With Plus Size Fashion Options Comes Better Segmentation- An Explanation

Plus Size Fashion Options, we have them. I have been wanting to revisit this topic for a while now. As I share more designers and brands, one of the biggest and loudest comments I see is about cost and the prices of these garments. As fashion and plus size evolve, so do the idiosyncrasies and nuances of fashion itself, as it pertains to plus size.

15+ years ago, US plus size fashion was quite limited, leaving us Curvy Fashionistas with very little or if any options for shopping and discerning which pieces were of a fashion forward standard. NOW, with the rapid amalgamation of options within plus size clothing, one could easily find herself lost, frustrated, confused, irritated, or flustered when shopping for an ideal outfit or piece of clothing.

Here on TCF, we do not mention prices and do this deliberately. I want to showcase and show off the plus size fashion options, rather than you focusing on the price of something. Showcasing the items and the options we have is raising awareness to the growth of the industry.


We no longer have one option to dress our curves- we have many, we have a variety of plus size fashion options. However, to better understand and sort through the madness of them all, a budding Fashionista must first understand what these newer segments are and learn the identifiers of these to shop smarter, not harder.

No really WHY?

I want to help you understand what to expect, so that you do not get frustrated, mad, or angry. The more options we have the more similar are the issues shared in straight size fashion. With these options, as in the straight- sized market, you will find certain segments within fashion that are grouped together by price, quality, fit and/or style aesthetic.

This allows us to know WHAT to expect when shopping from a retailer or brand, or designer.

The Five Segments in Plus Size Fashion

RetailDogma highlights these five fashion segments as Haute Couture, Ready-to-Wear (RTW), Diffusion, Bridge and Mass Market. For the plus size and a modern twist, we have defined the plus size fashion segments as: Haute Couture, Luxury & Designer, Contemporary, Mass Market & Fast Fashion, and Discounted & Off-price.

For the sake of argument and looking at this if were on the floor at… Bloomingdales or Nordstrom. Below, we will group these segments for plus size fashion as straight sized fashion does, to help explain the price discrepancies, size differences, in relation to the integrity and quality of a retailer’s or designer’s garment… let’s dive on into these segments in plus size fashion that are here to help gives us more plus size fashion options to shop from.

Haute Couture Plus Size Fashion

Gradient Biz shares that “Haute Couture refers only to a few fashion houses approved by the French High Fashion Federation, but generally speaking, professional ateliers who make made-to-measure, handcrafted, intricate garments, such as evening wear could be called couture.”

This is one of the areas in plus size fashion that is ripe for the taking. With very few players in this space and few playing on the red carpet, haute couture fashion is a space that is constantly and consistently being called each fashion week cycle for its lack of inclusion and representation.

Designers like Christian Siriano is confidently and proudly catering to the discerning plus size shopper by not only dressing plus size celebrities on the red carpet but also walking plus size bodies during fashion week.

Luxury, Designer, & RTW Plus Size Fashion

One step down from Couture relative to price and exclusivity, but still serves a discerning and well to do client is Luxury and Designer plus size fashion. Yes! They do exist! Goods that are of a higher quality and a respective higher price point are the fashion leaders within plus size. Designers such as: Elena Miro, Marina Rinaldi, Fuzzi, Bella Rene fall into this category.

These luxury designers are oftentimes carried in specialty boutiques or department stores such as Saks and Neiman Marcus and often sell for more than $500+ an item.

Expect the finest fabrics, usually imported from overseas, have a more conservative cut, with the exception of Elena Miro and Fuzzi– but even Marina Rinaldi is changing their silhouettes, impeccably tailored, fully lined, natural fabrics, with exclusivity in availability.

Contemporary Plus Size Fashion

A segment that has been making HUGE fashion strides over the past 10+ years, Contemporary plus size fashion is a segment that has had major room for innovation, participation, and players. Apparel Search asks of contemporary fashion: “what do the brands in this category all have in common? It’s all about quality. Even the most basic item feels luxurious and are finely crafted.”

These contemporary plus size brands are often the thought leaders, innovators, and risk takers within the plus size fashion segments. They continually challenge the status quo or the norm in what fashion should be for the discerning plus size woman.

This fashion forward segment presents mid-priced (sometimes at the same price points as Bridge and Better) fashions both fashion forward and quality driven range from the low $100s and can command over $500.

This segment focuses on the fashion forward options and edge. This segment usually targets the 20-35+ aged woman with more body conscious fits, daring silhouettes, and bold statements. Think Savvy, TBD, mirroring the contemporary collections represented in Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Saks, contemporary plus size fashion offers the fashion forward plus size woman options tailored to her curves at a moderate price point. 

Quality in these fabrics are only a sidestep lower than their luxury counterparts, introducing innovative blends in fabrics, specific silhouettes inspired by the designer’s artistic inspiration, and, like its luxury designers, have more intricate detailing. These designers such as Baacal, Loud Bodies, Jibri, Monif C., Hilary MacMillan, Christian Omeshun, Melissa Mercedes, or Barkwood, are just a few who fall into this category.

Mass Market Plus Size Fashion and Fast Fashion:

Sometimes, some of these retailers produce items that are quick in its turnaround but with a better level of quality and price (moderate) or at a lower price point and lower life span (fast fashion).

In moderate plus size fashion, this segment varies greatly and usually retails for less than $150. Think of your Eloquii, Simply Be, Igigi, Gap, ASOS, Lane Bryant, and City Chic, all brands who produce fashion or carry collections a step above your fast fashion counterparts.

Items move fast, with highly fashionable items, mass-produced, but with a controlled access and definitive brand image.

Fast fashion garments are quickly produced product in a cost efficient manner, delivering high fashion looking garments, at the lowest price possible. With the ability to mass produce up-to-the-minute trends and incredulously low price points, fast fashion provides edgy, often directly inspired from design houses, looks that range from as low as a $10 price point up to a $150 price tag.

To be worn for the moment, the lifespan of these fast fashion fashions are intended to last for the current season. H&M, Forever 21, Shein and smaller online plus size boutiques like Chic and Curvy fall into this mix.

I bring up these online boutiques because of their rise in the online space. It is important to know that these online boutiques oftentimes buy from junior plus size fast fashion manufacturers whose sizing is cut differently from traditional plus sizes.

Discount Plus Size Fashion

The segment discount can sound a bit confusing but this serves its purpose. Usually looked at loss leaders, these retailers have quickly adapted to the fast fashion concepts leveraging their consumers buying power and reputation to fashion exclusive designer collections.

However, the division and classification of what to expect from these segments do not stop there. Challenging and changing the fashion climate over the last year, discount leaders have created strategic partnerships with Contemporary Designers to bring affordable fashions to the masses.

Retailers such as TJMaxx, Burlington, Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls and others bring plus size fashion at an affordable retail price.

While there are a few designers and retailers who straddle various segments and this is a loose guide to help you to understand these differences. Each segment both provides and serves its purpose in the ever diversifying industry of plus size fashion with the options we now have! It is all about learning about them!

NOW, it is all about these plus size fashion options.

It is important about knowing the differences in these segments so that you know what to expect when shopping a particular designer or retailer.  Learning the difference affords you the ease of a headache or frustration when shopping to put your best curve forward! Exciting right?

To find out more about any of the plus size designers mentioned in this article, please visit Plus Size Designers or read about them in the Plus Size Designers search results!

What do you think of this revised segmentation? Does this help you prepare for what to expect when you go shopping through all of those plus size fashion options?

Leave a comment and let’s chat about it!

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