When Extending to Extended Sizes Fails
Posted on August 19 2020
Over the past several months, brands such as Kendall + Kylie and Adidas x Ivy Park have launched collections with extended sizes. In the case of Kendall + Kylie’s Holiday 2019 partnership with US plus-sized retailer Ashley Stewart, it was the first time they had ventured into the world of curvy fashion. And the plus-size fashion world responded with some less-than-favourable feedback.
As noted in this Teen Vogue article by Gianluca Russo, the plus-size fashion community did not respond positively to the brand’s collection, citing that the partnership felt disingenuous and the Jenner sisters were not seen “associating with any plus-size people and neither of them (had) promoted the launch on their personal social channels.” Not to mention that the Kardashian and Jenner clan is notorious for promoting unrealistic standards of beauty, focused on plastic surgery, weight loss, waist trainers, laxative teas and more. They’re not exactly the allies the plus size and body positive communities can count on to promote our cause, with the exception of Khloe Kardashian’s Good American brand, which will only work with retailers who will carry their full size range (00 to 24) in stores.
Earlier in 2020, Adidas x Ivy Park launched a new collection promising extended sizes, which quickly sold out. The plus-size fashion community was underwhelmed. You see, despite promoting extended sizes, the collection was sized from XS to XL, which translates to a US Size 16/18 and roughly an average women’s size. Personally, I don’t consider XL to be “plus-sized” when almost 70% of women wear a Size 14 or above.
Adidas had recently launched a collaboration with Universal Standard, offering sizes up to 4X, leading fans to assume the Ivy Park collab would have the same size collection. Essayist Candice Marie Benbow tweeted, "You can’t celebrate the inclusivity of your other projects, having plus-size dancers and background singers, but ignore us again when it comes to this. The exclusion is intentional and I’m tired."
It’s not surprising that brands and celebrities are looking to get their piece of the rapidly expanding $21 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) plus size fashion industry. Plus-size fashion has long been known for breaking down barriers, advocating for inclusion, and celebrating all bodies and sizes. As Russo notes in her Teen Vogue article, “Gone are the days when plus women would settle for any clothing at all. Thanks to fat activists and influencers who are constantly advocating for the fashion industry to become more size-inclusive, plus women are smart, savvy and able to detect foolery from a mile away.”
Despite the value of promoting inclusivity, the plus-size fashion community often leaves varying body types out of the conversation. As noted in this article in Minnesota Daily, “Within plus-size fashion, you often see smaller plus-size models that have ‘the right kind of curves’ or hourglass figures overly represented, while other plus-size consumers are left out. Plus-size people of all sizes and body shapes want to see themselves represented.”
As we’ve touched on in our recent blog post, Why Canada Needs More Plus-Size Fashion, there is also a major lack of plus size fashion available in stores, causing consumers to rely on online shopping. In this Refinery29 article, Marie Southard Ospina shared her experiences shopping for plus size clothing in the UK. Ospina notes "Plus-size consumers shop online for everything…online shopping is even more popular among plus-size consumers than straight-size womenswear consumers."
This trend isn’t due to lack of interest. Ospina surveyed 100 women and found that fifty-five percent avoid in-store shopping because they know their size isn't available, and the majority would shop in-store if a broader range of sizes were available and there was a more welcoming fitting room experience.
For the clothing that is available in stores, the Minnesota Daily article references research indicating a trend of “inconsistent plus-sizing standards across a multitude of major clothing retailers including Walmart, Kohl’s and Target. The findings suggest that none of the large retail clothing brands surveyed within the study accurately reflected the measurements of plus-size consumers. These inconsistencies led to a multitude of different sizing systems across brands, generating textile waste as returned clothing items pile up.”
It’s clear that the plus-size fashion industry has a long way to go. There is certainly the continued need for online shopping, but space needs to be made for “In Real Life” shopping experiences and there are benefits to both. Women of all sizes would undoubtedly benefit from being able to try on their clothing before buying and saving on shipping costs.
That being said, retailers that do choose to offer extended sizes, whether online or in stores, can learn from the mistakes other brands have made. Genuine partnerships with size and fit experts, such as plus size influencers and bloggers, seem to land better with consumers than those with celebrities who do not understand the unique challenges of dressing larger bodies. More work needs to be done on sizing consistency, quality and pricing. And you know that savvy consumers will be there to share their feedback, whether good or bad, as we continue to see more brands venture into...and out of...the world of plus size fashion.
What are some of the reasons you think brands are failing when it comes to offering extended sizing? Comment below!