Why I can't find my plus-size & the retailers who are making it easier to shop.

By Donna D. Baines

With 68% of American women rocking a size 14 or above, it only makes logical sense that your average retailers would be stocking sizes to accommodate the majority of their female consumers.

They’re not.

When retail analytics firm, Edited, did a survey of the 25 largest multi-brand retailers, they found a mere “2.3 percent of their women’s apparel assortment is plus-size.” On top of that, the market value of plus size women's apparel in the United States in 2018 was estimated to be worth 22.8 billion U.S. dollars.” That’s only 8% of the total US apparel industry. These numbers don’t add up and are choking the market.

There’s obviously a major opportunity here. So why, despite the numbers, does plus-size fashion continue to be marginalized?

People are still operating under the false assumption that no one cares about it.

When Victoria’s Secret CMO, Ed Razek, was asked why they don’t do a plus-size runway show, he simply replied, “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t… It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.”

These remarks from Razek are no less than infuriating. He could have simply stated that the VS Fashion Show as is was their brand. That’s fine. Do you, Ed. But he didn’t. He blatantly states that if you’re, what’s considered, ‘plus-size’ or transgender, the world has no interest in seeing you. That you’re not good enough. Not sexy enough. The same ideals Hollywood and the media has been perpetuating for far too long. It reminds me of Busy Philipps’ book, This Will Only Hurt a Little, when she recalls her struggles to find work after the birth of her first child—having not yet lost the weight she gained during her pregnancy. She said one of the biggest insults to get is being passed over for a role because you were deemed “too fat or not fuckable”. She didn’t know which was worse, but, according to Victoria’s Secret, 68% of American women are both.

Thanks a lot, Razek.

Victoria’s Secret and other major brands can try to sell us whatever they want, but what does real data tell us?

After thoroughly analyzing data from Google, social media, dating, and pornography sites, economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies, gets some real insights on what people truly desire when veiled with the anonymity of the internet. One claim he makes, in an interview with Vox, speaks a lot to this very topic.

“...I am certain a large number of men are more attracted to overweight women than skinny women but try to date skinny women to impress their friends and family members. Porn featuring overweight women is surprisingly common among men. But the data from dating sites tells us that just about all men try to date skinny women. Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think would impress their friends.”

Hmmmm… I wonder why?

With real data opposing Razek’s claims, do we keep purporting Corporate America’s pre-packaged sexual fantasy or embrace reality?

The good news is that more and more companies are choosing the latter and waking up to the realization that there’s money in expanding their size offerings and discarding gender norms. With 78 different sizes of bras and their underwear ranging from XS-3X, ThirdLove took an inclusive approach to their product offerings. They are now the fastest growing online underwear company and recently made Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Embracing body positivity at its core, TomboyX offers gender-neutral underwear in sizes XS-4X. The result: 2049% revenue growth over 3 years. But this shift will still take time to infiltrate to Small-Town America. Most shopping still needs to be done online to get quality and styles worth wearing, but the tides are changing.

As popular hashtags like #effyourbeautystandards and #iweigh continue to splash across our Insta feeds, body positivity and size inclusivity are trends people are embracing more than ever--regardless of what established brands may try to sell us.  More stores are starting to catch up with reality and offer expanded sizes online and in stores—Target, Old Navy, J. Crew, Anthropologie, to name a few. The more we support the brands that see all women and genders, the easier it will be to find fashion for all sizes. And hopefully this will lead to less tears in fitting rooms, more people feeling empowered by their wardrobe, and more individuals feeling comfortable going after their true desires—be it while clothes shopping or dating.  

So shop thoughtfully and responsibly. If you are on the fence about starting a business offering inclusive sizes, don’t be. The opportunity is ripe for the picking.