What Modcloth Gets Right About Selling Plus-Size Clothing

Illustration for article titled What Modcloth Gets Right About Selling Plus-Size Clothing

For the last year, cutesy emporium Modcloth has been deliberately ramping up its plus-size offerings. Now they'd like everyone to know that yes, you can do a brisk business selling larger ladies clothing that isn't a poorly-made heap of polyester garbage.


Will wonders never cease?

To mark the anniversary, Modcloth commissioned a study of 1,500 shoppers and rounded up some depressing numbers: 77 percent of plus-size respondents agreed it's difficult to find well-fitting clothes, and 46 percent say they never or rarely find "flattering" clothing. 73 percent said they "settle" for whatever's good enough.

Many fashion insiders might see those numbers and start blathering about patterns and fabric costs. Modcloth Chief Creative Officer Susan Koger, on the other hand, sees dollar signs. "There's no other opportunity like this in fashion right now," she told Business Insider.

So they're going HAM. Since last June, the company has doubled its plus business, expanding from 35 vendors to 160. They say they now carry 1,200 unique plus-size styles at any one time. It's Modcloth's fastest-growing category and, according to this infographic, plus-size shoppers place 20 percent more orders. (Hell, where else are we gonna shop? Forever 21+ only gets you so far.)

Modcloth has a reputation as the whimsical official supplier to the young and twee. Their stereotypical customer runs an Etsy shop. Their mascot is a pug. But make no mistake: They've been damned savvy about pursuing the plus-size market. Many plus-size lines launch to great fanfare, trotting out a handful of initial fashion-forward designs. But the follow-through is often shit, with each offering progressively less impressive, and a year and a half later comes the quiet shuttering.

Modcloth, on the other hand, opted for a soft launch and a promise. Then they actually delivered. They added designers and expanded their house brands. Many items run from XS to 4X, right there on the same product listing, no clicking to a sad, separate plus-size section required. The clothes are far from cheap, but they're often cotton. COTTON. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find cotton sundresses when you're fat?


In 12 months, I've gone from checking the site maybe three times a year ("Maybe this time they'll have something...nope") to a regular customer. Sure, there's plenty of lemons in their product mix and the sizing still befuddles me—not to mention I'm PISSED that the buttons fell off a skirt I ordered two weeks ago.

But all-in-all, it's the difference between eating at a farm-to-table restaurant versus a hospital cafeteria. For too long, retailers got away with crappy clothes and a crappy customer service experience—and expected a thank-you for doing that much.


Gotta say, though, Modcloth's numbers are being greeted with a level of fanfare that's frankly unseemly. Business Insider's headline: "The Plus-Size Industry Is On The Verge Of A Revolution." Bustle's opener: "ModCloth is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its plus-size line, and with it has come some revelations: this site is starting a revolution (no exaggeration intended!)."


Let's maybe take it down a notch? Good for Modcloth for following the money. But it's hardly a revolution. It's more like Modcloth is following a particularly feckless billionaire down the street, picking up every dollar he carelessly tosses aside.



What Modcloth gets wrong: Quality. I am on the skinnier side, but I still can't fit my boobs into some of their dresses. And their dresses tend to be see-through. The only thing their dresses are good for is cosplay. I know they have an Orphan Annie dress and a River Song dress off the top of my head. Or if you want to dress like certain styles from certain decades.