Winning the Race in Plus-Size Athleisure Wear
Posted on March 04 2021
Athletic and athleisure wear.
It’s become a bigger part of our wardrobes over the last year, as we’re spending more time at home and working in leggings has become the norm.
As a plus-sized woman, comfortable athleisure wear plays a part in my daily life. I love my high-waisted leggings from Fabletics and I wear them almost everywhere from practicing yoga, going for a walk with my pup and travelling (when we’re allowed on planes again), to working from my home office and watching the latest crime documentary on Netflix. Their cold weather leggings became a staple in my closet this winter and the perfect layering piece for walks on chilly days.
Having pieces that stay in place and don’t rise up or roll down are VIP features for me. No one wants to go to the dog park or a spin class and constantly have to stop to hike up their pants. Or wear a poorly-fitting sports bra to the gym and feel unsupported or risk a nip-slip.
Brands are thankfully starting to offer more plus-sized options. Here’s our review of brands that are nailing extended sizing in athleisure wear...and one that needs to work on their game.
To give you a sense of what is considered “plus sized,” here’s a size chart from Bloomingdales as an example. As a reference point, plus sizes generally start around a Size 14 or 1X. The average sized woman in North America wears a Size 16 to 18. We recognize that there is a need for sizing beyond a 3X, and brands are slowly starting to offer options beyond a 3X/Size 24.
Lululemon Athletica (https://shop.lululemon.com) started offering plus-sizes in September 2020.
I used to be a huge Lululemon fan. They’re a Canadian-founded brand and I so wanted to support them. But over the years, I felt that their clothing got more and more targeted to the thin ideal, and I personally found that the quality went down after they became a public company.
I’m sure many of us curvy gals have had experiences going into a Lululemon store and being “directed away” from spaghetti strap tops. I know I sure did! And we all face-palmed after Founder Chip Wilson made fat-shaming comments that their too-thin and see-thru yoga pants “wouldn’t work for certain bodies.”
When it was announced that Lululemon would be offering extended sizes, I was curious to see what they’d come out with. I was cheering for a successful launch and was…well…let down.
Looking on their website in early March 2021, the brand was offering 64 items in Sizes 16 to 20. Looking above to our handy size chart, you’ll see that a Size 20 equates to a 2X. This is barely above the average sized woman! Currently, they do not offer sizing beyond an XXL to men.
Today, there are 667 items in women’s clothing on their website. With a whopping 64 items in a 1X to 2X, only 10% of their stock comes in extended sizes. There is a big gap here especially when we know that the average sized woman is plus-sized.
When I look at Lululemon’s website, e-mails and social media, I don’t see ME represented. For example, when I looked at specific items in their online store, they were not modeled on plus women, so I can’t get a sense of what the garment would look like on my body. I saw only ONE photo of a model that could potentially be considered plus-sized. I also did not see any visibly plus-sized people on their Ambassadors page, and very few on their Instagram.
Frankly, I view this as a weak attempt to capture their share of the rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar plus-size fashion market. Plus folks are not being openly welcomed into Lululemon’s environment – whether in store or online. I simply do not see myself when I shop with this brand, and this has become a critical value for me when I’m deciding who I want to give my hard-earned dollars to.
Here are some thoughts on brands that I think are doing extended sizes the right way.
Athleta (https://athleta.gap.com) is part of the Gap family of companies and started offering extended sizes in January 2021. Currently, they have 450 items in Sizes 1X to 3X on their online store. This equates to roughly 60% of their total stock. Athleta is focused on women’s clothing only at this time.
What I admire about Athleta’s launch is that they immediately started advertising visibly plus-sized women in their stores and online. There are plus-sized models and mannequins in stores, throughout their website and on their social media. I can see what the clothing would look like on MY body, and I appreciate that I can see myself in their advertisements and images.
The brand also required their employees to take inclusive sizing training, to learn the principles of body-positive appropriate language and how to serve customers of all shapes and sizes. This is beyond refreshing and more companies could take a page from Athleta’s book.
Athleta is not available in Canada, but Canadian customers are able to get items shipped to them through MyUS.com.
Kate Hudson’s athleisure brand (www.fabletics.ca) has been offering extended sizes for quite some time. Currently, they have about 500 items in Sizes 1X to 4X (sadly I couldn’t easily calculate what percentage of their stock is offered in plus).
I’ve been shopping with Fabletics for several years. Their items are cost-effective and of good quality, and shipping to Canada is fast and free for members (no, you do not have to buy something every month to have a membership).
Fabletics earns points with the fact that I see myself represented in their online store. When I look at a plus-size item, it’s shown on a plus-size model. They often post photos from customers modeling various outfits, so you can get a sense of what a garment will look like on various shapes and sizes.
Where I think Fabletics could improve is showing more plus women on their social media and on the main page of their online store. They often offer special collections, generally endorsed by celebrities, and I don’t believe they’ve ever featured a visibly plus-sized model, influencer or athlete in one of these campaigns. Fabletics also offers men’s wear, but not beyond a size XXL.
Girlfriend Collective (www.girlfriend.com) is based in Seattle, Washington. They focus on designing minimal, luxurious and eco-friendly activewear. What we love about Girlfriend Collective is that they offer items up to 6X for women AND men. You can find their size chart here.
I have not yet had the opportunity to try out Girlfriend Collective, but would love to (call me!) as I’ve had my eye on this company for a while. Canadian customers will need to ship through MyUS.com if you’re keen to give the brand a try.
I appreciate that both plus women AND men are shown on their website and social media. They also feature people of different genders and abilities, and have items that are gender-neutral in their “Everyone” collection. We don’t see many brands who embrace inclusivity and sustainability to this extent and it’s high time that more do.
When shopping for athletic and athleisure wear, what is important to you? What values do you look for when deciding how to spend your hard-earned dollars? We would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on other brands that are doing extended sizing the right way!
The Curvy Shop
Disclaimer: The Curvy Shop does not currently have any paid partnerships with Athleta, Fabletics or Girlfriend Collective. This is our 100% honest and unbiased opinion, and we have not been compensated in any form for this review.