Shopping for plus-size clothes

While Australians are getting bigger, the clothing industry isn't keeping up.
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02.Limited choice

Clothing-Plus-support1_WEBStylist Sarah Donges of the Sydney/Melbourne based business The Beauty Tutor sees many clients who have money to spend but don’t fit what those in the fashion industry deign a standard size.

“As soon as I have a (female) client over a size 16 it’s a struggle, there’s only a few retailers that do up to 18. After that you have to go into specialty stores – if I have a client that is corporate and needs decent work clothes there’s really one or two places to go, and they are expensive.”

And it doesn’t matter whether you have money to burn or not says Tracey Porter, former editor of Australian fashion industry magazine Ragtrader. Porter, who is a tall, fit size 16 says she could never fit into any of the clothes that crossed her path as editor. 

In one of her last editorials for the magazine she wrote about her frustrations with the clothing industry and the consumers they continue to ignore. “Despite having curves, money, an interest in fashion and being exposed to literally thousands of fashion brands, I still struggle to find clothes that allow me to be me. And I have no qualms about telling you that you are missing out on a hell of an opportunity with consumers such as myself.”

At a size 14 to 16 “plus size” Australian model Robyn Lawley has graced the covers of Vogue Italia and French Elle but says in Australia she struggles to find clothes that fit. 

In a recent interview she talked of wanting to support Australian designers but says she cannot as many don’t make clothes that fit her. “The fact is that some don’t go up to my size… and if they do, it sells out quickly. I think there is a lot of fashion snobbery. It feels like they don’t want a size 14 or above wearing their clothes.”

Is it just snobbery?

There tends to be an attitude that larger women don’t have a sense of style.
- Tracey Porter, former editor of Ragtrader

Many of the industry insiders CHOICE spoke to admitted that there is some reluctance when it comes to designing for larger body types. 

“There tends to be an attitude that larger women don’t have a sense of style,” says Porter.

Brisbane designer Sacha Drake, whose eponymous clothing line ranges from 8 –18, says many of the buyers working in retail encourage the preference towards smaller sizes. 

“Many buyers are very slim and tend to buy accordingly. When I brought out a range of size 14 plus dresses years ago most of the buyers I went to said they loved the garments and then ordered them in a size 8, 10, 12 – which totally defeated the point.”

Ironically, many designers wouldn’t even fit into their own designs, say some fashion industry insiders. And Queensland stylist and fashion blogger Nikki Parkinson says at times she feels like the fashion industry has “forgotten what it’s there to do, which is to sell clothes”.

One designer bucking the trend is Leona Edmiston, whose curve-friendly dress range launched a plus size label catering up to a size 20 last year. General Manager Melissa Macalyk says the new line came about as a direct result from customers asking in-store or via social media for bigger sizes. 

“The line has been doing well. There’s a real gap in the market but I know there is a reluctance from some designers to go there. They can have big egos and don’t want to see something they created not look good on someone.”


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