When we talk about plus size fashion, we can get bogged down with politics. By the very nature of it having its own label, plus size fashion immediately appears to be outside of the mainstream. So is it here to stay and what’s expected to come in the future? Will the plus size fashion industry continue to grow, or will it become an outdated concept within an industry that has become more inclusive?
There’s no doubt that the market for plus size fashion continues to grow. This is perhaps less to do with changes in demographic than it is to do with women using their consumer power to demand to be catered for. Over the last 5 years in the UK, plus size women’s clothing retailers enjoyed an average industry growth of 1.9%. Set this against the average industry shrinkage of -0.8% during the same period and it’s clear that plus size demand is on the up!
Brand Take Up
So if this market growth is accurate, how are high street stores and big clothing brands responding? Companies such as H&M, Nike, Anthropologie and Asos have all extended their market presence, offering sizes up to UK 34. This is great news for the plus size clothing world, and we can expect this trend to continue as more retailers recognise the demand.
It’s not just about offering garments for sale, though. It’s about accurately representing those garments as part of your store and online presence. By this we mean using plus size models both as part of and separately to their specific plus size marketing campaigns. Simply offering lines in larger sizes and using conventional models to showcase the styles does nothing for inclusivity. So in the future, we see a wider variety of body shapes being used to model from the high street to the catwalk. This will demonstrate to plus size consumers that they are visible and recognised.
There’s more to fashion than size, though. Styles, cuts and body shape has a lot to do with it, so designers must create their lines with plus size shapes in mind. Sympathetic shapewear is a market place which sits alongside the plus size fashion industry. A good bodysuit or pair of shaping shorts is not about changing your dress size; more about smoothing your line so that clothes hang well.
So, does the plus size label have a future? Indeed, should it have a future? Has it been a helpful term as body inclusivity has risen in prominence, and might it hamper the knitting together of different parts of the fashion world? This is a huge debate, which we look at more in other posts. However, one thing is clear – the plus size label can only achieve true inclusivity when it becomes irrelevant.
The COVID pandemic has impacted the fashion industry in a multitude of ways. With retailers struggling to reach their customers during repeated lockdowns and supply chains being affected, it’s hard to see into the future. One positive for plus size ranges is the massive increase in online shopping habits. The fact that consumers can directly order garments in their size means that gone are the days of being disappointed on the high street because your size wasn’t available. So retailers can more accurately measure the demand for their plus size ranges. And this demand is making itself heard!
There’s no doubt that plus size fashion is on the rise. The future can only see it become more prevalent in brands and high street stores. What needs to change, though, is in the strategic thinking behind these changes. For plus size fashion to truly become mainstream, it needs to stop being an ‘exception’ or an ‘anomaly’. As businesses adapt to a post pandemic market place, let’s hope that they give more focus to the individual. This mindset will allow plus size styles to truly find their rightful place.