Plus-sized Fashion Part 1: Shopping Resources

When it comes to style, being fat ain’t easy.

The fashion industry seems to think that larger girls like me do not require stylish, flattering or comfortable clothes like the rest of the population. There are very few retailers that cater to anyone above a size 12, even though the average North American woman is up to a size 14 now, and our segment is growing steadily.

Curvy, Rubenesque, voluptuous, BBW, large, zaftig – whatever you want to call us, we deserve our place in the fashion world. Just because we’re not tiny size 6’s doesn’t mean we don’t have style, flair, beauty or fashion sense.

Here’s an interesting excerpt on the plus-size apparel industry in Canada I discovered via fashion industry research company fashion.infomat:

“One of the most under-served markets in the fashion industry is the women’s plus-size clothing market. As the average age of women in Canada rises, so too does the need for larger size apparel. This market offers great opportunities in clothing women who not only demand more variety, but also have the income and desire to spend. Very few retailers specialize in plus-size women’s clothing in Canada, but as demand for such products grows, U.S. clothing suppliers should find plenty of opportunities in the Canadian market.

1. WOMEN’S PLUS-SIZE APPAREL MARKET OVERVIEW

Presently, the average North American woman hovers between a size 12 and 14, and in Canada, roughly 30% of women wear size 14 and over. As the largest consumer group in North America of 35-45 year old women continues to age, so too will the percentage of women requiring plus-size clothing. The 5% of retail space that is currently devoted to larger size clothing scarcely meets the needs of women today, and in a few year’s time, will certainly not suffice.

[…]
Presently, Canadian children and young adults are less active than they were two decades ago, resulting in not only increased health concerns, but also mounting obesity figures. As the population of obese children ages, so too will the demand for larger size adult clothing.

[…]
Compared to the choices that are given to women sizes 0 to 12, the plus-size clothing selection is truly lacking. In Canada, companies such as Cotton Ginny Ltd., Shirmax Fashions Ltd. and Reitman’s Canada Ltd. dominate the plus-size clothing market. Very few other chains carry clothing in sizes greater than 12, for example Laura Plus.

Shirmax Fashions Ltd. operates 195 retail stores specializing in women’s plus-size clothing in Canada under the store names Addition-Elle and A/E Sport & Co. In 2001, they saw their market share grow from 4% in 1999 to 6.8%, a growth that was partly explained by the aging baby boomers’ needs according to their vice-president of marketing.”

So where does one go to find fashion that will fit? Well, here is a list of stores (Canadian and some American) that I know to carry true plus sizes. I base this list on whether I can actually shop at these stores and find a wide selection of decently-fitting clothing.

Pennington’s
If you’re large, you already know about this store. They have a good collection of clothing for all age ranges as well as basic wardrobe staple, business, lingerie, sport, outerwear, casual and some hoochie club stuff (MXM line).

Addition-Elle
Another plus-sized staple, they carry higher end and some designer items, and are sister-store to Pennington’s. A good place for younger, more fashionable styles (a better collection in my opinion) however they also come with a higher price tag! Staples, business, fashion, sport, casual, hoochie club, formal, lingerie, outerwear.

Reitmans
This store is a split between regular sizes, petite, plus-petite and plus. They have some good wardrobe staples and I find their pants fit me better. You won’t find anything flashy here, but they’re my go-to place for comfy casual and some work apparel. Also winter coats. Their prices are more reasonable than AE or Pennington’s, yet they are part of the same company! Staples, casual, business, sport, outerwear.

Cotton Ginny
Another split store, they carry mostly casual, comfy clothes, and their style could be expressed as “active mom”. I like their eco-organic cotton t-shirts and yoga/athletic wear and wardrobe basics. They don’t really have anything super-fashionable, but the price is right and they are decent in fit and quality. Staples, casual, sport, outerwear.

Sears
They carry a plus-sized section, and some of their regular designs also come in plus sizes, too. I find their clothes run more towards the dowdy older woman, but you can occasionally find some nice, classic pieces. Their prices are average and the quality is good, and you can order from the catalog for more choice. Staples, business, casual, sport, outerwear, lingerie, formal.

