Many Clothing Stores Have Zilch for the Average American Woman

Illustration for article titled Many Clothing Stores Have Zilch for the Average American Woman

Unless you regularly shop for plus-size clothing, you may not realize how fucking hard it is to find plus-size clothing in stores. This is a big deal, since time and time again, we hear that the average American woman wears a 14 or 16. The size at which "plus" begins.


As women who wear plus sizes know, if you want something to wear, you've got to shop online. The Huffington Post reports that online retailer ModCloth conducted a survey — polling over 5,000 women — and found that there were more "wearing a size 16 dress than those who wear a size 2 and size 0 combined." And yet! Some of the most popular stores in the country — Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, H&M, J.Crew, American Apparel, Abercrombie & Fitch — do not carry sizes above 12 or 14 in stores. As seen in the chart here, even though some retailers make sizes above 12 or 16, they don't stock them in stores; shoppers have to order them online. If it's not you, it could be your friends, your mom, your coworkers — someone you know is being routinely discriminated against when it comes to being able to shop for a dress in a store.

Again: Plus size shoppers already know this. We shop online because we don't have a choice. But as our own Laura Beck wrote a couple of weeks ago, "If size 14 is really the average size of the American woman, it makes an insane amount of sense from a business POV to dive into the fat end of the swimming pool."



I have a genuine question - how many women who are plus size really enjoy in-store shopping and would do a lot more trying on, etc. in-store if your sizes were available? I ask based on my experiences with two plus size friends (which I know is just anecdotal so that's why I'm asking). One just plain hates shopping and will wear clothes into the ground as a result - I sent her over to the Macy's Personal Shopper and now she gets fixed up for clothes once a year and is thrilled.

Going shopping with the other friend meanwhile was a revelation. She clearly didn't feel comfortable trying on clothes in stores and just bought a ton of stuff in different sizes to take home and try on there, with the plan to return most of it later. We were shopping in a store that had an entire "Woman" side and the salesperson clearly had similar experiences in the past; she was very understanding and sensitive and went out and got other sizes for my friend, described ways she could make outfits with stuff she had at home and explained the whole return policy to her.

If retailers believe (rightly or wrongly) that plus size people prefer to try things on at home, it makes sense they would promote online shopping for this audience. Am curious to see if there is any truth to this or if it is just a quirk of my wacky friends.