Fashion Advice: Where has all the Plus Size Gone?

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Dear Budget Fashionista,

What’s happening to large size fashion?  It’s becoming harder and harder to find “nice” brands of large size clothes, particularly at a bargain. Is this a trend? The new, West Coast “flagship” Bloomingdale’s opened in downtown San Francisco with NO women sizes above 14!  And the 14s are few and far between.  What’s the rationale?

Answer:

The shrinking size of plus size departments at your favorite stores has to do both with money and the “image” the store is trying to project. I’ve been told by “plus size experts” that, and I quote, “plus size women don’t like to spend any money on their clothes.”  Whether this is true or not is debatable, but what I do know is that many stores want to compete for the younger audience that worships starving celebs like Nicole Ritchie and feel that having stylish plus size collections would deter this customer from shopping at the store.

Therefore, many stores have not only removed or limited their plus size sections, but also their petite and Misses sections as well. Bloomingdales’ flagship store in Manhattan, recently consolidated it’s contemporary (cheaper) misses collection to one floor- when it used to be spread among two and increased the size of it’s YES collection focusing on teens.

Another important thing to remember is that lines rarely diffuse down. This means lines rarely start at the low-priced, budget level and then try to do a higher end line. Think of the most successful, budget friendly designer lines (Isaac Mizrahi at Target, H&M designers collections, Go International). All of them started off as very pricey high end collections.

The issue is, according to my friends in the fashion business, that in order to have the fabulous budget plus size discount collections, you have to first support the higher end collections. These friends have a whole list of plus size lines that failed because plus size fashionistas didn’t go and buy them. For example, DKNY had a wonderful plus size line that was carried at Bloomingdales and Saks, that no longer exists for many reasons, one being that it didn’t sell until it was on sale. Now, I think this is bit one sided because I also know that the stores put $0 marketing dollars behind their plus size departments (like they do their petite departments).

So what does this mean for the bargain plus size fashionista? Well…if department stores aren’t buying the collections (for whatever reason), then there’s no overstock or leftover pieces from a season to put on sale/clearance, and no deals to get.  Which is sad because there are some truly fabulous, albeit expensive, plus size designers out there like Monifc, Elena Miro, and Kiyonna, who should be carried in department stores nationwide.

My main advice would be to do what the petite size sisters did when Saks chucked its petite department. They got organized, wrote letters, and most importantly, when the department got reinstated, they went in and spent their money.  The latter is the most important thing. There’s also stores like Marianne’s, Ashley Stewart, and even Lane Bryant. These are great for budget weekend wear, but not the best quality.

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  • Sarah

    Wow! Whats up with the comments above being formatted funny? Looks like your post doesnt accept apostrophes. Anyways I strongly agree with you…Monif C is the best of the best, and I wish more people knew about their store. 🙂

  • heather

    I shop at goodwill… I am serious, until these A-hole retailers make clothing that is nice and stylish for ALL women…I will not spend my money in a place where all I am able to buy is accesories, these people can go F—- themselfs!

    it’s just one more way that Fat girls are made to be the last bias in the world by a buch of abusive jack ass’s

  • BeautyIsntANumber

    First off, I’d like to say that I am yet another pissed off plus sized shopper. I am not only plus sized, but a petite 5’1 and 22-24WP in pants. I am only so large in tops due to my bust. I cannot even find my bra size in most “plus-sized” catering stores. I am a 48c-50c. Most don’t seem to consider them sizes and so I am stuck shopping for the “cheap” stuff at Target and when I can get it on sale at JCPenny, then I will go there. I am on a very tight clothes budget and have to get clothes that will last me several months to a year, if not longer. I am on SSI and can only budget about $200-$250 (maybe $300) for clothes and that includes the specialty shoes that I wear for my 6 1/2 extra-wide/double-wide feet which I cannot find at the in-store boutiques and so I have to shell out the money to get multi-functional shoes at Easy Spirit and/or other specialty store. I know I am getting off topic a little by complaining about shoes, but I am sick and tired about the lack of specialty clothing there is out there for everyone, whether it’s shoes, bras, etc.

    I am 22 and wish that there wasn’t so much “Grandma-ish” stuff out on the market of good and low-priced quality so I had clothes to wear when I wanted stuff to hang out and relax in/wear around campus. I also wish that the dress/office/formal attire didn’t appear to appeal to people over 30 (if not older), so I could actually find office work I like because I am currently doing clerical work in an office setting and need some stuff for that.

