When the Plus Size Community is taken out of Plus Size Fashion

There is a unique nuance in the plus size fashion space, one that many mainstream retailers, brands, and marketing experts miss all the time when trying to woo the plus size consumer. One that we are starting to see and feel, even among the plus size brands. Something that around 2015 was peak plus size fashion… the Plus Size Community. 

Now… walk with me for a few as I break this down. 

As the plus size fashion industry has grown, thanks to the various OG plus size professionals, legends, icons and plus size influencers who paved the way, when everyone thought that plus size fashion was a fad, the industry has grown curiously stagnant, or so we are led to believe. 

Never mind the reports that state that plus size fashion is forecasted to be a $501.35 billion dollar market by 2033. During this perceived stagnancy, murmurs of Ozempic, the contraction of plus size stores, influencers walking away from this space, brands acquiring each other, leadership changing hands to people who are not connected to the plus size space, the plus size community has felt the change. 

Concerns about what is happening have hit a fever pitch and as I have been watching, reading, and observing, I wanted to take it all in to analyze with my Virgo Sun, Cap Moon tendencies, just what has been happening in plus size fashion and I think, I have figured it out… 

The thing that gave plus size fashion a place, a chance, its growth? All comes down to the plus size community. Everything. The whole of it. 

Inside the Plus Size Community Boom 

If we go back to around 2015, this was probably where major changes in the plus size community started to happen! Fashion brands were starting to recognize the plus size blogger and influencer. Brands also started recognizing that this boom of creators also could lead to a boom in sales. And for some of those brands (and bloggers and influencers), it did… 

I mean, I along with 10 other influencers even had a trip to France to the Marina Rinaldi Headquarters– which yielded me a full-on photoshoot in Marie Claire! We had our very first TCFStyle Expo In Georgia, FFFWeek was jamming, and Curvy Con launched. 

Target finally paid attention and included plus sizes in their brand collaborations, even the UK plus size brands jumped in to play. River Island launched plus sizes. Beth Ditto dropped her collection, and Christian Siriano for Lane Bryant! It was a year of excitement and firsts! 

There was a newness, acceptance, and a realized opportunity in plus size fashion that was thrilling. The plus size community flourished with events, collections, and brand collaborations as we all united on various social media platforms to directly challenge stereotypes, various isms, and style preferences. 

And the brands and retailers listened and reacted as they knew how to do. We had representatives on the brand side who were involved in the community. Those who built relationships, attended events, and took time to listen to (and implement) what the plus size community was asking for. 

It was a beautiful time. It was TCF’s peak traffic time, we were jamming on the one… The following year, Refinery 29 dropped the 67% report. It backed up what many in the plus size space were saying and research backed up our claims, desires, and demands. 

But then… things changed. 

Social media threw us a wrench with algorithms, Google introduced a few new updates, and reach was immediately limited amongst brands, retailers, and content creators. It also shifted how and where we shared content.

Image via Eloquii Ogs Campaign

While most of us learned how to pivot and adjust, these changes impacted the collective plus size community but birthed something even cooler: niche communities within the plus size community. From plus size travel, LGBTQ creators, plus size mommy bloggers, to dancers and so many smaller communities based on location flourished. 

The VC community started investing in plus size brands, giving validity to the viability of plus size fashion. Brands like 11 Honore, Dia & Co, Universal Standard, and even Eloquii, among others, received healthy investments in their businesses. 

And then… the pandemic happened. 

Established retailers started acquiring and selling plus size brands. City Chic acquired Avenue, Evans, Navabi, and Hips and Curves. Dia & co took over 11 Honoré. Lane Bryant was sold to the same owners of Torrid and with that closed a healthy number of stores. Torrid IPOed. Eloquii exited all of their physical stores. 

Indie plus size designers pivoted as much as they could- some completely changing their direction. Some exited the business completely. With the pandemic keeping us all inside, the events that brought us all together, dried up. Businesses that once excitedly supported events were hesitant to engage the community again. 

Which brings us to today… with the rise of TikTok, Reels, and YouTube shorts, video has inspired a new wave of influencers and creators, has catapulted new faces with collaborations and partnerships. 

But with that, the loudest concerns and challenges has been the lack of exciting plus size fashion, the limited amount of plus size models on the catwalk, and the oversimplification of “size inclusive” brands not carrying a full plus size range… 

So, what are we to do? How do we revive that plus size community that ushered in so much change, visibility, and inspiration? How do we reclaim that vigor, passion, and audacity? It may seem that we have taken steps back, but in the retail growth cycle, we are still in our growth phase! 

