On B & Lu

I just got an e-mail from Christine, owner of B & Lu, telling me she’s responded to the thread over at The Rotund about their lack of larger sizes. I don’t see the comment yet — it’s probably still in moderation — but it sounds like pretty much what we expected: the economy sucks, and they’re just trying to figure out how to stay afloat. Comment is now up, and I’ve reprinted it at the end of this post.

As I said in that thread, I fully believe the larger end of the plus market is so underserved, it’s a potential goldmine for any company that really makes an effort to reach out to it — especially when it’s an online operation that doesn’t have to rely on a single local market. So much of the tiny selection of bigger sizes that currently exists is cheaply made (yet not always cheaply priced) and unfashionable. My sister complains that since she got sized out of Lane Bryant, she can’t even find a fucking pair of chinos that aren’t made from the crappiest possible fabric. And that’s without even getting into the dearth of cute clothes. The market bloody well exists, and practically no one is serving it.

So, Shapelings, now that we’ve got Christine’s ear, how do we help her make B & Lu a successful store that at least fulfills the promise of carrying sizes 14-30 (better yet, 30+)? If you wear a size in the high 20s, did you even know you could shop at B & Lu (before the selection became so limited, anyway)? How do they get the word out? What else can they do to improve? And of course, if there are things you do love about B & Lu right now, positive feedback never hurts.

Unlike some other purveyors of plus-size clothing I could mention, this is a company that’s actually interested in hearing from fat customers and trying to do right by us. Tell ‘em what you have to say in comments.

Update: Here’s Christine’s comment.

Hi Everyone,

I’d like to thank all of our customers that have directed me to this eye opening discussion. This is good feedback for our business, and I have avidly read all of the posts here. I appreciate the time everyone has taken to give their thoughts and opinions. It is very helpful to me. I am willing and happy to make the changes necessary to serve our customer’s needs from this point forward and well into the future.

Recently we have had to make some changes to our business so that we could stay afloat in this challenging economy. It has never been our intention to alienate our 4x & 5x customers, although I understand it doesn’t feel that way to many of you. We are very committed to providing these sizes and not totally eliminating them. A couple of things happened over the past several months that caused us to temporarily offer styles without the 4x & 5x sizing. First of all, over the past year we noticed the decline in 4x & 5x sales. It became common to have sizes 4x & 5x remaining in many of our styles. I’m not sure why this change occured because in our early years it was the 4’s & 5’s that sold out first. This coupled with recent manufacturer issues have posed some major challenges for us in providing beyond a size 3x.

It is true, like one of the posts here stated, that we did have a banner on our site stating “More Size 5x Coming Soon!” We posted that announcement shortly before expecting a shipment of a whole slew of styles that we had worked very hard on producing. We were so excited to receive those styles up to a size 5x, but the manufacturer did not pull through for us and we were shocked and very disappointed. As a result, we have since removed the banner.

I am truly sorry for the frustration many of you have felt. I have received several emails from customers expressing their disappointment, and I really appreciate receiving these. Just knowing that our 4x & 5x customer are there and willing to support us has given us the confidence to move forward with these sizes again. The good news I have is that we have recently found two excellent manufacturers that will produce all of our designs in a full size range and with quality workmanship. I am praying that these manufacturers work out well for us!

So, we are working hard to ensure that you will see the majority of our unique and quality styles up to a size 5x. Just to be clear on this and not be misleading, you may still see some styles only up to a size 3x. The reason for this is two fold: 1)Many manufacturers only offer up to a size 3x . and 2) Size 1x-3x is also a strong market for us, and the styles sell quickly — which in turn provides us with capital to fund production for styles beyond a size 3x. (I know this may sound crazy, but as a small business owner you do what you have to to make things work.)

My estimated time line for seeing more styles up to a size 5x is somewhere around 7-8 weeks. We will add styles as soon as they produced and shipped to us. Please remember we are a very small company (just me and my sister Lucie) so we are trying our best to improve selection and quality. Manufacturing and production time lines can be hairy at best, so I can’t commit to a specific date, but please know that we are working hard on this.

Now, if you’re willing, I’d love to get some additional feedback from you on pricing and styles. I noticed that individual’s feelings are all over the board in regards to our pricing. I’ve always felt that our pricing is moderate. But after reading these posts it looks like some thinks it’s too expensive and others think we could stand to price higher with a better quality (thanks for the input Kate Harding —- it makes sense to me).

In regards to styles —- which styles work best for the customers in the size 4x & 5x range? I would love to get feedback on this in addition to the fabrics and cuts you desire. Please email me at chris@bandlu.com and I will personally respond to your emails. I so look forward to receiving them.

Again, I thank you for your time in providing us with excellent knowledge, ideas, and feedback. You are very important to our business, and we appreciate you!

Sincerely,

Christine Sholl
Owner, http://www.bandlu.com
888.992.9899

81 thoughts on “On B & Lu

  1. I was not aware of these smaller online stores until I started reading FA blogs. I range anywhere from a 24 to a 32, depending on the cut, and there is a demand for extended sizes.

    As I said at Marianne’s blog, the bigger plus sizes are the first ones to go in the stores, especially come clearance time. This is also true of established online and catalog shops such as Romans, Silouhettes, Jessica London, and Woman Within. There is a high demand for stylish extended size clothes. We want to be catered to and treated just as royally like our thinner fellow ladies. Unforunately, due to the assumptions about fat women, especially women 24 & up, we are being sized out of stores where we can’t be seen to shop.

