Listen Up, Fashion Companies: Plus-Size Women Are Literally Just Waiting to Give You Our Money

The fact is, women are tired of feeling bad about themselves. They’re tired of fighting their bodies and of being expected to dress as if they want to disappear.
Publish date:
June 24, 2013
fashion, plus sized, the wall street journal

A lot of times when we talk about plus fashion here on xoJane and elsewhere around the web, it can feel like we’re all just shouting into a big ol’ echo chamber. We know the drill -- curvy girl wants to look cute, curvy girl can’t find anything that fits or is flattering, curvy girl complains on the interwebs, and her curvy superfriends are all, “Omg, me too!” Rinse, repeat a month later.

We all KNOW there’s a huge plus problem in fashion, but it can’t help but feel like no one’s paying attention to what we say. Like, if a big girl opens up her closet, realizes she STILL doesn’t have a great black dress and wails in frustration does anyone hear her?

Oh my god, yes. YES. Somebody does hear her!

Last week fashion columnist Christina Binkley appeared in a video on the Wall Street Journal in which she basically said, “C’mon you stupids. Plus girls are looking for clothes and you all are leaving money on the table.” OK, so that’s not an exact quote, but what she did say is this:

“Young fashion lovers have been demanding at an almost revolutionary pace, they have been screaming, ‘We want fashion, we want short shorts and miniskirts and all the trendy looks.’” And bluntly enough, she asserted that one of the main reasons that a lot of fashion companies don’t bite is because they “don’t want to be associated with ‘fat.’”

That’s right, Ms. Binkley. Call it like it is.

Of course, those of us who have been having these conversations for years kinda already know what the deal is. But there’s something to be said about national fashion columnist in a major publication using her platform to put the industry on notice too.

And the industry will have no choice but to open its eyes once it really digests the numbers that Ms. Binkley cites in her column -- online retailer ModCloth found that its plus customers buy 17 percent more items per order, and spend 25 percent more per order than straight size shoppers.

But even with that buying power, manufacturers are still tone deaf when it comes to plus. When ModCloth decided to expand its plus-size offering, it asked its 1,500 vendors to consider making larger sized clothes. And out of those 1,500, only 35 volunteered to do so. Thirty-five out of ONE THOUSAND AND FIVE HUNDRED VENDORS. And after only a year or so in existence, The Limited inexplicably shut down it’s plus line, Eloquii earlier this year.

What the deuce is wrong with these people?!

Anyone who’s not truly paying attention will be in for a rude awakening over the next couple of years. The fact is, women are tired of feeling bad about themselves. They’re tired of wondering if they’re too fat, of fighting their bodies, of being told to be ashamed of simply existing, and of being expected to dress as if they want to disappear. And you see all this in the popularity of sites like Curve Appeal, plus Pinterest boards and even all the plus size essays we send in to xoJane.

We are cute as hell and we are not going to act like we ain’t anymore! (Nothing illustrated that more clearly than the one-day sell-out of Gabi Gregg’s plus-size swimsuits and bikinis.)

Are there challenges to producing good plus fashion? Absolutely. There has to be a more thoughtful approach to design -- what women want to cover, and what areas need support. (I swear to heaven if I see one more spaghetti-strap or backless plus dress, I will scream. I NEED TO WEAR BRAS, PEOPLE.)

Fit will become incredibly important and likely require more time and fine tuning. Plus garments do require more fabric -- sometimes twice as much as a straight size -- so yardage has to be used and cut thoughtfully. All of this WILL legitimately make for more expensive garments -- but as we see from the numbers above, plus sized women are more than willing to pay for a good dress.

Oh, and while we’re here, let’s knock down another little assumption that isn’t suitable to mention in polite company but still pops up -- “plus” doesn’t equal “poor.”

Just because a woman is bigger doesn’t mean she lacks the means or resources to make herself fashionably skinny and therefore has no need (or money) to buy fashionably priced clothes. Monif C. is a popular plus designer who sells her garments at higher-end prices -- nearly $200 for swimsuits, and more than that for cocktail dresses -- and her styles regularly sell out at lightning speed. So whether a design house wants to focus on discount fast fashion or boutique-quality garments, there’s a market share for all when it comes to plus.

Listen, fashion companies -- we’re trying to help you out. We are literally waiting to give you our money in exchange for fashionable, well-made clothes. But hey, if image is more important to you than business, that’s your prerogative. That’s also going to be your problem in the not-so-distant future.

Veronica Miller is a graduate student in fashion design who is seriously itching to produce a plus line.