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Plus-Size Clothes - Chicken and the Egg?

Another great article on clothes for young, fat girls wonders why the selection is getting smaller why the market is getting bigger. (Truly, one for the market analysts out there.)

Before I dive in, take note: H&M, according to this article, is dropping its plus-size line. You might recall that designer Karl Lagerfeld was peeved that fat people might be wearing clothes he designed. That's noted in the article too, but H&M cites their connection with Lagerfeld - and low sales (!) - as reasons for leaving the market.

Now, any article on fat girls' clothing can't not mention Torrid; there was a law passed. So this one does and extolls its virtues but notes that its exclusivity might be bad because it kind of acknowledges that its customers are... fat. I presume the same thing goes for Lane Bryant et al, but Torrid's customers are probably a little more conscious of it.

The overall tone of the piece is positive, but draws the conclusion that because fat isn't fashionable, selling clothes to fat people isn't either. But for goodness sake, there is money to be made here hand over fist to the right companies. One note is that this goes for men's clothing, too - clothes for fat men are usually not that fashionable (think lots of denim and stuff that was hot around 1990) and definitely need attention too. [Several BFBers assisted on this one, so thanks!]

CDC Announces Plans to Form Own Reality | Job Discrimination Recommendations: Ugh.

penny1076 June 3rd, 2005 | Link | This is a huge frustration
This is a huge frustration for me. There's a fairly new Super Target in the town next to mine, and they have hidden their plus size clothing between sportswear and maternity. They don't have the section labeled (there are huge signs that mark maternity and sportswear, and none that mark plus sizes) and their section consists of about 4-5 racks of clothing, compared to about 10-12 for maternity and about 40+ racks for regular sized women's clothing. So, after walking out of the store one day and not buying any of the non-clothing items I had planned to purchase b/c I wanted a pair of jeans and they had only one style in my size, I emailed the Target company with my complaint. They responded with some crap about how they do market research in the area and they try to sell what the local consumers want to buy. Ummm...there were a LOT more women in that store who looked like me than there were who could actually wear the clothing they were trying to sell. I went in there again last weekend, to see if it had changed at all, and, alas, no. But the same number of fat chicks were walking around, trying to find clothes that fit and not having much luck. Apparently our money *isn't* worth as much? I don't get it.
paul June 3rd, 2005 | Link | That's frustrating about
That's frustrating about Target, Penny. I might point out that their men's "extended" sizes only go up to a 44". But I've seen 3XL shirts there, too. Of course they don't segregate these into a "big and tall" section - they're just in with the men's clothing.
Beanietude June 3rd, 2005 | Link | I feel your pain, Penny. I
I feel your pain, Penny. I have often found a top in Target that I absolutely love only to discover that it's maternity! What's more, I find the majority of the plus sized clothing that is even somewhat useful to me is not cut right for my shape... everything Target carries leans towards the boxy side on me. Avenue is the same way. I'm just not the right shape for their demographic, I guess! When my older sister, also a fat woman for a majority of her adult life, was pregnant, she complained to her local Target manager about the lack of larger-sized maternity clothing. The male manager actually laughed and told her that they don't carry larger maternity clothes because "how are fat chicks going to get pregnant anyway?" She sent a stinky letter to HQ, but never got a reply.
Lizzy June 3rd, 2005 | Link | I wish I had the kind of
I wish I had the kind of income to be able to shop at zaftique.com. That's the first store I've found that has clothes I could feel really attractive and sexy wearing, but they're way out of my price range. For now I have to continue buying clearance items from Ross, Fred Meyer, Avenue, Blair, and Lane Bryant (Torrid really doesn't have anything my style). I actually plan on saving up money to buy an outfit at a time from zaftique once I've paid off my credit cards.
kimdog June 3rd, 2005 | Link | This can't be a sudden
This can't be a sudden decision for H&M. I live in Manhattan, where there are seven H &M's. I had heard that they carried plus size, but thought it was an urban myth, because none of the many stores I visited here carried them. I finally went to the website and discovered that only one of the stores here carried the plus size line- the store in Harlem. You can make your own analysis about that. So they point to low sales, but fer crissakes... how the hell are they going to sell anything if they don't carry them in the majority of the stores? I would love to know how Old Navy's plus line is doing.
cynmill June 3rd, 2005 | Link | I totally agree about
I totally agree about Target...the "women's" section is a tiny little ghetto at the back. But I just have to say that I found a very cute, very inexpensive plus-size swimsuit there last week that I'm quite happy with. So if you're looking for a swimsuit and would rather pay $35 than the usual $65 - $90+ you'd pay in a specialty store, check it out for that at least.
