Perfecting the Plus-Size Clothing Game

Published September 25, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see some really interesting things happening with a few of the clothing companies that sell plus-sized fashion lately.

Many of you will be aware of the huge wave of interest and discussion the new Beth Ditto collection at Evans Clothing created last week.  It was an absolute frenzy on Twitter amongst the fatosphere tweeters, that’s for sure.  Women all over the world set their alarms and logged on to shop as Evans released the items bit by bit.  Facebook status were updated to reflect the shopping frenzy, ant Twitter was abuzz with wails of frustration as we collectively crashed the Evans website, and cheers of triumph as orders were confirmed.  It was a phenomenal thing to watch, as I could only watch because they haven’t released the zigzag dress that I REALLY want yet!

Evans clothing really “get it” when it comes to marketing to their audience.  They create a line with a high profile celebrity who appeals to their market, create lots of anticipation, seed social media and get their customers involved in spreading word of mouth marketing, target a global marketplace and then release the collection in stages to create further anticipation.

These marketing tactics are exactly what regular-sized fashion retailers do for their market.  It shouoldn’t be significant that a plus-sized retailer approaches their target market in the same way a regular-sized regailer does, but for so long, plus-sized clothing has been treated like it is something to be ashamed of by it’s retailers.  they have approached plus-sized clothing as utilitarian, comfort driven, low fashion priority and relegated it to the back corners of shop space or a tiny band of “specialty” in an online store.  Few have understood the power of online shopping to provide a fully global marketplace either.

Another company I have noticed really starting to understand their market is We Love Colors.

We Love Colors have a wide variety of sizing, from childrens to mens, to regular womens sizes to a fairly comprehensive plus-sized range as well.  We Love Colors have a significant portion of their products in plus sizes, but not all.  I follow We Love Colors on Twitter, and on Facebook, where they have a standard profile and a plus-sized one called We Love Colors Curvy.

Recently on We Love Colors Curvy, they asked:

How can we make our plus-sized tights better?  What items do you want to see in plus sizes?

and invited customers to either respond there on Facebook, or to email them with the subject line “Make it Better”.

On Facebook at least, the clear response was that customers wanted ALL of the We Love Colors products offered in plus sizes.  Their plus-sized customers want to close the gap between the regular range and the plus-sized range, and wear the same styles as the regular sizes.

Yesterday they asked on We Love Colors Curvy:

It’s come to our attention that some of our customers are unhappy we have a Curvy Facebook Page and a standard Facebook page, feeling as though we segregate the two. It was suggested that we should eliminate the Curvy Facebook page altogether and change our Curvy Girl of the Month contest to simply the Girl of the Month contest. We had initially created the Curvy Page and started the Curvy Girl contest to get the word out about our selection of Plus Size tights, since so many people were unaware we carried them. We also use the Curvy Page as a tool to get feedback on these products and find out ways to improve our selection. So, please let us know what you would like us to do with regards to the Curvy Page and Curvy Girl contest. Whatever the majority of responses is for, we will move forward with. Thank you so much for your help!

The overwhelming response from customers was to keep the two versions, as plus-sized customers don’t want to wade through pages of regular sized products, and that they want to see plus-sized models showcasing the plus-sized range.  One customer expressed concern that combining the two sections may result in body policing and fat hate, with concerns that there may be some nastiness around “fat girls in tights” – which is a valid concern, we’ve seen that before.  Today We Love Colors Curvy announced on Facebook that they would keep the second profile for their plus-sized range.

These are just a few examples of plus-sized fashion retailers listening to their customers, and providing something that their customers actually want.

As I said earlier, it shouldn’t be noteworthy that retailers are starting to do this for plus-sized customers, but when you think about the experiences of shopping for plus-sized clothing over the years, these things ARE unusual.  From offering poorly made clothing, to cheap fabrics, to unappealing designs and then not making it easy or interesting/fun for the customer to shop for their product, retailers have told us in the past (and still tell us now) that they are not interested in our money.  They’ve either assumed that plus-sized customers don’t have any money, and are therefore unworthy of putting any effort into decent marketing and customer service, or they simply have a clear disregard for their customers by not giving a damn whether or not they actually made any money from them.