    Another pet peeve I have is that many plus size retailers carry the same styles over and over again. Empire/trapeze/baby doll tops have been at the forefront for three years now. And while I realize that this style does flatter certain shapes, not all fat women have the same body style. I’d like to see a variety of clothing styles. And as someone who is tall and longwaisted, tunic-length tops and sweaters are my bestest friends.

    I’m glad that B & Lu want to address these issues. FA is a WONDERFUL thing, but I do feel that myself and other “supersized” ladies & men are still not represented enough.

  2. I didn’t realize until recently that B & Lu stocked these sizes (I’m a 26/28).

    However, I rarely shop for clothes online, since there’s a good chance they won’t fit properly, and shipping + return shipping with international postage is cost-prohibitive to me.

    That said, I’m always in search of clothes which are stylish but not slutty.
    -None of those necklines which are cut so far down that they reveal cleavage. And nothing all-synthetic (cotton blends are great), nor materials made from/by animals (wool, leather, silk).
    -Shirts that are long enough that I don’t have to keep tugging them down to cover my tummy/back.
    -Sleeves which come down at least all the way to/past the elbows. And necklines that reach up to the neck on the sides. (I have very visible stretch marks from my neck to my inner elbow.)
    -Ankle/Floor-length skirts without slits (I’ve tried buying some with back or side slits and sewing them up, but that can make it hard to walk).
    -Non-low-rise black pants/jeans, without rhinestones or look-at-my-buttocks contrast stitching on the back pockets, please?
    -And my kingdom (queendom?) for cotton-lined bras without underwire or silly/itchy lace, in sizes 50+.

  3. I’d love to be my own boss, and if I owned a business, I would have a true plus-size clothing store. My sister could help me run it. We would kick ass. Or try to.

    But, I am so leery of the stress involved in owning any business. So I applaud Christine and Lucie.

    As for fit and pricing, I don’t have much to add personally because I’m not plus size. However, my sister is 28/30 or bigger, depending on the cut, and she is constantly frustrated by the price of plus size clothes.

    She is poor and struggling to raise two kids by herself. $50 for denim pants is not acceptable. Hell, $20 is pushing it. But if she could get quality pants for cheap, she might be tempted to buy two instead of one because of the good deal.

    I realize that pricing clothing that low might not be realistic at all. I’d prefer that 30+ size clothing exist out there somewhere at a high price than not at all. But poverty is a reality as well, and I hate that my pants are cheaper than my sister’s, just because I got skinny-ass DNA. Do size 30 pants really require $30 worth of fabric more than my size 8s?

  4. I agree with Bree that the empire waistline is not fitting on EVERYBODY – and I should know, because I’m one of ‘em! So imagine my frustration when soo much of the new stuff coming out at various sites is cut that way? Auggh! I honestly wouldn’t *mind* paying a bit more – BUT, the quality had better be there to match the price. I don’t have tons of money to be spending on new clothes every month, so the stuff I do get, I’d like to look nice, be a good buy as far as price and be something I can wear for the next 3 years or more, if I want. I have favorite pieces that I’ll wear long after I should, just because they’re so comfortable. I’ve still got a matte jersey knit skirt I got at Walmart for $14 and it’s got holes and I STILL wear the thing at least once a week, because it’s comfy and I like it.

    If I had the choice between lots of cheap ‘casual knits’ from Roaman’s (*gag*!) or something that’s a bit more expensive but has some genuine personality like at B&Lu, then I’d go for B&Lu any day. No question! Because it’s not the usual stuff and it really does *feel* like my style. Which is why I was so disappointed in B&Lu’s recent updates and made a point of shooting my mouth off at Marianne’s blog about the issue.

    And, while, yeah, I do realize that from a business perspective, it’s not good to have a bunch of stuff in a size you can’t sell, but at the same time, maybe their marketing needs a bit of work? I don’t know. I mean, I wear the 5x and I would buy when I had the money to. Like I said at Marianne’s blog, I’m not going to support a store that sells stuff I can’t wear. Size acceptance is groovy and all, but if I can’t wear what they’ve got, then they don’t get any support from me – because, seriously, what’s the point? Plus-sizes are under-served in general, but anything above a 3x is especially hard to find, if you want something halfway decent that doesn’t have a freaking giraffe or boat anchor on it and isn’t made of the cheapest material possible.

    I’ll support the sites that support ME and I’ll be the most faithful little consumer you’ve ever seen. I mean, hell, I bought five or six skirts and a dress from one store I found and I love every single piece. All of the items I got were less than $30 and some were even less than $25, if I managed to catch them during a sale.

    So yeah, it’s great that the 3x and under is selling so well for them, but the 3x-and-unders already have a LOT more choices than girls like me to start with. It’d be nice to have a site/store that was committed to us, because I know I’d be committed to them, if they did right by me.

  5. Wait, she said the company is just her and her sister Lucie. Lucie’s obviously the Lu. Yet there is no B in Christine Sholl. Who is B?

  6. I wear a 24-32—depending on the cut, whether it’s a top or bottom, etc. I am willing to pay more for clothes that are well-made and stylish. But make sure they’re adapted for a larger body. I have so much trouble finding clothes in the retail setting anymore because they seem either matronly, or for a 16-year-old.

    My biggest complaint is the difficulty I have finding tops that cover my belly. Give me tunics, or the like. If I see plus-size tops with a 28″ length, I think “crop-top”, not full-length top.

  7. I just checked the B&Lu website and was disappointed that a 3X in a vintage orange banded top I liked is listed as size 22/24. I am more accustomed to 3X being a 26/28. I am a size 28/30 so I usually size up to a 30/32.

