Why plus-size clothing sucks

Plus-size fashion has come a long way, thanks to the increasing presence of plus-sized bloggers/YouTubers. They have been vocal with their feedback, and the change is now percolating to high-street brands. Target just launched their Victoria Beckham collection that goes up to a plus-size. Five years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of Victoria's designs being available in plus-size. It would have seemed unbelievable.

I have always been very fond of dressing up and having traversed the spectrum from plus-size to straight-size, I feel, plus-size clothing sucks, and will never match up to straight-sized clothes. I am not entirely sure why this is so, but I have observed certain patterns (pun!) in the differences between the two spectrums

1. The construction material: The best plus-size clothes I owned were made of a stretchy jersey knit material. It was very comfortable and had give. Sometimes I would see a synthetic material like polyester mixed with lycra. That was generally for the fitted clothes. I suspect this jersey knit is used because plus-size clothes have to be designed to be stretchy so that they can fit plus-size bodies with varying fat distribution. I know I used to prefer clothes that were stretchy when I was plus-sized (to deal with fluctuations in size) and that were flowy so I could present a smoother silhouette. But this jersey-type/synthetic material doesn't look very good, to begin with, and over time loses its luster. I didn't notice this when I was plus-sized and was very happy with jersey. But when I started to wear straight-sized clothing, I suddenly had a plethora of options in natural fibers.

Materials such as silk, linen, raw denim, leather, suede, wool and other natural fibers were rare in plus sized clothes I purchased. Some of my jackets would have a bit of wool, but it was never more than 30%. Cotton, fortunately, mixed with modal & lycra, was available as jeggings. These natural fibers look beautiful and rich when worn because they drape well. Nothing matches the drape of linen or a silk dress. I can see the fake sheen in a poly-blend blazer, now that I have worn a wool-blend blazer. It just doesn't look as good. Maybe natural fibers are rigid in structure - they lack stretchiness, and the bigger the size of the garment, the more the material that is used (and wasted in cutting as you try to align the design at the seams). Translate this into plus-size and clothes can become prohibitively expensive. I believe the lack of stretch plays a big role because I also haven't seen materials such as scuba/neoprene or woven fabrics in plus-size but I have a few dresses now made from them.

2. Trends take a while to percolate down to plus-size: Trends are presented at fashion weeks, and from their avant-garde origins, they are translated into wearable options by high-street brands. I don't think this is easy to do in the first place. A trend that looks wearable on a supermodel can quickly become frumpy on a regular woman (cropped flares come to mind), and the trend has to translate well on women of all sizes and heights for it to be a success. I think plus-size retailers are risk averse here and wait to see the success of a trend in the straight-sized market before offering it in plus-size. One such trend I can think of is Velvet. It has been quite visible in straight-sizes in the last six months, but I am yet to see it featured in any plus-size hauls.

3. There are less plus-size brands: Obviously, the selection is much narrower

4. Designers don't like creating for plus-size women: In fact, I am yet to see any season of Project Runway where the designers didn't moan & groan about dressing non-models. Plus-size non-models were actually treated quite badly on few of these shows, where the designer blamed their failure on her fatness! I don't understand the challenges of designing, but there must be something that makes it so difficult that they avoid doing it. This lack of attention & talent maybe a reason for the boring clothing. Maybe there is a lot more understanding of how fabrics drape on the straight-size body, maybe there are construction challenges for plus-size. I don't know!

I could be wrong since I mostly write from a consumer's perspective, and if you know better please feel free to correct me.  


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