Size 4X (and Larger) Shoppers Are Skeptical and Require Special Outreach


Dress by Kiyonna

There are a lot of plus size clothing stores (and plus size departments in larger stores) that I never even walk into. There are plus size mail order catalogs that go straight from my mailbox into the recycling bin, even though clothes are a bit of a weakness for me.

It’s not because I’m practicing self-control (“If I don’t see what I’m missing, I won’t want it.”). Heck no. It’s because I’m just so tired of being disappointed when I learn the clothes don’t come in my size. Yes, even from plus size lines.

It’s all down to my hips and belly, which are my largest measurement. Most of the time, a size 3X won’t cut it for me — and unfortunately, 3X is where the majority of plus size clothing lines end. Sometimes I can get away with a 2X or 3X on top, for cropped styles that end above the hip line.

But most of the time, I’m shit outta luck. I need at least 60″ at the hip, and preferably 62″ or more for comfort. That one measurement tends to take me up into the 4X+ size range, sometimes referred to as “supersize” or “oversize” fashion (as opposed to “plus size”).

I was just speaking with a plus size clothing manufacturer this morning who told me something I’ve heard many times before — that at the end of a season, most of her leftover inventory is in her largest size, 3X. It doesn’t appear to her that there’s much of a market for size 3X or beyond.

But I’m convinced there are many women like me out there who spend money on clothes in a size 4X or larger, and would probably spend more if we had more choices.

My theory is that sizes 4X and up don’t do well for many manufacturers because we 4x+ women don’t know about them. The usual marketing methods may not work on us, because we’re tuned out. We’ve been let down too many times. If you want our attention, it may require some special outreach.

What does all that let-down look like?

Sometimes it looks like me walking into a department store, discovering there’s a plus size department, getting excited, then pushing a few hangers around on a rack to find 3X is the top of the range. Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly hopeful, I might hold a garment up to the front of my body, and if it looks like it might be cut generously enough, I’ll try it on. 9 times out of 10, I leave frustrated.

Sometimes it looks like me doing the same exact thing in a store that carries plus sizes exclusively.

Jacket by Ulla Popken

Jacket by Ulla Popken

It looks like me opening one more mail order catalog, flipping directly to the size chart, finding that the biggest hip measurement is 56″-58″, getting pissed and uttering, “Typical.”

Sometimes it looks like me temporarily rejoicing in finding a line that includes 4X, only to check the size chart to learn that their 4X is equivalent to most companies’ 2X or 3X (I’m looking at you, ModCloth and Torrid).

Sometimes it looks like me getting my hopes up because a catalog carries 4X — but dashed when I realize that 90% of their items stop at 3X (thanks, Just My Size).

So what do I do?

I know which mail order companies carry my size, and I tend to stick to them — Kiyonna, Ulla Popken, Junonia. They get my business over and over again.

I also shop on eBay, looking for items with a hip measurement that’s spelled out and big enough. I tend to see the same labels again and again, so I know what I’m looking for. Liz & Me, for example.

Top by Junonia

Top by Junonia

When a plus size manufacturer wants to get on my radar, they have an uphill battle. I’ll have to be in a reeeaally excellent and generous mood to scan a new catalog for my size, or take the time to check out an unfamiliar plus size store or department or web site.

When your hips are 60″, it takes a lot of experimentation and heartbreak to find sellers who regularly have something to offer you. That’s why manufacturers who decide to put a toe into 4X waters will have to work a little harder to get to me.

But if you do get to me and my other hippy sisters, and you provide clothes that are attractive, comfortable, and well-fitting, you’re going to have a fiercely loyal customer base and very little competition.

For my own selfish sake, I hope more of you will be willing to try.

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