, there’s always some matronly clothes to skim through, but if you spend some time looking around, you’re bound to find some cute stuff. At work, I like to wear cotton knit tops – essentially a t-shirt, but with more style; an interesting cut, drape, seaming, buttons, bows or other details. I sometimes find QVC’s house brand, Denim & Co., has tops to meet that criteria. I’ve also found cute dresses, sweaters and blazers/jackets on QVC.
Yeahhhhh for QVC and HSN the like! 😀 Thank you for sharing and giving love… I do hope the powers that be read this and YOUR comment!
Welcome and thank you madame! Like you, I DO MIND paying as well! LOL
AMEN and AMEN love…
Way to put it! How exciting! I hope that the pieces get more affordable too, it is heart breaking to see a top in straight sizes at $12 and the same plus size top at $45.
You are seeing this change… folks calling out brands for this too!
This is an amazing article and I couldn’t agree more with all the points. I still purchase most of my clothes from straight size store because even if I find it from the plus size store some of the prices are too high for me.
Woot. We have to make do with what we can! 😀
Like I said on Facebook; Yes yes yes, … oh, et OUI!!
If schools and retailers could just take one minute and try to be “in our (stylish) shoes”, they’d go “OMG! Let’s offer more, and (breakthrough!) make more money!”.
It’s blindingly simple and almost insulting how the big companies are unwilling to try, or risk it – for lack of a better word.
I say it all comes to small indie designers. I liken it to a new musical style, or food movement. It sometimes has to start small and underground, until the mass market embarks on the adventure.
Yesssss I completely agree!!! 😀
Please email me, I have questions for my marketing portfolio I am doing for college. I would love to speak with you. [email protected]
You can shoot me an email in the contact section! I have just got back from vacation! Let’s chat!
It always comes down to money! The industry is opening their eyes to the fact that we not only want sexy, trendy, and fashionable clothing…they also recognize that we are willing to spend and support the community who designs/caters for us! Keep writing and doing the great work that you do!
Thank you ma’am!!!
Great job on the story.
Couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said Marie! As Thirties Girl mentioned, it does seem there is both positive and negative momentum underway – but often times that balance of moving ahead and moving backward and then leaping ahead again is part of the realization of change. That’s exactly what our survey is striving to do – validate what the opportunity within this market is more specifically to help create more options. Thank you so, so much for your ever-empowered voice and for featuring TheRunwayPlus survey in your “Speak Up” article. The TCF community and tons of others are taking a moment to share a voice on plus size fashion and we think it can lead to change! Voices can lead to choices!
YES! Voices can lead to choices! YES!
I can’t help but think that reading my post on Cult of Cali Facebook worked it’s way into this article as well! Thanks for organizing the thoughts and presenting it so well…going to share with my peeps as well! xx
😀 I love you JEN! That and a few side conversations and articles!!!! XOXOXOXO
Great post Marie, you put it so well, all of us that care, have helped in some way to make this improvement happen. The plus size industry/offer is changing every day for the better, I am excited of what the future will bring. BRING IT ON!
Thank you kindly!!!!!!!!!!!
As a transgender individual, let me throw another wrinkle into this discussion. Male-to-female crossdressers have been shopping in “mainstream” Plus-Size stores (for obvious
reasons – LOL!) for years, and that little “secret” has knowingly
(nudge, nidge, wink, wink!) been shared between the owners of these businesess
and their transgendered male clients for a long time now. It is also something
that is typically not talked about openly for fear of alienating some of their
more conservative female customers in the process, as many people still wrongly
associate crossdressing with a form of fetishism, and by extension, some type
By some estimates, crossdressers constitute upwards of 10% of the customers of stores such as Addition-Elle, Penningtons, Ricki’s and Long Tall Sally (formerly the Tall Girl Shop) here in Canada, as well as Catherine’s and the Fashion Bug in the U.S. Lane Bryant is considered to be particularly supportive of the transgender community there, as are Kohl’s, Nordstrom, and especially Macy’s when it comes to department stores. Payless Shoes also ranks high on that list on both sides of the border.
The reason for this growing trend among crossdressers to shop openly in mainstream stores and to move away from the specialty stores that used to cater to their community – and often preyed on their insecurities and need for discretion by charging outrageous prices for their limited wear – is that society has become far more understanding and accepting of that lifestyle in recent years. Many of these individuals no longer feel the need to remain closeted due to their particular gender orientation, and are happy to spend their money where their business is appreciated.
Smart retailers have taken notice of that trend and are becoming increasingly attuned to the needs of their transgender customers. In some cases, they will even schedule private, after-hours shopping events for them, as they have come to realize that when treated well, they are apt to be far more loyal customers than their genetic female counterparts, are often more appreciative of good service and less demanding and diva-like, and on a per-capita basis, spend far more on a given shopping trip because of their deeper attachment
to the clothes they are buying.
As part of your blogging activities, I would reccomend that you make a point of educating yourself further on the needs of the transgender community and their special relationship with plus size womens’ clothing stores. You will find that this is a significant sub-set of the plus-size market that has also been under-served to date, and one that can also be mined for significant retail dollars by those in the know.
Leslie! I would LOVE for you to guest post on this! Please email me so that we can talk more about this!!!! [email protected]
Leslie I am in much the same boat and would like to just echo everything that has been said here. I have shopped at Kohl’s and JC Penney for female clothes myself and never had a problem. But I would love if there were more styles to choose from. I haven’t inquired about after-hours shopping because it hadn’t occurred to me, but the next time I’m ready to go shopping I may do just that.
High five! Powerful blog post Marie! Thanks you. #Inspired xo