Seriously, why is attractive clothing for overweight women so hard to find?

I’m posting this in MPSIMS because I know folks will post personal opinion and veer off-topic, something that will get a thread closed in GQ. It’s not political or religious in nature, so thus GD isn’t appropriate. I’m not flaming anything, so the Pit also isn’t a good venue.

In many prolonged threads on the SDMB about weight-related issues, inevitably some Dopers of Size ™ will chime in and say that it’s so difficult to find attractive clothing that fits them. In this thread gone wrong, Neutron Star offers these wise words:

If there’s “big money in that shit”, why does it seels like nobody is taking advantage of it?

When asked in passing in other threads in the past, the response to questions about the lack of attractive or flattering clothing for overweight women is usualyl something like “larger women have a larger variety of shapes and figures, and it’s difficult designing clothing to cater to those that arr pear-shaped, top-heavy, all0-around big, or some other shape.” Maybe, but women of those shapes are finding clothing to wear; they’re not strolling around naked in public for lack of threads. If a designer can make something ugly for those different shapes, why can’t they make something attractive or neutral?

Basically, I’m asking if designers can design ugly clothing for overweight women – mu-mus, polyester-heavy fabrics, sacks, obnoxious prints not seen on clothing for those that are weight-appropriate-to-height, and so on – why can’t or won’t they design more attractive clothing? The only reason I can think of is “that’s what the market wants”, but it doesn’t make sense.

I’m asking Dopers to please refrain from the usual flaming and trainwreck-inducing turns (talking about diet, glandual issues, fast food diets, laziness, concepts of personal beauty, paying for two seats on airplanes, and so on) that threads about weight usually involve. If this thread devolves like the “Why do obese women all dress the same?” thread (a mess from the start, I’ll admit), I’ll ask a mod to close it.

Damn! Tried to fix the typos, but the hamsters decided to take a rest before the five-minute window.


If you shame the fat chicks by only offering them ugly clothes, they will then be forced to lose weight just so they’ll have something to wear.

As a tactic, this really doesn’t work so well, as anyone whose mother has ever started on them with a tirade about all the myriad ways they suck because they’re fat could attest.

Hey, look, still bitter. But slowly becoming less fat at last.

Attractive plus size clothing is out there. I think a lot of the cute stuff is pretty pricey. Either The Average Plus Sized Gal can’t afford it or she doesn’t want to spend a bundle because she’s dieting. Just an observation based on anecdotal evidence.

It’s very hard to feel worthy of attractive clothing given being bombarded with “you’re ugly” messages 24/7.

But how do clothing companies and designers profit from shame? One could put forward a conspiracy theory where they’re working in concert with the diet industry, but it’s just not feasible. Again, remember neutron star’s quote.

Although I personally ascribe to a different hypothesis, given my own experience with “puppy fat”, it’s not entirely unbelievable that big corporations would choose to not to cater to overweight women.

First, there are only so many corporations that have the ability to make affordable clothing for big women. So you’re narrowing down the list of possible suppliers right there to a select few.

Second, a “niche waiting to be filled” does not equal “opportunity to make the most money.” They may believe that size 0 designer clothing is still where the most money is at.

Third, only a tiny handful of people are actually involved in guiding even the biggest corporations, and there is no guarantee that they lack myopia. See the American car companies that still are pushing SUVs even in danger of bankruptcy, for example.

I have worked for two large women who both dressed very well. One of them was more the suit type, the other one was more the prairie skirt with giant turquoise squash-blossom necklace type, but they both always looked really good and very well put together. One of them (prairie skirt) was regarded as kind of a hot number even though she was in her '60s–she had five ex-husbands, one of whom still sent her love letters.

Balanced against them I have known women who wore hideous clothes and bitched that they couldn’t find anything decent. Lots of them.

But the clothes are out there. My favorite!

www. (possibly NSFW)

www. (possibly NSFW)

And so on…
Above is a list of plus size clothing stores for women. Not only do they vary in price range, they also vary in style.

My own pet theory is this. Big Name Designers don’t design clothes for any woman over size 12, and even refuse to make clothes for over size 12. If only slim people wear Armani, Armani will continue to breathe success, and secondly Armani will have an undeserved reputation as a brand of clothing that “flatters” the wearer. Which is, of course a devilish exampel of circular reasoning: People look slim in an Armani because only slim people get to wear an Armani.

