XS – XL, Ongoing

This is a continuation of last year’s rant about clothing size availability in retail stores. You can read it here, it’s not super long.

The Labour District has been open for almost three months now, and the women’s wear has been selling quite well. The women of Oshawa love my cotton summer dresses, and I’ve loved seeing my dresses worn by many happy women. Seriously you guys, there’s this thing that keeps happening where a woman tries on my dress, comes out of the change room, and the dress will look like it was made for her. The fit, the cut, the colours; these dresses are greater than what I ever thought I could produce, and they look amazing on a variety of shapes and sizes of women.

As long as they fit into a S (4-6), M (8-10) or L (12-14), or so it seems.

That’s right folks, I have not sold a single XL garment since we’ve opened. The XL dresses (14-16) just sit on the racks with sad face, wondering why nobody ever asks them to dance. I have so many of them kicking around right now, it’s ridiculous.

Why aren’t these XL dresses selling? My original intent was to create a starter line that regularly featured dresses in S-XL, with plans to expand up to XXXL as interest grew. But considering that the only sizes selling are S/M/L, I have to put that expansion on hold while I figure a few things out.


Having been in the store every day for the past three months, I have noticed a few reasons as to why the XLs aren’t selling, some of which were anticipated in my XS-XL post last year.

1) Contrary to what I’d been led to  believe while studying plus sized designing, plus sized women do not necessarily want the same gear that the smaller sizes want.

I’ve been pretty crazy about boatnecks and box-pleats these days, two styles that don’t seem to flatter larger figures. So I’ve started working on different silhouettes, namely a v-neck bodice with a FBA, and a 1/2 circle skirt, with the hopes that I’ll lure in a wider variety of shoppers (realize that trying new styles means making new dresses over and over, which means that I currently have  a considerable supply of B-cupped/droopy v-necked/short-waisted/broad-backed XL dresses sitting in a heap in the back of the store. So if you know anyone…).

2) Something that I had anticipated was that larger sized women have more variety in their shapes. Straight up truth, girls. And it makes a significant difference to whether or not a dress will fit. I’ve had exactly three XL women try on dresses since we opened. One woman couldn’t get the dress over her butt (it was a straight skirt, not a box-pleat), one was slightly too small for the fitted structure of the dress (but the Large size she tried on was way too tight), and one woman was so tall that the waistline went nearly up to her boobs, and the bust darts ran several inches beyond where they should’ve stopped (that was when I decided to add a FBA to the XL bodice).

But what am I supposed to do with all of these individual issues? Make numerous different types of XL bodices, with the hopes that they’ll each fit someone? Hells no, I’m not made of money. And seriously, with only three XL women even trying on dresses in the past three months, I’m not going to bust my ass trying to please them. Give me a reason to make larger sizes, and I’ll totally do it, but three women in three months isn’t a good enough reason. Which leads me to

3) Larger sized women just don’t shop for dresses with the same vigour and voracity as smaller sized women. Sorry ladies, I really wasn’t expecting this, and I’m not happy reporting it, but this is what I’ve seen. Three women trying on XL dresses in three months, does not the rent payeth.

I suspect that the main reason for this lies in our self-confidence. We’re bombarded with thinspiration and fat-shaming, and it’s nigh on impossible for a woman to live in our society without being affected by body issues. And then on the occasion where a woman decides to go shopping for a cute dress, she’s then faced with various versions of the shitty shape options that I’ve just gone into.



You guys, I really want the larger sizes to sell. I want average sized women to feel happy with their bodies and to enjoy shopping for clothes. But I feel like I’m continuously banging my head against the wall here, spending time and money on perfectly good XL sized dresses that just won’t sell (not talking about the heap of weird dresses in the back of the store).


10 responses to “XS – XL, Ongoing

  1. This is so interesting! I’m as surprised as you… maybe you could google local/localish plus-size fashion bloggers, and give them a dress from your backlog? I think there’s a big community of bigger women who love fashion and are looking for wellmade, flattering stuff… but maybe they think a little boutique (actually, I don’t know what your shop is like, I’m just assuming) won’t have anything for them? I’m on the cusp of plus size myself, and I avoid places I don’t think will cator to me – there’s nothing as demoralizing as having a “Pretty Woman” moment where you realise you aren’t the intended customer.
    There’s a new website (curvysewingcollective.com) for plus-size home sewists… maybe you could a)take a look at what designs they find universally flattering (aka. knits!) or b) ask to write about post about your journey and questions!

    (oh, and hi! I found your blog through the Toronto Sewcialist group on FB! I’m Gillian: http://crafting-a-rainbow.tumblr.com/)

    • Hi Gillian,

      I know who you are! I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, which is how I came across the Toronto Sewcialists group in the first place (I’m sorry I missed the meet-up; it looked like fun, and I always enjoy talking shop with other sewists)!

      Funny little update about the plus size dresses: I created a dress survey that I’d hoped would give me some insight into which fitting problems are the most common among certain sizes. I received a decent number of responses, but none of them were from plus sized participants! Agh.

