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Why I think plus size fashion does need high end designers

I just finished reading Kara Brown's short-n-sweet missive against yet another round of bullshittery from the fashion industry regarding plus size consumers. She asks "how exactly can plus-size consumers prove they will or won't buy designer collections if no one is making them in the first place?" And I'm right with her.

But one thing the article and comments don't bring up (at least so far as I could see) is that unfortunately, plus size fashion does need high end designers in its corner. And not just one or two talented oddballs who got funding on Kickstarter — what we need are Marc Jacob, Badgley Mischka, Chloé and their ilk to start making plus size garments. Here's why:

Everyone wants to be able to buy an attractive piece of plus size clothing at a middle-to-low price range in a brick and mortar. At least that's what the comments on Kara Brown's post lead me to believe... plus, personally, it's what I'd like. The thing is, retailers like Target, Forever 21, H&M, and even Lane Bryant — a store with clothes purportedly for plus size women specifically — don't really design that many of their wares. Even when those retailers bring in outside designers, those designers are typically recycling their own established trends (see: existing designs). Stores like Forever 21 and H&M have entire business plans based around recreating successful design trends at low price points; these are not design houses creating new ideas.


And that's okay. Honestly, I genuinely don't mean to lambast these retailers (that's kind of the whole point of this post, actually). At the same time, plus size women don't want to and shouldn't have to only buy really expensive clothing. That's totally unrealistic for such a large segment of the population of varying means. On that point, I agree with the commentariat.

The problem is with the high end designers, but not for the more obvious-seeming reason that plus size women want to buy their clothes. The reason that an "average" plus size woman who might not, as Kara's quoted anonymous plus-size blogger puts it, buy into Marc by Marc Jacobs let along Marc Jacobs™ still needs him to be designing for her is because the lower end retailers she wants to shop at need to use Marc as inspiration.

I firmly believe this phenomenon is why so much plus size mass market clothing sucks giant donkey balls. A premium designer helps to set trends; she designs for the body so that her work looks good and sells to an extremely discerning clientele. Then, mass market retailers "design" in order to make a profit on trends established by higher-end designers. But designs created for straight size bodies don't normally translate seamlessly into the plus size realm. A pattern-maker at Target doesn't have the time (or the pay grade) to be figuring out ways to integrate plus sizes into fashion meant explicitly for straight sizes. And if we're honest, not just straight sizes, but a small subset of straight sizes.

If high end, upper echelon designers started truly designing plus size garments, they wouldn't recycle their cuts from straight sizes onto plus size women. They'd reuse concepts, sure, but the cuts and fabric choices would reflect their customer's body type and that would lead to better clothes. Then, the retailers that create mass market fashion could take the lead from there, using the premium designer's work as inspiration, as they always do.


I don't have an answer for how to make any of this happen, and I don't see it happening any time soon. I just don't think in discussions about getting wearable, attractive plus size fashions to the "everywoman" we should be letting premium designers off the hook. They set trends and we need trends to be set that include us.

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