Why you can't find plus-size clothes

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Why you can't find plus-size clothes
Australian designer Leona Edmiston has a plus-size range. Photography by Liz Ham. Styling by Mattie Cronan.

The average Australian woman is a size 16, but if you head on to the high street you'll be lucky to find anything bigger than a 14.

So what's going on? Why isn't someone plugging this gaping hole in the market?

"There's this bizarre mindset among some of the designers that says catering for anyone beyond a 12 is somehow damaging their brand. I cannot get my head around it," says Georgina Safe, fashion editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.

"I don't know whether the term 'plus-size' is even applicable anymore because the average body shape and size for women is teetering on what would be classified as plus-size now.

"There are some designers who do delve beyond a 12 or 14, but they might sell it online, they sell it quietly, almost in the outlet store. They won't put it in their flagship designer boutiques. It's as if it's something that's not to be talked about."

Related: Dressing Chrissie Swan

Leona Edmiston is one of the few designers who does cater for bigger ladies. She creates pretty retro-inspired pieces for "all women who love to wear gorgeous frocks" and last year introduced her own plus-size range.

"We had noticed that, in our boutiques, our size 4 [Australian size 16] was quite often the first size to sell out," says general manager, Melissa Macalyk.

"We trialled the plus sizes online, where they had great success, and now continue to supply these in our main range boutiques."

And while much of the designer world seems obsessed with creating sexy outfits for girls, there are Australian designers — such as Carla Zampatti and New Zealander Kate Sylvester — who are making great pieces for older women.

"My ideal customer is a woman who is 30s to 40s, creative, intelligent and not obsessed with fashion. She's more concerned with looking beautiful and stylish," says Sylvester, whose range of individual dresses and separates is both wearable and unique, and actually appeals to all ages.

Despite this, Sylvester's sizing stops at 14, but she says she simply doesn't have the demand for larger sizes and would increase her range if customers asked her to.

Carla Zampatti's beautifully tailored classic lines in eveningwear, pant suits, shirts and jackets are renowned for flattering women's bodies. Her sizing goes up to 18 in some styles and 16 in others, and like Sylvester she says she hasn't had the demand for a bigger size range.

As for size ranges, bigger women are clearly not a priority for a lot of the high street brands, even though they make up the majority of the marketplace.

A Country Road size XL (its largest) is a 16, Marcs, Witchery and Cue stop at 14, Jigsaw and Big W's Emerson brand at 16, David Lawrence, Jacqui-E and Sussan run to 18.

And while there are a clutch of specific plus-size brands, such as Autograph, TS14+, Big W's Avella and Myer's rather conservative Big Is Beautiful range, Sportscraft does push to a size 22 with some of its range and Target runs to size 26 in some lines.

For Bridget Veals, Merchandising Director at Webster Holdings, who own Marcs, David Lawrence and Jigsaw, plus size is "a speciality field", which, at the moment, they're not embarking upon.

In pictures: What's wrong with plus-size bodies anyway?

Here at The Weekly, we fight to get larger sizes of upcoming collections to feature on models that reflect normal women's shapes, but they are rarely available.

It's true designing for curvy larger bodies does demand a different aesthetic and you can't just convert size 10 to size 22 without considering the cut and the style, but surely the smart move for a designer who wants longevity would be to start cutting their cloth a bit differently and shouting it from the rooftops.

Read more of this story in the July issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.

Your say: Do you have trouble finding plus-size clothing? Do you think it's time the Australian fashion started catering for larger ladies?

Subscribe to The Australian Women's Weekly and receive a FREE Nude by Nature Gift pack, valued at over $80.

Video: Plus-size style

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