    For top styles, I prefer button up fitted seam poly/spandex shirts that fit close to the belly. While I have a big belly, I have a huge chest and I cannot wear empire waistlines without the seam hitting mid-boob and without looking like I’m due to deliver any day. By pulling in at the belly, I avoid that maternity look. Lane Bryant online occasionally has the button up shirts in a 30/32 and I snatch up every new color when I find them. Most of my knit tops are Old Navy 4X. While the Old Navy quality is not great, the fit is perfect, and at least that’s something! My favorite source for basic sweaters is Silhouettes.

    For skirts and slacks, I’m pretty much exclusively QVC Dialogue. My bottom is smaller than my top so I can do a 3X fairly easily there, and they have inexpensive basic styles I stock up on.

    For work (I’m a high school teacher) I usually wear cotton/spandex or poly/spandex slacks and a fitted shirt or sweater. I don’t wear skirts above the knee or cap sleeves that show the upper arm. If I could find a good, reliable source of poly/spandex basic button up fitted (not boxy) shirts in 30/32 for around $35 I’d be a happy and often-returning shopper!

  8. Stupendous, tell your sister to try TJ Maxx’s or AJ Wright, depending on where you live.

    I fluctuate between a 22/24 and 24/26. The smallest I have ever gotten has been a size 18/20 and the biggest I’ve been is a 26. Right now, I’m a 24. For me, I love the clothes at bandlu but I haven’t bought anything from there because of price and selection. I kind of put Bandlu in the same boat as Kiyonna, the stuff is more dressy than casual and by the time it does go on sale, they are usually out of stock.

    I hardly ever go into Lane Bryant. The stuff is dry and bland. My concern, though is Ashley Stewart. They used go to from sizes 14-26 but now they go from sizes 12-24 and I’m at the high end range, which means that its hit or miss for me.

    Finding affordable, plus-size clothes is tough in this economy. I kind of like what Velvet D’Amour said in a recent interview, how she buys a lot of bousteries (sp?) and has them sewn into her clothing. She loves to do this with old tops and finds that it adds life to them.

    I haven’t updated my wardrobe like I used to but for your sister, Stupendous, maybe you could find some plain, cotton, long-sleeved, v-neck black, white and red tee shirts at like Kohl’s or even Targets and then go to ilovetocraft.com for some great cheap designs that you could sew onto the clothes.

    Velvet is a size 28 and what she does is have the stomach area of her tops taken out and then have the sleeves of the shirt sewn into the tops. It might cost a few more bucks but I love men’s shirts because of the thick material. I don’t know, for me, I find when I’m poor, as I am now, I come up with some very unique ideas for being stylish.

  9. I also like the longer, tunic-style tops. If the length is less than 32″, I don’t buy it because it won’t cover my belly or my back if I have to bend over. I like the babydoll style, but can’t wear them because they just aren’t cut to fit my rack of doom (same goes for the empire styles where the under-bust definition is pronounced, if I get it big enough to fit my boobs, then the rest of it looks like a tent).
    I also wish I could find dress pants with a low rise. I am so tired of having my pants’ waistband pulled up under my bra band because if I put the waistband at my waist, the crotch hangs down to my knees (and if I roll the band, I have this wad of fabric that bulges out at my waist, yuck). It would also be nice to have a variety of slacks in talls instead of just petite and average (I’m 5′ 8″ and have a 32″ inseam, long legs, short waist).
    I would also like to see more tops with prints, I’m so sick of solid colors all the time (and the prints that are offered are sometimes pretty fugly).

  10. vesta, sometimes I wish we could trade a coupe inches with each other, then we could both get the perfect clothes at Catherine’s. They have lovely, affordable (if you watch for sales and clearance) things that go up to 3, 4 and 5 X, but they’re made for people taller than me. And apparently shorter than you lol. But I do have more problem finding solids there than prints. But I can’t recommend Catherine’s enough to anyone who’s been sized out of places like Torrid and needs 3 or 4 X, as there’s always plenty of those sizes there.

  11. I second, third?, the posters who want longer tops (but not too long or it looks really bad) and boobage areas cut to fit racks of doom. I wear a 46K, so I hardly ever buy shirts online. The empire/surplice tops I like are probably cut too short over the bust, resulting in a line across my boobs instead of below them.

    Also, what’s up with v-necks that go all the way to the breastbone? Is that a side effect of the not-big-enough-in-the-boobage issue?

    And finally, I want tanks in a non-ribbed material that are loose and comfy and cute (no stupid screen printed trash on the front) and, most of all, HAVE ARMHOLES THAT AREN’T TWICE THE SIZE OF MY ARM! I don’t even look at collared sleeveless tops anymore because I know from experience that the armholes will just be gigantic. It’s unflattering, and really, I don’t want to show off the sides of my bra. If I did, I wouldn’t be wearing a shirt!

  12. Until this post I didn’t know B & Lu sold plus sizes up to 5X. I will definitely add them to my list of stores.

    I live in a small town and have to shop online, otherwise I cannot find clothes at all. For the most part I’ve been size 26-30, but briefly I wore a 32-36 and it was absolutely horrendous finding clothes. I bought only from Roaman’s or found something on eBay.

    The issues others have brought up are good ones. Plus size t-shirts are way too short, and if they’re cotton they shrink even shorter. When did that happen? My friend and I used to get those nice cotton tees from Roamans catalog until a few years ago when they started making them so they shrunk shorter instead of narrower, and now they’re useless. Lots of affordable tees will have some horrible design on it, or the sleeves are way too short, or there’s a hole in the neckline that prevents me from wearing a bra… the list goes on.

    To get a nice tee I have to buy some $60 shirt from Ulla Popken, and I just can’t afford that all the time.

