Why Are Plus Size Clothes Hard to Find?

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why are plus size clothes hard to find

Retail therapy is something that can be really satisfying when you’re out with friends. Unfortunately for those of us with more to love, it’s not always easy to find something we want at big retailers, stores in the mall, or even the thrift store. This can leave you feeling more stressed and frustrated, rather than relaxed.

Even shopping for plus size clothes online comes with its disadvantages. From inaccurate sizing to not being sure about the quality of materials, it’s hard to find clothes without spending a fortune. This struggle is something that a lot of bigger bodies deal with.

So, why are plus size clothes hard to find?

Plus size clothes are hard to find because manufacturers don’t always model them after real body shapes, making the fit unappealing. Some manufacturers also don’t make extended plus sizes or don’t make large quantities. Thrift stores sell older fashion that wasn’t tailored to curvier bodies, while online stores aren’t consistent with sizes or quality. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the many challenges that face big men and plus size women when it comes to shopping for clothes in-store, secondhand, and online. I’ll also talk about some places that you can use to find stylish plus size clothing.

Why Are Plus Size Clothes Hard to Find in Retail Stores?

It’s surprising that more manufacturers aren’t taking advantage of the vast market that exists in plus size clothing. According to recent research, the plus size clothing market is estimated to have a $601.7 billion value and is expected to grow to 1,044.3 billion in the next decade.

Women and Body Shape

For women, the struggle to find plus size clothing that fits well and actually looks good comes from clothes that don’t fit their body shape. According to one survey of 215 women, about 36% of them believed their body was hourglass shaped when it was actually more pear-shaped.

The shape of your body matters because it plays a big role in how clothing is going to fit on your body. Not being familiar with body shape plays a big role in how you shop. If you aren’t shopping for clothes that work well with your body type, then the resulting look is going to be lackluster and unappealing.

Struggles of Plus Size Retailers

Some retailers have gotten negative attention lately, especially with body confidence trends and plus size women practically demanding that stylish and affordable clothing be offered in their sizes, too.

Retailers give a lot of reasons for this, especially just not wanting to spend money on plus size market research and clothing design. In my opinion, that’s really not a reason to avoid bigger sizes. Especially when there are brands out there like Good American and Torrid that have put into the work to understand how styles and patterns fit on bigger bodies.

Some clothing manufacturers also blame their higher prices on needing to use more fabric. While this could amount to some cost, I’ve seen plenty of “oversized” fashions for smaller girls and I don’t see the difference between manufacturing oversized fashion and offering plus sizes.

Why is it Hard to Find Attractive Clothing for Bigger Men?

Men do have a few advantages as far as shopping for clothes. For example, when their pants size says that it’s a size 40, it actually has a size 40 waist. Men’s pants are also sorted according to length in many cases, making it easier to find big and tall, big and short, and other sizes when you need them.

Less Availability

That being said, for men with unique body shapes that aren’t necessarily the average, it really comes down to the availability of this clothing. Manufacturers are likely to only make so many big and tall clothes if they don’t know how they are going to sell.

The other struggle with finding plus size clothing in retail is that all manufacturers do not offer extended sizes. And sometimes, even when they do, these extended sizes only go up to maybe an XXL or 2X. Other times, while clothing may be available in a 4X-6X size, there is limited availability of the item cause manufacturers just don’t make a lot of them.

Men Have Unique Body Shapes Too

Finally, men might struggle because of style. Like with women, some manufacturers might take the same designs for their smaller clothes and just make them bigger, creating a not-so-great fit.

This is especially common with garments like polo shirts, golf shirts, and dress shirts because guys of all sizes wear them. The problem with just making smaller clothes bigger is that they are tight in some areas, baggy in others, and don’t show off flattering areas of your body like your chest and arms.

Why Are Plus Size Clothes Hard to Find in Thrift Stores?

While the demand for better clothing for big men and full-figured ladies has been around for a long time, manufacturers that actually listen to what we want are pretty recent. While Torrid has been around for years, the curvy lines like Good American and Boutique+ from J.C. Penney are fairly new.

The downside of these newer brands is that they’re rarely found in secondhand stores. If you are able to find bigger sizes, then they’re often baggy, unflattering pants, worn T-shirts, and otherwise not-so-stylish garments.

Another problem that I’ve had personally is my clothes don’t always last long enough for me to decide I want to get rid of them. As a bigger woman who struggles to find that perfect balance between comfort and style, when I do find something I love, I definitely wear it.

