Are Brands Dating Us in the Dark? How Some Brands Treat Plus Size Fashion

Photo from the campaign by Plus Size Model Nikki G, Showing Us All That Fat Bodies Can Do

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Hey fashionistas. Have you ever been curious on why some brands are reluctant to promote their plus size lines? Like, when companies expand from being strictly straight size, they want to keep it under wraps. It’s almost like they don’t want the world to know about us, like we’re the side chick, or the secret lover… but we happen to be spending 21.4 billion dollars to support their industry.

Oooh the tea is hot.

Let’s do a quick fact check fashionistas.

We make up 67% of women in the United States. Our spending power is literally 21.4 billion dollars, which is about a tenth of the total sales of the apparel industry. And our sales have only continued to grow. Between 2013 and 2017 the plus size market grew 23%.


There is a lot of money to be made here, no doubt about it! 

But even with that said, and even counting the demographic of the 67% of women in the United States wearing above a size 14, only 10% of online apparel is available in plus size. TEN PERCENT. 

Sure, we love that we have some representation from mainstream media’s faves like Ashley Graham, Danielle Brooks, and Tess Holliday, but for those of us who do not have the celeb status to have clothes custom made or have a personal stylist, it’s still hard out here for a fellow Curvy Fashionista who loves and needs her fancy clothes… 

How Brands are Dating Us in the Dark

Retailers are still reluctant to offer us the full range of options, even though we offer them our coin. Or what’s worse, they take our business, but keep us a secret. As if having plus size customers will tarnish their brand image. TUH. 

Marie Denee shops her local Target to find a new plus size departmentThese are the designers who carry plus sizes in department stores, but show no trace of plus sizes on their own website. The designers who are throwing samples left and right but refuse to make plus size samples available. The designers who refuse to dress plus size celebrities, but clamour for our straight sized sisters… You KNOW them.

Or even more confusing? The designers who do design for plus size celebrities, but will not put their looks into production… those designers and brands.

It’s a tale as old (and as frustrating) as time.

Lindy West talked about it in her book Shrill, Nicole Byer repeatedly asks the question on her podcast “Why Won’t You Date Me?,” and now here we are asking these retailers: are you embarrassed of us?

How Some Brands Treat Plus Size Fashion

The New York Post looked at some of the retailers who were hesitant about and all out refusing to discuss their plus size expansion, as well as some insiders who provided insight into the phenomenon.

City Chic in the US with 6 Stores
Inside a City Chic Boutique

Did you know that Lululemon extended their sizes? IKR?! Exactly… The retailer has finally decided to offer expanded sizes in their leggings, after the debacle a few years ago regarding them intentionally not stocking their size 12 leggings in store, which was the largest size they had at the time. However, the athletic company has been real strategic about how they talk about the expansion.

In the article for the New York Post, the SVP of merchandising gave the statement We are always looking at new ways to serve our guests, and our recent introduction of sizes 0 and 14 in a select number of styles is an example of this approach.” 

Their website also includes a few—note FEW—size 16, 18, XL and XXL pieces. The Post noted that Lululemon “declined to discuss its sizing strategy — but quickly noted that it also expanded into size 0.”

Jason Wu, a designer whose dresses sell for a cool $1,700 at places like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus recently started designing in a size 14. But when asked about this cool news, the company stated “We wouldn’t discuss sizes.”

J. Crew is another company that quietly added plus sizes to their lineup, but when asked for comment, they declined.

What’s the issue here? Don’t these brands want to tap into the business that could triple their bottom line like Christian Siriano did?

Aren’t they in business to make money?

At Nordstrom in downtown Seattle, the mannequins on the left and middle are size 2 while the mannequin on the right is size 12. All are wearing Halogen, a Nordstrom-exclusive brand. (PRNewsfoto/Nordstrom, Inc.)

This action, sentiment, or feeling is not a new phenomenon.

Our sizes have been subjected to the back of department stores and tucked away in the farthest corner of the internet for some time now. While retail consultant Gabriella Santaniello states that “Instagram stars and celebrities like Cardi B and the Kardashians have helped to drive the body-positivity movement to new levels.” 

Ohhhhh Gabriella, it’s wayyyyyy more than that.

Biases. Old marketing tropes. Classism. Ignorance. 

There needs to be an all around cultural and economic shift around how plus size fashion is perceived and received. I mean, there is just a cool 21 BILLION dollars on the table here. 

Torrid plus size denim campaign
The Torrid plus size denim campaign

We need to remember that while the celebs we are seeing are diversifying body image, they’re shifting a cultural image of who can be beautiful.  However, there is still the underlying issue of how plus size fashion is cool enough to sell to, through restricted channels or access, but never with the full brand experience. 

I am tired of this.

