Home Beauty The Not-So-Secret Bigotry In Plus Sized Fashion

The Not-So-Secret Bigotry In Plus Sized Fashion

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I don’t really know where to begin with this, so I’m going to just jump right in.

I remember how difficult it was to buy clothes that were appealing for women who were my size. It was rare that I could find something good in a nice department store – forget about your more upscale spots and boutiques – and was often relegated to the few stores that vanity sized up enough to cover women shaped like me without telling all of their customers that they catered to women like me.

And that, my friend, is the problem.

I happened to check out this write-up on Racked that said the following:

Maybe you heard about Saks Fifth Avenue’s plan to mix plus-sized designer offerings into the racks of their hallowed third floor […] Maybe you also heard that Jezebel’s attempts to get a comment on this little nugget from Saks and/or a handful of the labels were pretty much in vain.

Here’s the part you might not have heard, though, at least if you haven’t spent years paying attention to designer sizing: Chanel and cohorts have been selling plus-sized clothing for a very long time, and it makes them a lot of money.


Before then, skinny young bitches didn’t even want Chanel. When they finally did, they couldn’t afford it. And, frankly, most can’t afford it now. By the time they will be able to afford Chanel or Kors or Cavalli (or marry someone who can—just sayin’), they’re not going to be so young. And they’re very likely not going to be so skinny either.

That said: These labels have been producing plus-sized garments for years. Could you imagine if Valentino, Armani, Carolina Herrera, Escada, Donna Karan and Max Mara didn’t make 12s, or 14s, or 16s? They’d be dunzo; those charity-gala-ladies-who-lunch-museum-board-members-who-“winter”-and-“summer” make up a pretty big chunk of their markets.

The issue here isn’t the fact that these clothes are being made—they very much are. It’s finding those clothes, and that one of the foremost department stores in the world is going to be stocking them alongside smaller sizes in a flagship department. And given their market, they probably don’t want to advertise it. We’re talking about women who treasure discretion and quality over jewel-crusted monogramming and, frankly, don’t want their sizes—let alone their style and their access to such styles—bouncing around the internet.

While I think this is a pretty frank take on the matter… I think that very last line is where Racked gets it horribly wrong.

We’re talking about women who treasure discretion and quality over jewel-crusted monogramming and, frankly, don’t want their sizes—let alone their style and their access to such styles—bouncing around the internet.

Trust me… that has nothing to do with why the likes of Saks and Co. wouldn’t dare advertise that they serve the plus sized community. I’ll get back to this in a minute.

From The Plus Size Wars:

In April, Lane Bryant broadcast its first television ad for its lingerie line, Cacique. A bosomy, heavy-set model parades around a bedroom dressed first in a bright blue teddy and then a series of bra-and-panty sets. Settling on some lacy underwear in fuchsia, she checks the smartphone on her vanity table and takes note of a calendar reminder that says, “Lunch with Dan.” Who is Dan? Apparently not her accountant — she merely throws on a short black trench coat and walks out the door.

Lane Bryant bought air time during “American Idol” on Fox and hoped for a similar showcase on ABC (which it never got). When Fox requested edits, the company charged that it was the victim of size prejudice. “Yes, these are the same networks that have scantily clad housewives so desperate they seduce every man on the block,” a Lane Bryant press release stated.

Believe me, those networks know their market. They know their viewers don’t want to see some big fat girl parading around in her panties… and they certainly don’t want to think about her getting laid. [insert eyeroll]

Pardon me for the sarcasm in that last paragraph, but you’ve got to admit that this is exactly how this all sounds. We, day in and day out, are fed this image of women who don’t look like us… selling us a fantasy (and a product, don’t forget that part.) 68% of America is overweight… at this point, that Lane Bryant model looks more like most of America than that Victoria’s Secret model. But still… the Lane Bryant model’s ad is shelved… and I’m still looking at thin blond girls (or fair skinned thin Black girls – can’t forget them) in jungle print panties on my screen.

Why is it that the plus sized community keeps getting “shelved?” No one wants to go on record as saying “Yes, we offer plus-sized garments for women up to a size X?” Companies that once served the plus-sized community proudly all of a sudden relegated their 16-and-up clientele to shopping online for their items. I have an answer.. I just doubt that anyone will like it.

Think about the stores you know.. and where they’re located. The stores that serve the plus-sized community with pride. They’re not at the ritzier malls. They may be sprinkled throughout the “middle America”-esque locales, but really… the proud-to-serve-you types? They’re going to be strategically placed in locations where it is believed they will do best.

Think about the prices for those stores. The stores that might vanity-size up a little to secretly accommodate a few larger sizes. Those stores that are almost always offering some $25-off-$50-purchase kind of sale. Surely, you wouldn’t see Chanel in a store like that, right? Do you even know of someone who makes a $400 sweater in a size 22?

Big girls like to be fashionable just like everyone else. She may not look the way society wants her to look – though, keep it real… a size 8 doesn’t really look the way society wants her to look, either – but she wants to look presentable, respectable, and even occasionally jazzy. The problem is that no one wants to come out and tell this fashionable big girl with money to spend “Hey, we make beautiful clothing for you… come get it.”

Why? This is so anti-Capitalist! Someone has money to spend, someone has product to sell them… and the deal isn’t going down! You know there has to be a good reason for this, right?

