Why The Fashion Industry Can't Make Clothes That Fit Actual People

Another week, another article about brick-and-mortar stores phasing out their plus-sized clothing lines. (Edit: And here’s another!) For those who missed it, Tatiana the Anonymous Model over at Jezebel posted an interesting essay on the economics of women’s fashion, comparing pattern development issues designers face when developing both petite and plus sizes.

I’ve heard designers sneer at the thought of making a U.S. size 8. It’s depressing as hell to watch the wave of standard capitalist interest break against a rock of pure sizism, and roll away. Pricier brands that do offer larger sizes, like Eileen Fisher, have managed to do so for years without harming their brand image.

The truth is, that if the cost of garment development were the only reason that plus-size ranges are making a hasty exit from shop shelves, we would be seeing the discontinuation of petite lines, too, because they face all of the same expenses. And that hasn’t been happening. Moreover, the excuse about cost boils down to complaining that making clothes that fit most women is really hard – and that doesn’t sound quite right coming from companies who are in the business of clothing women. Given the market share at stake, how is it that nobody is willing to step up and do cute, well-fitting clothes in larger sizes?

I actually don’t agree with her point about petite clothing—I’m barely five feet tall, and I find that clothing in the petite size range is often styled for women more than twice my age, or designed for someone five inches taller than I am. Petite Sophisticate, the once-common chain that carried only petite sizes, still exists but has scaled back substantially.

Really, it’s a feminist issue hiding behind a great big consumer issue. If, as the CDC claims, the average American woman is 5’4″, 168 pounds, and wears a size 14, then who clothes women who are larger than average? Do women below the average shop in malls, and above the average wear only whatever wrap dresses and stretchy tunics the fashion industry deigns to produce? Why are plus-size clothing sales decreasing more than misses’ sizes, as Crain’s New York reported?

I got nothin’. No more time to write about it, either. I have a pile of pants to hem.

Plus Vs. Petite: Why Retailers Find It Hard Making Clothes To Fit Most Women [Jezebel]
Fashion First, Whatever the Size [New York Times]
Plus sizes a fashion victim [Crain’s New York]


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(Photo: doctorow)

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