Monday, June 22, 2009

Plus-size Fashion Dilemmas

Source: By Ruth La Ferla

This month, a couple of years after Beth Ditto complained about the lack of plus-size fashion in Topshop, Arcadia plans to unveil a collection that Ms. Ditto designed for Evans, the company’s plus-size division. Available in the United States on the Web, it highlights cutting-edge looks like a corset dress and a cropped biker jacket.

The collection is the latest in an outpouring of fashions aimed at trend-driven, round-figured teenagers and young women, a population that has long echoed Ms. Ditto’s complaint that it is ignored by most merchants and brands.

Other stores and designers have picked up the message. Forever 21, a purveyor of cheap chic, introduced its plus-size line, Faith 21, this spring. Target recently began offering Pure Energy, exuberantly patterned dresses and tops for young women. Those follow hip niche labels like Karen Kane and Kiyonna, which are sold at boutiques.

All the lines see potential profit in offering stylish alternatives to the ubiquitous track suit. From a business perspective, that makes sense: the customer base is increasing, as health authorities have long pointed out. Some 17 percent of teenagers are overweight, according to the surgeon general’s office, more than three times the rate of a generation ago.

The market for youth-oriented plus sizes (usually 14 to 24) showed strong growth a couple of years ago, several years after the fast-fashion chain H&M entered the business. (H&M has since dropped its plus-size line, for reasons it would not disclose.)

Last year, sales of plus sizes to girls and young women ages 13 to 34 reached $5.8 billion, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

With consumer spending falling everywhere, that momentum has been lost: Sales declined 15.3 percent for plus-size shoppers 13 to 17 and 10.1 percent for those 18 to 34 in April and May, compared with the period a year ago, NPD says.

Plus-size lines aimed at older women have also suffered; chains including Ann Taylor and Old Navy have removed larger sizes from stores (they still sell them online).

Faith 21 was introduced “because our customers were asking for larger sizes, and to fill a void in the market for trendy and fashionable plus-size clothing,” said Linda Chang, the senior manager of marketing for Forever 21. It includes some 250 styles.

Smaller stores are also catering to shoppers who want figure-hugging fashions like their thinner friends. “Some of those girls feel like they have the brio to pull off a fitted look,” said Stephanie Sack, the owner of Vive la Femme, a plus-size boutique on fashionable Damen Avenue in Chicago. She confided that when she was 20, “I would have choked somebody to get my hand on a studded belt to fit me.”

“When you’re fat you stand out anyway,” said Annie Maribona, the shop’s founder and part owner. “It’s really important to go all the way and do something fun or even outrageous with your clothes.”

Stores as diverse as Kmart and Lord & Taylor have dispensed with conventional big girls’ “dos and don’ts,” offering the hothouse colors and exuberant prints, the ruffles and flounces of their so-called straight-size counterparts. Even horizontal stripes, once a fashion sin for the overweight, animate some looks in Kmart’s Piper & Blue collection.

“I’ve noticed lately that they are trying to make big sizes more into style,” said Kathy Salinas, as she considered a zebra-striped Piper & Blue tunic at a Kmart in downtown Manhattan this week. “You see that at regular stores, not just the plus-size stores, and that’s a good thing.”

Round-figured young women have found inspiration in popular culture. Ms. Ditto, who settled her girth on tiny gilt chairs at some 10 fashion shows this year, along with the actress Jennifer Hudson and the singer Adele, all appear in full-figured glory in the current issue of Elle.

The glamorously curvy Jordin Sparks captivated viewers on “American Idol,” then moved on to a recording career. On Stylista, a reality show on the CW network last fall, a curvy contestant named Danielle competed for a job as a junior editor at Elle.

More than tokenism, such fashion and media tactics seem born of a conviction that larger young women have become more self-accepting. “They are inclined to show off the parts of their bodies they love,” said Ms. Sack, the Chicago retailer. Pushing the trend is a broad movement of fat acceptance among academics, anti-bias activists and some psychologists. “It’s important to reclaim ‘fat’ as a descriptive, as even something positive,” argued Ms. Maribona of Fat Fancy.

"Fashion Is Foremost Inspiration"
- Suzanna

Always For Me Plus Size Swimwear

1 comment:

  1. Pretty Robotic adores curve crusaders! definitely love beth ditto's new clothing line! love love <3


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