While my tops generally stay in good condition, they’re just not something I’m ready to pass on. The problem with pants like elastic jeans or leggings comes down to chafing- most of them eventually thin in the thigh area a little bit and are too worn to give to a thrift shop.

What Are Some of the Problems with Shopping for Plus Size Clothes Online?

In my opinion, the biggest struggle with shopping online comes down to the quality and sizing of clothing. Since you can’t try the clothing on in person, it’s nearly impossible to tell things like sizing, how the fabric feels, and the overall quality of the garment.

There’s also some trial and error involved, with different brands not always following the same sizing guidelines it’s a lot of guesswork figuring it out. Plus, some websites have longer shipping times so it’s not a good choice for last-minute shopping.

Where Can You Find Stylish Plus Size Clothing?

Now that we have the challenges out of the way, I’m going to talk about what you can do to find curvy and full-figure clothing that you actually want to wear. My husband also weighed in on some tips for the bigger guys.

Know Which Retailers are Fat-Friendly

It’s true that the majority of stores out there carry more regular sizes, particularly if you go to box stores like Target or Wal-Mart. Plus, even when they do offer extended sizes that do fit (I’ve seen at least a 4X at Wal-Mart), they usually don’t fit well on the plus-size body.

With that being said, there are now retailers that sell plus size clothing you actually want to wear. When companies pay attention to these things, you get things like shorts that make you feel confident, stylish crop tops for bigger women, and pleated skirts that are slimming instead of making you feel bulky.

If you are planning a day out shopping with friends or your spouse, it’s nice knowing at least one or two places in your local mall where you have a chance of finding some clothes you like.

Do some research ahead of time- you’ll have more luck being happy with your shopping trip instead of disappointed. Some stores to check out are Good American (part of Nordstroms), JC Penney’s Boutique+, Kohl’s, Lane Bryant, and Torrid, to name a few. Kohl’s, JC Penney’s, Men’s Wearhouse, and DXL are a few brands I know that offer extended sizes for men.

Check Out Reviews When Shopping Online

Whether I’m shopping on Amazon, Shein, or PrettyLittleThing, I know there are a few risks that come with shopping. One of the biggest tools for overcoming these risks is only buying items that have been reviewed.

Reviews give you the best idea of how satisfied other curvy ladies liked the garment and they can rate them on if it was too small, true-to-size, or too big. Reviewers also can let you know about the quality, including whether the fabric is stiff or stretchy, how thin it is, and how well the entire thing is put together.

You’ll also find out about the fit, especially when they include photos that show you how it looks on other women like you. I used this when I was shopping for a bikini that would make me feel confident at the beach last summer.

Use the Sizing Charts Too

Another must-have for shopping online is your proper body measurements. A lot of brands are aware of the discrepancies between brands, so they provide their own sizing charts so you know how the garment should fit your body.

When I’m using sizing charts, I prefer garments that have a range (for example, 38-40″ instead of just 38″. The benefit of this is that you know the garment has a little stretch to it, so it’s more likely to conform to your body shape and still have some give in case it’s a little tight.

Opt for Custom-Tailored Sometimes

For the guys, there’s nothing wrong with getting a custom-tailored suit, jacket, and pants for special occasions. In fact, it’s something that I really recommend. I know my hubby looks great when he’s all dressed up and it really has a way of boosting confidence, too.

You absolutely deserve to spend money on nice clothes like that. Even if you do end up needing to have them adjusted from weight loss or weight gain, it isn’t that unreasonable. Just think- tuxedo rental companies do it all the time for weddings and other special occasions.

Consider Making Alterations When Needed

Until manufacturers start giving us the clothes that we want, you shouldn’t let that hold you back from wearing something you absolutely love. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, it’s pretty easy to make alterations on your own. And, if not, there’s always the option of paying to have someone do it for you.

Don’t Settle for Ugly Clothing

The only way that bigger men and women can make a statement about ugly plus size clothing is to stop buying it. As manufacturers realize that we’d rather pay more for quality garments than shop for shapeless, tasteless styles, maybe they will put more effort into making their clothing.

Final Word

Why are plus size clothes hard to find? They’re hard to find in secondhand stores because manufacturers have only recently started offering clothing in extended sizes that we actually like. Plus, a lot of big retailers don’t really know what bigger men and women want.

Fortunately, there are brands out there that have done the research and taken the time to design flattering plus size clothes. Hopefully what you’ve learned helps you find clothes that you feel confident in, too.

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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