Where Have all the Plus Size Stores Gone?

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?


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.

Catherine Brock

Owner and Editor at The Budget Fashionista
As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.
Catherine Brock