Size Wise

Size Wise

by Emili Vesilind

Size Wise is a monthly column examining how designers and brands are navigating the technical and business aspects of extending sizing in their collection.

“Manufacturing plus sizes is too costly.” “We don’t have the technical expertise to make bigger sizes.” “The plus-size luxury fashion consumer doesn’t exist.”

These are among the most common reasons designer fashion brands give when explaining why they don’t manufacture clothes larger than a size 10/12.

And some seem reasonable. There’s no question, for example, that manufacturing a wider range of sizes is initially a major investment, and that creating beautiful clothes for fuller figures requires reams of technical know-how.

But of course, the idea that the luxury plus-size consumer is nonexistent has long been debunked. “It was kind of a secret for years that the sizes that sold out first on Net-a-Porter were the XLs and even larger,” says Emme, a pioneering plus-size model and size-inclusivity activist and consultant. “And now 11 Honoré and others are proving that the luxury plus-size consumer exists. They want real designer clothes. There’s no denying it.”

Meanwhile, fashion inclusivity advocates wonder if the old excuses for capping a collection’s sizes at 12 still hold water. After all, we’re living in a moment when curvy supermodels, led by Ashley Graham, are making millions starring in major fashion and beauty campaigns. And mass brands including J. Crew and American Eagle have recently (and very publicly) extended their size offerings.

Size Wise

Jessica Raiter, fashion director and vice president of merchandising for 11 Honoré, partners with the site’s many brands—the designers and their teams—to help them achieve the right fits within their curvier size range.

She explains that the process of extending a collection’s sizing has a trajectory that includes the crucial steps of cutting new patterns and undertaking new fittings—on fuller-figured fit models.

“You have to use a size 14 or larger model to cut new patterns that preserve the integrity of the designs,” she says. Simply enlarging the pattern for a dress or top doesn’t do the job.

Brands new to plus sizes often tap into the expertise of 11 Honoré’s plus-size production experts—pros who understand that the rise on a high-waist pant should be even higher for the curvy consumer, and that dress and skirt hemlines usually require extra inches of fabric so they don’t ride up on the thighs.

“These people who do all this technical production are so skilled,” Raiter adds. “This is never a rush job. The clothes are really beautifully executed. They fit impeccably.”

Size Wise

The fact is, technical fashion professionals schooled in how to achieve mind-blowing fits for curvier women exist in spades these days. And these consultants are readily accessible by both established and emerging fashion brands.

Designer Christian Siriano, a pioneer in size-inclusivity luxury fashion, concedes that nailing fabric fit on curvier figures “can be a different process.” But adds, “If you’re committed to it, it shouldn't be an issue. And if you don't do it, you’re really missing out on some great customers.”

Celebrity stylist and designer Susan Moses, author of The Art of Dressing Curves, feels brands are out of excuses for not addressing all women through their sizing.

“There’s still a lot of prejudice out there, especially with the old fashion guard,” she says. “For those brands, I don’t think it’s a matter of it being a big undertaking. You hire the right experts to do it. But you have to have an open mind, and not look at this woman as a science project. Just look at her as a beautiful woman who wants to wear beautiful clothes.”


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