Designing Plus Size Clothing
Originally posted May 18 2022
Some of you might remember that I attempted plus sizes for Spring 2020... and then Spring 2020 was canceled and I vowed to try again when the pandemic was over. I decided this is the season. I want to share my thoughts and the hiccups I've experienced along the way!
First of all, folks, I shot myself in the foot. I decided to expand the size range too late. I didn't have time to make plus size samples for my photo shoot and had to do a later, less extravagant shoot with a curve model. Secondly, I produced all of my "straight size" inventory first and ran out of some gauze colors before I produced the plus size inventory. I feel like I'm mistreating that segment of customers. A mistake I won't make again.
Also, did you know that most brands split their straight and plus size ranges? This is so dumb and confusing. They will list sizes up to XS through XL, then offer plus sizes starting with 1XL, 2XL etc. where 1XL is a size larger than XL. Nonsense. I hate it. I decided to take a cue from Girlfriend Collective and nix the 1XL for a continuous size range. I like the way they do size inclusivity (even if I'm not crazy about their fiber content!)
Then here's my next hurdle: Plus Size is a completely different customer base. I have to completely re-brand, almost like I'm going into Menswear or Maternity, you know what I mean? Folks who wear plus size clothes are so used to being underserved that they're not even looking at me. This is the same problem that store owners face, and the reason that many stores aren't making the leap into plus. It's an enormous buy-in, doubling the stock they normally carry, and slow sales on those garments because their regular customer base is already being served! I was chatting with a store owner who is really happy I'm taking the leap but won't make it for his store. He pointed out that he's carried some designers for years, built strong relationships between those designers and his customers, and the majority of those designers don't offer plus sizes. He couldn't have a rack of straight-size clothes next to a completely different rack of plus!
So we're stuck in a chicken-vs-egg predicament. Which is exasperating and silly because I wear Wulfka size XL, roughly a size 14-16, which is the AVERAGE woman's size in the US, and there are many stores that I can't shop! I only know of one independent boutique that sells Plus--Z Boutique in Madison--but their price range is too low to carry me. There doesn't seem to be an established Plus Size Independent Designer market that I can tap into. So for now I'm going to continue selling online and at markets. I've just reached out to a couple plus-size bloggers and I'm learning to target ads on Instagram!
Anyway, I just wanted to give you a little glimpse behind the curtain. If you have experience or special insights I'd love the feedback. Otherwise just know that I'm over here learning, experimenting, and trying to be better every day!