Why won’t Chanel and the others publicize the fact that they make plus sized clothing? Simple. Because they know damned well that there is a certain type of woman identified as being plus sized – she is poor, cannot afford quality, is so unattractive that surely she wouldn’t wear my clothing anyway, whatever… the plus sized woman simply is not respected. “Her mere presence in a store must offend the sensibilities of the average size 2… thus why other labels had to force her to resort to shopping online only. We must keep them out of our stores, so that thin people won’t think our store only caters to big people!”

To me, this is the bottom line.. and it sucks. It’s disgusting to think that a store like Saks would avoid commenting and telling the women who long to shop there “Hey, we have things for you to buy!” as a means of protecting its image – because, let’s face it… if the national concensus about plus sized women is that they are poor, and Saks is now offering clothing for plus-sized women, then this MUST mean Saks is selling the cheap crap now, right? It’s not about hiding the sizes of women who shop there. It’s about hiding the perception that Saks “services these poor, misguided, fat souls.”

Ugh, and we wonder why so many women have such major self-esteem issues.

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Lori August 3, 2010 - 11:33 AM

Amen Sistah!!!

Cossie August 3, 2010 - 11:36 AM

I soooo agree with you! I am a plus size woman and I was Just at off Sax this weekend at the outlet mall. I asked the young salesman did they have any salon Z merchandise there and he gave me a look like he had no clue about this mysterious salon Z and said no. The Sax in my area does not carry it they told me the closest one to me was 3 hrs away and they did not have any Chanel etc brands. I love designer clothes because they hold up well but this seek and find method to find them is very discouraging. They could make so much more money if they just offered up the clothes in stores for us to try on (cause we need to try on stuff!) and make it readily available. Big girls have money, credit cards and like to look fabulous too!

JoAnna August 3, 2010 - 12:36 PM

This one hit home Erika.

I hate clothes shopping with my smaller girlfriends.
1. I have one girlfriend who’s a 1X, but pear shaped. She can always find something at TJMaxx and consignment shops. She refuses to go to the more upscale stores because of the cost (we’re both on tight budgets!). This said, she religiously buys Vogue, Marie Claire, etc the minute they hit the newstands to keep up with the latest trends even though those clothes are unlikely to be found where she shops.

2. I sweat. I don’t dew, I don’t shine, I don’t perspire. Sweat forms on my brow when I even begin to think about exercise (which is why I LOVE swimming!). Let me rush into work, and I’ll be sweating for the next 10mins, long after I’m sitting at my desk. So why are most of the clothes sold at the Avenue, Lane Bryant, etc made out of polyester or some other non-breathable fabric? It kinda reinforces the image of the large sweaty sloppy gal. And let’s not get into the the horrble color choices of a lot of sizes over size 16. And what’s with filmsy, drapey tent pieces, instead of clothes with structure? Large men are fitted into suits with nice shoulders, sturdy fabrics, etc… Large women are given spandex and rayon! Like Spanx is gonna magically suck up the excess flesh into an alternative dimension…

3. I had to start sewing to appear fashionable. But the patterns don’t fit the same way, and again large sizes don’t really exist. The patterns are based on actual body measurements. So a size 22 comes out to a 30-32 on a pattern, shaped for someone who has no shape whatsoever. If you have a large bust, be prepared to leave buttons undone and wear a tank! And fabric stores that offer sewing classes often don’t know how to modify a pattern to fit a larger person.

I have a formal event in a couple of weeks and was dragged to Macy’s to shop for accessories. Not a plus sized woman over a size 16 in sight unless she was walking thru to another store in the mall. It’s like the saleswomen don’t see you. Well, they know they don’t carry anything over a 16 in their store, and a large sized woman in jeans couldn’t possibly afford anything there… It is very off-putting.

I’m losing weight to better my health. But I would be lying if I denied that I didn’t have dreams of buying (or sewing) an entire new wardrobe in a tight toned size 12, consprised of the current fashions seen in Vogue…

There’s that scene in the film “The Devil Wears Prada” where Meryl Streep tells Anne Hathaway that she thought she’d take a chance on hiring the “…smart fat girl” who’s a size 4. If popular mainstream fashion considers a size 4 (see America’s Next top model and Project Runway) the standard, then no… We may never see larger sizes prominently displayed on the floors of upscale department stores. There’s too much investment and mental conditioning from Madison Avenue on the appeal of Western European thinness. Pity. If they only knew how much larger women, especially Black women, spent on hair and nails they’d reconsider.

Carmel March 21, 2011 - 11:19 PM

Interestingly, she seems to be a size 2 when she starts dressing more like a Vogue girl. Isn’t that telling? Why is a size 4 fat? Or Michelle Obama fat?…. I don’t think we should bother with trying to be a certain way so others think we are fit. We just have to do it for our well being, our joy of life our ability to live long. Because I know with my waist/ hip ratio i will never appear thin. And that’s ok. Hopefully one day I can put out my clothing line that doesn’t discriminate and take that excess cash they are outwardly rejecting. Shoot I could use it too!

Pat March 6, 2013 - 5:03 PM

You must create a line, and I want to create a lingerie line for extended sizes. I am what society has labeled SSBBW, ok. Anyway, I am a big, fine woman who likes fashionable clothes and sexy lingerie. Since I can’t go to Victoria Secret and get a fancy bra, I had to fancy some up for myself. In my size, bras come in 3 colors: Beige, White, and Black. Ladies, I bought about a dozen beige bras on clearance and went and bought some dye in different colors, then I went to Joann’s and bought some fabric glue and some rhinestones, and made me a Pat’s Secret bra; Victoria didn’t have nothing on me, lol. But, young ladies, I understand your pain with this discrimination.

