If a recent piece in the New York Times is to be believed, retailers are finally catching on to the fact that there is a demand for stylish plus-sized clothing. But will they actually start producing it?
As Stephanie Clifford of the Times writes, "the standard clothing that most stores have focused on in recent years fits fewer and fewer people. And as retailers search for ways to invigorate sales, plus size is one of the few categories where there is growth." Target, Elle Tahari, and Forever 21 are all cited as retailers/brands who are seeking to tap into a vastly underrepresented market by offering stylish new plus-size lines to women who have cash to spend, but nothing decent to spend it on.
Clifford's piece isn't entirely optimistic, however, which makes sense, considering recent reports that plus-sized clothing production is actually slowing down due to production costs, something she touches on by noting that "plus-size clothes are more difficult, and expensive, to make than more traditional sizes. Material can be the largest portion of a garment's cost - up to about 60 percent - and larger sizes require not only more of it, but sometimes different production processes."
The disconnect between customer demand and actual production is nothing new: we were in this spot just last year, with designers admitting that they would not cater to the average American woman, which, in turn, led Dodai to wonder if the plus-sized clothing crisis could be solved. Sadly, we're no closer to breaking the cycle of customer demand vs. actual output and purchasing than we were last spring. The retailers may be aware that women want to spend their hard-earned money on chic clothing of every size, but based on current sales and a lack of variety in the market, many are still shying away from filling a very clear fashion void. Many of our commenters have noted in threads regarding plus-sized clothing that they don't currently buy the styles available to them right now, as there's a lack of overall variety, quality, consistency in sizing, the insulting and frustrating move by certain retailers to move their plus-size lines to online only, eliminating the choice to actually shop in-store and try things on before purchasing, and, as one commenter put it, "most items of "Plus Size" clothing look like SHIT. Apparently all we plus sized women really want to wear are over-sized t-shirts with bedazzled butterflies on them, and color-coordinated capris." Perhaps the best way to break the current cycle is to not only listen to the demand for more sizes, but to consider that women just want clothes that fit properly and make them look and feel good, regardless of the size on the tag, and trying to sell them clothes that look like Stacey McGill's rejects or a Carnival Cruise get-up from 1993 isn't going to cut it. It's not just about making things available; it's about making things fashionable. Women come in all shapes in sizes: it's time for the fashion industry to stop being afraid of the plus-sized market and instead consider it an opportunity they need to stop missing and dismissing and attempting to appease with bedazzled butterflies.