    Being sized out of stores is so frustrating. For a while I could still buy from Torrid and Lane Bryant, but no longer. Places like Avenue say they go to size 32, but I find their 32s fit smaller than Ulla Popken’s 28/30.

    I really appreciate this chance to talk about plus and super plus sizes. Like Bree, I love FA, but I feel supersized people like me aren’t always included. Back when I was a member of the Fatshionista LiveJournal community, people my size were very rarely represented. Once a lady about size 4X was told by a few members that she was too big to wear the outfit she’d posted a photo of, although I couldn’t see the problem — she looked fine, she was just over 3X, and the ensuing discussion made it clear that size 3X and up people were often seen as “the other”. A lot of “we’re fat, but not UNACCEPTABLY fat” attitudes were going on, and FA became a very unsafe space for me for a while. Only now have I ventured back into the FA blogosphere, and this post is extremely heartening.

  13. Stupendousness, I hate to sound like I’m justifying the higher cost of plus sized clothes, but if two clothing items are of comparable quality, there will be a sometimes significant materials cost difference between an 8 and even an 18. Depending on the width of the fabric available, you have to lay the pieces out differently, and it can take up to twice the yardage to make a piece in an extended plus size as compared to a “straight” size.

    But considering the relative cheapness of materials as opposed to the price of the finished garment in most cases, the prices shouldn’t be THAT far apart. I think in some cases markups may be higher on larger sizes than they are on smaller ones. Which is BS for really large manufacturers/retailers (I’m lookin’ at you, Target!) But may be justified for smaller specialty retailers who have a tighter profit margin.

  14. Stacia, that’s horrible. I have been reading Fatshionista for a couple of months now and have never encountered that problem. In fact, I’ve found more fatties my size (30/32) on there than I have anywhere else. Hopefully what you witnessed really is no more.

    As for me, I’m 25, and I rarely find clothes that fit me which are suitable for my age. Everything is way too matronly. Most of the clothes I find have 3/4 sleeves (which I hate) or are way too short and I have to constantly pull it out of my armpit. Can’t I just get a decent sleeve? Sheesh. I’m also rather large on the bottom, around 68″ on the hips/waist, but have really short legs. I need an inseam of no more than 29″ or the pants are just too long and I have to cuff them. Don’t get me wrong, I like cuffs, but sometimes it just looks ridiculous.

    I also would really like to see tops in more natural fibers that don’t shrink up after washing so I can only hold onto them for a couple of months. It’s really frustrating. I’ve taken to not drying them now, but it only prolongs the life of a shirt for a short time. With the synthetic fibers, I just sweat too much and it’s uncomfortable. Oh, and those wrap shirts are killing me, as well as tunics. I don’t want to disguise my fat underneath tent like clothing.

    As for price range, I’m pretty poor. I can’t spend more than $30 on a pair of jeans, and then I can only do that every couple of months at the most. Tops I prefer in the $10-$20 range. Of course, that’s for casual wear. For a nice business outfit, or a dress I’d pay up to $75 for it. I would not pay more than $30 for a top, unless it was a really nice occasion.

  15. I haven’t shopped at BandLu before, but hopefully you would still like my feedback!

    If you are limited in the amount of stock you can carry, I would recommend your trousers are made from stretch fabrics, that way they have a bit of ease in them and can accommodate more body shapes. Being a hips of doom gal, I always find myself putting a drawstring through my trousers and I’ve often wished the manufacturers would do so! I think its better than an elastic waist because the elastic waist can’t be comfortable for those with a waist of doom.

    One thing I find with trousers made from cheap fabrics is that they show up every little piece of cellulite on my thighs of doom! I’ve tried on many trousers which fit OK, but if the fabric was just heavier with more oompf, then I wouldn’t have this issue.

    In terms of tops, I think most larger sized gals like myself appreciate arm coverage. I hate tops where the sleeves are either non-existant, capped, or come half way down the upper arm. I’m most comfortable with sleeves that come to just before the elbow. Again, using stretch fabrics helps with the varying arm widths.

    Length of tops is a more difficult issue – with my hips of doom I appreciate a slightly short top, otherwise I find myself having to buy a larger size to accommodate them.

    I would love to find a store that does year round basics of well made and good quality fabric trousers, tops, and skirts in simple styles which you can then mix and match with more funky stuff.

  16. Personally I will never buy at B&Lu because I live in Europe – but my problems with plus-sized clothing are probably shared by other people, so here it goes…

    - Others have said it, but sleeves are often to short. For short-sleeved shirts I prefer sleeves that go roughly down to my elbows. I also prefer long sleeves to 3/4 sleeves. Also, I like styles with (relatively) wide sleeves, possibly slighlty trumpet shaped.

    - I have the opposite problem of some of the people here – I have very small breasts (A-cup, sometimes even B-cup) and apparently nobody expects that from someone wearing a size 54/56. Bras are particularly hard to find. Because I have small breasts and a big belly I really like empire style tops, but I have seen quite a number of empire style tops that are actually too big for my breasts or too small for my belly. It would be nice to get more detailed info how something is cut and if it will fit my shape on top of having different styles that fit different people.

    - Also, easy to clean fabrics are a big plus. Things should be machine washable whenever possible, and ideally shouldn’t require much ironing.

    - As for prices, the generally high prices of plus sized clothing are a problem. However, I have seen some companies that guarantee customers a certain life-span for their clothes. For clothing like this I would actually be willing to pay a good deal more.

    - Last thing: I know this would increase prices for plus sized clothing further, but it would be nice to have at least some stylish, plus sized clothes that are produced under environmentally and woker friendly conditions

  17. wrymuse, that issue with the fatshionista LiveJournal community is ongoing, and takes some insidieous forms, which some folks over there are actively trying to combat.