I have a few ideas, but alone I do not have that answer… However, I do have a few key facts to share and remind you, to quell a few of our concerns:

A Few Current Truths about the Plus Size Community 

The plus size fashion space is STILL in its growth phase! With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7%. Compared to straight size women’s fashion at a CAGR of 2.83%. That is almost double the growth rate of straight size fashion! So, no matter what folks are saying, the numbers do not lie! The plus size fashion market is still booming.

The work that the plus size community has been doing is exactly what has led to the growth and options in fashion we have today!  Gitnux credits “Increased body positivity, awareness, and marketing efforts, growing plus size fashion influencers, expansion of product lines by fashion brands, and a growing consumer base are some of the leading factors driving growth in the plus size industry.”

This means that we should NOT stop using our voice showing up on social media, pushing back and holding brands accountable with inclusion and fashion options. Don’t let up now! Show your support by sharing, leaving comments, shopping, attending, subscribing to those plus size brands (and media like TCF) to encourage, motivate, and challenge those to keep up the fight! 

It is both exciting and sad to see the newest generation of plus size influencers still taking up the fight. We see examples of this with Remi Bader and her “realistic hauls” ultimately landing her a collaboration with Revolve, and Samyra Cambrielle with her viral “Plus-Size Freestyle” calling out the lack of inclusion of extended sizes in physical stores.

Indie designers, if you are reading this, the Mid-Price (elevated mass market) is positioned to be the fastest growing plus size fashion segment to grow! Seriously! Future Market Insights shares that “The demand for premium plus size clothes is predicted to expand at a faster CAGR over the forecast period due to increased spending capacity, adoption of global fashion trends, and consumer desire for sophisticated items usually exclusive and produced by fashion industry specialists.”

This means that current challenge for you is to get your brand, vision, and innovation out there! Marketing! Showing up. Building your team. Honing your business craft. Applying to programs that help build that foundation and SOAR! (Remember that TCF is here to support YOU!) 

image via @giairl on instagram

Even more exciting? Is that this growth is not specific to the US plus size woman’s market (while holding 40% of the market share). NOPE. This growth in plus size fashion and with the plus size community is also international and cross segments:

  • The UK holds around 14% of the market share, as of 2023, but even more impressive, is that the number of plus-size brands rose by 50.7% between 2015 and 2020.
  • Big & Tall Fashion– Get this…  “The male segment accounted for roughly half of the global plus size clothing market revenue in 2023 and is likely to continue to rule the roost over the forecast period.” In addition to this, this market is predicted to be worth $3.3 billion globally!
  • China, Japan, and Korea– Keep an eye out for these spaces as they hold a combined share of the market (20%, 10%, 5%) at 35%! Even more curious and exciting for me, who grew up in Japan, is that Gitnux shared that It is “estimated that by 2027, the Asia-Pacific plus-size apparel market will grow with a CAGR of 7.3%.”
  • Contemporary plus size fashion– For those who are fans of Contemporary or premium plus size fashion, you are in for a treat! “The demand for premium plus size clothes is predicted to expand at a faster CAGR over the forecast period due to increased spending capacity, adoption of global fashion trends, and consumer desire for sophisticated items usually exclusive and produced by fashion industry specialists.”
  • Luxury plus size fashion– there has been enough growth in this segment to register a 1% share in the plus size fashion market! Trailing behind petites (4%) and maternity (6%), the fact that there is growth here, is exciting… 

Pretty impressive stats right? 

Curve organza puff sleeve polka dot top with bow back and maxi set at ASOS.com

So, while it may feel like we are taking a few steps back and that things are changing, I see them a different way. Being the nerd that I am, I pose and recognize a different question… 

How do we reignite, recognize and/or restore the plus size community to that power through this space in the growth cycle, to continue to show up and show out- fashionably? 

How do we bring back that unity, that comradery, that connection, after all that has happened in the world? 

I think it is important that we first acknowledge and recognize that this space we find ourselves in, is part of the growth cycle in fashion. Realize that the plus size community many have called out that is missing, is still there, it is just spread out a bit more and that we have to be intentional to reconnect with folks. 

Hold ourselves accountable to show up for others in this space in the ways we know how and to not be shamed or embarrassed to ask for help or guidance. Also? We need to make sure that we can show up for ourselves (me included).

Marie Denee – Founder of The Curvy Fashionista

But most importantly, we need to give ourselves a little grace, kindness, and patience, myself included. These past few years may have been MY personal roughest EVER, and I find myself leaning into life’s lessons, resolving missteps and mistakes I have made, and figuring out what it means to show up for myself, for TCF, and the community. 

It is only once we reconcile these feeling can we come together to really impact some change, remind these brands what we want, need, and deserve! 

And you know what? I am extremely excited to see where the plus size community and the plus size fashion market goes from here… This is not an individual walk, but a collective one. 

But now, I would like to hear from you… With what you read and processed, what do you think about the plus size community? Do you agree with where I am coming from? Do you see a missing point? 

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