While the average consumer today is considered 'plus size’ - that is wearing size 16 UK (44 EU or 18 US) or larger - plus-size clothing remains grossly underrepresented in the fashion industry. Despite the plus-size clothing market estimated to be worth over 11,1 billion US dollars in 2022 and there being 32 billion views on video hosting service TikTok alone for ‘plus-size’, less than 1 percent of models at the AW23 fashion weeks were plus size.
No surprise then that plus-size consumers feel underrepresented when it comes to fashion and feel their needs are not being addressed in terms of sizes, styles and fits. Wholesale management platform Joor collated the biggest plus-size consumer complaints to address this gap.
Fashion experts at Joor went through the most viral TikTok videos on the subject, analysed them and collected the biggest/most common complaints from plus-size consumers and added their comments on the importance of size-inclusivity. Eight areas emerged as particularly problematic for plus-size consumers:
1. Size range is too small
The most common complaint that Joor found in this representative sampling of consumer opinions was that size ranges are too small. According to empowering clothing provider Creative House UK, brands should expand size ranges to 5XL or over. These should also be sold at the same price as other ranges.
“Fashion is for everyone, and the plus-size clothing market is a fast-growing segment in the industry; brands need to see a bigger picture in terms of inclusivity as well as profit,” says Joor.
2. Adding width and length does not equal plus size
When adding width and length to a standard, straight-cut garment, one basically ends up with a sack. But just like any other body, plus-size bodies are diverse and the different proportions need to be accounted for.
“Every person has a different style and body shape, so styling for just one eliminates consumers’ ability to feel confident in what they wear,” advises Joor.
3. One-size-fits-all accessories
Brands and retailers may do a decent job on their plus-size ranges and then forget one important aspect - accessories! That is why one-size-fits-all accessories were mentioned as the third most common irritant when shopping for fashion. Fashion companies should make sure to be inclusive when it comes to accessories and expand size ranges for jewellery like rings, as well as belts and shoes.
4. Lack of style
A common complaint was that style and plus-sizes are often presented as something mutually exclusive with a focus on tried-and-tested options like floral prints, figure-concealing clothes or outdated styles.
“To avoid this, brands should aim for cohesive styles with other ranges instead of creating a limited plus-size selection and showing trending patterns are attainable to all sizes,” advises Joor.
5. Lack of digital shopping experiences
As a recent study showed, consumers are expecting technology like AI, AR and robots to ease their shopping experiences in the future, especially when shopping for clothes.
Virtual changing rooms, smart mirrors, avatars that use augmented reality to show how a garment will fit can all alleviate common stressors for plus-size consumers.
6. Not showing plus-size models
Just offering a great range and plus-size styles is not enough: This also need to be marketed accordingly with models that are plus size. US-based women’s clothing store JessaKae and Indian underwear e-tailer Tailor and Circus use not only models in all shapes, heights and ethnicities but also real-life people with all their imperfections, which is greatly appreciated by their customers.
7. Separating plus-size collections
According to estimates by Plunkettresearch.com, 68 percent of US-American women are over a size 14 (UK 16, EU 44), meaning considered plus-size, which, according to glamour.com, may be an outdated way to describe the vast majority of consumers. The best way brands and retailers can avoid alienation is to integrate plus-sizes in main collections.
8. Being inauthentic
Last but not least, being authentic was brought up as another major concern and this includes being upfront about stock sizes and not being vague or misleading consumers.
Not only here but in general, listening to what customers have to say and diving deeper into one’s target audience is a great way to increase inclusivity and find new customers.