    For instance, folks who are 14/16, 18/20, etc., get much better reaction to OOTD postings (“omg, you’re gorgeous!” x 20) than those wearing 30+ (“The dress is nice but lose the shawl” as the most positive thing someone could say, and only a few comments)*. It’s an internalized fatphobic thing, that has been discussed not too long ago, but maybe before you started reading it. I think there are a number of people there willing to do the work of combating that (myself included), but there are also a number of people who just came for the clothes.

    *these examples are made up.

  18. For B&Lu, I’m just on the edge of getting sized out of Torrid/Lane Bryant/etc., and find it terrifying to have nothing obvious looming on the horizon as another source of clothing. Like, if I gain a few pounds, I’m out of luck. So, even at a size 24/3x, I would love to see you carrying a variety of 4x and 5x things. I know you can’t take that to the bank, but I wanted to throw it out there. I have not generally shopped at B&Lu in the past, but looking at it now, really love the style (which proves the whole “there’s no such thing as bad press” axiom). So, future purchases are quite likely, but my impressions are based only on the website.

    I’ve found the faux-wrap dress that igigi is carrying this season to be incredibly flattering to me and my giant rack of doom. I like empire waists, but ONLY if they make enough room for my boobs, which they generally don’t.

    I *heart* scoop-necks and square necklines, but hate Vs. I think that’s just a personal preference. Please remember that my neck is larger than the neck of a size 12.

    I like shirts with some kind of underbust-thing, or regular shirts (like t-shirts cut). Shirts that seem to fall straight from the boobs really are unflattering on me.

    I hem every pair of pants I ever buy (5’0″), so I have no comments on that aspect. I also am used to hemming a lot of shirts, so for those who beg for longer shirts…. I could live with that, even being *very* short torso’d.

    Because part of FA for me is to get clothes that *really* fit me, I often need to try on multiple sizes, depending on the manufacturer. Your prices seem reasonable to me (from a middle-class young woman with a full-time, steady, white-collar job, which I recognize gives me a lot of class privilege), but I often balk at online stuff because I end up having to pay shipping back to the company a few times, making the real cost of the clothing a lot higher. So, I read the cost not as $X + shipping, but as $X + shipping + shipping + shipping…. which ends up being a lot. I’m not sure of the solution here — I’m sure as a small company, it would be hard to pay the customer’s return shipping, but that sort of thing makes a difference to me. (Also, return policy could be more prominent on the website — I *always* want to check that out before I buy, for the aforementioned reasons.)

    Thanks to Christine for taking the time and effort to listen to us — what a wonderful way to see a company respond to criticism.

  19. Its refreshing that a retailer is interested in selling plus size products, ESPECIALLY in an increasingly hostile atmosphere for larger women in the retail-world.

    Just yesterday I had the most frustrating, enraging experience at the Jockey outlet store. I went over for the annual “stock up on panties” run. For years I’ve been buying their “comfies” line of underwear – in queen size 9 in the bikini style. They’ve always had a great range of colors. Lo and behold – Jockey has stopped making these in Queen size. The woman at the counter gave me a comment card and said “PLEASE, tell them your feelings about this”. Apparently, these poor women have to listen to furious queen sized women every day. I went online and it appears that they have one style of the comfies style (only online, I guess) and only in white and pink. I imagine even this will go away – but women have already complained in the review section about the lack of variety.

    You know – I spend money on clothing too, retailers!!

  20. I’m with the other “out-of-country” folks. Living in Canada kind of sucks for plus size shopping, because all the non-department store chains (all 3 of them) to shop are all owned by the same company! And only one of them goes past a size 24.

    My biggest pet peeve is: since when is 12 a plus size? My god, instead of covering 12 – 24, why not do 14 – 26 (because all that is left at clearance time is the size 12s).

    I would love to shop online, but the shipping and customs clearance if it doesn’t fit really hurts (I’m looking at you Zappos!). My thing would be to see the clothes on actual people to get a better idea of how they fit. Or a size comparison to other stores – if you wear a 26/28 at Lane Bryant (which I kind of love when I cross border shop), then you wear a xx in our clothes.

    As for cost, I think we’ve got a lot of sticker shock when we see similar styles for less than half of what we are charged.

  21. Oh! I know what else I need. I just bought some cute bermudas from ON. They’re white. I own no white underwear. So I went to Kmart to find some.

    None to be found in my size in the style I like: hi-cut in cotton. Do manufacturers/retailers think fat women – particularly women who wear size 30-plus – don’t wear white bottoms, or if they do, want super-full cut undies?

    I think I’ll go post this at the Fatshionista livejournal, but just thought I’d chime in on what’s become a “we feel marginalized, and here’s how” conversation.

  22. Boudicca, I have the same sort of problem with One Hanes Place. We have an outlet about 10 miles up the road, but I generally order from them online.

    The latest catalog has a whole slew of large sized bras, but the cute colors stop at 38DD. What up with that?!? Just cuz I’m fat, I’m stuck with white, beige and black undies :(

  23. I used to wear size 28/30 and very nearly sized out of Lane Bryant. I remember going to Avenue to buy jeans because their size 28 fit when LB’s no longer did. While I now wear smaller sizes, I remember those days very much and wanted to add my 2 cents.

    One thing that always bothered me about shopping online or looking at catalogs is even when plus-size models were used, they nearly always had an hourglass figure. I am more pear shaped with thick legs and many of my friends are apple shaped. I wish that models of all shapes (and heights!) would be used to model clothing so it would be easier for women to gauge whether a particular style will suit them.

