Shopping for plus-size clothes

While Australians are getting bigger, the clothing industry isn't keeping up.
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Our investigation has found that plus size clothing is limited and expensive, despite there being a demand.

We take a look at:

For more information about Shopping, see Shopping and legal.

Curves ahead

It’s no secret that the retail world in Australia is hurting. In the land of the never-ending sale, shop closures and the creaks of collective belt-tightening, it’s not a great time to be selling anything – particularly clothing.

But picture an entire segment of the market who is crying out for product. And say they want more choice of product, more fashionable product and better quality product. In this environment you’d think this group would have their every need catered to by retailers, but when it comes to clothing, this isn’t the case.

For example, while plenty of Australian women are a size 14 or larger, it’s not apparent when you walk into the average retail store. A casual browse of the racks of available clothes reveals a size range that usually starts at a size 6 or 8 and comes to a crashing halt at size 14, with the occasional rare size 16.

As a result, for larger women – and to a lesser degree, larger men –shopping for clothes can be a nightmare.

What our readers say

If I buy a size 18 from the normal clothing section it doesn't even come close to fitting, but if I buy a size 18 in the designated “plus” section it's way too big, and if you go to a store that specialises in larger clothing you can also expect double the price.
- Nyssa
I go to the shops frequently and I try on everything I think might be OK, in the hope of finding something. There are a couple of designer brand plus-sized clothes that are reliable and true to size, but they are costly so I try to wait for sales.
- Caroline
The costs are excessive. Instead of paying $39 for a plain white T-shirt, you pay $59. It's the mid-range clothes, that you might team with an outfit, that I resent having to pay so much for.
- Sonya
I love fashion, but trying to find clothes that are in style, not shapeless sacks and affordable is a major challenge.
- Rana

What size are we?

Australians today are bigger than they used to be. Research from the US reveals that the sedentary Western body may be changing shape; with waists getting thicker in both sexes. And thanks to multiculturalism, there is a wider range of body shapes. 

Despite these studies and abundant anecdotal evidence, there is still no definitive data to show just what kind of shape we are in today.

As a result there is no Australian industry standard for adult clothing sizes, with manufacturers free to choose their own size specifications. 

The most recent Australian clothing standard for adult men and women was withdrawn in 2007 as it was considered no longer relevant. Established in 1959, it was based on data from a 1926 study of women conducted by underwear manufacturer Berlei, and some US Department of Commerce Standards.



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