Since I created my first plus size related website back in 2004 thousands of blogs and websites have since popped up. Most of these recently developed sites are fashion related. If you Google “Plus Size Fashion Blog” over 20 million website results are returned. I can remember when it was less than 5,000. Its been some what of a Curvy Fashion Revolution over the last 8 years. Maybe its just me but doesn’t it seem like every day a new website or blog is created dedicated to plus size fashion? If you start to surf through the over 20 million websites you’ll notice one constant message; Plus Size women are demanding more clothing choices and more fashionable clothing. Blog after blog complains about the lack of support for plus size women in the fashion industry. Most of those blogs exist for that sole reason. With the outpour of complaints have the retail industry actually listened? I think not!
The Numbers Game
The fashion business is about looking good and money. So let’s talk numbers. According to the 2006 census, United States, has over 300 million people with 155 million being female. Recent studies also tells us more than 62% of american women today are a size 12 and above. Thats about 96 million plus size women. Wait, think for a second, it means for every 10 women that pass you in the mall at least 6 are considered “plus size”. All puns aside thats a very big number that you can’t help but notice. 96 million and all but only 5 actual plus size retail chains exist; Ashley Stewart, the Avenue, Lane Bryant, Torrid, and Catherine’s. Combined those 5 brands have over 1200 retail stores to serve 96 million plus size women! If you do the math its about one store for every 80,000 women. I’m pretty sure that is the reason why I can never find anything in my size. Yes, we can now shop H &M (sometimes), Kmart, Macy’s, Target, and other stores but its just 5 solely dedicated to plus size with a selection mediocre at best. But I’ll get to that in part two.
Here is the kicker combined it’s over 12,000 retail stores dedicated to the 59 million women under a size 12. Actually its a much larger number i’m sure. I just got tired of researching after I hit 12,000. Did I forget to mention when you search “fashion blogs” over 120 million results are returned? I know I’m reinventing the wheel right now. I’m sure the entire plus size community is well aware we are very over looked in retail. I just wanted to give you hard numbers on exactly how MUCH the plus size woman is over looked. In this economy the retail industry is bleeding. We can blame the economy on the recession, Obama, Bush, Al Qaeda, and tons of other excuses. But when you are only marketing to less than 40% of women, its really no one to blame but yourself. I can’t make it any clearer to you how valuable the plus size woman’s dollars is to the retail market. Keep that thought in the back of your mind as I explore the reasons why plus size women are not catered to.
Excuses and ASSumptions
For sake of argument and embarrassment, I’m choosing to not disclose company names with the following statements. Most of the below statements were disclosed to me in personal conversations not as VP of Blah inc. Here are the top 5 excuses I have heard first hand from plus size and straight size retail execs.
1. Plus Size women say they want one thing and go do another.
- Come on now! This is not a plus size problem that is a WOMAN problem. Women are the most indecisive creatures. But once we make up our mind, they are MADE. I have changed the title of this post twice since I started writing, but that is beside the point buddy.
2. Plus Size women do not spend money
- Honestly, I have heard this complaint several times from both straight and plus size execs. At first I thought maybe they did have a point. How often do you see a plus size girl rocking a $500 dress? But one day it hit me after receiving a email from one of our readers pouring her heart out about not feeling “pretty, beautiful, or worthy”. Plus size women don’t spend money on clothing as much as straight size women because the industry for years have told them “You are not worthy of beautiful clothes, you can’t be a model, your body is not attractive, we don’t want to see you, and you are not beautiful”. The media have chipped away at women’s positive body image for years. After the plus size woman have been publicly rejected and humiliated,what exactly did you expect? Shoes, clothes, purses, and jewelry are extensions of a woman. Men have football, we have Donna Karen. If the woman does NOT feel beautiful then she is not happily shopping for beautiful clothes. If she looks in the mirror and hates her self then why would she care how she dresses her self? I firmly believe you can tell a woman’s confidence level by simply looking into her closet. Plus size women not spending as much as straight size women is a problem the retail industry created their selves by excluding us from marketing, modeling, and obviously their business plan. Side note: I don’t know a plus size woman who doesn’t spend 1000s of dollars a year on Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Coach, or Prada bags but not on designer dresses. I’ll talk about why that is in part 2.