    Also, exercise clothing, particularly those made of wicking fabrics, is very difficult to find in the larger sizes and when you do, it is expensive as hell. Plenty of women of all sizes are physically active and want to feel comfortable doing so.

    Twincats- I still shop for bras at LB and even when I was 46DDD, I found cute prints there, at least in the stores.

  24. I also am used to hemming a lot of shirts,

    See, I’m 5’1 and relatively long torsoed, so I never had to hem my straight sized tops, but I have to hem my plus sized ones. I’m not going to demand shorter tops because I get that it’s better that I should hem my tops than that a taller woman shouldn’t be able to find a top that covers her body… but it is a hassle. I would love it if more plus sized retailers offered petites. I understand that it’s probably not an option for such a small business as b&Lu but I wish more of the bigger retailers did. (That is one thing I appreciate about Reitman’s… it’s crappy that they only go up to size 24, but awesome that they offer their full range of sizes in both petites and talls).

  25. Becky, believe me, I’m thrilled whenever I find shirts that are actually the correct size without any altering. I’m just saying, if you have to pick between too long and too short, at least too long is fixable….

    That said, petite size 24/26 would make me SO happy.

  26. I’ve always, ALWAYS got my eye out for the plusest of plus size. There are two reasons ultimately that any plus size clothing offering fails: one, the designs suck – which is the lesser problem, since a lot of women wear absolute crap thinking that that’s all that’s available, and the second because the target clients NEVER FIND OUT THE CLOTHING IS AVAILABLE. Once they know, there’s a freakin’ stampede. If plus women know that the clothing is available, they’ll buy it. So the effort needs to go into marketing, not into downsizing product. I’ve featured B&Lu every so often on my blog and I do try to feature nearly every plus store with a mailing list unless it’s so bad that I think the designers hate fat people.

    We can help her – and other good clothiers – with continued honest feedback, with as much of it geared towards “A-ha!” criticism of the clothing offerings over the “ouch!” kind of criticism.

  27. I’d like to second what queendom said about machine washability.

    I’ve got three kids and no time or money to have to take my clothing to the dry cleaners. But often plus sized online stores either stock only dry clean only clothing, or they don’t tell you the manufacturer’s clothing care instructions (and this is true of B&Lu) so you have to guess.

    I’m willing to pay more per item for something I can machine was as I’m not constantly putting money *into* it. This is true even of work clothes.

    On a separate note, I’m finding all these comments about too short/too revealing shirts surprising, but maybe that’s because I’m not plus but not at the higher end of things? (And I have to note that I’ve seen references to inbetween but I’m not sure whether I count or what that means).

    In any case, my post third child measurements (after 5 months) are 46, 43, 51–and having looked at clothing for this new body of mine, I’m shocked by how much that doesn’t translate to a consistent size anywhere. I’m also awed by how often I have to choose a higher size for my hips alone (which, from my end of things, don’t seem *all* that disproportionate to the rest of me).

    Anyway, some scattered thoughts here. Oh, and I just bought a B&Lu silver “Jacey” jacket, so thanks for the heads up on the company!

  28. I’d like to second the comment about machine- (or, at least hand-) washability. Like many people, I don’t use drycleaning services for health/environmental/ethical reasons. If I can’t wash it — fail!
    Also, I will be very happy when 1970s colours & patterns stop returning from the grave like zombies which best stay deeply buried. (This goes for Ikea stuff, too!)

  29. Out of curiousity, what’s the ethical objection to drycleaning?

    Personally, I just machine wash everything. Even if it says “handwash only” or “dry clean only” I just machine wash it on the gentle cycle and hang it to dry (it’s the drier that’s really hard on your clothes). I’ve never ruined anything yet that way, although it possibly wears out faster.

  30. the second because the target clients NEVER FIND OUT THE CLOTHING IS AVAILABLE.

    See, this is exactly what I think a large portion of the problem is, but I don’t know how to fix that, other than blogging about it.

    I’m also really curious about why the 4x and 5x styles used to sell out fast but don’t anymore. Did that coincide with a change in quality? With the reduced offerings in those sizes? I’m kind of fascinated by that.

    I’m another one who’s desperate for more petite plus options (and I know the tall women are just as desperate for stuff that’s long enough), though I totally understand that that’s probably out of reach for a small company. But man, in terms of building long-term loyalty? That’s a winner. I regularly look at at least a dozen different online shopping sites to see what’s new, but when it comes down to it, I buy over and over from the same 3 or 4 places, because I know how their stuff fits and that it will fit. And it’s usually the places with petites. I think B&Lu jeans look great, but I just don’t buy pants that aren’t petites anymore — even if I can have them hemmed, the knees hit me mid-calf and I lose whatever flare might be there. (A million years ago, when I wore tapered jeans — a trend I have not reembraced this time around — I also lost the taper, which drove me nuts.)

    This brings me to another issue I’ve seen brought up a few times about B&Lu — the fit’s not consistent. On the one hand, it’s cool that they have something for lots of different body shapes. On the other hand, practically everyone I know who’s ordered multiple items from them has had to send half back because it didn’t fit. I assume that’s the fallout of using multiple manfacturers, but a more consistent fit would probably help to build loyalty and minimize returns. There are some designers whose stuff I would love to buy but can’t, because it is just not made for someone my height/shaped like me/whatev. But then there are some that fit like they’re made for me, and you’d better believe those are the ones I always check first and spend the most money on. Also, when readers ask, I can tell them which designers favor women with smaller boobs (Blue Plate) or taller women (Anna Scholtz, if you’ve got ridiculous amounts of disposable income), etc., precisely because I know which lines don’t work for me and why.

