As the article explains, there are several reasons to why the retailers haven't supplied their customers with the clothes they want. Bigger sizes are more expensive to make as they require wider bolts of fabric, which increases production costs. They are more expensive to stock, and more difficult to design. It is hard to tell how a plus-sized person's weight is distributed, which makes the issue of fit difficult to calculate, or in other words, one size doesn't fit all. For these reasons, many pieces of clothing in the plus-sized market never find a home. All of these explanations sound reasonable enough, but the plus-sized customer is out there now, wanting to spend money on clothes. What worries me is that the clothing retailers might rely on the assumption that plus-sized women want to be tricked into the same mass-production trap as the rest of the women in the Western world: that more availability is automatically a good thing for the customer, and that mass-market production offers viable options to individuals in the first place. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the world of "normal"-sized clothing market, more is often less: less quality, less fit, less design. In the case of the plus-sized market though, there doesn't seem to be all that much fit or design to even start with, which indicates a special bargaining position for the plus-sized clientele. They ought to demand more than what is being offered to their "normal"-sized counterparts.
For a few years now, as mass-market clothing retailers have gained more and more of a foothold in women's minds and wallets, the trends that these retailers have offered have ranged anywhere from A-shaped tunics, boyfriend jeans, oversized blazers and shirts to harem pants and jersey sack dresses. What I am getting at here is the utter shapelessness of the world of clothing today, the lack of fit and the lack of proper tailoring. We are learning to associate fit with discomfort, and anything shapeless with functionality. I believe we are being fooled into thinking that women with or without shape will buy in terms of availability, not on the basis of need followed by demands of quality. The connotations of the NYT article suggest that the plus-sized market is still out there to be exploited in the same manner as the "normal"-sized market, even when women with extreme figures (be it over- or underweight, petite, tall or what have you) are in desperate need for properly fitting clothes.
At the end of the day, however, women everywhere, regarless of their size and shape, need to be able to purchase clothes - preferably, clothes that fit. I sincerely hope that the boost in the plus-sized market means that the so-called difficulties in designing plus-sized clothes means that more effort will be put into the design and production of the garments in question. This might eventually lead to levels of decent quality. But how many shapeless items are produced and wasted before the retailers might wake up? Looking at the "normal"-sized market, that wake-up call there is long overdue. The more customers settle for mediocre products, the less variety there really is for them to choose from. Here's to hoping that the plus-sized customer knows what she wants, and isn't afraid to demand it. If not, the clothing retailers will simply tap into a new bottomless well of shopping-mania, fostered by women whose size makes them the perfect target for the clothing industry today.
Shapeless sack dress: Selected Femme