Why existing manufacturers don’t add plus sizes

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Aug 1, 2010 at 11:48 am / Fit and Sizing / Trackback

Nothing drags out confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance more efficiently than a discussion of plus size apparel. Examples:

1. Manufacturers are greedy and will do anything for a buck.
2. Manufacturers must not want my money if they won’t make clothes I want to buy.

1. Manufacturers don’t care about me, they don’t care how I feel.
2. Manufacturers are trying to make me feel better by putting smaller size labels in clothes.

1. Manufacturers don’t want to see fat people in their clothes because it devalues their brand.
2. Manufacturers enjoy making fat people look ridiculous… [which devalues their brand]

Think people, there’s more than the obvious at work.

Fact: fit and sizing has gone in the toilet across the board for everybody. Problem is, fat people are taking it personally. They only see how it affects them but not everyone else (confirmation bias). Which is not to say that it doesn’t take time for the market to catch up with the rapid increase in obesity. There’s a whole lot of companies doing it now but it’ll take time for their enterprises to grow. You can help by actively looking for them and buying from them. Sure, not all will appeal to you but thinner people have the same problems. It’s not just you. It’s not personal.

Manufacturing is more complex than people think. People reason that manufacturers already have staffing, fabric and sewing machines so it must be personal reasons that keep them from pursuing a plus size line. Adding a plus size line means adding a whole new division. It’s an additional line with costs unique to it. It’s not a simple matter of turning a 14 into a 16, 18 and a 20 etc. It’s better if a line starts out as plus size. Their costs and risks are limited to one product line. It has nothing to do with plus sizes per se, these are the costs and obstacles that existing manufacturers have to absorb for a petite line too. The amount of fabric going into something is minimal, it’s everything else that costs. Want to know what those are? Okay, here’s a run down of costs and barriers to adding on a new product line for an existing manufacturer, most of which are as applicable to petites as they are to plus sizes:

Hiring a new designer with experience in plus petite size apparel because as you know, you can’t take regular clothes, size them down up and expect the details to scale without looking ridiculous. You need a specialist.

You need a different pattern maker who is attenuated to the specialized needs of this market and product. It’s not the cost of fabric, it’s things like styling and range of motion. Getting in and out of clothing and having it perform reasonably well requires sensitivity and engineering skills more typical of other populations with limited range of motion (the disabled and elderly). There aren’t a lot of plus size or elderly population pattern makers. It takes time for the need of these skills to be realized before they can be developed into hard skill sets. Perhaps a whole generation’s worth of time. Most young girls in design school don’t want to be pattern makers much less plus size ones. Haranguing young design students will be more effective than going after people who have established customers that keep them busy.

You need a plus size fit model and dress forms because as people gain weight, the variations of how they gain it dramatically increases. Even within plus sizes, picking one model versus another is still going to eliminate given segments. Yes, people who are height and weight proportionate vary but their differences are smaller; in plus sizes, it’s an order of magnitude. A lot of people said in comments to the NYT article that they didn’t “like that”. I don’t like global warming, drunk drivers or plastic cutlery but that doesn’t make them any less real. See the stats.

You need staffing to create a whole new brand, collateral, advertising, etc that will resonate with the values of the market with the level of investment that is commensurate to the firm’s position in the marketplace. It requires skills more typical of cultural anthropologists lest consumers be offended by an offhand or carelessly considered remark or posture. It’s a heady mine field of politically correct cultural expectations one may know nothing about and careful and compassionate as you are, you’ll still manage to offend someone. Some consumers are offended by the word fat. Some are offended if you avoid it. Since you can’t please everyone or even it seems, hardly anyone, it’s easier to avoid the market entirely. The barrage of criticism -much of it inappropriate, see below- is enough to inspire anyone to leave it to someone else.

Let’s say a company has all the product development and branding ironed out and now it’s time to sell it. A manufacturer cannot call their regular buyer at Penney’s, Saks or Nordstrom’s to say they’ve got this nifty new line. Their buyer doesn’t handle plus sizes, they need a buyer in another department. This means developing a relationship with an entirely new person with constraints and budget limitations the manufacturer knows nothing about.