If my theory is true, Big Name Designers should make larger size clothes in countries where there is no taboo on being larger, and people have the money to pay for them.
I wonder if any of the Dopers in the Middle East can tell us if that is the case over there. IIRC, it is.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

My wife never has any problems dressing as cute as a button.

The clothes *are * out there. I used to be a size sixteen, and I never had any problem finding cute clothes. And it’s not as though lots of *thin * people don’t dress badly. Put bluntly, I believe that while it may be marginally harder for plus-sized women to find attractive clothing, the fact is that there are lazy people, cheap people, and people with bad taste of *all * sizes, and *all of them * look like crap.

I’d like to add but more importantly this item which I bought and look FABULOUS in.

Yes the clothes are out there, and while I’m glad there are websites o’ plenty to buy from, I also hate that I can’t just go in a store to buy them. I have from Cato mainly, but that’s pretty much my only option. Can’t answer about why designers aren’t making them though.

This isn’t a question with one answer. Some possible answers:

  1. Women of a Certain Size are often gaining or losing weight (sometimes at the same time, it seems!) There’s definitely a reluctance to purchase much in your current size when you suspect that in 3 months it won’t fit.

  2. Women of a Certain Size often don’t know where these stores are! Looking at the list above, I went, “Wait, what? Old Navy?! For Plus Sizes?!” looking at the website, I see a tab which says: “Exclusively Online Women’s Plus Sizes 16-30”. There you go. There is no Plus Size section in any Old Navy store, which leads me to…

  3. Lots of the cute stuff is only available online. Which means you can’t browse. You can’t feel the fabrics. You can’t tell from a computer monitor that the shade of blue is actually hideous. You don’t get to see cute displays made up for ideas of what pieces to put together. And ordering stuff online that you’re not sure about is inconvenient and a crapshoot, not to mention often more expensive, if you have to pay shipping to return it.

  4. Yeah, making clothes for overweight women is more expensive. (Spare the “more material” jokes, please.) Most designers at the Target price level have about a half dozen designs in about 8 colors. With thin women, this works, because the only measurements you really need to take into account are bust and hip and length. With heavy women, you’ve got a lot more variables, which means a lot more time paying people to draw and design and more designs for seamstresses to sew. To make it cost effective, they don’t make a dozen designs for the busty and another dozen for the big-assed and another dozen for the tomato shaped women. Rather, they have a smaller section of Plus Size, and the total number is divided by the body type they’re designing for. At any one time, if the fashion gods are smiling on me, I might find two blouses in a reasonable priced store that were designed with my body type in mind. After a time spent searching, you say “fuck it” and pick up half a dozen t-shirts in assorted colors and you’ve got your wardrobe, sad as it is.

  5. If you dress ugly and you’re large, you’re doubly noticeable. If you dress ugly and you’re small, you fly under the radar. It’s the confirmation bias effect. A fat woman dressed in an awkward top is ugly. A thin women dressed in an awkward top “would be cute if she dressed nicer.”

I’m not sure this is true. “Thin” women also come in “busty” and “big-assed” and “tomato-shaped”. Fit and figure concerns don’t disappear just because you get below some magical number on a scale or a size tag.

Ooh! Nice… Thanks, I forgot about b and lu. I got an awesome lightweight, figure-flattering sweatshirt from them that I love. (And my boyfriend likes it too!) :smiley:

I’d add this site as well. Their clothing is a bit pricey, but let me tell you it’s well made and worth it! I’ve only been able to buy a few things from there because of the cost, but what I have gotten has been very high quality, nicely made, and durable. Unfortunately, they do not use plus-size models online; they do have some plus-size models in their catalogs, however. Also sometimes the fashions are just awful–like the capri pants. That’s JMHO, mind you; I think they look awful on me and won’t purchase them.

Yep, herbs, you got another one that I forgot. They are rather pricey. I think I’ve only got one thing from them, but it is pretty nice.

Slightly off-topic rant

Today I went to the Avenue to get some new bras and I was told that I was not allowed to try anything on unless it was black in color. None of the employees could tell me why, just that I couldn’t try on any item in the store unless it was black. I walked out and went next door to Lane Bryant and spent my money there instead. I would say that requiring me to buy clothes that I don’t have any way of knowing whether or not they fit and then not letting me return them because they are all on sale is a good way to condemn a lot of women to being dressed awkwardly or spending more at another place. Stupid Avenue!

I must say, after thinking about this for a little bit longer that if you would have asked me 15 years ago about finding attractive clothes in my size, I would have had a much different answer. Back then it was very difficult, but these days, business is booming.