3. Plus Size women say they want high end fashion but do not buy it when its’ made available.
- Did you know Marc Jacobs is developing a plus size line? In 2010, when Jacob’s camp released info regarding a plus line most of the plus size community was in the dark. No one was contacted in the plus community, no plus models were called in for a shoot, no ad campaign, and most plus size blogs didn’t even pick up the story until a month later. Its pretty typical of high end designers every so often to create a plus line (usually white label) and make NO attempt to promote it within the plus size community. If it wasn’t for Macy’s we probably wouldn’t even know about Michael Kors plus line. The lines are created with no real promo behind it, usually not even listed on the designer main website, and pretty much treated like the designer’s dirty little secret. And before the morning after even comes the line is gone like a cheap trick in the night. How can we buy something that we don’t know exist? This is not rocket science here. Ok, so two skinny girls and an Astronaut walk into a bar…Ahh never mind Its simple you market to your target audience and if they like it they buy it. Retail 101, class dismissed.
4. It’s very hard to mass manufacture clothes to fit plus size women. They come in all shapes and sizes with no master fit.
- Seriously? . Poor you for having to spend so much time and energy figuring out such a conundrum thats worth 96 million women’s pocket books </ends sarcasm>. Jinkes! I may have found a clue to help you. Plus size retailers (and even Nordstorms) have all figured out plus size women come in 4 specific body types. Pear, Hourglass, Apple, and upside down Pear. It’s entire sizing charts made off these 4 forms. Personally, I am a avid online shopper and can testify the sizing charts that use these shapes are true to form fit. See someone has already done the work for you. Now its just up to you to have your design team study these shapes and bring home the bacon. I deserve a Scooby snack don’t I?
5. Some designers just do not want to see their clothing on a plus size body.
- Now this sounds like a personal problem to me. There are no emotions in business. Business is about dollars and cents right? I was told by a insider that Macy’s fastest growing department is Junior Plus, by 20% at that. For the first time ever, over thanksgiving weekend, I received the most gorgeous Macy’s Woman (plus) mailer advertising their plus clothing. Obviously Macy’s got the memo and wants to cash out. At the end of the day designers have to ask themselves a serious question; Are they trying to make friends or make money? Broke and going out of business people don’t have any friends. Chapter 11 ain’t sexy.
5a. By high end designers making plus size clothes its’ like they are encouraging obesity
- What I eat don’t make you….. Let me get this straight. Plus size women having more clothing choices is going to make them get fatter? This is coming from the same industry who had the anorexia and bulimia crisis in the 80-90s. How responsible of you to think of us fat girls.
Pay Like You Weigh
- We could talk about this all day but what it all boils down to is that Plus Size women carry heavy weight in cash. Plus size women is the new cash cow and its time to take advantage of that. Pay Like You Weigh! The fashion industry is not listening to your blogs and care less what you say on twitter. But I’m 100% sure using the power of the plus size dollar will get their attention. I strongly encourage all women a size 12 and over to use the influence of their dollar. Stop buying clothing that you really don’t like just because we only have 5 retail options. Support the retailers, e-tailers, and designers that makes stylish clothing! Buy only what you truly find stylish. If you have to walk out the store empty handed so be it and move on to the next one. Make it clear to the industry what you will and will not buy. You do NOT have to buy the flower Moo-Moo thats 30% off, its YOUR money! Supply and Demand. DEMAND what you want and retailers will have NO choice but to Supply it. Have a straight size store you like but don’t carry plus sizes? TELL THEM! Walk in and talk to the manager and/or send a email. If you want the fashion industry to invest in plus size then give them a reason, like 96 million reasons! I would love to hear your feed back. Next week I’ll post part 2. Just my thoughts, From the Editor, KeKe Dillard