Linda K. M. November 8, 2013 - 4:21 AM

What a wonderfully creative and awesome idea! I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’m gonna steal it!!? Why spend hundreds on Victoria’s Secret when Pat’s Secret works a bazillion times better? You, my lady, are a genius!

Stephanie April 29, 2013 - 9:39 PM

And what’s with filmsy, drapey tent pieces, instead of clothes with structure? Large men are fitted into suits with nice shoulders, sturdy fabrics, etc… Large women are given spandex and rayon!

Excerpted from The Not-So-Secret Bigotry In Plus Sized Fashion | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

YES! A non-polyester suit is impossible to find. I prefer to wear cotton to work and this bugs the heck out of me. By the end of the day I can’t wait to get those synthetics off. I also dislike the large necklines so often found on plus size tops. I have cleavage up to my collar bone and don’t need any more attention going there! This automatically cuts down the selection of tops I can wear, if they are pullovers especially. Don’t get me started about the lack of detail (lace, beading, eyelets, little details on hips and sleeves, etc) absent from everywhere except the neckline- it is pretty clear plus size designers think we should show off our (assumed to be) big boobs and draw attention to our face instead of our bod. It’s so clear designers aren’t even trying. After I crossed over to the other side of the store I was so bummed for a long time about how plain the clothes were, and it took me a while to build up a decent wardrobe of fashionable items again.

Ishaya August 3, 2010 - 1:52 PM

I was just thinking about how some of the cheaper franchises also take advantage of the fact that these higher quality companies don’t publicize plus sized clothing. It costs almost $30 dollars for a tank top at lane bryant. I believe they take advantage that SOME of their clothing is higher quality than cheaper outlets. Also most of these stores sell the exact same cheap clothing for different prices. But because this market isnt in the mainstream limelight this is ignored.

Even while on my journey for better health I still want to look fashionable in quality clothing without being overcharged for having some fashion sense.

Pat March 6, 2013 - 5:08 PM

Another thing that I found out is that Target sells the same plus size clothes as some of the big name department stores. I bought several dresses last summer online from Target, and one of the dresses fit different from the others, but it was the same size. When I looked at the brand, I was shocked to see it was the same brand that I had purchased at another store, but it was even cheaper than the store, because it was on clearance o

jen* August 3, 2010 - 3:41 PM

I kind of get Saks not advertising that – the salespeople there (in NYC, at least) have always been really rude to me, so I just don’t even go anymore.

While I had no idea that Chanel (et al) was/were making plus sizes, it totally makes sense. Guess I never really thought abut it. What a shame that folks allow this size-issue to cut them out of money [and at the same time, demean an awful lot of people].

Pat March 6, 2013 - 5:11 PM

Jen, it’s not only in the clothing department. I went to Macy’s and stood at the Mac counter ready to purchase a whole new face, and they helped everybody around me, and they never even acknowledged that I was standing there. I took my $150.00 gift cards right over to the Channel counter and bought their makeup. By the by, I came home and wrote the company, and they gave me another gift card with an apology.

Sadie August 3, 2010 - 5:18 PM

Great article!

I wonder if another thing that contributes to it is the culture of “fat shaming”. A while back, I was looking through the comments of a news post about one of PETAs shocktastic ad campaigns, this one was targeting plus size women, and the number of people insisting that overweight people need to be shamed into loosing weight was staggering. We’re talking multiple thread-conversations of people giving each other advice on how to embarrass and humiliate plus size friends, partners, and relatives into “get off their fat asses and loosing weight already”. It was sickening, and I really wonder if and where this thought process manifests itself in the clothing industry.

Trina August 3, 2010 - 10:47 PM

All the dudes that I know said the chicks in the LB commercial actually look more appealing than the Victoria’s Secret girls. Not a fat/skinny thing…or a man wants a big woman thing. Just, they look healthy. Those LB models aren’t really that plus size to me. They are like a 10/12 maybe a 14. They are smooth with no rolls or bulges. They look like they work out to me…I’d KILL to look like that in my bra and panties. LOL! I heard someone say that the LB models look too sexy to be in that primetime slot…

Elita @ Blacktating August 4, 2010 - 8:58 AM

An interesting point that was brought up in that NY Times article was that it’s very hard to make plus-size clothing because of the dimensions. A woman who is a size 8 regularly, even if she gains weight, will gain it sort of proportionally so that a size 10 or 12 will fit. But once you get into the really big sizes, like, 18 or 20 and up, the way a woman’s body deposits the fat is totally different. She might have all her weight in her hips, or her arms might get relaly big, or it may all be in the tummy. So designers would have to make several patterns for every garment in order to cater to the plus size community well. Or they could just say eff it and not go above a size 16. This is why so much of the plus size stuff you see at Lane Bryant, etc is kind of shapeless or made out of spandex. It sucks but I’m wondering what the way around this is. Are plus-size women willing to pay $400 for a sweater that is not designer? Because that is what the NY Times said it would cost to pay for all the models, all the pattern making, special fabrics and stitching, to make a decent sweater with enough variation that size 16 and up could wear it.

Marla June 9, 2013 - 2:21 PM

I worked for many years for LB and at that time I wore a 16. I have an hour glass shape so I could not wear the tops only the bottoms. I believe that another misconception in the plus size community is that plus size means no shape. I would say that most of the women i encountered at LB were shapely but did not fit into the traditional department store sizes. I think that even LB and other plus size markets need to make shapely designs for plus size wearers.

Divinely Naptural August 4, 2010 - 10:24 AM

I personally have no inkling as a plus size to wear anything from these big name designers. They have always covertly catered to plus sizes, but never advertised. Unless it is on the “clearance” rack or reasonably priced. I will continue to shop at Century 21, Daffy’s, and Marshall’s, and Macy’s.