The manufacturer will need an entirely separate booth at market, it will need to be placed within the plus size segment because plus size buyers aren’t shopping the skinny clothes aisles. This means they need a whole new booth ($10,000-$100,000), pay for the space ($5,000-$20,000), with a doubling of trade show staffs -and all at a time when the product is wholly unproven. Do you know what “unproven” means? It means no store will buy until the line has been shown for as many as three years. This means having to spend double the costs (actually more because you have no infrastructure to re-use from season to season like you can with the existing product line) for a minimum of three years before you can get any traction and that’s assuming you do.

A manufacturer will need a whole new set of sales reps to travel from store to store because they don’t have accounts yet. They must develop a whole new infrastructure of customers they don’t have now. This costs more than servicing their existing accounts (because sales people are visiting established customers) and one can expect the proverbial 19 no’s to 1 yes. And then you have to worry about the credit worthiness of the buyer because they’re an unknown quantity. You don’t know if they pay their bills meaning your factoring and account servicing costs will also increase.

Point is, if you’re an existing manufacturer, launching the new line must be commensurate with the image and costs of your existing product line to do it any justice. It can’t be a red-headed step child because buyers and consumers will know it. At the same time, considering the level of investment you’ve put into it, you need the sales numbers to justify moving forward. If you don’t get enough sales to justify cutting and sewing orders -remember, it’s an unproven line- it’s going to be dropped. If it takes 3-5 years to turn a profit for a start up line with only one product line, it’s not going to be any different for a new division for an established firm. In some ways, it’s a disadvantage because their costs are so much higher than what a start up can get away with. Start ups are expected to run on a shoe string so buyers cut them some slack. That’s why I think it is better to start a plus size line independent of any other and grow it holistically. Since you don’t have the image or expectations of an existing venture in the marketplace to compare it to, your costs and required recoup are lower.

Having a business location, knowing some fabric sources and owning some sewing machines doesn’t save a manufacturer as much money as people think, it’s like starting a whole other company. Sure, there’s some cost savings because you have some relationships (contractors) so you can get it sewn and you know who can sell you the fabric. However, in nearly every other way, it is costlier because you’re starting from scratch. You can’t just cobble on larger sizes. It needs its own fitting profile and patterns. These are a lot of costs to invest that they are not having to invest in their current product lines. And money is tight right now. If manufacturers are looking to cut costs from existing product lines with proven sales, they’re very reluctant to sink money into a huge new product -doubling the size of their firm- considering the risks involved.

Does this mean I think plus size lines are untenable? Hardly. I think it has a tremendous amount of potential. I think the parties best suited to produce plus size lines are plus size people. Who else can understand the needs of customers so well? If people who are height and weight proportionate start clothing lines to serve their needs and aesthetics, why can’t plus size people do it too? Besides, why would you try to force people you think hate you, to design clothes for you? If a waiter spits in my soup, I don’t want him to bring me another bowl. I want another waiter -or another restaurant.

PS. For those visitors who landed here via the Tirade of the DayTM from the blog equivalent of AM talk radio armed with a perseveration for armholes, no, I don’t hate fat people. I used to be one. Armholes are hard for every size body, not just plus sizes.

PPS I have received an unprecedented number of emails and phone calls from manufacturers who vowed to never make plus sizes after witnessing yet more invective from plus sized women. Hit too hard and no one wants to play with you, what sane person welcomes a gratuitously unkind and fractious customer? You’re not buying from them now so you have little to bargain with. Perhaps it’s time to try another strategy -like being nice- or start your own plus sized line. Skinny people start clothing lines for skinny people every day. If you’re not willing to do the work and make the sacrifices you demand of others, you’ve said more than words ever could that plus sized lines aren’t as easy or profitable as everyone seems to think they are.

