Designing clothes for plus size women
Here’s a question from my mail that is guaranteed to generate a wide variety of opinions and maybe even responses:
My name is Bernadette, I am doing some research into plus-size fashions (UK 16 – 26), and was wondering if you could help me with a query I have.
My question is this- when designing clothes for the fuller figured woman, are there any special considerations which have to be given to either the design, or the fabrics because of the more voluptuous, less sleek body shape? FOr example, do the materials need slight reinforcing at the seams? Are there materials which probably should not be used?
Plus sized apparel is worlds away from what it used to be, the sky’s the limit. New niches are carved out everyday so none of the old rules work anymore. For example, it was once held that you couldn’t sell intentionally tight fitting garments but what of the active fitness market? It’s probably the fastest growing segment of plus sized apparel. Most women want to look nice working out, having a cute outfit in flattering colors is a great fitness motivator regardless of your weight.
As far as seam integrity, do you all think that matters as much as it once did? Provided seams are solid and the garments are well constructed I don’t think overweight women are more inclined than any other consumer group to rip out seams. I suspect the former could be a residual artifact of cultural passive aggressive fat bashing. Droves of thin women wear their clothing too tight. This is just my observation but I haven’t noticed that heavy women tend to wear their clothing tighter than average sized people, popping seams but I’ve been wrong often enough before.
I think product type and line focus are key determinants which are true of any product line. Some women say overweight women need to be better groomed and coordinated than women of normal weight, that they need crisp lines to even out roundness. I would think there’s some truth to that for professional attire but you’d easily find exceptions too so no one can make firm pronouncements either way. My personal interest is limited to the challenge of pattern design. There’s even greater disparity among body shapes as people deviate from the mean. Some women get thicker in the middle, some get larger arms, some larger hips, the end result being that while you target a plus size consumer, you can never fit or please all of them anymore than you could please the average sized consumer along similar constraints.
Feel free to add your two cents.