You nailed it on the plus sized woman being perceived as poor in this society. It is a total flip of culture from most African perceptions of size. Oh well you can’t please everyone. I just wear what is affordable and looks good on me.

Faith August 4, 2010 - 11:19 AM

I’m not surprised the top fashion houses don’t advertise they sell some plus sizes. Of course they will still only go up to a certain size. Then it’s a matter of a woman who has money paying for couture.

It’s very difficult finding fashionable and better constructed plus sized clothes. Even within one store the fit and cut aren’t consistent.

It’s all very annoying on top of the mental/emotional component of being a woman in a patriarchal society as well as being a woman of size.

marie August 4, 2010 - 1:01 PM

thanks for this!! I was talking to my boyfriend about this a while back. I was at the mall trying to find some cute sexy pajamas and all I could find in plus sizes were mumus and the like. Yet there were all kinds of sexy little shorts and tops in the “normal ” sizes.

Benee August 8, 2010 - 10:27 PM

I often have people ask me “Where did you get that?!” and they expect to hear Lane Bryant or The Avenue. I rarely shop at those stores for anything other than undergarments. Two reasons: 1. I’m still young and dressing like an old Matriarchal Usher Board Deaconness is not my cup of tea 2. I don’t want to look like every OTHER fat girl out there.

I try to tell people that plus size clothes are everywhere. Every major department store mixes larger sizes into their racks. Every major label makes larger clothes. They have to if they want to make money. So, I shop everywhere. Unless its somewhere like 5-7-9 or Forever 21. I don’t let the name of a store or lack of a glaring sign that reads “Plus Sizes Here” make the decision for me.

I do agree with what you wrote. It is bigotry, plain and simple. But then, I feel the same about major fashion houses that KNOW they make a lot of money from people of color or poorer people trying to keep up with the Joneses but do nothing to advertise to them, target them, show appreciation for them, etc. THAT is why I dont wear major labels like Prada, Gucci, Chanel, etc.

If I’m not worth the effort of your advertising, you’re not worth receiving my hard-earned money

I recommend Fashion 2 Figure. The store’s mission and philosophy is very fat-friendly and the clothing is chic, modern, well made, and affordable.

Lyn December 20, 2010 - 1:38 PM

Usherboard Deaconess!!! ROFLMAOOOOOOOOO! I am a fashion student currently because I want to change some things about plus sized clothing even though I am working to get back to my original body that isn’t a plus size. However since I was a 10 now that size is called a plus size. I was a very muscular but thin person at size 10. I like newport news for plus sized staples, and you do have to get creative when looking for cute clothes. I am a designer so I can sit down an make WHATEVER I WANT. I see something in a fashion magazine, and I can make my own version of it with a twist to fit my curves. I realized how I was hiding in my clothes for a long time. The past couple of years I have made efforts to not wear baggy clothes because believe it or not I do have a shape, a waist, curvy hips and such. Though I no longer rock short skirts, and everything has to come to the knee there is alot you can do with color and a nice cut that makes you look incredibly alluring without being cheap.

Monique February 7, 2013 - 2:18 AM

Also, Asos Curve.

Benee August 8, 2010 - 10:35 PM

Ginia Bellafonte wrote, in the NY Times

“Perhaps nowhere is the cultural confusion surrounding the larger woman more pronounced than in the clothing industry’s efforts to dress her. According to a 2008 survey conducted by Mintel, a market-research firm, the most frequently worn size in America is a 14. Government statistics show that 64 percent of American women are overweight (the average woman weighs 164.7 pounds). More than one-third are obese. Yet plus-size clothing (typically size 14 and above) represents only 18 percent of total revenue in the women’s clothing industry. The correlation between obesity and low income goes some way toward explaining the discrepancy — the recession was particularly hard on this segment of the market, with sales declining 10 percent between 2008 and 2009, a drop twice that of the women’s apparel industry over all — but it doesn’t explain it entirely. That figure has been fairly constant for the past 20 years.”

That might explain things…

Lyn December 20, 2010 - 1:45 PM

I hate to sound bad about it, but being overweight is a factor in income. Studies have shown over and over that being obease does affect a womans ability to climb the financial ladder. Designers know this. There is a vanity by designers as well that they dont want their designs on overweight bodies no matter how much money they have. Being in design school and being around the industry I see it constantly. I even feel the pressure to have all the weight off when its time to graduate or I will be passed over for positions. Or will it be black tax?

Edie February 10, 2013 - 2:27 PM

This very similar to what I said too Lyn! I’m graduation soon, and I cannot find clothes to fit me just sitting on my computer programming all day! I guess I’ll have to just diet and exercise REAL HARD for the next 4 months in order to even FIT in anything they carry in the clothing stores around here..

Tina August 9, 2010 - 1:33 PM

I live in Ontario, and my husband and I went on a trip to New York state this past weekend hoping to find some stores and outlets that have beautiful plus sized clothing. I mistakenly thought that the states would have non-tented, high end, flattering clothing made of natural fabrics. I was sorely mistaken. As a young lawyer, I have found it extraordinarily difficult to build a professional wardrobe that reflects my style, and I find it infuriating that “plus-sized” and “low end” seem to be synonymous. The vast majority of plus sized clothing for women in Canada and the US is ugly and it feels disgusting.

After scouring and scavenging for days I managed to find a few shirts, and my husband (a tall slim man) came back with a trunk load of designer clothes.