Related:
What is a size break?
Obesity and prognosticating scarcity
Designing for extreme body types
Size is a matter of opinion?
Is the customer always right?
What if plus sizes made up 80% of the market?
Men’s vs Women’s: Plus size apparel
Designing clothes for plus size women
NASA’s sizing problem
Knits are evil
Vanity sizing: the consumer spending edition
Actually, the entire vanity sizing series.
All fit and sizing articles on this site.

34 Responses to “Why existing manufacturers don’t add plus sizes”

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Kevin Barry
August 1st, 2010
12:48 PM

Fantastic article. There’s nothing I like to see more than an insightful business analysis – especially on a prevalent topic like plus sized clothing. Thank you for this!

Reader
August 1st, 2010
1:10 PM

I posted your correction to the quote attributed to you in the New York Times’s Readers’ Comments section, but I don’t think they posted it.

Jess H.
August 1st, 2010
2:46 PM

The comments on the Jezebel article made me cringe. Further proof that consumers have no idea how a line of clothing is developed, much less a pattern. Those people are one of the main reasons that I run screaming from customer service (in any industry). Great explanation Kathleen, but I have a feeling that most of those who shout loudest are the least likely to bop over here to read it.

Eric H
August 1st, 2010
3:03 PM

Re: jezebel – yikes! Apparently, all opinions are equally valid. It’s the Mike & Kevin approach to expertise: I just recently heard about this issue, I thought about it for a microsecond or so, and I have now determined that everyone else is wrong. I didn’t even have to waste time researching the first 2-3 Google hits. But I don’t have time to exploit my insight into this billion dollar opportunity, I have to watch a manga …

Flavia
August 1st, 2010
3:42 PM

Great article. In my country there has been a big fuss about this topic recently (it all ended up in a law that doesn’t really solves anything, but that’s another story), it was anoying to hear people saying that manufacturers made everything smaller just to save fabric. If we really wanted that, we would all be manufacturing tiny swimsuits…

kathleen
August 1st, 2010
5:32 PM

Flavia, re: the law. I’m not even going to cheat by clicking on your url but I’m going to take a wild guess and say you’re from Argentina. I wrote about that before. Twice.

Adrienne Descloux
August 1st, 2010
6:49 PM

Discrimination in the overweight community leads to in this case a hyper defensive posture about the reasons behind plus size being an under served market. It couldn’t possibly be because it’s a still not mainstream despite growing US waistlines, it has to be because manufacturers and designers have a similarly discriminatory frame of mind.

I’m often reminded that the spacial awareness of making tolerably fitting clothing is not a common skill, and as less and less people practice home economics via sewing over generations they appreciate the skills that go along with it less and less. “It’s easy!” they say, not realizing it’s just a fitted jacket with probably 4 seams on the body and two piece sleeves and by the way I want it as comfortable as a t- shirt. If you can master a square cut t- tunic with welted seams maybe I’ll believe you when you say something is ‘easy’.

Adrienne Descloux
August 1st, 2010
6:50 PM

Rather that should have said “Discrimination *against* the overweight community”.

WendyB
August 1st, 2010
9:38 PM

Nice to hear someone bringing some practical knowledge to this situation!!!

Jennifer
August 2nd, 2010
1:45 AM

This is my favourite, from the comments..

“Armholes for larger women should be deeper and scooped a bit differently than they are for straight sized women. The larger the woman, the deeper the armhole. Why is that so difficult? Companies must be relying on pattern drafting software rather than in-house pattern drafting people. Perhaps there is a lack of pattern drafting software that can properly draft patterns for larger bodies.”

I want this software…

Karl Sakas
August 2nd, 2010
5:19 AM

Thanks for sharing your analysis — sounds like the process is more involved than most people would think. I’ve noticed a similar situation with hardcore model train enthusiasts. Some will complain that a manufacturer’s particular locomotive is missing a handrail that the original had, saying, “It’s just a five cent piece of plastic.” True, but that tiny piece of plastic might require an additional $10,000 mold. It’s not that simple — there’s always a tradeoff.

