Thursday, October 6, 2011

Size 26+: The Often Forgotten Woman

My name is Marcy and I love fashion. I love to shop and express myself through my fashion. I am also a size 26-28.

Growing up in the 80’s as a plus size girl, it was a struggle for me fashion-wise with limited retail options available. Back then, I was between a size 14 – 18. You would think that now in 2011, my choices for fashionable clothing would be endless. However, at my current size, I still feel like I am in the 80’s. I see clothes I want but many of them don’t come in my size. While plus size clothing has come a very long way since that time, I feel like a “forgotten” woman in a community where we should all be celebrated and not divided by size.

My shopping experience now usually goes something like this: Online (or in a store) I see a dress I love and want to buy. When trying to add it to my cart, I click on the “Select Size” dropdown menu and don’t see my size. Huh? I check their size chart and see they only go up to a size 24.

I have grown accustomed to this happening since it has happened so frequently. A few months ago, I was looking for outfits for a plus fashion event. I had two fabulous designers offer me pieces to wear but had to decline both since one went up to a 24 and the other 22.

Not only do I have to contend with some retailers and designers that don’t carry my size but with the ones that do, I am hit with yet another challenge: getting to the store in time (or buying it online quickly) before my size runs out. Size 26-28 always tends to sell out quickly. For a recessionista like myself, I love to take advantage of a great sale – who doesn’t? But most of the time, my size is gone by the time the item is on sale.

One day, while in one of my favorite stores, I was talking to a salesperson and decided to ask her about the lack of 26-28s in the store. According to her, typically sizes 18-20 and 26-28 sell out first. However, as we talked further, I also learned that while these two size brackets sell out first, items in these sizes are not bought equally. Usually when they receive inventory from the warehouse, there are more size 18-20 pieces than size 26-28 pieces. For example, a new top coming in would have 8 pieces in size 18-20 and 2 pieces in size 26-28. Does this mean that retailers/designers feel that 26-28 is not a popular size or as in much demand as that 18-20? Obviously, the 18-20 is popular but at the same time, I would think that by size 26-28 selling out quickly, it makes it quite obvious that not only is size 26-28 popular as well but in need.

Then there is the argument that larger sizes require more fabric, which means more money spent on creating the item. I personally feel that the issue here is not fabric, it’s about the pattern made to create that item. It is not easy to create plus size clothing since there is no one standard body type for a plus size woman. While it would cost more money to create those patterns, it would save the retailer on fabric in the end and help to gain more customers, which means more money.

As a customer, I just don’t want to be made to feel like I have to lose weight so I can be able to shop at a store. As plus size women, we are already dealing with the stereotypes inflicted on us by society and mainstream media but now we have to experience exclusion within our own community? It feels like the stores that offer 24 and under are VIP clubs with a velvet rope out front that are keeping out those of us who are a 26 and above. I believe that the retailer has to care about the plus size customer and believe in us, that we will buy their clothing if they offer our size. It would be a win-win for both sides.

I have hope that one day, I will no longer be that forgotten woman at the end of the size range...that I will be recognized as a woman who is just as fashionable and deserving of that fashion as my thinner counterparts sizes 24 and under. I want to one day have the freedom to shop at any plus size retailer or designer and find my size. Forgotten woman no more! I WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN.

While I get frustrated at my size not being available everywhere, I also don’t want to disregard those retailers who do carry my size and above. I’m a “glass half full” kind of girl. Here’s a few noteworthy ones to check out – there is no velvet rope at these places:

Avenue: Affordable clothing and shoes, always offers coupons/deals and they go up to a size 32. A size 26-28 recessionista’s dream. A great online plus size shopping experience from the company that owns Lane Bryant, Catherines and Fashion Bug. They offer clothing from a variety of retailers in one place (one cart, one checkout) at great prices. They just launched an awesome feature called Fashion Genius, where you can create outfits and save them in your style file. They go up to a size 36, 5X.

Just As You Are: A new online retailer on the scene that offers custom made coats and jackets. Just enter in your measurements and they suggest a coat or jacket that would fit you best. Then they create that coat for you in your specifications. I am in Heaven!

Igigi: Beautiful dresses, moderate pricing, great customer service and they go up to a 32.

Evans UK: Based in the UK but delivers to the US via their website. They also plan to launch in the US soon. They go up to a size 32, offer great collections such as their fabulous Beth Ditto line last year, carry shoes up to EEEE width and beautiful handbags with longer straps for us girls with big arms.

Penningtons/Addition Elle: Based in Canada but ships to the US. Casual basics, career separates, bras/sleepwear as well as their MXM collection, which are trendy, edgier type of pieces. They go up to a size 32, 5X.

Just My Size: Basics and career separates up to a 40W and at awesome prices. Their clothing is also available at Walmart.

Sealed with a Kiss: This online retailer goes up to size 36, 6X. Great prices, wonderful dresses and tops, plus great customer service.

Lucie Lu: Beautiful dresses and tops – there is a dress on their site that I dream about and am waiting to go on sale. Moderately priced and goes up to size 30, 5X.

Simply Be: UK based and just launched in the US with a website and catalog. Trendy clothing that goes up to a size 28.

Kiyonna: This retailer is known for their elegant dresses, moderately priced. But they sell other types of clothing as well. Their swimwear is fabulous. They go up to a size 32.

B&Lu – Love, love, love the clothing at B&Lu. It’s trendy with a vintage flair. They go up to a size 32, 6X.

Eliza Parker: Beautiful dresses and tops in fabulous fabrics. I own one of their dresses and felt like a queen when wearing it to an event. They go up to size 28.

Curvaceous Boutique: Trendy, fabulous clothing up to a size 28. Their clothing is gorgeous and really makes you feel confident, adventurous and beautiful at the same time.

We’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite retailers that offer extended sizes? What do you think about extended sizes not being offered at all plus size retailers/designers?

Marcy is new to the Belle Noir Magazine team. Besides fashion and writing, she loves to travel at a whim, is a self-proclaimed book nerd, loves to crochet while watching Project Runway and Audrey Hepburn is her hero. She can be reached via email at

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