The Size 14+ Clothing Market: Underserved But in Demand

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By Tricia McKinnon

A largely underserved segment within the fashion industry is fashionable apparel for consumers who wear size 14 and higher.  In 1980 the average size was size eight now nearly 40 years later it is size 16. Although 67% of Americans wear a size 16 and above this segment of the market has been largely ignored.  According to the New York Times, annual expenditures on larger sized clothing only represents 16% of sales in the $112 billion apparel market in the US.  This is not by choice it is because of limited supply.  

In addition to a lack of supply, consumers shopping within this segment are often stigmatized.   Within retail stores the “plus” department is often located in the back of the store or on another level.  Many designers refuse to make their clothes above a certain size especially within the luxury segment.  It is telling that last year was the first time in Vogue’s history that it featured a “plus-sized” model on its cover, Ashley Graham.

Even when the industry tries to serve this segment clothing tends to less fashionable as most of the attention is given to clothing that is made for consumers wearing smaller sizes.  Retailers that continue to ignore this segment are missing an important opportunity to better serve the majority of society.  While retailers continue to battle it out in traditional arenas there is a growing number of retailers that have identified the opportunity within the size 14+ market and are capitalizing on it.  Some of these retailers include Good America, Fashion Nova, ModCloth, Stitch Fix, Eloquii and Gwynnie Bee. 

Close to 75% of ModCloth’s clothing is available in sizes XXS to 4X. ModCloth puts clothing of all sizes within the same area instead of having a separate “plus-size” section. In a report from the Washington Post, Mathew Kaness, CEO of ModCloth said:  "a lot of brands think very narrowly about who their customer is.  There's this belief that ‘plus-size’ customers simply don't spend as much — but that is only because of a lack of choice."

The company Third Love has also had success by catering to the needs of women of all sizes.  It offers bras in 78 sizes.  Demand for larger sizes is only increasing as evidenced by its 500,000 person long waiting list for bras in sizes such as 44G and 46K.

Clothing sizes at Fashion Nova can go up to 3X.   In an interview with Paper magazine, Fashion Nova CEO Richard Saghian said: “lots of fast fashion retailers offer trend pieces at low prices with quick, convenient shipping. Fewer create items that are suited to body types not seen in typical fashion campaigns.  All our other competitors were always using the same models over and over.  We thought we could be a little different by celebrating body positivity and using curvier girls and the customers liked it." Instead of offering a separate line of clothing for curvy women Fashion Nova offers many items in sizes ranging from extra small to 3X.  Fashion Nova responded to customer feedback that some of their customers wanted the exact same style that may have only come in smaller sizes but for a curvier silhouette.  

The opportunity within the size 14+ segment is real and consumers are clamouring for it.


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