Marie-Christine
August 2nd, 2010
5:43 AM

I think it’s definitely true that most people don’t realize what small part fabric costs represent in the cost of a finished object.
On the other hand, manufacturers emphasize this notion themselves by using bad fabrics, horrible interfacing, cheap ugly buttons… If they submit us to such indignities, we can only endure them by pretending to ourselves that the costs of good alternatives would be absolutely prohibitive.
And there are many more home sewers than DEs out there – for us fabric costs is a determining factor, since it’s most of our actual costs. Since home sewers seem reasonably well-informed about the fashion industry, by comparison with other consumers, their opinion is more likely to prevail.

Mary
August 2nd, 2010
8:31 AM

It is interesting to compare this discussion with the ones going on in other places in the blogosphere (PR, etc). Thanks for illuminating the *business* of creating clothing. As a petite woman, I sometimes have difficulty finding RTW that is perfectly suited to me, but I never take it personally. But, there is nothing I can do to get taller. Plus size folks are constantly berated for their supposed “flaws”. It is no wonder that this discussion turns sour.

david foster
August 2nd, 2010
8:52 AM

Off-topic: The current Inc magazine ran a long article on how the US can encourage more entrepreneurship…I’d be very interested in thoughts on the proposals from the many entrepreneurs who frequent this site. Link and discussion thread at Chicago Boyz.

[…] the incredible investment and costs of developing another line be it BBW or something else entirely, that’s too much to demand of a manufacturer. It’s […]

CDBehrle
August 2nd, 2010
2:21 PM

…After scanning thru the comments on both the NYTs & Jezebel the vitriol and defensiveness is astounding! As a designer & pattern maker I wish more people had even half a clue about what’s involved with both sewing and fit, and what happens when the body starts hitting the high end of the scale. When I had a shop stocking sizes 2-8, I would get nasty comments that I was being discriminatory, from anyone over a size 10. My response was always – We can custom make that.
(I have had plenty of size 10 to 16 custom clients- all happy- I don’t consider these plus sized though) But… I did a (very) tiny experiment, grading a couple of popular OTR styles up to a 10- adding needed additional at hips, thighs & doing armhole adjustments etc. Didn’t sell one piece! It’s just not my customer….and when I do get the odd request for a size 22 (yes it’s happened) of course the price is prohibitive!
So many of the rants are just blaming the companies, these companies know exactly what they are comfortable taking on and plus sizes obviously isn’t one of them. I so agree with Adrienne here- if it’s so easy to fit – You do it!

Karen Judge
August 2nd, 2010
5:45 PM

Since we’re on the topic, is there anyone here who can draft patterns for 1x, 2x, & 3x? Please feel free to contact me directly.

Penny
August 3rd, 2010
1:27 AM

Well yes, it is of course all about money… and what isn’t? Still I can’t help thinking that manufactures just flat out don’t know what to do with plus size women. I mean they don’t fit into the molds of anything in their programs, including marketing, and sales as you point out. But the bigger question is how do you make a plus size woman look and feel good? For any regular size clothing company this not really their main concern. Their plus size offerings are more of an after-thought, more of a grading issue. But the companies that deal with plus sizing often miss the boat as well. Their styling is still attempting to fit into the seasonal forcast projections of the regular size markets. These colors and styles can be unflattering to a plus size proportion and the fit is often not good. Agreed fit and sizing has gone to the toilet for all sizes.

Cheryl Designs
August 3rd, 2010
2:06 PM

Hi, I haven’t had time to read the entire article. I did read the above comment about the ‘plus size armhole’ issue. I do custom sewing and alterations for a living. I alter ALOT of plus size clothing. The armholes and sleeves are ‘too large’ 90% of the time. Just because you are plus size does NOT mean you are ‘big everywhere’. I regularly taper sleeves and slacks and skirts..AND..recut armholes… Most of my plus-size clients are big in the torso, not necessarily legs and arms also. As far as custom clothing, in my area of Southeastern Ohio, they consider the pricing too high. I don’t charge additional cost for plus sizes. There are additional fittings required. Of course, material costs are higher and I usually need to spend at least an hour on pattern adjustments. You are correct, the obesity fact EXISTS…manufacturers will just ‘catch-up’ with the obesity rate eventually. People must be patient.

dosfashionistas
August 4th, 2010
5:06 PM

I do not want to argue for a minute with the validity of everything Kathleen has said about this subject. However, let me tell you how a sportswear manufacturer (in the 80’s) translated groups from the misses line into plus size successfully.

