Why Are Plus Size Clothes Ugly?

in Questions last updated September 2022

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plus size woman wondering why plus size clothing is so ugly

I’m not going to say that there aren’t any plus size clothing lines out there. That being said, if you’re out at the mall with some friends, there’s a good chance that there aren’t a whole lot of retailers that are friendly for the plus-size body.

And, even when you can find sizes for curvier bodies, it’s pretty obvious that there wasn’t a lot of effort put into making the clothing look good.

So, why are plus size clothes ugly?

Plus size clothes can be ugly because manufacturers don’t always try to make more flattering clothing, opting for cheaper, plainer cuts and styles in boring colors. Even when cute clothes are available in larger sizes, they usually aren’t contoured to the curvier body, resulting in an unflattering and lackluster fit. 

That being said, you don’t have to tolerate ugly plus size clothing for your life. Below, we’ll dive deeper into the reason that plus size clothes are ugly and I’ll offer some suggestions on where to shop and how to style your clothes to overcome this problem. After all, you shouldn’t settle for less just because of your curves!

Why Are Plus Size Clothes Ugly?

I’ll have to be honest- shopping for clothes at the mall isn’t really something I do. While there are a few stores that I like to frequent, I generally find that clothing shopping is something I prefer at specific retailers- and even online. Here are some of the reasons plus-size clothes are ugly.

#1: They Aren’t Designed for the Curvier Body

One of the big problems with plus-size fashion is that the people designing clothes for curvier bodies just blow up designs of clothing made for slimmer women. Rather than making new clothes or adapting the old styles, they use the same materials and the same overall cut, resulting in clothing that really doesn’t leave you feeling your best.

The problem with the cut being the same regardless of the clothing size is that people’s bodies are not the same. As a curvier women, a lot of styles that just hang there rather than accentuating all my best features. I’d rather something that shows off my curves (and my confidence) instead of a piece of clothing that hides them.

When the design is just blown up and then stitched the same, it doesn’t look flattering on someone who is bigger. Plus, there isn’t that extra little bit of stretch you might need around your hips and butt, or around your chest.

#2: Most Designers Are Thinner

If you look at the statistics, the majority of clothing designers are on the thinner side. People who are thinner dominate the fashion industry and while strides have been made to be more inclusive, the reality is that most designers still have a slimmer figure.

One of the problems is that if you are not a plus-size woman designing plus-size clothing, then you really don’t know what bigger women expect or need (unless you take the time to do market research, of course). Unfortunately, most companies are more interested in faster production and it’s much quicker to just blow up the clothing designs they are already using.

In addition to streamlining the process, there’s the challenge of thinner women not being aware what features larger women are looking for in curvy clothing because they aren’t doing the research. For example, even when dresses are designed stretchier so they fit my curves better, then they don’t have the support I need to hold up girls.

#3: Smaller Companies Don’t Always Have the Funds to Launch a Plus-Size Line

For small businesses, offering a wider range of clothing sizes just might not be in the cards for them financially. There is more to offering bigger sizes than just creating the clothes. There’s also research that goes into deciding  how much of each clothing item is needed (and what size) and then marketing like finding models and advertising the product as well. Not all small businesses have the resources to get this done.

That being said, there are larger businesses that are more than capable of putting in the work, but don’t. The problem with plus-sized clothes is that they are often mass-produced and tailored for a specific type of body. When a pattern or clothing idea is approved for production, most manufacturers mass produce by just blowing the size up, rather than contouring the shape of the fabric to the shape of the curvy woman wearing them.

#4: Designers Actually Think We Want Boring Clothes

While I will say that there has been some development as far as plus-size clothing, a lot of clothing designers just do not try the same way that they do when designing clothing for smaller, thinner women. Manufacturers have continued to churn out bland, boring fashion staples year after year.

One of the reasons for the more boring designs might be because they are used to this idea that bigger men and women don’t want to be seen and don’t want to take up as much space. This could be further from the truth, particularly with all the body positivity in today’s world.

We don’t have to be afraid of patterns like stripes or avoid certain types of clothing because we are confident in ourselves and how we look. You also shouldn’t be afraid to rock those shorter shorts or a crop top! Confidence is what makes any outfit beautiful!

#5: Plus-Size Fashion Designers Don’t Take Time to Do Market Research

In my opinion, there are tons of big-name brands out there that aren’t taking the time to do the research and choose clothes that bigger women like myself actually want. Some of the trends that I’ve seen in plus size fashion that I absolutely hate include things like elastic bands at the bottom of shirts, boxier designs, plain colors, longer shorts and dresses, and three-quarters sleeves.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for three-quarters sleeves, but when they’re prominent in plus-size fashion, it gets a little annoying. The elastic bands that are included at the bottom of shirts also don’t really have a point.

Elastic waistbands are great for pants, but not so much on shirts. They don’t help you keep your shirt in place, plus you end up with all this billowy fabric toward the bottom of the shirt that makes you look bigger than you actually are.

