Plus-size clothing: the real women behind the revolution

By Kaye Foley

Women come in all shapes and sizes. And the fashion world has started to get in alignment with reality, from the runway and magazines pages to store shelves. Although there’s still a lot further to go, the business of plus-size is on the rise.

Plus-size retail sales grew by 5 percent from May 2013 to April 2014. But while the entire women’s apparel market is about $105 billion that’s sold in the U.S. in the course of a year, according to Marshal Cohen, analyst at the NPD Group, plus-size sales make up only $17 billion of that.

“A lot of mainstream designers stop at a size 10 or 12,” said Hey Gorgeous! co-founder Aimee Cheshire. “I am building a business that addresses this customer. I want to create options for them.”

With a majority of American women wearing a size 12 or 14, investors are taking a look at this underserved market. In recent years, new brands as well as existing brands have put money behind regaining the curvier customer. From Target to Forever 21 to Boohoo to ASOS, companies have extended their sizes and started plus-size lines.

The focus isn’t just on more options, but better options. Retailers and designers are putting renewed effort into turning up the trendy and giving their customers the styles they crave, especially online websites like Hey Gorgeous!, Eloquii and Addition Elle. Even celebrities are coming into the fold with the launch of Melissa McCarthy’s line Seven7 and Rebel Wilson’s collection for Torrid.

Real women have propelled the voice of the plus-size community forward. Bloggers have taken to social media to showcase the styles they like and demand to be heard when they feel ignored by the mainstream fashion industry.

Nadia Aboulhosn, popular blogger, designer and model said, “I feel like bloggers have such a heavy influence because we are there on a daily basis for them, to bring them new content, and inspire them and share our own stories.”

And it’s not just about clothes.

Ashley Hoffman, senior editor of Runway Riot — formerly Styleite, the new fashion and beauty site for curvier women launches mid-November — said, “I think that body acceptance on the Internet is really what brings it to the forefront for businesses.”

With campaigns like Lane Bryant’s “Plus Is Equal,the plus-size model coalition, ALDA, and of course the bloggers, body positivity and acceptance are at the forefront of this cultural movement.

As plus-size fit model Tricia Campbell put it, “We want to be a part of the whole fashion industry. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it is. It’s style, it’s fashion. Everybody wants to look great, feel good, wear the latest. That’s what it’s all about.”


Tricia Campbell, plus-size fashion model.