Every season two groups from the sporty line and two groups from the career line were chosen to be shown in plus sizes. As soon as the groups were picked, the plus size patternmaker (in both senses) met with the merchandise manager for plus sizes to restyle any garments that needed to be reworked for the plus size market. Blouse lengths were longer, fit more forgiving, and anything that had a definite horizental line was right out of there. Sometimes a new jacket would be substituted, maybe using a detail from the misses jacket. Sometimes a detail had to go because it called attention in the wrong place. But essentially the two groups had a single identity; the styling that the designers had put into the misses group was there for the plus size group as well. And for a stodgy Dallas sportswear company, we had some great designers. All garments were tried on one of the best plus size fit models in Dallas at the time. We were known for excellence of fit.

I am trying to analyze this as I write. Misses and plus sizes shared fabric sourcing, trim sourcing, special work design and sourcing (embroidery and whatnot), and design, although the patternmaker had freedom to interpret the design for plus sizes. Merchandising was separate, as was the patternmaker and the sales force. I might add that we also tried doing this with petites for a couple of years with much praise for our line, but could not get enough volume to keep it going.

Like many stodgy Dallas companies, this one is no longer in business. So I would not recommend their business model. But I am reminded of a frequent question my boss would ask me as we looked at the new designs…He would ask me (a plus size), “Just what do plus size women want?” And I would always answer him, “The same fashions that the skinny women want, made to fit and flatter them.”

Sheri Maple
August 6th, 2010
8:14 PM

This is a very good article at explaining the fashion manufacturing process. In economics there is a supply and demand. Currently, the plus size clothing industry is a $47 billion industry. It accounts for 27% of all clothing sales, and 40% of all women and girls apparel sales. There is 1.4% increase of plus size apparel while year after year women’s apparel sales has decrease by a percentage point. There is a demand for plus size clothing that’s fitted and fashionable, and the manufacturers may not have a choice but to spend the time on fit. Actually, manufacturers will do not spend that much time on fit in the first place. I know no woman who is happy with trying on clothes at the store and does not like the fit. I think we placed too much focus on the number size and concentrate on fit. Women have curves whether she is a size 6 or 26

kathleen
August 7th, 2010
8:03 AM

Hi Sheri. I understand supply and demand; conveniently enough, I majored in economics. Because I write about econ a great deal, I think your points bear some clarifications.

Using the statistics you provided, plus sizes account for 27% of sales, 40% of which are comprised of women’s and girls sales specifically. The omitted statistic is that 30% of women are plus sized. Based on the numbers, if 30% of the market is purchasing 40% of goods, plus sized women are getting 10% more than their due allotment of product. I infer from your comment that you don’t feel this is sufficient. Call it a matter of opinion but it seems very fair to me, generous even.

Then you say “Actually, manufacturers [will] do not spend that much time on fit in the first place” but I don’t know how it is you come to this conclusion. The only party in a position to know that -truly- is the pattern maker. I’m a pattern maker. This isn’t something I would say because even with nearly 3 decades doing it, I would not, could not know if it were true of other firms I have no experience with. I can only tell you that in my experience, manufacturers spend a tremendous amount of time and money on fit. That their results do not mirror your expectations is another thing entirely but it does not hold that they don’t do it or do enough of it.

I likewise know many women who are dissatisfied with fit who are not obese. I’m one of them. What the plus size community cannot seem to understand is that this is not personal, you’re not the odd man out. You’re not the only one who is unhappy about fit and I don’t understand why one group feels entitled to push their way to the head of the fit-complaint line in front of everyone else -particularly if (using your statistics) they comprise only 30% of the market but they’re getting 40% of the available product. Perhaps following a few of the links I left in this entry would flesh out the problem so you can understand what I mean, particularly this one.