pani113 June 3rd, 2005 | Link | Well, maybe this is
Well, maybe this is idealistic of me, but I would love to see more fat people designing and manufacturing their own clothing lines in cottage industries. I think it would help mitigate a multitude of problems: 1) That so many manufacturing jobs are going overseas 2) Alienation in modern work. It used to be that almost everything a family needed was produced in the home. If more people returned to it, they could have more control over their own lives and a greater outlet for creativity 3) Make at least some of us less dependent on an employment market rife with discrimination 4) Put more control back in the hands of the people. Consumers would be less dependent on those gawd awful fashion designers. I can't sew myself, but I would love it if they would start "reskilling" our young people in a variety of ways.
Micki June 3rd, 2005 | Link | Overstock.com has some nice
Overstock.com has some nice designer clothes in plus sizes, although their selection is a bit limited. I bought a beautiful skirt and dress there and am waiting for a velvet jacket to arrive. Some of Torrid's clothes can be worn to work too if you look through their website hard enough. I usually check their clearance every day. Pani, I would also like to see more small businesses making the clothes we can wear. Unfortunately, they would probably be expensive, from what I have seen. On the other hand the quality would be a lot better and clothes would last longer. I would suggest that we all should wear the best clothes we can afford and support businesses that make clothing for us, preferable with models that look like us.
pseu June 3rd, 2005 | Link | "Manolo Says, The Lagerfeld,
"Manolo Says, The Lagerfeld, He Must Be Stopped!" http://www.cafepress.com/manoloshoes.17456056
ajoyce June 3rd, 2005 | Link | "How are fat chicks going to
"How are fat chicks going to get pregnant anyway"? You mean there are still asshats who believe that one?? I guess nothing should surprise me anymore.
wednes June 3rd, 2005 | Link | I agree with Lizzy about
I agree with Lizzy about zaftique...lovely clothes but most people can't afford build a wardrobe of $45 shirts and $80 skirts. Big on Batik is the same way. Awesome clothes in generous sizes, but if I spend $100 on one dress, I'd be afraid to wear it.
bodylove June 3rd, 2005 | Link | The only plus size stores we
The only plus size stores we have where I am are Target, Avenue, and KMart. Target and Kmart have very small plus sections and the quality is not great. Mervyn's plus size section is almost non-existent and never fits me so I didn't even mention it earlier. I emailed a complaint to Avenue that they didn't use full-figured models in there ads, and they responded with the marketing research blah, blah, blah form letter. Slim Pickings.
Lizzy June 3rd, 2005 | Link | I forgot to mention that
I forgot to mention that amazon.com has some plus sized clothing now as well, and a pretty big selection both of styles and prices. I always get horrible service from them, so I avoid shopping there at all costs. But if you don't have hang-ups like me then maybe you'll like them.
osxgirl June 3rd, 2005 | Link | This all amazes me too.
This all amazes me too. It's the only industry I can think of where they will intentionally turn down money by not offering what consumers want. In most industries, if there is a sizable unserved market, it doesn't take long for the niche to be filled. Here's the ironic thing for me - I can't tell you the number of women I've had admire my clothes and want to know where I got them, and most of them are women that can't wear clothes from where I shop, because the clothes are too big for them. I spend more money than I should on clothes, because I'm very particular about what I wear and about having styles that suit me, and on top of that, I'm in the super-size range. If you think buying just plus size is rough.... All my shopping is done at the on-line stores, mainly Big on Batik (wow, do I love that stuff!), Junonia, Ulla Popken, and Making It Big. But I would be back in brick-and-mortars in a heartbeat if I could find something there! Forget finding ugly or dowdy clothes, they just don't have my size at all! I can sometimes wear stuff from The Avenue, but not often. And the mentality there amazes me too. A store will get in one or two of any particular item in the largest size (32). The stuff there is WAY overpriced because they are one of the stores that marks everything up very high, and then always has sales going on. Problem is, they get so few of my size in in the few clothes they carry in that size, that by the time an item goes on sale, the 32s are usually all gone. So I'm paying way more than the item is worth to get it before it goes on sale, because otherwise, I won't get it. And when I ask the store why they don't get in more of the 32s, since they are always sold out of them? The corporate office dictates how many they get of each size based on sales. And the corporate office says they just don't sell that many of the size 32s. But why? Because they don't have 32s to sell!!!! ARGH!!!!!!! And in the end, their sales of that size probably go down even further, because of people like me. I got so tired and frustrated of having to shop there for hours to find the one or two pieces they still had in a 32, and finding those were never in the styles or color I like, that I quit going there altogether. I didn't quit buying clothes - my money just went elsewhere. It's like someone opening a movie theatre with 10 seats and turning away hundreds of customers because they run out of seats for a show. And when people ask why they don't build a bigger theatre, they say "because we never sell more than 10 seats for a show anyway." Duh!
