Why are plus sizes so inconsistent?
We’re huge fans of supermodel Tess Holliday, who has been on an amazing crusade for body acceptance and encouraging body diversity. She recently got all kinds of attention for being the first “size-22” model signed to a major agency and for spreading her message about self-love in a cover story for People. Now, Tess is speaking out about a struggle that every plus-sized lady knows all too well: The insane inconsistency in sizing for clothing, and particularly in clothing for women above a size 12.
Tess took to Instagram to demonstrate just how bonkers the difference from one brand’s size 22 to another’s can be. She posted a picture of several different tags of her clothes, all with different sizes. Tess didn’t magically change sizes every time she put on a piece of clothing: It’s just that, historically, plus sizes have been an incredibly underserved part of the fashion world, and so, sizing is all over the place. “In some brands I’m a 2x, in [others] a 3x. . . Sometimes a 4x,” she wrote on Instagram. “For my crop tops, they are mostly L from Forever 21.. Thats a massive difference!”
So what’s with all the inconsistency? As CEO of plus-size retailer Mariah Chase pointed out to CNBC, an estimated 65% of American women are considered plus-sized. But this retail category represents less than a fifth of apparel sales–and the sizing within that fifth is totally all over the place. So why are retailers just plan missing the mark?
“For so long, we have been purchasing from a place of utility,” Sarah Conley, plus-size fashion blogger and social media marketing consultant, told CNBC. “While it’s getting better, [the plus-size community] still doesn’t feel like we have the fashion options that we want in terms of fit and style.”
Often, plus-sized clothing isn’t well-made or fashionable, and it’s relegated to “dismal areas” of the store. Yet when the clothing doesn’t sell well, retailers blame demand.
“If you are a store that has a plus-size section, that says to me that I am welcome there,” Conley told CNBC. “But, the more I go in and am disappointed by the plus-size section, which continues to shrink and get pushed out by expanding maternity or accessory sections, the less I want to go in.”
A large part of the problem is the expertise required to be able to create plus-sized clothing, according to Chase. “There is more production expertise and fit expertise that is required, and they don’t teach it in school,” Chase told CNBC. “The whole industry learns one shape, and fits on one, much smaller, straighter shape.” Plus-sized clothing is often more expensive to produce, and thus, it’s not viewed as a priority for businesses.
“The opportunity is right here in front of us. We want more players in the market because it will help adjust her mindset and encourage her to play in fashion,” Chase told CNBC. “If we have the potential to democratize size, it’s a fantastic opportunity for retail.”
In the meantime, the issue with sizing isn’t going away. “When I ask ‘Can I please see this in a size 14?’ I know what size I am, but pieces always run differently,” explains style blogger Nicolette Mason, in an interview with The Huffington Post. “If something has an elastic waistband, for example, I know it’s going to be more generous. I have a really good fluency in cuts and fabrics and enough understanding to shop for myself regardless of what the tag says. But there are times I’ll ask for the size 12 or the size 14, and the sales associate will respond, ‘That’s not going to fit you.'”
In short, why not celebrate ALL body types? It’s time for retailers to get serious about plus-sized clothing. Stop trying to shrink it, and start figuring out a way to create consistent sizing. Not only is it a massive business opportunity, but it would make women all over the world happy. A win-win, in our book.
[Image via Tess Holliday’s Instagram]