I don’t understand the conclusion of what you are trying to say when you wrote “I think we placed too much focus on the number size and concentrate on fit.” In the context of my experience, we pay far less attention to numbers and a great deal more on fit. At this level, numbers are nothing if not a sorting mechanism. You know, like you put all the small sized spoons in with the other small spoons etc. If there is an attachment to size numbers, it’s better described as a consumer’s relationship to them. For us, they are but a part of the spectrum of the product we put out in a range to suit our target customers.

I do not think a tire manufacturer has a “relationship” to the various sizes of tires they put out. I do not think they place value judgments on the size of each of them. I think they are far more consumed with engineering to specification for safety and fitting the bead to rim etc. They sell them by size because retailers sell them that way but I doubt a tire manufacturer holds arbitrary emotional values as to the inherent superiority or inferiority of a given sized tire within the range of product sizes they sell. I cannot fathom why people persist in projecting their personal values onto other people who may not feel that way at all. I would never presume I could possibly know that.

Then you said: “Women have curves whether she is a size 6 or 26″ but this is true of men, actually all humans because we are not rectangular boxes. I propose an analogy. Compare if you will the curved lines of a hot air balloon. Its pattern pieces are undoubtedly curved. Much longer and gradual curves -in some places even appearing straight- but curved nonetheless. Now compare those pieces to those of a soccer ball. The pieces of the smaller globe are much much curvier than those of the hot air balloon. My point being that from a technical standpoint, smaller figures no matter how slender are much curvier than large figures, the latter being much straighter comparatively. From a technical standpoint it is much more difficult to graft curvature onto a plus sized figure to reflect the myriad demands of the spectrum of plus sized consumers who are shaped wholly different from one another, than it is to draft curvature onto small figures. It’s an engineering problem, not an emotional one. It’s not personal.

If the goal of the plus sized community is to berate, belittle, insult and ignore the responses from the manufacturing community (to your credit you did not but it’s an accurate generalization), their efforts have been a rousing success. I congratulate them for having been heard. Unfortunately, I don’t think the effort generated the anticipated results. Capital is a coward, any sane person is going to keep as much distance between discord and themselves as is possible, conflict is risky. Would you willingly walk into the middle of a bar fight? I think not, you’d leave as quickly as possible because you’d risk getting hurt. I have never gotten as many emails from manufacturers vowing to avoid making plus sizes as I have this week.

When the plus sized community is ready to move beyond discord to find mutually beneficial results, I suggest starting with this entry.

Sheri Maple
August 7th, 2010
8:42 AM

Hi Kathleen:

The information came from Forbes online pertaining to research conducted by market research dot com. The plus size market is $47 billion a year business. There is a demand, but the article also stated that the plus size is a difficult market to get into because of the reasons you have stated. I do not disagree with you, but I do realize the paradox both arguments are true. Men do have different shapes, but they are willing to get their clothes alter while a lot of women are not willing to do so because of imagine perceptions of themselves. I certainly do mean buying a pair of pants and having the waist taken in because they never fit, so I end up just making my own clothes. I have to spend that much trying on clothes and having them altered, then I might as well make them myself. Businesses always start with the premise based upon a need. Verg Wang started her business because she could not find I wedding dress she liked. Donna Karan started her business because she could not find anything to wear. I believe in innovation and taking risks because those are the things that can make great businesses, and the most important part of the equation is the consumers and meeting their needs. I am going to read that article.

Sheri Maple
August 7th, 2010
9:05 AM

Hi Kathleen:

I just read the Forgotten Market Online: Older Women, and it’s another good article about advertisers ignoring a demographics that just may save them. This information will prove useful to my associates at work, salespeople who sell radio and web underwriting for a public radio station. there are ideas within this conversation to create business opportunities. I love this conversation.

Tami
August 22nd, 2010
7:22 PM

Great article Kathleen! Many years ago I used to be a swimwear designer and made a lot of private label lines for companies like Wal-Mart.