The Bay
Similar to Sears, but a little more up-market. They have a small plus section in their stores and tend to carry higher-end items that appeal to an older business demographic. They can be good for some really nice formal or business stuff, as well as designer items, but they also cost a lot more. Fashion, business, formal, casual, sport, outerwear.

Maximum Woman (GTA Only)
This is a great little boutique I recently found. They carry different lines of clothing (compared to the heavy hitters AE and Pennington’s) and have friendly staff. The store owners are plus-sized themselves and hand-pick all the fashions. They cater to the younger crowd mostly, but have good items for the middle age, too. They have some formal and some designer stuff, such as the Baby Phat line. Fashion, business, formal, lingerie, hoochie club, outerwear.

Voluptuous (GTA Only)
This is another boutique that has recently expanded to several locations and specializes in club wear and fashion items. They have some nice stuff, but you definitely need to have a special kind of confidence to be able to wear some of the items! They also run a bit smaller, only going up to a size 20 or small 3X which sadly shuts them out of a large part of the plus-sized market. The prices are a little high for a lot of viscose, rayon, lycra and polyester, IMO. Hoochie club, fashion, outerwear, lingerie.

Wal-Mart
They carry a small selection of plus-sized clothing in their store brands as well as the slightly more fashionable George label. They have great prices, however most of the clothing is cut poorly and made of cheap materials and likely to fall apart shortly after purchase. However if you’re on a budget, want some basics or want to try a new style with minimal risk, they are the place to go. Staples, casual, hoochie club, lingerie, outerwear, sport, cheap fashion.

Lane Bryant (US Only)
If you get a chance to visit the US, make sure to hit up this store! They carry a wide range of everything for most ages. I find their clothes generally more flattering and well-made than anything in Canada, and also just the right mix of fashionable and classic. They have a special lingerie section with the best bras and undies I’ve ever found, and have decent prices. They also offer online ordering in Canadian currency, but watch out for those shipping charges! Staples, business, formal, casual, hoochie club, lingerie, sport, outerwear, fashion.

Torrid (US Only)
I love Torrid because it is the plus-size version of Hot Topic. They cater to the younger crowd with edgier fashions including bondage pants, skulls and corset tops. Love it! They have a decent selection of items, some are higher quality than others, and the prices are a little high. But you won’t find some of these things anywhere else! Fashion, goth, hoochie club, casual, lingerie, formal.

The US has loads more plus-size shopping options so I’m not going to detail them all, but here is a short list. Please email me if you have any additions to make!

JC Penney
Macy’s
Catherine’s
Fashion Bug
Dress Barn
Kiyonna
Avenue

This list I have provided may seem as though there are lots of options… but if you compare this measly list to the multitude of “regular” sized shops, you’ll see just how few plus-sized retailers there really are!

Are you plus-sized? What kind of challenges do you encounter when shopping? Have you found any great new stores you would recommend? Do you feel that our plus-sized shopping options are getting better, or worse? (Selection is increasing, but the ridiculous prices are, too).

Please share with me your thoughts on this issue, and pass the link to this post onto your plus-sized friends—maybe it will help them find more shopping options!

Stay tuned: I’m going to do another post featuring some stunning plus-sized models, and additional fashion resources!

4 thoughts on “Plus-sized Fashion Part 1: Shopping Resources”

  1. I'm a voluptuous woman & I'm proud of my curves! There's a wee phrase that I think should be abolished from everybody's vocabulary & it's "plus-size". Those two little words make me cringe! If retailers feel its necessary to advertise those two words, stores that cater to sizes 0-6 should be branded "anorexic"!

    The clothing selection is getting better, slowly, but coming around. Still disappointing though in my neck of the woods.

    This morning I came across http://www.igigi.com & they even ship to Canada!

  2. I’m teeter and totter between a couple sizes. What bothers me is not so much my size, but the disparity in sizes between makers.

    I wear a size 16 for a Talbots skirt, yet I fit comfortably in a 12 from Lands End. I wish there was some uniform spec clothing makers would use (like shoes, I never vary 3 sizes in shoes.)

  3. @anonymous:
    Stores that cater to size 0 to 6 are called petites.
    And please stop associating skinny/thin with an eating disorder… it can go both ways, but that would be “rude”.

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