A model walks the runway at The Design Collective for Evans show at London Fashion Week. Photo: John Phillips
There's nothing worse than finding the perfect dress or pair of shoes only to discover it's no longer available in your size. Imagine how frustrating it would feel knowing the designer didn't even bother to make it in that size to begin with – a major bummer that's sadly too familiar for anyone who's a size 14 and up.
While plus-size fashion has improved exponentially over the years, there remains a huge disparity in clothing options between the size categories.
Sure, we've moved beyond the dark ages – when everyone above a size 12 was forced to shop from one tragic rack laden with 'sexy' stretch-polyester dresses, rockabilly prints and matronly swimsuits featuring garish hibiscus flowers – but there's still so much room for improvement.
Garments for larger sizes usually sit in one of two categories – pieces too basic and plain, or rendered in prints so busy they're enough to induce a migraine. What happens when someone over a certain size wants to wear crisp white button-downs, accordion-pleat skirts and sleek leather pieces, not maxi skirts and floaty tops that have OD'ed on superfluous embellishments?
There's no shortage of hyper-feminised, sexualised and overly frilly options, but when it comes to clean and chic minimalist dressing, plus-sizes are getting continually screwed. Where are the smart, conceptual, high-fashion options for women over a certain size?
The thing is, demanding companies simply 'makes the clothes bigger' is easier said than done. When manufacturers try to expand their size range, they're prone to taking the straight-size garment and blowing it up 'X' per cent, as though it's a picture in Photoshop, instead of taking into account the the many ways larger bodies are built differently.
That problem is more pronounced when to comes to indie labels. As Jodie Layne points out in Bustle, "The risk that smaller design houses take when they extend their size range is immensely greater than that of powerhouse retailers." Creating new patterns and making a larger size run with extra materials takes up time and money – which many young labels cannot afford. And there's no certainty that every item they produce will sell.
Thankfully, an increasing number of brands are listening to their consumers and coming up with thoughtful options that cater to this underserved segment of the market. Mei Smith, an Instagram-popular e-store that's due to launch this month, is set to become a platform for size-diverse indie labels. They've recruited a team of upcoming designers, including Caramakoma, Shaina Mote, Benjamin Jay and Hackwith Design House, to make luxury fashions in their signature minimalist aesthetic for sizes 12 and up. Modcloth and ASOS Curve are doing great things to champion inclusivity, putting to bed that antiquated notion that certain sizes cannot wear certain styles. (And opening up shoppers' wallets at the same time.)
As Chastity Garner, the blogger behind GarnerStyle, summed it up on Twitter, "In plus fashion we gotta work on the evolution of our artistic point of view… see more than the bodycon & crop tops … there is so much more."
Garner and others are demanding more from the industry – for women of every size. They want more than garments that are designed to 'hide' curves or create a 'flattering' hourglass figure. And they certainly want more than just a watered-down version of the trends they've seen on the runway.
Ahead, five body-positive online stores, breaking the 'plus' mould with styles you'll actually want to wear:
This trend-focused label specialises in sleek and smart interview-ready staples and accessories for 20, 30 and 40-something women in sizes 14 and up – with nothing over $200.
UK retailer Evans caught our attention last September, being the first plus-size brand to show at London Fashion Week. They hooked up with acclaimed names such as Giles Deacon and Clements Ribeiro, delivering a mix of designer and in-house looks. And now, items that appeared on the runway are available for purchase online.
Mei Smith, a New York-based luxury e-store stocking covetable indie brands in sizes 12 and up, is due to launch this month. They're already building buzz on Instagram.
#Athleisure tends to neglect women over a certain size, but Scandi e-store Carmakoma hopes to make up for that. Structured and slouchy, sporty-chic staples are their shtick.
Elegant, sophisticated and feminine designs from the same creative staple as MaxMara.