Here’s everything brands get wrong when expanding their sizes—and how you can do it better.
You’re a fashion brand who’s expanded their sizing, hello! And welcome to the year 2022 where the majority of folks do in fact wear plus sizes. I’m so glad you’re finally getting on board! Prepare to make some money because just like thin folks, plus size folks’ money spends. But before you get too excited here are the 8 things brands get wrong when expanding their sizes (and how you can avoid them).
You change the cut and/or proportions of the garment. You’ve been indoctrinated into a set of beliefs around what fat folks are capable of “pulling off”. You assume fat folks won’t want to wear the tighter styles, the midriff baring crop top, or the mini skirt. This is a wrong assumption. Just like thin folks, plus size and fat folks are not a monolith, our tastes and style choices are just as varied as our smaller counterparts. Please do not assume what we would be comfortable wearing and please don’t push your beliefs about what’s “flattering” on larger bodies. Make the exact same item in the larger size, just patterned to fit us properly.
The fit is way, way off. You’ve employed a pattern maker with no experience in plus sizes to expand your size range. They’ve added some inches to the widths. The bust gapes, the biceps and thighs are way too tight, garments lack the proper amount of ease for the wearer to move. The fit is just a big old mess. To avoid this, hire a patternmaker with experience in plus size development. Test the fit on larger plus size bodies (ideally a 2X and 3X). Better yet, hire multiple plus size fit models with different body types. Keep tweaking the fit until you get it right.
There is no fat/ plus size imagery. You’ve expanded your size range, had the new pieces manufactured but to the plus size customer they can’t immediately tell that you sell their sizes because there are no product images with plus size models. Your social media lacks visibly plus size models/ customers. It’s unclear that you do in fact sell plus sizes. Be sure to include product images of plus size models. Your social media feed should also be diversified, showing your garments on visibly plus customers/ models. It should be extremely apparent that you sell plus sizes!
Not stocking plus sizes in-store. If you're selling in store and you carry plus sizes you absolutely must carry those sizes in store--and carry the entire size range. Plus size customers are forced to do nearly all their shopping online resulting in increased returns (likely because your size chart is inaccurate, more on that below). If you have a physical location having your entire range in store is an absolutely excellent way to build rapport, gather feedback and make sales from your new plus size customers. Plus size customers want to shop in real life, let them!
Missing, incomplete size charts. When the customer goes to select their size they click on the size chart but find it’s incomplete and stops at an XL. The brand has forgotten to update their size chart to reflect their new sizes. The customer feels excluded and like an afterthought. Be sure your size chart is up to date and reflects your full range of available sizes. This size chart should be a body measurement size chart and should include at minimum bust, waist and hip measurements.
When the 4X is actually a 1X. While there is no agreed upon standard size chart, especially in plus sizes, there are some generally accepted numeric ranges on what equates to a 1X or 4X. Normally a 4X should suit a customer in the 24/26/28 size range. Luxury and small independent brands are notorious for their size ranges running small. Most plus size customers know that they may wear a size 2X in one brand and a 1X in another but a 1X customer should absolutely not have to size up to a 4X (and if that’s the case, then you have not in fact “expanded your sizes”). Generally this happens when a brand hasn’t properly graded (or sized) their size chart, not leaving enough room between the larger sizes resulting in a size “expansion” that only expands to about a size 16/18. Announcing you’ve expanded to a 4X when in reality is a 1X is a surefire way to lose any and all trust with the plus size community.
You have no fat or plus size people on your team, either as consultants or employees. They are not in customer service, marketing, designing, patterning, nothing. Trust us, we can tell. When you have plus size and fat folks at the table you have a diversity of voices which will lead to better decision making and improved results in regards to your size expansion. Plus size folks have an extremely specific lived experience navigating an industry that has purposefully excluded them. Listen to their experience! Incorporate it into how you design, launch, market and sell your new expanded size products.
You market your size expansion as “revolutionary”, “game-changing” or some other euphemism for how incredible you are. It is the year 2022. The average American woman wears plus sizes. You are not the second coming of Christ because you’ve expanded your sizing. What you are is someone who understands basic math and realizes there are a LOT of people not able to shop your brand because of your exclusionary sizing practices and you want your brand to make more money. Expanding your sizing is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate humility. It’s an opportunity to say ‘hey, this was a blind spot for us and we’re committed to doing better, here’s how we’re doing it’. This is the better communication strategy around size expansion: recognizing that you haven’t been as inclusive as you could have been, committing to doing it better, delivering on those results.
So there ya have it folks! Eight excellent mistakes to avoid and everything you can do to design, market and sell your plus size products. Sincerely, I want to see brands succeed when they expand their sizing because we need more brands offering a diversity of styles and price points in this space and it needs to be done right. Here's to serving more plus size folks in 2022.