Imagine trying on five pairs of the same-style size 18 shorts in a small, poorly lit dressing room because each pair you try on frustratingly fits differently. Or being plus-size and needing to find a last-minute outfit when there are only a handful of brick-and-mortar stores offering extended sizes. This is just a glimpse of the problems that we curvy folks have to deal with on a regular basis.
Shopping is not an easy task for most, but it’s especially challenging for those whose body type does not fall within the industry norm, aka above a size 10. I’m not going to lie — it totally sucked growing up with the amount of plus-size exclusion I faced, and it definitely played a negative role in my self-esteem. While the plus-size fashion industry is growing, we aren’t seeing enough expansion and diversity in the market just yet.
With roughly 67 percent of women in the U.S. being considered plus-size, brands that don’t offer extended sizes are missing out on literally millions of potential customers — and dollars. This statistic does not even account for the large market of plus-size male customers who are also in search of fashionable clothing for their size.
There are still big-box brands with the resources to make great clothing that refuse to embrace the prevalent curvy customer and invest in quality design and manufacturing. And claiming you carry plus sizes and then banishing the meek selection to an unidentifiable area of the store is just not cutting it anymore.
That said, if there were a time to be plus-size in fashion, it would be now. Ever since mega-babe Ashley Graham made the cover of Sports Illustrated, many brands have jumped on the plus-size bandwagon. But some brands seem to want to cash in on the body-positivity movement by thoughtlessly creating clothing that does not actually fit the plus-size customer’s body — mainly because the designs were not researched and the patterns were not scaled correctly.
Some brands are even using models who are much too small for the plus-size market, showing an unrealistic representation of the clothing. As a plus-size fashionista myself, I long for the day when brands will fully invest in and embrace their curvy customers by offering more accessible fashion.
Don’t get me wrong — not everything is bad about the plus-size market right now. We have more options than ever before. There are standout brands making an impression on the plus-size community and being industry leaders. The clear winners are staple brands like ASOS and Eloquii. The online e-tailer ASOS is always offering edgy designs that push the plus-size fashion envelope and parallel straight-size designs, while Eloquii is all about quality and fit. Lane Bryant is paving the way by being super-inclusive and body positive, creating diverse ads and leading the unretouched-photo campaign showcasing women’s real bodies. (Another positive sign: The current season of Project Runway has models of all sizes.)
Since the fashion industry is ever-evolving and has a lot to learn about its plus-size customers, I wanted to hear from the curvy influencers who are paving the way. I talked to crusaders including Denise Bidot, Ashley Nell Tipton, Nadia Aboulhosn, and others.
Check out what these plus-size leaders have to say about their biggest fashion gripes and the brands they think are already killing the game. They, like me, agree that everyone deserves access to great fashion regardless of their size or gender, and I’m excited for the strides that the future will bring.
Read more from Yahoo Beauty + Style:
Denise Bidot, model and creator @nowrongwaymovement
Biggest shopping gripes: It’s really not being able to try on the clothes I want to in store. There are so many high-end brands that carry extended sizing, but either they are in another section or online only. Also brands need to stay consistent in style and fit when they do go up in sizes. Plus-size women come in all shapes, so extending your size offerings is not as easy as just scaling up the straight size pattern; you need a fit model and time [put] into the design.
Brands that get it right: Good American — they have inclusive sizing, and there is no change in cut or fit based on size. Also their ads feature a diverse group of women and it’s all made in America. Dolce & Gabbana is another. Their advertising has been so on point lately, and they recently featured a plus-size girl on the catwalk in Milan. Lane Bryant has been fearless in their marketing, getting me into Sports Illustrated, unretouched. They really respond to and inspire their consumer, which I think we need more of.
(Photo: Denise Bidot)
Ashley Nell Tipton
Ashley Nell Tipton, designer and winner of Project Runway Season 14
Biggest shopping gripes: Most brands that are able to design fashionable clothing are merely extending “regular” sizes, not taking into consideration how garments work on a curvy body. So the fit is off, silhouette is off, comfort is lacking, and most of the times it just doesn’t work! Plus-size women want the same designs as everyone else, but brands need to do their research on how to fit a curvy frame.
Brands that get it right: For fit, quality, and overall cool factor, I would say my line Ashley Nell Tipton because I put a lot of thought into what the plus-size woman is looking for in terms of design and fit. I also saw a strong need for plus-size jewelry in the space, so I am excited to share that I will have an extended-size jewelry line dropping soon. When I discovered ASOS I flipped; they offer such cool designs in a large size range, making it more accessible. Lastly, I think Torrid is doing a great job of always having an assortment of design styles and is constantly trying to offer a well-fit look that you can actually try on in a store.