I also am not a fan of a lot of plus-size bottoms. Shorts are either so short that my thighs make them ride up or they are so long that they don’t have the cuter, more flattering look that they have on the thinner people they were designed for. Dress hemlines also seem like they are longer in some cases.

Plus, the big problem isn’t that manufacturers can’t find out what we want- it’s that they won’t. They don’t take the time to find out what women actually want as far as their clothing and their customers suffer because of it.

Do Plus Size Women Face Discrimination in the Fashion World?

While I don’t necessarily think that it’s intentional, curvier women do face discrimination in the fashion world. On top of being subjected to less style at a higher price tag, the curvier demographic isn’t represented nearly as much. Plus, despite the plus-size fashion industry being worth more than $600 billion.

That being said, I can give credit where credit is due. There are bigger, curvier women walking down runways and getting spreads in magazines. Unfortunately, this isn’t the majority and most of the uglier plus size clothing I’m referring to aren’t made by these same companies. Women on the runway are often rocking luxury brands and for me personally, that price tag isn’t really representation.

Plus, even the plus-size body in fashion has been made to look a certain standard. While plus-size models are bigger everywhere, they’re still held to a certain standard and have curves in “all the right places”. Therefore, while it’s representation, it isn’t true representation.

Tips for Finding and Styling Clothing as Plus-Size Woman

We’ve already established why plus size clothing just doesn’t live up to the hype. That being said, there are brands out there and even when you find clothes that don’t necessarily fit the bill, you can add alterations or put on a belt to change the look of the whole outfit. Here are some tips.

Look for Clothes That Have Shape

With all my experience shopping as a plus-size woman, it’s become a lot easier to know what to look for when it comes to curvy clothing. Something that I’ve learned to do is hold up the item in front of me, off the body, and see if it has any shape at all. When the sides of the top or dress hang straight to the ground, it’s pretty obvious that it isn’t going to flow with my curves.

Instead, I tend to look for empire waists or shirts that have ties around the middle. I use this same process when choosing bottoms. If the outside of the waist hangs straight to the hem, there’s a good chance it’s not going to have room for my curvy hips or thighs unless it’s super stretchy.

Add a Belt or Waist Sash to Give Plus Size Clothing Some Shape

One of the accessories I absolutely cannot live without is a waist belt. I have several belts (I prefer the thinner ones) in all kinds of colors, so I’m never really without one if my wardrobe calls for it. While I’m more of a belt woman myself, I’d imagine a waist sash would work just as well!

One of the problems that I’ve found with plus-size clothing is that it doesn’t always accentuate my curves. Instead, a lot of dresses and shirts are shapeless. They hang straight down and fit me kind of like a potato sack, for lack of better words.

When you add a belt or sash, it gives the dress or top a waist. This accentuates your breasts and waist but then lets the garment flow naturally over your hips and rear. In my opinion, the right belt can really show off your curves instead of making it look like you’re hiding them.

Consider Online Shopping

I’ll be the first to tell you that there was a long period in my life when I absolutely hated shopping online. Clothing shape and size change based on the manufacturer, so a 2X in one brand isn’t a 2X in another, and sometimes, 1X and XL turn out to be nearly the same size.

That being said, after trying out a lot of different brands, it became a lot easier to learn what sizes work best on my body for certain brands. Plus, a lot of manufacturers include sizing charts that make it a lot easier to determine if something is going to fit your curves.

Another hack that I’ve learned when shopping online for plus size clothing is to check out the reviews. Not only do reviewers help you get an idea of whether the clothing is true-to-size, runs big, or runs small, but sometimes they also include photos that help you get a clear picture of what the outfit is going to look like on a plus-size body. This was a lifesaver when I was shopping for bikinis to make me feel confident at the beach!

Avoid Brands That Offer the Same Clothing Styles in “Regular” and Plus Sizes

Finally, watch for those clothing brands that have the same styles regardless of whether you’re a size 2 or 2X. Being bigger doesn’t mean you are any less beautiful, but it does mean that your body is shaped differently. Catering to these differences is the thing that sets true plus-size size clothing manufacturers apart, while many others are just impersonating a body-positive clothing line for profit.

There are tons of fashion sites out there that make cute clothes for curvy bodies. One of my favorites is Torrid, though Shein has also had some cute options!

Final Word

So, why are plus size clothes ugly? It has everything to do with the fact that companies aren’t willing to put in the time and money to research their target demographic. It’s easier to blow up smaller sizes into a one-size-fits-all design that looks lackluster on the plus-size body.

Plus, it doesn’t seem like a lot of manufacturers of curvier clothing really know what women want. With the high level of profit available in the plus-size fashion industry, it’s surprising that they aren’t putting in the effort.

Hopefully, though, the tips I provided can help you as you shop for clothes for your curvier body. Rest assured, there is clothing out there that will flatter your curves and make you feel confident. You just have to know where to look!

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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