Should all brands make plussizes?


Should all brands make plussizes. I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time…As it turns out, it’s quite a complex issue!

The gap between retail and reality

If you know that most plussize brands start carrying plussize from a size 44 and up, you could say that roughly half of all women are a (potential) plussize consumer. In Belgium alone, that’s over 2 million women, and we’re a tiny country no one’s every heard of, so imagine what that number would be on a global scale. Ofcourse, this number isn’t reflected when you go shopping. Most brands only go up to a EU size 42 or 44, maybe a couple of 46 pieces if you’re lucky… And that’s about it. If you look at the shop ratio, it seems like only a small number of women are size 44 and up, even though that’s clearly not the case.

The fact that there is such a gap between reality and what is being sold, is ridiculous. And it brings up the question: should all brands do plussizes?

And my answer is… I’m not sure. Party of me wants to scream “YES THEY SHOULD THIS IS SO STUPID OMG GET IT TOGETHER” but then I look at it from a marketing point of view and I go a bit back and forth.

Segmentation: why it makes sense not to make everything for everyone

Here’s the thing: I do not believe every brand should make everything for every woman. Besides it simply not being possible, it also makes no sense from a marketing point of view. Brands do better when they have very defined boxes and cater to a very defined group of people. Sometimes a brand will launch something new in (for example) a more expensive price range, and there will be people commenting “this is stupid it’s so expensive I can’t afford this make cheaper fashion blablabla” but honey, that’s not how it works. There is a very specific group of people who are willing to pay the prices for the product, and this specific product caters to those specific people. That’s how it works.

So I have no real problem with brands saying “we make this type of product for those kind of people”. It makes complete economic sense.

And that’s where my opinion flips. Economics.

Why it makes no financial sense NOT to do plussizes

Because while it makes financial ense to segment on, for instance, age or price, it makes no sense whatsoever to ignore a group of consumers that are worth a shitload of money. I’m talking billions here. A group of people who’s only difference is that they are bigger.

So why do brands do this?

I think it’s because they don’t realize that plussize women are exactly the same as straightsize women. They see us as a completely seperate category, based on one criteria only: size. Even though plussize women have many, MANY different interests and can be divided into many, MANY different groups, it doesn’t matter. All plussize women are thrown into the same segmentation group.

The plussize stigma – The key problem

The second problematic thing is that not only all plussize women are seen as 1 group, but that this group has a negative connotation. “Plussize”, for many people, is synonymous with “lazy, poor, ugly, ashamed, unpopular,…” and therefor “unwanted”.

And that’s where they are very, very wrong. And as long as this stigma doesn’t change, brands won’t follow.


Econommies of scale – why it’s not about extra fabric

“But, isn’t it also because making clothes in plussize is more expensive because you need more fabric?”

Another argument I hear a lot. No, I don’t think so. If this was an important reason, for instance, petite clothes would be cheaper than regular ones (and they are not). But more importantly, you’re forgetting about a very important economic concept: the economies of scale. Economies of scale are a cost advantage whenever you produce a product in larger quantities. Simply put: when you make 100 000 t-shirts, you can produce them (and, as a result, sell them) at a much cheaper cost than if you would make the same t-shirt only 1000 times.

Imagine a brand that sells 3000 t-shirts in sizes Small, Medium and Large, a 1000 pices in each size. If they would add XL and XXL, they would produce 5000 t-shirts. Because the quantity of the production goes up, they would be able to produce the smaller-sizes t-shirts at a lower cost too… So sure, maybe making clothes in a bigger size is a little more expensive because you need a little more fabric, but you could divide those cost over your entire collection, and the cost advantage would cover it. So you see how that’s not really an argument?

Nope, not about fit either. It’s been done before!

“But, if it’s not about more expensive fabric… maybe it’s about fit?”

Good one. I know that a plussize body is more than a “wide” thin body. As your size goes up, proportions change. Plussize clothing often have alterations that flatter a larger body; wider sleeves, for instance. To do this requires knowhow, which costs money, and it’s not commercially interesting anyway to have to change designs within the same collection. I get that. But at the same time, I think the plussize industry has taken this fit issue way too far. It has lead to a fashion industry that operates completely seperate from the straightsize industry, because often plussize retailers will think “well this trend doesn’t work in plussize…”. And again, this would be wrong. There are many, many straightsize styles that suit a fuller body just fine. I don’t need everything to be shapeless and boxy and covering.

Don’t feel like reading everything? I feel ya, just read this!

Conclusion? I don’t think all brands should go up to size infinity. But I do think brands could benefit a lot from going up 2-3 sizes. In the current reality of the society we live in, it makes no sense to exclude sizes 46 and 48 from a mainstream collection. And the fact that this happens, that brands still think plussize women are uninteresting and uninterested, maked me really mad.

What do you think about this issue? I’d love to hear from you!