Designer or not, there is a desperate gap in the market for beautiful plus sized clothing that is simply not being filled.

Susan August 9, 2010 - 9:21 PM

I was in Charleston SC this summer on vacation. I went shopping with a group of my friends (all small), and while we had a great time, the truth of your post first resonated for me there. On King Street–where all the fabulous shopping is–there was a Talbot’s and a Talbot’s Petite, but no Talbot’s Women. The saleswoman said there was one of those stores, however, out at the mall. The same is true in my hometown…Talbot’s Women is delegated out to the mall. Hey…I have money to spend…I should be able to spend it where it is convenient for me to do so. Here’s a tip…check out LeeLee’s Valise in Brooklyn. She’s online, and she has some great clothes (as seen on What Not To Wear). Sad that I have to keep such a close eye on that show just to have some fashionable clothes! Write on.

ChezJulie August 9, 2010 - 10:16 PM

Great post, Erika. I am mystified that in this country where everyone is looking for an “untapped market” in which to make a buck, there aren’t more clothing lines or stores selling cute, fashionable, high quality clothing for plus sized women. We’re out here and we have money!!!!!

Liyah August 12, 2010 - 12:37 PM

I was having this same conversation with some friends the other day, and most of us are plus-size and truly love fashion but get discouraged when shopping because of our options. One friend in particular loves loves LOVES to shop the catalogs, Romans and Catherines and even though the clothes are made for plus-size women, they are quite unflattering. I can’t understand why a catalogue that markets to plus-size women choose to make them look all types of wrong. You would think they’d understand that women want to look beautiful regardless of their size, and selling a fall leaf print square neck crop top w/ a brown background in polyester is just not appealing.

One woman I admire and always admired for her style is the comedienne Monique. I remember seeing her comedy shows in Bmore before she became a “household” name and she’d be rocking royal blue tailored custom suits w/ stilettos to match and hair as high as the ceiling. She ALWAYS looks put together. I think these companies that choose to cater towards plus-size women should remember women like Monique and Queen Latifah when they start advertising to the public. That we too want to look and feel just as confident as the size 2 woman.

sizzle September 2, 2010 - 8:52 AM

I really could not agree more. Thanks for posting this!

Jennifer January 10, 2011 - 1:51 PM

I love this article!!! Now if the shoe designers would
cater to women sized 11 and up will be a very happy

Anne October 2, 2012 - 9:11 AM

I was just about to say that another untapped market is for the gals who leave a bigger footprint and saw your post. AMEN to your comment and Erika’s post!

Lorrie February 16, 2011 - 2:58 PM

This blog article is so funny and sooo true. I cannot say how many times I have voiced my frustrations to a poor undeserving sales associate at a clothing store, whether it was Nordstrom Rack, Target, Ross, etc. For example, Target already had the summer seasonal items out with a beautiful wide variety of bathing suits to die for. Target has a great plus-sized section which offers very cute style options. Well guess what?? They only carried the smaller sizes for bathing suits EARLY, the other larger sized bathing suits would not be in until later in the season!! WHy? Not because they didn’t have enough room or the product doesn’t sell or because they don’t have anything cute to offer (because they told me to go online to get the plus sizes), they just didn’t get it – so sorry. This sends the message to me that they don’t care if I want to be just as prepared as the next ‘hussie’ to swim for the summer or get the latest and greatest gear, they could care less that I am willing to spend the ridiculous amount of $60 for a suit that should only cost $14, my money is not as important. To add insult to injury, I went to Lane Bryant assured that they would massage my injured ego by offering comparable quality suits to purchase at an even higher price (at this point I was willing to pay!) only to find out that they didn’t carry any either! Why? Because they receive only what they think will sell well based upon last years numbers…I don’t accept this either because I know how retail works. You just stock less, you don’t eliminate the product altogether. Lane Bryant told me to go online too. I refused to purchase anything online although I did go peep out the styles. Somehow I am willing to pay the mark up price if the product is in the store but if you deny me the right of experience to walk in, try on, purchase and walk out with a bag in hand, -I no longer want that overpriced product! Forget about it! (with a Vinnie accent) What I did end up doing was going to Torrid who carried a wide array of beautiful, colorful and sexy overpriced swimsuit gear that I happily purchased on the spot!

Rebecca February 28, 2011 - 10:59 AM

I get your point. I think it is twisted. At the same time, how is this any different than the size 0 models njoying copious buckets of KFC, double whoppers with cheese and dairy queen sundaes–they are also on everyday, all day in comercials. Not to mention, I just saw a movie last night where the husband who in real life is 45 and his on screen wife’s real is age 31. However, instead of writing that fact into the movie, the story was written so for us to believe that they are the same age and went to college together. When it comes to women–unfortunately, no one wants to tell reality.

msdebbs February 20, 2013 - 7:03 AM

I always wondered why fast food restaurants always show some gorgeous size 2 model biting into a whopper the size of her head. Ummm your customers don’t look like that. Stop it!

Serenity April 13, 2011 - 4:43 PM

And this is why I make my own clothes! They are well made, stylish and fit my body appropriately.