Dolley June 3rd, 2005 | Link | The correct answer to "How
The correct answer to "How are fat chicks going to get pregnant anyway?" is: "The same way skinny chicks and average chicks get pregnant: By Fucking. " Lizzy, Wednes, and the other ladies: In terms of cost, $45 for a shirt and $80 for a skirt, and $100 for a dress, is very, very reasonable for any garment for which the worker has been paid a living wage. Very, very, very, reasonable, especially if the vendor is not also the maker of the garment. I fully appreciate that it seems like a great deal of money (because, well, it is), especially when the rest of the world can perhaps go to Daffy's and get dresses for $19.98, and skirts for $10.00. (Although do also check out Daffy's; sometimes they have nothing but 2's, sometimes they have 22's, it's all a matter of luck.) The wages paid to the makers of the $19.98 dress and the $10.00 skirt, though, are unconscionable and criminal, and are NOT a living wage, even by the standards of a third-world country, should that worker be living in a third-world country. For a realistic look, read "Fashion Victim" by Michelle K. Lee; it's eye-opening and horrifying. If you are hoping that small businesses will step in and fill a desperate niche, it is very possible that you will spend quite a bit more than $45 for a shirt, $80 for a skirt, and $100 for a dress, because out of that money, the vendor is paying all his/her expenses, and hopefully making enough to live on. If you're determined, though, you can find quite a lot of entrepreneurs on the internet who've bypassed brick-and-mortar altogether, and whose prices are very reasonable. In the meantime, if you don't mind a bit of a challenge, I recommend dharmatrading.com. Dharma is a site which provides "blanks" to fabric artists - that is, both yard goods and finished items of clothing to fabric artists, in either white or black. It's a quirky, ethical, intense company, and they're very very responsive to their consumer input. They know that some of their customers are larger than average, and when requested, they will provide stock that is larger still. Even if you're not a "fabric artist," and you haven't the inclination to even dye garments a solid colour, it's an opportunity to buy comfortable casual clothes in black or white at a reasonable price (and the more you buy, the more discounts there are). And if you can save money on your casual clothes, you can put a bit more to the more expensive shirt or skirt or dress. In the meantime, don't forget to check the link above to The Pretty Pear, a site devoted to links for vendors of pretty clothes for plus-sized women.
Lizzy June 4th, 2005 | Link | Dolley, I never said that
Dolley, I never said that zaftique didn't have reasonable prices or that their prices should be lowered. I just said I *wish* I had the money to shop there. I also wish I had the money to shop at a grocery store other than Safeway (aka Slaveway), because I know how badly they treat their employees (although not nearly as bad as the textile market treats its "employees"). I do feel that zaftique has very reasonable prices for what they offer (I've found similar for three times the price), which is why I said that I'm planning on saving up to buy their stuff. Right now I'm supporting myself and my fiance on just my wages, and I just can't afford to spend much money at all.
persephone June 4th, 2005 | Link | Dolley, I agree with you
Dolley, I agree with you about the social cost of textiles. However, I also find that the clothes you buy and Rave or Windsor or whatever aren't worth the $10 you pay for the shirt. I would rather save my money and pay $70 for a shirt at bebe that isn't ruined after one wash. This means that I sometimes pay what appears to be outrageous prices for clothes (I am extremely tall and only bebe carries jeans with a 36" inseam; my husband wants to know on what fucking planet jeans are $150, but I also have had the jeans for 2 years (depending on how bad weight has yo yo'd)). It is upsetting that stores don't seem to carry clothes that fit the real America, but a market will only let that occur for so long. Have faith ladies,a plus size retail revolution can't be that far away!!!
asrai June 4th, 2005 | Link | Am I imagining things, or
Am I imagining things, or didn't Target used to sell size 26 and now they don't? I know how you guys feel about zaftique -- I love the look of things on Kiyonna and the activewear at Junonia, but can't afford either one. Now that I actually have a base of decent clothes from Lane Bryant Catalog (I spent years having almost no clothes because I simply couldn't find anything to fit at a size 34), I may start saving up for the more expensive clothes elsewhere, especially since HAES brought me down to a size 28/30, where there are many more options than there are for 34, sadly.
Liz June 4th, 2005 | Link | The quote by the person at