      And then last week, I tried contacting a plus size blogger who I read semi-regularly, with hopes of her posting a link to my dress survey, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.

      I’m planning on incorporating some knit pieces into my Fall line, which should help a little, and I will check out the Curvy Sewing Collective website and see what they’ve got going on too. But this has been a frustrating journey I tells ya, and I’m starting to wonder if there’s even a point in pursuing it.

      • Yeah, I imagine it’s pretty disheartening to try to cater to a certain market then not have it pay off. If you end up stream-lining the sizes to some degree I’d definitely understand. I do think knits will be your friend in this. I’m assuming you also offer custom work, if a woman came in and couldn’t find the fit she needed? (As you can probably tell, I find the business end of sewing fascinating – even thought it’s something I’d hate doing myself!)

  2. Fascinating observations! I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum, but I’ve always wondered why so many of the XL garments are the ones left on the rack after hearing about the push for larger sizes.

    I know from costume fittings that almost no one ever fits ready-made exactly (I’ve probably had to alter everything except socks for actors) – there are just so many variables in body shape and size!

    I love the fabric you used for the dress pictured above – such a cute dress!

    • Hi Brooke,

      I’m happy you like my dress! It’s such a fun print.

      You’re so right about body shape variety. I do offer free adjustments on my dresses for customers (taking in/letting out bust or waist, raising or lowering hemlines), which helps with some of the fitting issues.

      But it’s been pretty disheartening to have worked so hard at offering my line in a variety of sizes, only to have every effort fall flat. I produce everything myself, and don’t have the time (or money) to throw away on sizes that don’t sell.

  3. Hi,
    I came across this discussion via Gillian’s twitter feed. As a maker/designer and a large woman, I have toyed with the idea of a clothing line. Here is the thing: when people get bigger they all do so differently. And then there are a whole whack of things that don’t get taken into consideration by pattern companies, desingers or “manufactured” ready-to-wear. I have yet to find a plus size women who’s waist (:= narrowest point) is parallel to the floor (3″ shorter in the front than back not uncommon in XL). The vertical distance from waist to hip can be 3″ or it could be 12″. A knee length skirt when standing is attractive on a small women when seated but can quickly rise to a not-for-polite-company height on a large woman (bike shorts underneath get me through summer!) And all that is before you even touch the shoulder, boob, upper arm problem.

    What you are trying to do is so not easy but from the bottom of my heart thank you for the attempt. I agree whole heartedly with Gillian’s comments about shopping as a plus-size woman. Can safely say it has been years since I have even attempted to try something on in a boutique and probably a year since I’ve even entered one.

    • Alison is so right on the sitting issue (She is a sewing instructor and custom drafts for clients, so no surprise that she knows what she’s talking about! 🙂 I blogged about my thoughts on the same thing at some point: http://crafting-a-rainbow.tumblr.com/post/56781765077/hummingbird-v3-and-a-fitting-hypothesis

      I always make the back hem of my skirts at least an inch longer (even in knits), just to keep the hem level with the waist as the fabric goes over my tush. As you can see in the blog post, what looks like a modest just-above-the-knee pencil skirt barely covers my lady bits when I sit! I’m not sure that people shop with that sort of thing in mind, but it’s definitely an issue!

      • I agree, Alison’s suggestions were all on point, and getting some solid advice was exactly what I was hoping for.

        I’ve been raising the skirt fronts by about 1″ so far, and I might raise them some more for the larger sizes, it might make a cool silhouette too!

        Custom work has recently become a hot seller at the store. When we first opened, I didn’t even think of offering it because I just didn’t expect it (even though I’d been doing custom work for years for friends when I lived in Toronto). So it didn’t pick up til last month, but it’s been nice and steady. And honestly, I looove doing custom work; it takes me outside my comfort zone, and I get to learn new skills.

  4. Took another look at the dress pictured in your post and the other examples on line. Have you tried raising the waist seam (inch, inch and a half) on the XL? Might be more flattering.

    And an in-store alteration to add to bust/waist/hip and hem alterations after purchase. Tucks or darts at the edge of the neckline to bring the shoulders in and stop neckline gap. (Narrow shoulders, not so narrow boobs). Could make all the difference.

  5. Hi Alison,

    Thank you so much for your input! I really appreciate your advice, and will consider some of your suggestions for future designs. I’m interested in taking a further look into how parallel the waistline is on most figures (I hadn’t even thought to check that), and I think that the skirts might need to have more length in the back for sitting comfort!

    I do already reduce width in the shoulder areas as a preemptive move for all of my larger bodices, and I’ve also started drafting both a standard and an FBA bodice front for XL pieces.

    The waistline in these particular dresses is already up at the natural waist, and can sometimes rise up higher than intended on some larger figures (especially taller women), so I worry that raising it higher might cause it to rise up over the bust for some women.

    One of the biggest problems I have right now is a lack of time and resources. I can only spend so much time and money trying to adjust, test, and subsequently promote an aspect of my business that’s not bringing in any revenue yet. I imagine that this will continue to be a long journey!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s