Jacqueline April 22, 2011 - 10:00 PM

I was a “plus size” model at 5’11” and size 8. Because I’m curvy and have a butt, I wasn’t getting work at a 4, so I put on weight to get work. I got LOTS of work. It helped me pay for my bills while I was in grad school, plus it was really cool not thinking about my size. The “girls” at “size 14” were the largest ones in all the plus size work I did. I don’t recall seeing any plus sized models over a 16, really. 15 years later I’m about a 10-12, and from what I see, plus sized models still aren’t much over what they call size 16. So I’m really not sure what “plus sized” means.
Sizes aren’t standard, cause H&M in San Francisco last month put me into a 16 and it was tight, but Gap put me in an 8 and it was perfect. I think that this whole thing of sizes is ridiculous. It’s just a number they sew into the clothes. If you feel good, are healthy and fit, cholesterol, bp and the rest are good, then what’s the difference between a dress with a tag saying 16 and a dress with a tag saying 8? Really? My closet has stuff marked 4 that fits and stuff marked 18 that fits.

briggsy June 16, 2011 - 7:10 PM

As far as I’m concerned there is no love for the plus size women at any of these places. Anytime you try to sell me something on a model that has no butt, no gut and no rolls like I do what does that tell me. I keep hearing that “we use industry standard size 14 models.” Ummm hmmm and if I wear a size 20 and I’m round and she’s flat how will I know what that item is going to look like on me.

Milaxx January 19, 2012 - 1:30 PM

So very true. Looking fashionable as a plus sized gal is darn near a full time job. Even the middle of the line stores don’t make it easy. My local Macy’s has a decent plus sized section that is literally in the back, in the corner, in the dark. It’s not even on the same floor as the rest of the women’s wear, it’s in the basement behind housewares and appliances. I kid you not.

When Target did that much hyped Missoni line they had over 400 items throughout every department in the store, except plus sizes. Yup, it was better to cover a paper clip in the infamous zig zag stripes than sell a single blouse to a fatty.

I won’t even discuss what it’s like to find plus size workout out athletic gear.

msdebbs February 20, 2013 - 7:19 AM

Plus size athletic gear is darn near non-existent.

Lise March 10, 2012 - 2:00 AM

Okay ladies, I think the article is dead on! It took me years to find clothing I enjoyed, and ultimately realized that while I love Chanel’s and other designers mentioned style, I’m tired of fighting them and hiding in the back corner of the store!!! There are at least two major brands/ designers that not only design for us, but respect us. Sorry, I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but I decided to spend my fashion dollars at places that cater only to me. If you are not familiar with them check them out:
Marina Rinaldi (Max Mara): believes we are all sexy and cuts wonderful, Italian made, beautiful fashion. Their flagship store is on Madison Avenue in NY – just don’t trust their seamstresses; I had two bad experiences and at >$300 an article, that’s inexcusable!
The second is Anna Scholtz – go Anna for having dazzling prints and cutting to show off polished curves. Her designs don’t flatter my figure all the time (I’m very peary) but damn, I size 20 friends with different shape who rock her clothing (not to mention Scholtz herself, a size 24 fed-up with all this). She designs ONLY for us. She has her own boutiques all of the world, except for the US because she can’t get backers, though there is one store in New Orlean’s that carries her line called the Voluptuous Vixen. If you can’t get to New Orlean’s, they are going to have on on-line purchasing site in the coming months. If you are interested in Scholz’s designs try her webiste, Volutous Vixen and boycott Saks and Nordstrom’s, who deign to carry her, but only on-line. I can’t believe I live in NYC and only Marina Rinaldi caters to me and my lucky find in New Orleans!

Celine April 9, 2012 - 5:43 PM

The comments here are more illuminating than the article it was based on because you have one commenter talking about quality plus size clothing and mentioning the store Fashion 2 Figure and then you have another poster recommending Marina Rinaldi and Anna Scholz! Wow Anna Scholz is only about 20 times more expensive than Fashion 2 Figure . . .

Problem is people have different ideas of what quality is but I tend to agree with Lise. To me it is better to buy a really high end quality item than have 10 “lesser items”.

The problem is you can buy cheap synthetic fabric all day long for a few dollars a yard but more natural fabrics such as a nice cotton or silk are going to cost 5-20X more than the cheap synthetic stuff and there are just too many people who cannot pay and/or will not pay what those garments would cost.

lakisha July 19, 2012 - 6:31 PM

try this site love their clothes. http://www.igigi.com/

lakisha July 19, 2012 - 6:40 PM

one more great clothing line. http://www.kiyonna.com/

The Mighty Quinn July 22, 2012 - 7:15 PM

I have known for many years, I remember when Anne Klein used to advertise they went up to a 14! YES, I said a 14. I came to NYC to be a fashion designer for full figured women but became disgusted before I could get my foot in the door. When the money people who were interested in my ideas got serious, it was hard to get full figured women to spend the money on good clothes. Over the years, I saw Jean Rafal, The Forgotten Woman and Lane Bryants 5th Avenue flagship store all close down (and a few others), I guess the big people with the big money was having the same convincing problem.
Reading this article, now I understand why Salon Z, made you make and appointment and had personal shoppers, because you were dealing with the privacy of elite customers, who would just die if you ever knew what size they were.
I am convinced, if we were all thin in America, the diet companies would all be out of business and they would find something else to bombard us with for us to hate ourselves.

Annette October 2, 2012 - 11:30 PM

Oh yeah I think you have a good point. I wonder also how the racial lines break down along with the income vs weight categories. I feel a lot of it is due to snobbery.

I know that Saks, Lord and Taylor, Bonwitt Teller at least in NY sold plus size quality clothing and they have since the early 90’s. It wasn’t much and if you were savvy you would get these pricey goods when they had great sales. It wasn’t advertised, since I worked in retail I was aware of it. They didn’t sell a lot at first so I was able to watch it get marked down and down until it reached a price I could buy it for.