The quote by the person at the end of the article made a lot of sense to me. Basically, she asked why plus size clothes need to be segregated to a separate store or a separate department within a store. Why can't they be together with the other clothes so women of different sizes can shop together? I'm embarrassed that I never thought of that question myself. I just accepted the fact that of course plus size clothes are segregated to different departments and different stores. I think we should all start questionning that? It makes no sense other than to keep the fat women from scaring away the other shoppers.
kimdog June 4th, 2005 | Link | Liz, I know what you mean.
Liz, I know what you mean. I've commented on this before, but it bears repeating. In NYC (arguably the fashion capital of the world), there are a good many choices of for plus size women. The major department stores have large plus size departments. But in Macy's this is on the very top floor- TWO FLOORS away from the regular women's department. Same for Lord and Taylor. Bloomingdales puts their plus sizes in the basement, WITH THE CAFE. I'm serious, the cafe is not even in a room to itself, its just along one wall, open to the rest of the department. So it's not just that Plus Sizes are quarantined to seperate section... if stores are big enough, they relagate them to the furthest reaches possible.
chublove June 4th, 2005 | Link | I wish I could remember
I wish I could remember where I saw/read it, but there was this article about plus size marketing, and how even for stores or businesses that were selling strictly to the larger demographic, they found that the majority of their customer base was happier when they saw their clothes modeled on "normal-sized" people. Now, as totally unreal as that sounds, I remember a time when I felt that way too; I guess we have to remember that plenty of the fat population out there is not as happy and healthily adjusted about their size as we might be, and having fat clothing out in the open on fat people lets the cat out of the bag somehow. We can pretend we're shopping for "real" clothes if they're on thin people? I dunno. Anyway, I think this goes hand in hand with this idea of getting fat out of the public eye--in the way that we have few plus sized models, few stores that cater strictly to fat women, and the plus size sections get shoved into the basement or the attic where nobody has to see the fatties shopping. Why is America so adverse to seeing fat--why is most of *fat* America so adverse to seeing fat??
QitelRemel June 6th, 2005 | Link | Beanietude:  So...let me
Beanietude:  So...let me get this straight.  That twit was looking right at your fat, pregnant sister—a.k.a. sovereign proof that (at very least) fat chicks DO get pregnant—when he made that statement?  What an idiot!  -Qit
Beanietude June 6th, 2005 | Link | Qit, What an idiot, indeed!
Qit, What an idiot, indeed! And, at a size 18, she was/is at the "lower end" of plus size too. -Jeannine
AprilN June 6th, 2005 | Link | I have to agree that it
I have to agree that it never occured to me to question the segregation of differently-sized departments. Then again, petites are also typically placed in a separate department. Anyway, food for thought, to be sure. I actually practiced a personal boycott of Nordstrom for several years when a brand-new store location opened - with the "Encore" (plus-size) section RIGHT NEXT TO THE CAFE. Bad enough that the plus-sizes were hidden away on the top floor, but placing it right next to the food sent such a horrible message (in my mind) that I just couldn't stomach shopping there for a long time. The Bloomingdale's in Palo Alto, CA has the plus sizes on the second floor, hidden behind the children's department (with all the other women's clothes on the first floor) - because only mothers are fat?!? I just don't get it...
nwhiker June 6th, 2005 | Link | I'm guessing the Plus-Size
I'm guessing the Plus-Size Dept at Target isn't long for this world... they have stopped carrying women's underwear in sizes larger than 10. I'm guessing as part of their desire to be young and hip or whatever they've decided we don't matter anymore.
QitelRemel June 6th, 2005 | Link | And the guy's even dumber
And the guy's even dumber than I'd thought if he doesn't think size-18 women (rephrase earlier: your chubby, pregnant sister) are getting any. -Qit
pluscurves September 2nd, 2005 | Link | It is frustrating and it has
It is frustrating and it has driven me to lose weight. Shopping can be very depressing when all the "cute stuff" is not in your size. You just spend hours trying to commit to buying something without feeling like you "just settled" on the item, because your choices were limited. I well know how it feel when you go in a store and they got two size 20 and you got there too late. Having to pay full retail because if you see something, you better get it because it will be gone tomorrow. Seeing 5 racks of picked over clothing for plus and 60+ for Petite and Juniors, or Misses and Juniors taking up the entire main floor and the plus section located in the basement next to the applicances. Plus size retailers marking up the clothing 30% above misses and 50% above Juniors. It just sucks all the way around.
bigred March 17th, 2006 | Link | I'm quite late to this
I'm quite late to this discussion but I can't help stopping in to thank people for offering such good recommendations of vendors that DO offer clothes in non-standard sizes. We'll make use of those suggestions at bigredchair.com

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