Shopping for plus-size clothes

While Australians are getting bigger, the clothing industry isn't keeping up.
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03.High price to pay


Stylist Sarah Donges says her larger clients not only have less choice about what they can wear but will pay through the nose for the privilege. “If I have a client who works in a corporate environment and who needs decent work clothes we would need a $3000 budget if she wanted a basic wardrobe. If the same woman was a size 12 I could do it for $1500 easily.”

She is also critical of the quality of the garments, saying as a rule of thumb whatever you can find in a standard size will cost an extra $100 for the same quality in a plus size. A walk through of some plus size stores confirms this, with one selling a simple size 20 black jersey T-shirt for $179, while another stocks simple poly/cotton mix dresses for over $300.

However, there is an argument from some in the industry that plus size clothes are more expensive to make. Jo Ann Kellock from the Council of Textiles and Fashion Industries of Australia tells CHOICE some manufacturers say larger sizes use more fabric and very large sizes require much longer stitching time.

Sacha Drake says larger consumers do need to spend money to get a better-fitting garment. “As a generalization, 14 plus customers do have more body shape issues, and can be harder to please. They don’t want black, they don’t want a tent. I’m a size 14 and as a designer I find the most flattering way to go is to use good fabric and take the time to design a garment that fits and flatters. That’s what you’re paying for with my designs.”

Is the industry shaping up?

All the experts we spoke to agreed that while the market isn’t ideal for plus- sized customers, it is improving. Nikki Parkinson says if shoppers are savvy enough they should be able to mix and match budget finds with selected designer labels. “Avella from Big W is a good quality budget line – previously you would have to spend more but there are a few more options now.”

Tracey Porter agrees there have been some small improvements, but still shakes her head at a market that is under catered for. “To overlook a whole market segment is madness, especially in this retail climate. If dollars aren’t enough incentive – I don’t want to know what is.”

What about men?

Most of the industry contacts CHOICE spoke to said, in general, men have it a little easier.  Men we spoke to complained about lack of length in trousers and sleeves as well as an overall bad fit, but the consensus is the differences aren’t as extreme as in women’s clothes. 

How to shop smart for plus size clothing

  • Clothing-Plus-support3_WEBBe savvy New season designs are released months before you might actually need to wear them. For retailers it’s less of a risk to over-order size 10, 12 or 14, so larger sizes sell out faster.
  • Shop around Don’t discount the budget brands for basics and don’t discount the labels for well-designed pieces.
  • Look online Overseas markets such as the UK and US offer a much wider range of sizes and options.
  • Be heard If you see a label you like but they don’t make your size, let them know. Most labels have a social media presence – let them know they are missing out on you as a customer.

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