I think you are right they don’t want an influx of customers in their stories who they think aren’t wealthy enough to purchase it or the image of the fat and obese purchasing designer garments. Or seeing those who are that heavy because of course they have an image to uphold and it might offend their “regular” clients but also I think it’s about the space it takes to store and display larger garments. My guess is that the sales have out done the smaller sizes so they have to make the space for them. The numbers don’t lie.

Most of the high end designers abhor having to design for plus size customers, yet they need to be flexible since not everyone who is wealthy are able to purchase sizes 0-10.

I remembered when a size 18 was considered plus size. I have seen it pushed back to 16, the 14, now 12 as a representative of a plus size model. Yet the average size in America is a size 16. Fashion has always prided itself on being exclusive and excluding of certain segments of society. Yet in order to be able to adapt they had to learn to be inclusive or go bankrupt like so many well know designers who wanted to design for a small portion of society.

WellDamn24 October 8, 2012 - 12:13 PM

I am not one for brand names so while its tragic that the popular high end brands secretely make plus sized clothes, I’m not pressed about them.

I just wish that there were more high end plus size designers. Ignoring how cheap the clothes can be at some of the plus size stores, everything looks the same. It’s all wrap around dresses with loud prints or flowery tunics.

I want STYLE, not just brand names. I want to see a clothes with a different cut and different lines, not just a different prints.

I’m admire those of you who make your own clothes and hope to start taking classes soon. I aspire towards making well fitting, stylish clothing one day.

Jan L October 15, 2012 - 3:54 PM

Old Navy sells plus size online, but hardly has any plus size clothes in their brick and mortar stores. I had one Old Navy near me that had pluz sizes in the store and then they pulled them. When I went to complain the skinny employee just kinda looked at me like I was crazy. Then she looked shocked when I exploded, “Big girls need to try on their clothes, too!” I’m still on the line between plus size and “normal” so I love a store that carries both, but it’s usually a surprise to me. Somehow I never noticed the lack of advertising.

Charey December 18, 2012 - 5:01 PM

I don’t care how old this post is I must rant!!…And I’m calling out names…. H&M!!! This store seems to embody my kind of style more than any other store in mid-level retail. So I always going in looking for clothes in a 16, 14, or 12 (Yes weirdly I can fit all three. lol) Erika, shopping at H&M should be one of your arm exercise routines on this site because the amount of raking through the hangers I do to find bigger sizes could probably give me some nice definition. I once asked a sales rep where she was hiding all of the size 14s and 16s. She said for every outfit in the store they only receive 2 16s and 4 14s!!!! And she said if you don’t get there when they come in you’ll miss them. I was outraged. She also said the reason is because they sell more 4-10 or xs-m clothing than those bigger sizes to which I replied “Well that is only because big girls have given up on H&M so most don’t even bother to comb the racks or even step foot in the store!” I went home and emailed H&M an angry letter. (Yes, I write angry letters to big corporations when I feel violated. lol) H&M never replied to my stern begging for bigger sizes which is funny because I write good emails to them all the time asking where I can find the lotion/socks, etc. from last months check out line bin and they ALWAYS hit me back with answers. Bottom line, there ARE big fashionistas. We all need to write these companies a letter/email to let it be known! lol

christine February 7, 2013 - 5:04 PM

She said for every outfit in the store they only receive 2 16s and 4 14s!!!! And she said if you don’t get there when they come in you’ll miss them

Excerpted from The Not-So-Secret Bigotry In Plus Sized Fashion | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss
I remember being so frustrated that I asked the clerk if they carried big people sizes..i feel ya on digging, and digging only to come out empty handed

jessica February 10, 2013 - 2:08 PM

bah this is the reason I only buy clothes online. old navy/target etc only has plus size stuff online.
then stuff ships and it doesnt fit because i didnt get to try it on and I’m too lazy to send it back. So I walk around in clothes that are too big/too small.
YAY corporate america

KareBareStare February 10, 2013 - 2:15 PM

Luckily for me I’ve never really had a hard time finding good quality clothes. My mother is a shopaholic and she scourges the Earth in the effort to find a good deal and of course the right size. I’m 32 years old and she’s still my personal stylist. When I was younger and we would go shopping she would always say “They never have any mediums, larges, or extra-larges left. You would think by now stores would realize what size people really are and stop purchasing all these smalls and extra-smalls.” Even today, I was at an outlet mall and the only sizes left on the rack were small and extra-smalls. I do think with this new media found “obesity epidemic” that the public will begin to love their different curves and sizes as will designers/stores.

lily88 September 18, 2014 - 9:44 AM

Well there were only smalls left because people had snatched up everything else. Happens everywhere. Even if they stock the bigger 10 and 12 sizes, like at old Navy and Gap, people grab them. Also the 8s, which are like 10 in the hip and 6 in the leg, at those stores, that conglomerate :/ …

Erika Nicole Kendall September 19, 2014 - 3:26 PM

But this isn’t quite the point – stores track how many of which size items they stock, and how many of each sell. If you know that you tend to sell more 12s than average, good business sense would tell you to stock more of that size. ESPECIALLY with these large stores. They *should* know better.

