July 10, 2014

The Fashion Curve

The plus size clothing sector is seeing some serious growth as of late. While traditional plus size specialty stores like Evans and Lane Bryant have been around for almost a century, most of the current boom can be credited to cutting edge retailers like Modcloth, ASOS, and Forever 21 who have expanded their offerings to include a more diverse size range. This market shift suggests that no matter what a customer's shape or size is, they still demand clothing that is on trend and makes them look and feel good.

photo via Buzzfeed

Modcloth, which has doubled the size of its plus size business since June 2013, recently hired Paradigm Sample to conduct a survey concluding that more US women wear a size 16 than 0, 2, and 4 combined. According to an article from the Associated Press, "The average American woman is about 25 pounds heavier than she was in 1960. Yet women's plus size clothing, generally defined as size 14 and up, still makes up only 9 percent of the $190 billion spent annually on clothes." This is major and explains why overall sales on plus size apparel has increased by about 5% and over a billion dollars from just last year, with most of that coming from the baby boomer generation.

photo via Refinery29

The popular and super trendy Aussie plus size brand, City Chic is coming to the US with six new stores openings in California. Kicking off on August 1st, the first will open its doors in Culver City with the rest launching throughout the end of September. Currently they ship internationally and are available at select Nordstrom stores as well as online, but their official brick and mortar entrance into the US will mark a major accomplishment for the specialty plus sized retailer.

photo via Nicolette Mason

However, it doesn't end at retail. Today we have magazines like Full Blossom as well as a plethora of famed blogs like GabiFresh, Girl With Curves, and Nicolette Mason aimed to fight stereotypes and inspire women to embrace their bodies. Not to mention, full figured fashion has spread across mainstream media sites like Refinery29 and Marie Claire pinpointing key trends, fashion tips, and advice articles. These companies are finally opening their eyes to reality and understanding their audience goes beyond sizes 0-12.

photo via Huffington Post

If you remember correctly, Rick Owens made fashion history almost a year ago when he replaced traditional models with a step dance team, whom were of a variety of shapes, sizes, and races. Then in February during London Fashion Week the second annual British Plus-Size Fashion Weekend (BPSFW) launched as well, which is specifically aimed towards size 14 and up. While the event is not actually affiliated with LFW, it is a huge leap for promoting positive body image and the beauty of diversity.

photo via Redbook Mag

Despite, things are still trickier in regards to the luxury market with very few high-end brands designing for above size 14. Actress Melissa McCarthy caused some controversy during an interview in June's issue of Redbook over her troubles finding a gown to wear to the Oscars explaining, "I couldn't find anyone to do a dress for me." And now due to her first hand struggles as well as her background in clothing and textiles, she's collaborating on her very own line called Pearl to help fuller sized women feel good about themselves.

While the high-end market may have some catching up to do, there's no getting around the potential of plus size apparel. With the help of technology and the internet, full figured women finally have access to brands that sell clothing fit for their body types without having to sacrifice their style in the process. As mid-market retailers continue to make it a priority, we will see more brands expand size selections, support diverse body types, drop stereotypes, and most importantly, challenge the current pressures of the fashion industry to reflect what real women look like.

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