At one point Wal-Mart wanted us to add two junior plus sizes to our junior separates line. Our fit model couldn’t help out .. grading the existing patterns up wouldn’t help.

Fortunately Wal-Mart provided their measurements for the two junior plus sizes and being plus size myself, I was able to match one of them. Oh the horror of having to fit swimwear in those conditions. LOL

Thankfully my patternmaker and I were able to do this in privacy and we made the line. Otherwise I would have lost a lot of time trying to hire a temporary fit model to meet those specs. We didn’t even have a junior plus size dressform in the building. As I recall we didn’t have cups in the tops, just lining or darted foam, so we didn’t have to source different materials. It was an experiment to see if those extra two sizes would sell on the same rack as the regular junior sizes.

I agree that it’s not an easy issue. Especially since there are many women’s shapes and they get more pronounced in the plus sizes – apples, pears, etc. I rarely find anything at the plus size retail shops that don’t have some fit issue for me. But how many SKUs can we expect a store to carry and still make a profit?

Reader
November 7th, 2010
5:37 PM

The reason ordinary people think fabric cost is key is because that’s what fashion mags tell them.

[…] should expand their offerings to include more plus sizes. That is easier said than done -and a topic for another day. One could also suggest that manufacturers should improve sizing and fit and increase product […]

Dorez Douglas
April 10th, 2011
5:55 PM

Hello Kathleen,
OMG! You have no idea how happy I am to read this article (about the plus-size industry).
My daughter is full-figured and decided to become a designer. She has also been a pattern maker. So she knows that everything you’re saying is true. She and I are now working together to build a plus-size manufacturing company (Annalogy). We’ve been through exactly what you’re talking about. I’m sure most plus-size women have no idea what’s involved in the development and production process. That’s why I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to write such a detailed article. I hope it will enlighten the plus-size community and that they will start being more supportive of unknown designers.
Thanks!

Lisa J
November 3rd, 2011
3:14 AM

Please PLEASE explain to me why lines that sell the exact same clothes in a 6 to a 20 charge more for the 16-20. In my example it is the exact same style and brand (pinup style clothing which tend to fit plus sizes well).
PLEASE help me understand as I find it entirely perplexing!

sfriedberg
November 3rd, 2011
11:36 AM

Lisa, I suspect that smaller volumes and larger fabric requirements account for part of it. It may also be that marker utilization is significantly lower (i.e., waste is higher) because the larger garment pieces don’t fit as well on standard width rolls for fabric. (That’s certainly true for oversize men’s clothing.)

Besides aspect of increased production cost, there may also be marketing (“because we can”) factors at work.

[…] by a recent comment: Please explain to me why lines that sell the exact same clothes in a 6 to a 20 charge more for the […]

Kathleen Fasanella
November 3rd, 2011
6:46 PM

Lisa: An in depth answer to your question is here.

mjz
November 4th, 2011
3:29 PM

I’ve sewn for myself all the way from petite to OMG sizes. The fit issues exaggerate as you get larger.

Adding 1 inch for a bubble butt becomes adding 6 inches. I have no bust, and once that meant that RTW was 1 inch too big for me. Now, “standard, balanced” plus sizes have enough bust to hold me – and half a cantaloupe extra.

Now, pants must be cut with more ease so I can actually walk and sit. (A snug thigh prevents either.) Sleeveless styles are out, which adds fabric, fit and style constraints.

Kathleen is absolutely correct that plus lines are best developed by plus people, because my skinny friends have NO idea of these issues.

But, sadly, if you look at any high school student body, you know those designers and manufacturers and marketers are coming soon.

Jade
June 24th, 2013
5:07 PM

This was an interesting article about fit issues. I am a straddler in terms of size, and I also have an “unusual” shape. I am basically an busty pear with a short torso. I wear between a 14/16 and carry extra weight in my lower tummy and thighs. I get the combo of gapping in the waist/butt + gapping in the bust since I have a large size difference between my ribccage size and bust. I’d be really happy if clothing was labeled with th info on the body type of the fit model: pear, apple, hourglass, ruler, etc.

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