I’m tired of this secret, limited, and frustrating fashion relationship.

If retailers don’t want people who look like me, sprawled out in their campaigns (because you know we rock it every single time) then they clearly don’t want this money. 

Join me THIS SATURDAY at the Galleria at Tyler City Chic Grand OpeningThankfully there are more brands and plus size retailers who are putting our faces forward and truly taking the terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ seriously. I mean, if only Christian Siriano custom designed every outfit for me to go out in, I would be quite alright… but that’s not my world, yet

What do you think about this secret love affair that fashion has with the plus size consumer?

What are some brands that you feel are actually representing you?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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Written by Dominique

I'm Dominique! I'm a fashion activist with a Bachelor's Degree in Apparel Design and Merchandising and a Master's Degree in Fashion Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Bylines include V Magazine, the Observer, and theGIRLMOB. I like my pizza with bacon and ranch, I'm always listening to soca music, and I'm here for radical body positivity!

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  1. Interesting article however the average American woman is size 16-18 (2016) I’m not giving business to a company that moves into a size 14 laurels. If they don’t want the funds from half the female population they don’t give them our money.. There are a lot of great brands who do and who do it right. I don’t think every brand needs to be or have plus sizes.

    • I’m glad you included that research article. Dr. Christel is a former professor and friend of mine. Her research is fantastic, I’ve referenced it in my work with TCF before! I’m thankful her work is part of the movement that is pushing for plus size inclusivity in education and fashion.

  2. Brands/companies that treat my size like an embarrassment they have to tolerate no longer get my money. Why aren’t company stockholders demanding that brands cater to such a huge portion of the population? It’s astonishing that fat hatred trumps their desire to make more money.

  3. Hold on tight ladies.

    My partner and I have been working on some really special pieces only for plus sizes.
    Regular retail buyers said no to us saying our clothes were too risky for plus sizes. Too much fashion.

    They don’t want to represent y’all in their stores, so we’re gonna bring it to y’all directly.

    Keep your eyes and ears open for Buxom Couture and Buxom Curvy

  4. Here’s what I think.
    Designers who refuse to design for plus-sized women are afraid that their clothes will look bad on us. Which is the lamest possible excuse in the world coming from people who consider themselves to be “artists”.

    If high-fashion is an art form, then fashion designers are the most mediocre artists on the planet. Would we praise a guitarist who could only play three chords? Nope. So, why is it acceptable for fashion “artists” to run away from challenge, to opt out of creating because they worry that the canvas will make their art look bad? For that matter, if an actual painter blamed the canvas, wouldn’t we all be snickering and considering them to be a talentless hack? So, if an artist is incapable of designing clothes that look good on any body size or shape, then they are either talentless, or just lazy. Besides Christian Siriano, are there any other fashion designers with real talent?

    The problem isn’t us, it’s them. To go with your dating analogy…the problem isn’t that they can’t get it up for us, the problem is that they can’t get us off.

    The difference between now and 20 years ago is this: We used to believe that we were the problem, that they were right, nothing would look good on us, it was our fault the clothes look bad. Now we know better. We know that clothes absolutely can look fantastic on us, IF the designer is talented enough to design the right clothes for us. Their fears are not unfounded, maybe their clothes will look bad on us. But, WE aren’t making their clothes look bad, their clothes are making US look bad. Their clothes are poorly designed in the first place – for any number of reasons – proportion, cut, fabric, pattern.

    If designers can’t or won’t face an artistic challenge and figure out how to design well for anyone, then they suck at their jobs. If they incapable or unwilling to change, they need to be fired and replaced by new designers who are willing and able to rise to the challenge. There’s got to be more Sirianos out there. He can’t be the only one.

    Can we get rid of Lagerfield and the like? On that note, there’s nothing fresh and new about what these old designers are creating anyway. How tired and overdone is the fashion spread with tall thin models in drab grey and black, all long and lean, limbs jutting out at all sorts of angles to supposedly create an “editorial” vibe? We’ve seen this fashion spread over and over since 1992. Enough. Please for the love of God! It is so boring! Maybe that’s why these designers aren’t able to create anymore, they are bored, in a creative rut dating back decades. This silhouette has not been edgy since Kate Moss and Calvin Klein were the “it” team. Here’s the thing. WE are the new edgy. WE are the modern. We’re the most exciting thing going on in fashion right now! Can you think of a more exciting model than Ashley Graham? Me neither.

    What I’d like is a name of all the designers who refuse to design for us. Why does everyone tip toe around them? They need to be outed. I can guess, but, it would be better if people started calling them all out, so that we, the 67% majority, can fire their talentless, lazy asses. They don’t deserve any of our money if/when they decide to jump on the bandwagon to cash in. They don’t deserve us.

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