    I loathe Lane Bryant and don’t like the hype about how good it is. All the stuff I have bought there was a waste of money and fell apart in a week and the staff was horrid and would refuse to refund it and the manager wouldn’t deal with it. I was in no position to waste the money I did on that mid-ranged shite. In my opinion, it’s an over priced Target!

    I have some great tops that I got for a !steal! at The Women’s Dress Barn, about a year ago when they were having a sale for I believe 3 shirts for $10. They were solid colored and the one’s I got were black and navy, which were fine, but the only annoying thing was that they had that white “square” of fabric that is sewn in to cover the low-dipping v-necks and since those are so large they will stain easily. However, they and all the other tops I got there, except the two ugly rhinestone tops that I happily grew out of. Also, Women’s Dress Barn has a lot of lovely plus sized dresses and most of their clothing, even though what’s on the rack is what you get, is wonderful and even if you’re a teen who’s “skeptical” about trying a store like that which they might consider “old lady-ish”, I highly recommend it, especially for formal wear/dresses for prom, weddings, etc. for plus sizes or petites for a “!steal!”. I got a couple of good dresses on their dress sale which was also going on the same day as the shirt sale, buy two of a certain price range, (I think it was a total of $40 or more) and get 10% off. That sale included the prices they were already marked down to of about $25-$30 from the typical $30-$40+ per dress, in the low-end price, but still excellent quality ranges. If you want the best stuff from The Woman’s Dress Barn, however shop as soon as they get their new shipment in because that’s usually when the deals will be and the most items will be out that you may be interested in. Another tip, check their online catalog before you go to the store because they have one of those things where if you type in your zip code it will tell you which store has an item you are interested in currently has it in stock. Another thing to remember about The Woman’s Dress Barn doesn’t carry intimates (underwear and bras, PJ’s, robes, etc, but it does carry socks and knee-highs and tights, usually not in many patterns, but more like nylon stocking type that you might not be able to find in the sizes that you can pick up at CVS. Remember, The Woman’s Dress Barn and not its Dress Barn counterpart carries plus sizes. Both, however carry regular women’s sizes, though and I believe that’s 14 and under for the “regular” sizes and 14 and up for the “plus” sizes. Also, the Dress Barn caters to men and has other home goods, such as bedding. They also usually have outrageously good sales going on at least 5 times a month and on top of that have exceptionally low-prices everyday on most items, better than I have seen at most plus sized stores and if you have sensitive skin, like I do, to the point where you can only handle cotton/cotton-polyester mix(es) they have a larger assortment of that in plus sizes for low-cost/high-quality and all types of wear you could want, whether it’s formal or casual, their athletic/sweats selection, however isn’t so large and I would recommend not have as much of a recommendation for you, for I hardly wear them, except in winter sometimes. I don’t like to hide behind the bulkiness of them and am happy with my body.

    Remember, beauty isn’t a number. It isn’t defined by whether we are 5’10 and a starving size 0, 60lbs or less stick, but by who we are and all we do. We shouldn’t let anyone or anything, whether it be the fashion industry(ies), our friends, colleagues, the world that tells us big isn’t beautiful to stop us from flaunting what we have. We must remember for ourselves and show them, that behind the “plush” there are strong women, with strong bodies, hearts, minds, souls and spirits and that they cannot destroy us by telling us how they think we should be and that we are just as strong, if not stronger than what they try to make us view, see, hear and/or believe ever day about how wrong it is to love our wonderful curves. Stay strong and push past the hype and show them that we are more than what they see.

  • Every one of my Plus Sized friends love to shop, and shop more than my “regular sized” friends. Personally, I rarely shop in department stores, or popular plus sized stores because I love color, I’m not afraid to show skin, and I don’t want to look 15 years older than what I am. Even the “designer” clothes (with the exception of a few like Jessica Simpson–whose line i LOVE) are just tacky. Every time I look on Macy’s website I want to slap Jay-z (rocawear) and Kimora (baby phat). Seriously: don’t make clothes that you wouldn’t be caught dead in, Kimora, and Jayz, I don’t want to wear cross color reminiscent clothing with a big tacky R.

    I rather shop online. Mainly, UK based stores because there clothes are way better.

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