Edie February 10, 2013 - 2:20 PM

With this being said, where do you ladies suggest I go to find some business casual attire? See, I’m graduating college this summer with my Associates degree in Computer Science, & plan to go on a hard core job search. Problem is, I don’t OWN anything remotely suitable for any type of interview. I’m a woman, black, overweight, and have no hands on job training in my field, so I do not need any of my ill fitting or inappropriate outfits adding any further complications when I finally luck up and even GET an interview. The reason the above things are even important is because, there are not a lot of women in the computer science field, & even less of them are BLACK. So, I’m not trying to complicate things any further for me. I live in Columbus, Ohio and the nearest Tj Maxx is like 30 minutes away. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

christine February 11, 2013 - 10:06 AM

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Excerpted from The Not-So-Secret Bigotry In Plus Sized Fashion | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss
Since I’m in the weight loss transition period I can’t afford to spend $50 on a pair of pants for work, only to have them too big in a few months. I shop at thrift stores, there is a Goodwill in Austin that gets last seasons clothes from J.C. Pennys. Most of the things I’ve gotten still have tags on them

Annette February 11, 2013 - 12:36 PM

Macy’s is pretty good, also Lord and Taylor even Saks on line is okay but in the stores are better for discounts.
The Avenue/Avenue.

JessicaLandon.com on line also OneStopPlus.com has access to different sites and prices.

Hope that helps good luck with your job search.

Dawn March 5, 2013 - 10:40 AM

Not sure if this was mentioned earlier. It’s bad enough that finding quality, plus-sized clothing is a major challenge but I’ve often felt a certain way when I do find the section in the clothing store. Many times the larger clothes are in the basement, or next to maternity, or way in the back. I think that sends its own negative message to plus-sized women. I’ve even explained my feelings to a manager when he asked me to do a phone survey. He said that he never thought about it and that the clothes are strategically placed on the sales floor by what’s selling. Hmmmm…I didn’t expect anything to change.

Pat March 6, 2013 - 5:23 PM

I think that we need to address the bigger picture here, and that is why is SIZE still an acceptable discrimination. While I totally agree with Mrs. Obama’s advocating for childhood obesity awareness and prevention, I really think that it made it okay for people to publicly demean fat people. Please don’t get offended because I use the word fat; I am fat-all 331lbs, and I have been fat all of my life, so I feel like I can only give my HONEST opinion. I have lost 110lbs in the last 2 years and still going. But, after living for 51 years, I have never been so openly degraded as I have been since the Childhood Obesity campaign started. It makes me wonder what obese children are going thru with the hate. If degrading a person’s sexual orientation and race are hate crimes, why is it not a crime to openly size discriminate.

I have worked retail, and I know that these stores carry plus sizes, but I have yet to see a sales ad with a plus size model from Macy’s. I went to Nordstrom’s and asked where the plus size department was, and it was on the top floor, at the furthest corner from the escalator, and the pickings were slim.

On the contrary, if I go to a department store where there is a heavier population of Blacks, every store in the mall sells plus sizes, please believe me. Also, they have a larger selection to pick from.

You better wake up people; this is discrimination, and discrimination is hate.

Melissa Teague March 30, 2013 - 5:39 PM

I had to go see for myself…Wow! I’ve spent a year losing weight and trying to change my mind set. I spent so many years staying away from stores like these because I truly believed they would NEVER have anything for the big girl I was. Even in my new body, I hesitate to venture into these places out fear that I won’t be able to find something that fits. AND NOW I find out that it’s been online all along?! ALL those years of fishing through mu-mus. SMH

missern April 21, 2013 - 8:03 PM

What drives me crazy is the “we’re happy to take your money through the back door – as long as you don’t come around to the front” message from designers and retailers. If you go to Macy’s or Nordstrom plus dept, you’ll see Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors, Anne Klein, BCBG and other. But if you walk into one of those designers free standing stores and dare to ask for a size 16, oh my. I found this out at a BCBG outlet, I asked if they were carrying their plus size line. “Oh we don’t make large sizes” was the reply. “Yeah, you do – Nordstrom’s, check it out” was my reply. As a result, I’m not inclined to buy anything from those designers, not shoes, not purses, not perfume. And if I can indulge in a Century 21 mini rant – they added THREE FULL FLOORS to their flagship store in Manhattan and still managed to leave out a plus size department! Really?

Charey May 1, 2013 - 10:46 AM

I think a vicious cycle is happening. Clothing designers see plus size women in frumpy clothes and think oh she wants to cover up and hide everything so if I do make plus size options I’ll just make a tent with some jewels on the neckline or some wide legged, giant crotched pants. And on the other side, plus size women throw on the jeweled tent and the pants with the 20″ crotch and just try to make it work all while wishing there were better options. I think we could meet the designers half way if we put as much effort into our clothes as smaller women do. Despite what most think, smaller women don’t always fit clothes right off the rack. They tailor, wear spanx, underwires, etc. People are always telling me that I’m not plus sized because I wear a 12 and I’m curvy. I tell them I’m not curvy when I’m naked! I have on spanx to the gods and an industrial strength underwire bra, and when I buy clothes I buy them to fit my boobs then I go home and get on the sewing machine and take the waist in. The proper under garments can give you a very nice shape and its worth the investment. The issue is that most people are like “Aint nobody got time for that!” Well I always have time for looking fly! I think when they (designers) see us caring a lot more and getting more attention for that, they will start making more flattering clothing. BTW there are online retailers who make great plus size clothing for decent prices: Asos.com, DorothyPerkins.com, Forever21.com, Torrid.com.

Angel September 6, 2015 - 11:33 PM

“and they certainly don’t want to think about her getting laid.”

toooo funny, what a great article, i am from South Dakota and have to order online, I have a big booty and decided to find Great clothing for my size and shape, which led me here. I am glad I found this site, DIDN’T find any clothes to order…… but i will keep looking, thanks for this site, i am excited to follow your posts. Angel 🙂 big booty.

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