Plus Size Clothing

It’s a Matter of Size

“If you make it, we will buy it.” For years women size 16 and up have been screaming this at clothing lines. About ten years ago, it seemed clothing lines were starting to listen. Recently, however, I walked into a store and groaned at the selection. Not only had it decreased in size, but everything was, well, plain. Sifting through, I finally found a shirt that looked kind of cute. I held the color next to my skin and found it to be a color I could pull off. Cool, I thought; so I bought it. However, I made one common error. I didn’t try it on, which in my case is a HUGE mistake. The top rule for the plus-size woman: Always try it on before you buy it. When I got home, I slipped the shirt over my head and discovered it hung limp on my body. It was a knit fabric made mostly of synthetic fibers. I stared in the mirror and wondered: where did all the good clothes go?

Recently, plus-size women have noticed a drop in their clothing selections as clothing lines cut back on production of or drop plus-size clothing lines altogether. It seems to me clothing manufactures would benefit from expanding their plus-size clothing selections and availability of products. While the reasons behind those cuts make sense on the surface, I fear the research behind them were inadequate. If one took into account the Sizisum (or Fat Acceptance) Movement, the growing number of plus-size woman, and the desire for plus-size clothing out there, then one would think increasing the manufacturing of plus-size clothing would be a good investment.

The days of high pressure sales are long over. Today’s business builds itself on customer relationship. So why isn’t business catering to the desires of the plus-size woman?

It is true that in today‘s economy sales have dropped. Staci Sturrock explains in her article The downsizing of PLUS sizes that according to the NPD Group, the sale of standard sizes is down 2% while plus-size clothing is down 8% this last year. However, she also explains that places like Nordstrom, while offering 30 brands of plus-size apparel, offers nine times as many brands in standard size clothing (Sturrock). Those 272 brands offer a larger selection is style, comfort, design, and cost. More choices means more likelihood of finding something you want, which means more sales. Less choice means an unlikelihood of finding something you want. Less choice means fewer sales.

With sales down, the manufactures argue that the cost to produce plus-size clothing is too high. According to Adrianne Pasquarelli in her article “Plus sizes a fashion victim More designers, stores cut lines,” “plus-size collections are expensive to make-as much as 10% more than standard lines, experts estimate-because they require additional fabrics, and special fit models and patterns” (Pasquarelli). What they fail to mention is that it costs just as much to change patterns, fabrics, models and marketing for petite sizes as well. But, we don’t see a decrease in production of that clothing line. Companies say it is due to the fact that sales in that size range have not dropped as they have in the plus-size range. Again, this can be contributed to the variety available. Cut the variety of petite size clothing and you would see a decrease in sales just as much, if not more than that of larger sizes. Remember, petites can buy standard sizes and have them tailored to fit, where a plus-size cannot. Besides, don’t manufacturers make up for production costs by charging anywhere from $2 to $20 more for plus-size clothing?

Joining cost is the pattern argument. Due to the fact weight distributes differently on different women, a shirt that fits one woman great may fit another all wrong. Because of this, it can be hard to produce plus-size patterns. But, the same holds true for petite and standard size clothing as well. “The truth is, that if the cost of garment development were the only reason that plus-size ranges are making a hasty exit from shop shelves, we would be seeing the discontinuation of petite line, too, because they face all the same expenses. And that hasn’t been happening. Moreover, the excuse about cost boils down to complaining that making clothes that fit most women is really hard – and that doesn‘t sound quite right coming from companies who are in the business of clothing women.” (Sauers).

Then there is the belief that producing trendy clothing for the plus-size woman is promoting obesity. I find two things wrong with that statement. The first is: What is wrong with being fat? Like many Americans those that believe this are misinformed. It is not being overweight that causes health problems, but in the unhealthy lifestyle of bad eating habits and little to no physical activity. The other problem with this argument is that it actually goes against human nature. Emotional eating is the number one reason a person gains weight in the first place. She has started to value herself less, and as the weight packs on, their self worth continues to drop. Dowdy, plain, boring, and unflattering clothing only adds to those feelings. “But the worst part of this myth – that you will value yourself more when you lose weight – is its sad distortion of a simple reality: You will not lose weight until you value yourself more.” (Stonsny). That being said, less availability of plus-sizes not only discourages woman from losing weight, the complete opposite effect suggested, but encourages a loss of self worth, and in effect weight gain.

It is in this agrument we see the first reason to produce plus-size clothing. No matter their size, women want to look good, and feel good about themselves. No longer do they want to see clothing on smaller women, they want to know what things will look like on them. They are tired of hearing they shouldn’t be fashionable unless they are a size 2. A Sizisum Movement is taking place and one day soon it might be considered, gulp, discrimination to produce or carry only standard and/or petite sizes. As much as nobody wants to admit it, not making larger clothes makes many larger women feel as if the world is telling them that they are not worth it.

Another reason to make larger size clothing is the sheer number of plus-size women out there. According to the 2009 Statistical Fact Sheet from the American Heart Association, 68.1 million women are overweight (have a BMI of 25 or higher) and 39.4 million of those women are obese (have a BMI of 30 or higher). It means 45% of the United States population of women are looking for clothes to wear. That’s a pretty big market if you ask me.

Finally, how about this for a reason: It is what the consumer wants! Women want clothes that look nice, fit right and are easily available at their choice of location. It’s true. We want to look nice. We are just as interested in style, fashion and today’s latest trends. We like to mix and match colors, match up patterns, and add accessories. In short, we want to look nice, pretty, beautiful, hot and sexy. To accomplish this, more choices have to be available to us not only online but in stores as well. Some women prefer to shop in the comfort of their own homes; others are a bit old school and love the thrill of trying clothes on. Skinny women have this choice, big women should too.

The reality is there is an untapped market out there filled with promise. Not only is there is a need for this clothing, but desire for it as well. Just think what it would be like to add over 68 million customers. Now that is what I call profit! Not only is the area of profit a reason to expand, but also in coming to terms with the expanding size and acceptance of the larger woman. More choices for the plus-size woman means she can find something she not only likes, but fits her and makes her feel beautiful which is exactly as it should be.

Works Cited

Pasquarelli, Adrianne. “ Plus sizes a fashion victim More designers, stores cut lines.” crain’s new york business.com. Xana Antunes. May 31, 2009. http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20090531/FREE/305319991.

Sauers, Jenna. “Plus Vs. Petite: Why Retailers Find It Hard Making Clothes To Fit Most Women.” Jezebel. Anna Holmes. June 9, 2009. http://jezebel.com/5284796/plus-vs-petite-why-retailers-find-it-hard-making-clothes-to-fit-most-women. “

“Statistical Fact Sheet – Risk Factors.” American Heart Association. Elizabeth Anne Tallant. 2009. http://www,americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1236358025411OVRWGHT.PDF.

Stosny, Steven. “Weight Management Myths.” Psychology Today. March 28, 2009. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/200903/weight-management-myths

Sturrock, Staci. “The downsizing of PLUS sizes.” Palm Beach Post.com. June 19, 2009. http://www.palmbeachpost.com/accent/content/accent/epaper/2009/06/19/a1d_plus_size_0619.html.