I wouldn't count on anything changing in the near future, despite the flood of comments on forums and Facebook. Except for a few outliers, most companies prefer to concentrate on making money for shareholders, not leading social change. From a business perspective, employing marketing research is a less risky, and more defensible, strategy than relying on hunches about potential markets, especially in today's tumultuous retail world.

Entering the plus-size market has two big hurdles to overcome: First, curvy bodies are unique in when, where, and how they curve so designers have to be more adept at creating designs which fit a wider variety of body shapes. It's easier to focus on a personal vision when you don't need to be distracted by how the person will actually be able to get into the garment, and many of today's designers simply aren't knowledgeable enough, or interested in, making the transition.

Secondly, the plus size market is just as--and maybe even more--diverse than the "regular" fashion market because of the sheer numbers who wear size 12 and over. Price points, fashion sensibilities, style preferences, and environmental considerations don't disappear just because the number on a scale goes over 150 lbs. Torrid isn't for everyone, but neither is Eileen Fisher. Picking the right designs for your target market, but the wrong pricepoint will sink you. Choose the wrong image and you'll lose your target market in the nanosecond it takes for your company to be labeled as too stodgy on Facebook.

My personal feeling is that designers and retailers aren't unaware of the demand for more options in plus-sized clothing, but have decided, in today's low-cost, fast fashion environment it's just too risky to sell to shareholders. The companies who do go that route, like Torrid, are as likely to elicit sneers as well as cheers in the press and with consumers. If companies like Torrid make money, then other designers and retailers will leap on the bandwagon, but, if they fail, it will just confirm the perception that the plus-size territory is too much of a mine field for a fashion-focused company in today's retail climate.

Well they just had an IPO, which may explain the fashion show. Funnily enough none of above mentioned articles mentioned that. Guess that's further proof of the disconnect between fashion and the market

Following on from rachylou and kkards's comments, I agree that lower-cost retailers are doing a better job serving and appealing to the cusp and plus size market - I regularly see ads from Kohls, JC Penney, and Target with both straight and plus sized models side by side. Meijer, a superstore chain based in the Midwest (think a nicer Walmart or a super Target with groceries) has eliminated the division between straight and plus and has all women's clothes together, and seems to order all items in the full size range. Maurice's is a good one to note too, as is Dress Barn.

There's Violeta and Universal Standard, as well as Gwynnie Bee - the latter started out as more of a middle man but now collaborates with designers and brands to make exclusive lines, so they're driving the market more these days. Stitch Fix has also expanded into plus (and men's) and they're now owned by Nordstrom - I don't know how they obtain the clothing they offer.

Laura, I also noticed the Target website with the different-size models side by side, and thought it was wonderful. Also done in a very subtle way. I saw it for their new line (A New Day or something like that) with lots of fresh-looking pieces.

Kkards - thank you for that info!

Anna - Ok, now that's news to me about the IPO. That's just plain news... and strange to bury it. You would think that is important to the debate.

Says to me, boy, that's a deep bias and it's gonna do fashion retailers in. Surely Amazon will take advantage of any little cracks and turn them into yawning caverns...


Anyone have a non-subscriber link for that article, or could write a quick summary of it?

Love the Washington Post article. Thanks for sharing it, Ryce.

As a plus-sized woman who could afford a vacation house with the money I've spent on dieticians, personal trainers, and other things to lose weight, I can tell you I'd buy more if there was more available. If it was well made. If it fit properly.

There's a reason 90% of my clothing budget goes to two stores (excluding shoes). My choices are limited.

I hate shopping. And if you're shopping with a cusp or straight sized friend, you don't even shop in the same area. The plus size section at my Macy's, for example, is down in the back corner of the basement.

No thanks. I'll go shop online.

Wow, finally catching up with this thread!

Kkards, thanks for the data on market shares. I think, honestly, that the Walmart/Nordstrom divide ties directly into Rachy's point about class/wealth. And of course the gatekeeping is much stricter with women's bodies -- lots more size latitude, less scrutiny, for men.

Annagybe, I LOVE your point about the tech industry and the ability to create demand for products that don't exist yet. I wonder if fashion as an industry will be able to survive its own solipsism. Is it gonna go the way of fine arts, available and relevant only to an elite?