To many the frenzy over the Beth Ditto range at Evans, and excitement over other good plus-sized clothing retails seems like consumerism, vanity and vacuousness.  But when you’ve not had the opportunity to engage in the same activities around clothing and shopping like other people, this takes on far more significance.  It’s a way to show retailers that should they provide something we want, and market to us positively, not only will we hand over our hard earned cash, but we will also provide some of the best word of mouth advertising that money cannot buy.

We need to support the retailers that do this.  And we need to talk about why we support them, and why what they do is significant.  Only when other retailers can see the benefit that these companies reap from the products and services they provide, as well as the positive marketing they engage in, will they start to realise that the plus size clothing market is one that they can make very, very lucrative.

10 comments on “Perfecting the Plus-Size Clothing Game

  • Yes! Feedback is so crucial and you can easily fall in love with a retailer that wants to serve their customers, especially the already under-served plus sized ones. I think that finally some are starting to realize that in this difficult financial time, with fewer options, plus sized people will go where they can to get what they want. I honestly just wish smaller more indie companies would get the spotlight for once. It’s such a great time for the opportunity to grow with your customer base when the biggest retailers are ignoring us. =0)

    • Absolutely. I am happy to see those retailers that get it rewarded with the kaching of sales, that’s for sure. And as you say, with the financial difficulties around the world, any company that ignored a market of any kind is nothing short of foolish.

  • Indeed. Very smart post. As both a long-time customer of plus size clothing and an accountant who’s been studying business for over 7 years, with a little background in the fashion industry too, this is an anomaly that just makes my brain hurt. Retailers simply IGNORE the plus size market, if not spurn it by selling cheap, shapeless tents. Demand clearly exists– why the low supply? That’s just Macroeconomics 101– when you really want to make money, thinkin about providing goods/services where there’s a high demand but low supply.

    These companies are setting great examples with both marketing strategies and customer care. Companies exist to make money: and so many are missing out by ignoring the plus size market. This collection in particular isn’t really my style, but I do like the prints and the cuts of the clothes look very nice– I liked the one she had last year with the domino dress and leggings!

  • Sigh…

    A long time ago I vowed to never shop again at JC Penney’s. Why? Because they segregated out GIRL’S plus. Not husky boys, no, those were mixed in, but girls plus was its own little section. Get little fat girls used to not being people, I guess (so many websites say: men, women, women’s plus. The third gender, fat women).

    Anyhow, I went back to Penney’s after I found great jeans there (was desperate). And while I didn’t investigate the girls section, I liked that the women’s plus was near the rest of the women’s section, and rather blended seamlessly into it. It felt good.

    Then I went back this past week. They’re putting in a large Sephora (an upscale cosmetics thing I guess) counter. And probably because those upscale cosmetic shoppers shouldn’t be exposed to those fattie-fat-fats, they moved women’s plus to it’s own little hidey-hole on a different floor, in a back corner that is poorly lit and very small.

    It was, to say the least, disappointing.

    I will be writing them, and letting them know how I feel. And now I”m looking to find those same jeans Somewhere Else. Sigh.

    • I’d definitely be writing to them. And I’d be telling them I won’t buy from Sephora either until they put the plus-sized stock somewhere decent (and that’s saying something, I LOVE Sephora!)

    • I believe it was Jen Lancaster who said that the more upscale the store, the more secluded the women’s plus size section is, if they even have one.

      It looks like Penney’s is trying to be like Saks or Bloomingdales.

      Heh makes me glad I shop on ebay. 🙂

  • I noticed the Sears in White Marsh, Maryland has blended women’s plus in with regular misses. As someone used to shopping in a separate section of the store (usually shoved into a corner in the furthest recesses of shame) I thought they first got rid of the section altogether.

    The JCPenney’s in the same mall has done what Leila described, and the clothes are awful. My last trip there, I overheard some women complaining about how ugly the clothes were.

    It’s nice to see ladies like Beth realize that many of us fat gals do have disposable income and do want to look stylish. There are quite a few things in her new collection I would definitely buy, unlike last year’s.

  • This is a great post. Im doing a paper on why there arent a lot of plus size fashions in stores or why evertime there is a plus size section in a department store all the clothes are directed to people who are 60 years old and above….ther are a lot of fashionable plus size people who are teens and above. So thank you great work.

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