Thursday, June 23, 2011

CNN reports... and we need your help

Christine, a kind and devoted Knitting at Large reader, sent me a fascinating article from CNN: Plus-sized women: It's our turn for fine fashion. I encourage you to read the entire piece, but I am sharing my favorite section here because it echoes my own call to the knitting industry to provide better support to larger knitters.

But first, a caveat. I don't like or appreciate this piece's subtly snarky undertone about fat people. I am looking past it to get to the important message. I hope you'll do the same. Anyway, author Amy Wilson writes:

...only 17% of women's apparel dollar was spent last year on plus-sized clothing, according to Marshall Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group. This happened even though plus-sized women had 28% of the purchasing power, he said.

It makes you wonder about the higher math. The average-sized woman in America is either a 14 or 16 -- depending on who you ask and what style she's got on (and sometimes which afternoon she's trying it on). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she weighs 164.7 pounds.

Now consider this: Most designers and some mall stores call a size 14 a plus-size.

The United States is continuing to fill up with those larger-than-size-14s. Remember those numbers out of the CDC that say that two out of three Americans are overweight or obese and in need of a good workout?

And yet with only 17% of the market dollar contributed, plus-sized women still plunked in more than $17.5 billion in sales in the 12 months ending in April 2011.

So what we have is a potentially huge -- and getting bigger -- market for plus-sized fashion. According to Cohen, that market came close to $18 billion in the April 2009 to April 2010 buying season, but it backed away in the season ending April 2011. That's because when times got hard for retailers, the first product line they cut was, yes, the plus-sized line.

Again, why the disrespect?

Cohen says one reason is there's the perception, backed some by reality, that a part of the larger-sized market is not fashion-centric, "not into clothes." And, two, there is simply not enough product available for them to spend money on.

"If you don't give them more than 10% of the floor space of available retail floor space, " he asked, "what do you expect?"
So, now we know that the fashion industry functions just like the knitting industry. Do fat women tend not to knit sweaters for themselves because they're not interested in fashion? Or because the industry offers so few plus-size pattern options - giving us less than 10% of the floor space, so to speak?

We all know the truth.

Want to help? Donate your measurements

Upsizing patterns is no easy feat. Many designers would love to create larger versions of their designs for ample women, but they're unsure how to proceed. And when they do make larger sizes, the sweaters often do not fit the plus-size knitters very well. Why? Because the industry standard measurements for plus sizes frankly suck.

Amy Herzog
For this reason, Amy Herzog has launched an important effort to collect measurement data from plus-size women. She will then tabulate and analyze the measurements and publish size standards that have a basis in reality, ones that designers can use to make patterns that really fit larger forms.

Please help. Visit Amy's Plus Size Measurements page and enter your measurements today. It's completely anonymous and free - and imporant.

If you need help figuring out how to take the measurements, visit the Craft Yarn Council of America's standard measurements and sizing page.

I'll keep you posted about this effort and will let you know when Amy finishes her analysis. A million thanks to Amy for taking on this project - and to you for donating your measurements to the cause.


  1. I would buy more clothing if there were more to choose from. The selections in my area (south central PA which has a high percentage of plus-sized women) in dreadfully limited. And especially for those of us who like classic clothing with a degree of dignity.
    BTW Julie, I think your Waltham turned out great! Thanks for the thoughts on what you would correct if you made another one. Every garment is a new learning experience!

  2. Some affordable specialty shops have dowdy looking attire and gaudy animal prints which make one look huge! (catherines) Specialty shops need to get their act together IMO.
    Lane Bryant caters to the cutesy young market..big earrings and short skirts with spanks underneath.
    August Max(a perfect store) used to have fantastic classic clothes for amples..out of business now.
    Over the weekend I was in Macy's and the Macy's Woman section was ...well...scant as far as selection was concerned.
    It is demoralizing.I get so tired thinking about it I don;t even want to bother making a trip to the mall.

  3. I sew for myself and friends in need, all of us plus sized. It's even hard to find patterns that fit well and look good on us.