What Anthropologie’s New Plus Size Clothing Means for Women

Philadelphia-based clothing retailer Anthropologie did something that would have been almost unthinkable for an ambitious brand just a few years ago on Friday: it added a plus-size clothing line. The collection, which is now available online and in 10 of Anthropologie’s biggest stores, arrived with a launch party in New York City, support from tall social media figures and plenty of sun-kissed photos. In other words, the launch was like any major launch for an American fashion company. And that’s exactly why it’s so different.

I’m excited about Anthropologie’s new line in a way that, frankly, isn’t journalistic. I’ve worn plus size clothing all of my adult life, which means the overwhelming majority of fashion brands at all price points don’t make clothes that are right for me. I’m in good company: almost 70% of American women wear size 14 or larger. The last decade of fashion has given these women little evidence that things will improve materially, with most plus-size options still occupying the cheapest and worst-fitting level of fashion, and few options. high quality available beyond the simplest basics. But the new Anthropologie line offers interesting and fun items. The clothes are vibrant, like the striped dresses with sailor collars and the mustard-colored skirts with detailed embroidery.

This line seems to mark a radical change that is much bigger than a clothing line. Plus size shoppers complain that they’ve been left out for ages, but with the advent of social media, their complaints have gained specificity and momentum online. As brands like Victoria’s Secret have been forced to learn, consumers no longer accept everything they are given.

Brands’ responses to this pressure have been limited and tentative, but it seems Anthropology was able to do something that was really rare until now: get it right, on a large scale, and on a grand scale. In an industry dedicated to keeping taller women on the margins, it seems these women are finally starting to win.

When an American mainstream brand launches a plus size line, the process often follows a scenario well known to the women the company intends to serve. First, the fashion press is praising the company for its inclusiveness as a set of t-shirts and jeans are unveiled. The line could include a few staples of work clothes. If you are lucky, the brand offers you a coat. After that, nothing happens. Clothes rarely arrive in physical stores. The offerings don’t extend much beyond neutrals and basics. The option to order larger sizes online disappears in a hidden drop-down list, if labeled. Buying plus size clothing from these collections becomes an impenetrable online treasure hunt, and the pot of gold is a navy blue t-shirt. Brands cite low sales as a reason for not expanding their range.

Recent attempts, mostly timid, by fashion brands to enter the plus size market suggest some fear on the part of those in charge of the industry. American culture doesn’t like big guys very much, and if courting big shoppers makes their stores cool? For retailers who do much of their business in shopping malls, these assumptions may make size expansion seem an intolerable risk in an environment where many are struggling to find shoppers in. first place. (None of the half-dozen mass-market U.S. clothing retailers contacted for this story, including Anthropologie, responded to a request for comment.)

This is why the expansion of Anthropology looks like an inflection point. As mall brands disappear, the company’s clothes are expensive, with dresses starting at around $ 150. The more ambitious a brand, the more its size range tends to be reduced. For many women, the company’s clothing is special, with vivid colors and prints, trendy fits and fun details. These are clothes you wear to a party or buy for a vacation that you intend to Instagram strongly. These are clothes for the type of people plus size women aren’t supposed to be.

Taken individually, these details are small. But the small differences in how Anthropologie approached this launch each respond to common complaints frequently voiced on social media about sizing expansions from other brands. The collection launched with over 100 pieces and an explicit promise that more will be added, and these are all things Anthropologie makes for smaller buyers as well, at the same prices. A link to purchase the full collection is prominently placed in the Anthropologie.com menu bar, and as you browse the right size assortment, the pieces that are also available in the plus line are clearly marked. The range goes up to a size 26, although many first-time size extensions only go on tiptoes up to 20 or 22.

Anthropologie’s parent company URBN, which also owns Urban Outfitters and Free People, did not make the decision in a vacuum. There is also good reason to suspect that he did not just set out to create this line out of the goodness of his heart. Competitors’ attempts in the plus size market place unflattering businesses in an unflattering context, and in the midst of the buzz of traditional clothing brands, priority design and retail start-ups such as 11. Honoré, Universal Standard and Premme have found a real foothold with buyers. Their fledgling success provides proof of concept for business executives who previously doubted taller women would be willing to invest in beautiful clothes.

This all happened, in large part, because taller women constantly demanded beautiful things for themselves until it became riskier to deny them than to just make them clothes. This pressure on brands to better serve a wider variety of consumers is likely to only intensify, attracting more companies to the market.

Consumer choices are not the key to social change, but the way people dress has a significant impact on their lives in ways that are often overlooked with the frivolity of the fashion industry. Fashion is fun at its best. It’s a way to visually shape your identity and speak a bit about yourself. But fashion, at the heart of the company, also concerns the maintenance of social hierarchies. The companies that dominate America’s malls and e-commerce help decide which bodies should be seen as professional, capable, or sexy.

If your body is outside the limits of acceptability set by most clothing brands, there are only a limited number of identities you can express. Finally, the majority of American women have a better chance of looking like the people they’ve always been.

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About Lonnie G. Mitchell

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