Despite the push for inclusivity in the fashion world, plus-size women can still have a difficult time finding clothes. The average woman in the UK is now a size 16, which many retailers view as plus size. Yet these women are woefully misrepresented in clothing stores. Indeed, the majority of high street retailers typically only cater up to a size 14-16. This alienates a significant portion of their customers. So it’s hardly surprising that plus size, or even average size, women face a real struggle when shopping for clothes. Here are the main issues that fashion designers and retailers need to address:
It’s not just about scaling up
There’s a reason this is first on the list. That’s because it is the biggest problem. Simply put, it’s the way that plus size ranges are designed and manufactured. Most fashion houses simply ‘scale up’ from a standard size mannequin, or even worse assume we all have perfect plus size hourglass figure. Plus-size figures don’t work like that. We come in all shapes and sizes, and weight isn’t distributed evenly. From apple shapes to pears, we’re all different. This is why shopping for plus size clothing is such a stressful experience and so ‘hit or miss’ for the majority of women.
Sizing isn’t the only issue. The fabrics themselves can often be problematic. Cheap, flimsy fabrics with little structure or stretch tend to be the order of the day. But with a little thought to our shapes, and the way fitted clothing needs to move, plus-size clothing can achieve a great fit while remaining supremely comfortable.
Over the years, we’ve come to realise that a size 14 in one store is not the same as a size 14 in another. However, once you start shopping plus size, it becomes even more confusing! There’s a mind-boggling array of sizes out there. Chances are they won’t be labelled as 18, 20, 22, 24, etc but as 1XL, 2XL, all the way up to 5XL. What on earth does this sizing even mean? Clear size guides would help, but there’s seemingly no standardisation once you’re above a store’s standard size range.
As we’ve seen with illusion dresses, clever design incorporates panelling and colour to slim a physique. In order to maximise the look of an outfit, for women of all sizes from petite to plus size, more thought has to be put into the actual design itself. This interpreting of design for a target market is essential for success. While plus-size designers are making giant leaps forward to cater for the plus-size market, the high street is definitely falling behind.
Plus size does not mean tall
Another bone of contention for the plus-size community is that when you scale up for size, there’s an assumption that you’re taller. As we all know, this isn’t the case! Some retailers are able to cater to different heights, even if it’s just offering short, regular or tall fittings. But many high street and online retailers don’t offer a height option when shopping a plus-size range.
Location, location, location
Even if the store you’re browsing does have a plus-size range, chances are it won’t be front and centre of the shop floor. Most plus-size lines tend to be hidden at the back of the store. Or worse still secreted to the far corner of the basement or lower floor. This shunning of a large sector of the market just doesn’t make business sense, and leaves a lot of women disheartened and frustrated. By simply relocating this section to a more prominent spot in the store, women above a size 14 can be celebrated. This will not only ensure a far more satisfying shopping experience, but also return higher sales profits for the retailer.
As we can see from glossy magazine shoots and advertising billboards, the plus-size community is slowly being embraced by the world of fashion. However, when did you last see a mannequin that’s above an XS, or a UK size 8? What kind of message is this sending out to young girls today, let alone alienating the majority of the population? There’s no point seeing a plus-size outfit on such a mannequin. It will either billow out unflatteringly or – worse still – be held in at the back with crocodile clips, giving it unrealistic shaping! While some stores are diversifying their mannequin sizes, we hope all major stores will follow suit so we can truly see how an outfit falls on a realistic figure.
Time to move on from ‘plus size’?
Finally, and this is a whole other issue, even the ‘plus size’ labelling can be stigmatising. This banner can actually prevent women from browsing or trying on clothing. Surely in this age of inclusivity, it’s time to move away from even using the term ‘plus size’? This is a debate we’ll clearly be keeping an eye on!
Wear your shapewear for the best fit
No matter how close you are to the sizing guide, your outfit will only ever look as good as your shapewear makes you feel. So when you’re next shopping a new look, make sure you’re wearing the right foundation garments. Whether that’s a firm control plus-size bodysuit for a special event, or light control briefs for everyday wear, you’ll take a lot of the stress and heartache out of the shopping process by sculpting your curves first.
This is where we can help! Here at Elle Courbee, we demystify and simplify the way you select and buy your plus size shapewear. We only stock the best, and our product range caters to women of all shapes and sizes. We can help de-stress your shopping experience. So check out our range today!