    All of which leads to what I think is maybe the biggest issue for B&Lu — establishing a really recognizable identity. They’ve established a fun, youthful, funky aesthetic, which is great, but that’s only part of the challenge. Everything from the limbo-pricing to the varying quality to the inconsistent sizing suggests they’re still trying to figure out what sticks, so they haven’t quite decided what they do well/what to focus on. And that doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence or loyalty.

    The problem, of course, is that refining the brand identity means cutting off some existing customers. If you raise prices, you lose some people. If you go discount, you lose others. If you focus on tall apple shapes with small boobs, you lose short pears with big ones, and vice versa. If you try to do 1X to 3X better than anyone else, you lose 4X and 5X customers who might have been among your most loyal. But if you commit to offering every style in 4X and 5X, you lose the manufacturers who don’t go that high, who are producing stuff you know will sell. Etc.

    So basically, you have to figure out not only whom you want to court most actively, but whom you’re willing to sacrifice as customers. Which is a lousy position to be in. But I imagine every successful brand has to make those choices at some point.

    In theory, it’s a no-brainer to offer fun, youthful clothes to the plus-plus market — almost nobody’s doing it, and the market’s definitely there. The problem really is reaching the market and letting it know you exist. How the hell do you do that?

  31. As a fat woman not interested in fashion or being fashionable, I would like things my mother would call “classics” in extended sizes in natural fibers. In my case, I am able to pay higher prices and would be happy to if the quality and fit were there. I like 100% cotton and I will wear silk and linen when I can find them in my size. I don’t like more than a touch of spandex/poly in my clothes but that’s because I have skin problems and cotton is my friend. I would like tailored khakis/chinos, blazers, and button down shirts. Sometimes I buy men’s clothing but I’m short with ginormous boobs and generally proportioned like a woman so even that is a challenge. I buy most of my casual clothes from Land’s End. Their 3X size fits my 5’4″ 340+ lb self pretty well both top and bottom. However, I can’t wear their tailored clothing – it just isn’t big enough. One of my pet peeves is how wide the pant legs are on some of the extended plus sizes. I do not want to wear palazzo pants all the time (in my case I never want to wear them, I can’t carry them off.) I was not familiar with B and Lu. I always check out the online plus-sized clothing retailers mentioned here but often the type of clothing offered does not appeal to me (I don’t wear dresses or skirts – if you haven’t guessed I am a lesbian.)

  32. Oh, and one more thing! CLOTHES YOU CAN WEAR A BRA WITH. A major problem I find with a lot of plus-size retailers going for the youth market, including B & Lu, is that their stuff is not really bra friendly, even if it claims to be.

    What does bra-friendly mean to me? No halter tops. No cutaway shoulders. Nothing backless. No v-necks that dip all the way to the underbust seam (or only an inch above it) — unless they’re in a style that would look cute with a cami and a color that’s easy to find a coordinating cami for. No spaghetti straps. No strapless, obvy. No scoopnecks that scoop so widely you have to wear your bra straps on your upper arms.

    That just ruled out 14 dresses and undoubtedly a bunch of tops currently available on the B&Lu site. (And that’s without even getting into empire waists that are so high they’d cut my boobs in half.) The fact is, a lot of fat women, no matter how big our boobs, wear grandma bras — because that’s just about all that’s available to us. (Especially in larger cup sizes and band sizes that would correspond to 4x or 5X.) If a top or dress won’t fully cover an industrial-strength, ugly beige bra with at least 4 hooks and inch-wide straps, I ain’t buying it. And I imagine I’m not the only one.

  33. I love the B&Lu attitude and would shop there if the clothes were my style and if there were more natural fibers available. Too much polyester. Seriously, who buys this stuff? It stinks after being in contact with human skin, it’s a pain to launder, it doesn’t age well, it’s staticky, it’s cheap-looking… ugh. I just don’t understand why there’s a market for it.

    My other complaints: too much baby doll/empire waist, skirts too straight, necklines either high or plunging. Generic fat clothing complaints (which may not apply to B&Lu): if you get it to fit in the waist the shoulders are way too wide, crotch down to the knees, armholes hang way too low.

    Some elements of my ideal clothing: natural fibers, machine-washable, cute but not flashy, retro, Japanese/Zakka-influence, slightly flaring tunics, pear-shape proportions, bias-cut and A-line skirts, medium drop to neckline, tanks cover bra straps but don’t hang over shoulder, shoulders somewhat fitted, arms hang right (not at a 45-degree angle).

  34. if there were more natural fibers available.

    Word. I have a cotton dress and cotton skirt from B&Lu and I love both, but the stuff I ordered from them in polyester I sent back because the quality of the fabric was just… not as good as I expected based on their older stuff. Back to natural fibres, please!

  35. Out of curiousity, what’s the ethical objection to drycleaning?
    Aside from the environmental issues, it’s extremely likely that at least some of the chemicals have been tested on animals. It’s even possible that some may be animal-derived. (I use vegan detergent & bleach for my washing, from the health-food store.)

    If a top or dress won’t fully cover an industrial-strength, ugly beige bra with at least 4 hooks and inch-wide straps, I ain’t buying it. And I imagine I’m not the only one.
    YES! (All my bras are exactly like this.)

    Too much polyester.
    Indeed. Ick.

  36. THANK YOU KATE!!! The “can’t find a dress or top to cover wide-ass bra straps” is a major problem of mine. And speaking of bras, they need to make strapless bras for gals with racks o’ doom. Maybe if they did, I could wear these wider necklines without having to put the bra straps almost off my shoulders.

