Curvy consumers frustrated by rag trade's slim market

Fashion labels out of step with real bodies

CHOICE says clothes designers and retailers are sabotaging their own profits by ignoring the increasing number of consumers who want plus-sized clothing.

In its report into clothing sizes for larger women, CHOICE found the significant market is being under-serviced or not serviced at all by fashion designers and retail buyers. 

“There hasn’t been a review of clothing sizes in Australia in almost 40 years and the standard that did exist has been abolished because it was so out of date. The reality is, designers make up their own sizes and standards,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.

CHOICE says even the industry itself admits that snobbery is a factor when it comes to a lack of fashion options. 

“Insiders tell us there’s a perception amongst some designers that larger women don’t have a sense of style. That, in turn, encourages retail buyers to order smaller sized merchandise.  

“You would think, during tough economic times, people who are prepared to pay good money for fashion would be well catered for, but it’s not the case. 

“Most stores stock ranges that begin at a size six or eight then come to an abrupt halt at a size 14 – if you are lucky you might find the odd size 16,” says Ms Just.  

CHOICE says the other side of the story is that designers who don’t follow the crowd are having sales success. One example is Leona Edmiston, who responded to shoppers’ in-store and online requests for larger sizes with merchandise that goes to size 20.

“Designers who respond to demand deserve to succeed, because they’re making decisions based on consumer demand, not their own ego,” says Ms Just. 

CHOICE’s report into the lack of plus-size clothing ranges highlights the dramatic price differences people pay for clothes of the same style and quality. 

“One stylist told us her clients pay through the nose if they want curve-friendly fashion. If two friends, one sized 14 and the other sized 18 shopped for a work wardrobe of the same style, the sized 14 woman might pay $1,500. Her friend, on the other hand, can expect to fork out $3000 for her purchases,” says Ms Just. 

CHOICE says that one view in the fashion industry is that plus-size clothes are more expensive because they require more material, time and fittings. That, however, is disputed by other designers who say that the extra design production costs for larger sized clothes are minimal. 

According to CHOICE’s report, the fact that plus-sized lines sell so fast is probably the strongest evidence of the consumer demand. 

“People get very frustrated when they find that the sizes and styles they want are continually sold out, so mixing budget brands with labels is one way around the problem. 

“Alternatively, shoppers can go online to look at options from US or UK retailers, as many offer a greater range of sizes. Just remember to take different sizing systems into account if ordering from overseas,” says Ms Just.  

CHOICE says consumers who want greater variety in sizes should make full use of social media to get the attention of the fashion industry. 

“Use the designers’ and retailers’ Facebook and Twitter to get your message across. Tell them you like their labels and you want the clothes in your size. If they want to make money, they’ll listen,” says Ms Just.

Read more on CHOICE’s report into the availability of plus-size clothing.   

Media contact: Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

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