(Photo: Ashley Nell Tipton)
Troy Solomon, blogger
Biggest shopping gripes: The biggest problem I have is a lack of trendy and fashion-forward clothes for men. It isn’t too hard these days to find a bigger plain black T-shirt, but it is hard to find one that has some character and style to it. Finding clothes that reflect the current fashion climate or push the style envelope are nearly impossible to find for bigger men. I want printed leggings, I want apron-cut longline shirts with embellishments and design. I want someone to put thought into the clothes they are making for the bigger man who loves style.
Brands that get it right: I buy a lot of women’s clothing to make up for the lack of cute clothes for men, but ASOS is doing the best when it comes to offering fashion-forward clothing for both plus-size men and women. I think FashionNova Curve is doing an excellent job as well, and I’d love to see them come out with a men’s line. I love American Eagle’s plus-size pants and shorts — the fit is right on point and they have different variations of stretch, so they’re trendy and comfortable.
(Photo: Troy Solomon)
Nadia Aboulhosn, blogger
Biggest shopping gripes: My biggest shopping problems revolve around jeans that end up being too long for my petite curvy frame or bottoms that have a back gap above my butt.
Brands that get it right: I would have to say ASOS, Good American, and Daya by Zendaya (Forever 21 has been releasing some really dope pieces lately as well). Good American has such a great stretch-jean fit, Daya by Zendaya shows such a diverse amount of models so we can see representation, and ASOS has always been fashion-forward.
(Photo: Nadia Aboulhosn)
Chastity Garner, blogger and co-founder of theCurvycon
Biggest shopping gripes: My biggest gripe is when a brand offers a plus-size range that is subpar to their straight-size range. When a new line is announced, we get all excited and are sometimes met with disappointment because the clothing isn’t the same style or is ill-fitted and/or just plain unfashionable. That’s a part of the reason why I co-founded theCurvycon, a two-day event that brings together awesome plus-size brands and women alike to chat everything curvy.
Brands that get it right: Eloquii — the styles, price point, and integration into the plus community is all there. They are on the pulse of the trends and offering great quality all at the same time. Rachel Roy is one designer that I loved from afar for years. It’s refreshing to see a designer offer the same style to their plus customers as they do their straight sizes. WhoWhatWear x Target — love, love, love this line. It’s created at Target’s affordable prices; plus, it is another line that offers the same designs to their straight-size and plus-size customers, not to mention is great quality.
(Photo: Chastity Garner)
Marie Denee, editor in chief of The Curvy Fashionista
Biggest shopping gripes: All of the styles, looks, and designs I love are rarely available in plus. If you go to a brand that sells both, you will often see a watered-down version available in plus sizes. Also, brands using models that aren’t actually plus-size so the clothing is too large on them and we do not get to see the true fit. Lastly, there’s little to no access for in-store shopping, so we are always relegated online. Because of this, I started the TCFStyle Expo, a plus-size shopping event in Atlanta last July, for plus-size women to shop their favorite plus-size brands in person and all in one space.
Brands that get it right: Eloquii — they are quite reactionary and responsive to the market. Style, representation, and engagement. Ashley Stewart — their conversations and the high-level touch that they have with their audience is impressive. The diversity of models, sizing, and the conversations they have with the readership is impressive.
(Photo: Marie Denee)
Maddy Jones, editor at Plus Model magazine
Biggest shopping gripes: Why are we segregated to shopping primarily online? Not being able to have an in-store experience as much as my smaller friends is disturbing. Many brands and designers only offer plus-size clothing online but do not include us on their floor space.
Brands that get it right: Lane Bryant — their lingerie/bras are their strong suit. You can never go wrong with Cacique’s fit. Eloquii is on trend, on trend, on trend! I can’t say it enough. Dia & Co — in the world of subscription services, they have separated themselves from the rest by marrying fashion, styling services, and body positivity.
(Photo: Maddy Jones)
Kellie Brown, blogger
Biggest shopping gripes: With shopping being so limited to online only, it robs us of an in-store experience and makes it impossible if we need something last-minute. For brands that do offer plus in store, you can’t offer pieces that are subpar and wonder why no one bought it. Or create a tiny plus-size section in store, invest no marketing or publicity in it, and say we didn’t shop when no one knew it even existed.
Brands that get it right: I love ASOS because they are offering the same types of styles in both plus and straight sizes. Having visited their offices in London, the curve section is not at all an afterthought, as they have large teams dedicated to the category fit and design. Eloquii is amazing because they are offering quality, runway-inspired pieces that you don’t need to throw away after a season. Lastly, I think Universal Standard is great because they offer a great fit and unique takes on classic design concepts.
(Photo: Kellie Brown)