    Also, PLEASE make some summer dresses that aren’t sleevless or strapless! Not everyone bares their arms when the weather is warm. I will do cap sleeves, but those are rare in fat fashion. And I have to add, STOP with the extra button and tab closures on pants. They make no sense. Either have one button with a zipper, or just do elastic waist or drawstring.

  37. I’m also really curious about why the 4x and 5x styles used to sell out fast but don’t anymore. Did that coincide with a change in quality? With the reduced offerings in those sizes? I’m kind of fascinated by that.

    I know that I, personally, stopped buying from B&Lu when I noticed about two or three (possibly, definitely more) updates to their new arrivals section and only saw a teeny-tiny handful of new stuff in my size that was horribly fugly.

    I didn’t buy a thing from them for ages and that was after placing a fairly big order (well, for me) for my very first order (one super-itchy cardigan, my beloved violet henley thermal, my Cameo tank (which is a 5x but is too short) and a red empire-waist blouse that wound up looking horrid on me. The cameo tank and the thermal are the only two items I still wear – the cardigan is too tight in the shoulders and along the arms even though I bought it in the same size as everything else and the material it’s made from is cheap, thin and itchy and I just hate wearing it. The empire-waist tunic blouse I got is really beautiful, but unfortunately, it looks like ass on me – the material is that beautifully soft jersey knit and is wonderful and soft but it just doesn’t work for my body type.

    So, yeah – I second the sizing inconsistencies and shortness of the tops (just for the sake of record, I’m at least 5’11″ or 6′ even in bare feet and have long legs and a medium-ish torso). For myself, I usually simply cannot stand to wear anything with sleeves – even short ones – and prefer tanks and camis, unless it gets cold and only then will I wear anything with sleeves (grew up in Florida – tanks/camis were kind of the uniform down there).

    If I have to wear something that’s not a cami, I prefer it to be made of light, airy fabric (that jersey-knit cotton is a godsend, srsly), short-sleeved (I love cap/flutter sleeves!) and v-necked as I have a considerably small chest for a chick my size and if I wear your average crew-neck tee, I look like I have no neck at all.

    I also have to say that just from a design perspective, some of the fabric they choose is really ugly and, yeah, lots of polyester and rayon, which is just yuck. Overall, I prefer smooth, soft fabrics – like the jersey knit – and natural fabrics when I can get them, so long as they’re not too heavy and I can find something in my size. I primarily dress for comfort with the overall look of things coming in a close third. I might be fashionable, I might not be – I’m not overly concerned with it all that much, but I like to think I have a good idea of what suits me.

  38. Okay I think in the 16-20 range, I might fit in the clothes they currently have at B and Lu. But as a young 20 something I won’t buy things from them because the clothes look so atrocious. I’d like more simple colors and less examples of the color wheel barfing all over the nasty polyester fabric.

    Oh and actual examples of the new clothes on humans would be nice as well.

  39. I have the opposite problem of some of the people here – I have very small breasts (A-cup, sometimes even B-cup) and apparently nobody expects that from someone wearing a size 54/56. Bras are particularly hard to find.

    You have my sympathies on that (the dificulty find clothing to fit a larger size with smaller boobage that is). I’m about a large A, small B, though at the smaller end of plus size at a 16 or 18 (the band size I wear is about 40, though I’d go up if I ever saw larger sizes available. So I find it hard to say what my band size is, because I wear what I do, not always because it’s the best fit, but because it’s all that’s available to me) and at plus size stores I know of that is the highest I have seen a B cup (at non plus stores it’s a 38), and I don’t recall if I’ve even seen As at that size (of course I always shop on sale, I can’t afford stuff that isn’t on sale, so I am looking at things with the more limited stock).

    My belief is that shirts with specified boob areas, ought to come in cup sizes. I believe I should be able to get a shirt hat is a size 18 B cup (or A cup). I have two shirts I bought for work in my closet right now that I bought online. They have a specified boob area, then it’s smaller at the waste, so I have this sage across my boobs/under my boobs because I don’t fill it out. It looks unprofessional and sloppy so it ended up being a waste of money that I can’t wear to work until I get the money (ha! like that will be happening anytime soon.) to take them in to try and see if it can be altered to fit my tiny boobage. But as much as I have issues with clothing makers thinking that a size 16 or 18 must have a minimum of a c-cup boobage, I do understand the problems people with larger boobage have to. I hate that any size should come with one expectation about boob size when our bodies came in all belly sizes mixed completely with all boob sizes. I don’t expect this will really happen, because it limits who each combination size would fit, but I do wish it would because bodies are diverse shapes as well as sizes.

  40. …less [sic] examples of the color wheel barfing all over the nasty polyester fabric.
    I love this description. :-D It sums up what’s wrong with so many clothes, plus-size and otherwise.

  41. I’ve been out of town so might be late but if some one is listening, I have to say it. Enough with the synthetics. And I know there is middle ground between matronly and tacky and I wish someone would find it. And ditto the “we wear bras!!!” sentiment.

    I do a lot of fantasy shopping at B&Lu but rarely buy because of the prevalence of poly and a lack of confidence in the fit.

  42. My fashion fit problems:

    5’1″, size 20-22 on top, 26-28 on bottom. B-C cup boobs. Very short waisted – most empire waist tops fit my natural waist. Skirts and dresses that are knee-length are calf-length (which looks silly in most instances); calf-length means ankle length (which is good in some instances).

    Dresses rarely fit, some empire waist ones work OK depending on styling. I hate sleeveless and cap sleeve tops: I don’t care if anyone sees my bingo wings (hee) but I do care about my very sun-damaged shoulder and arm skin not getting sun exposure. (Applying SPF30 every 90 minutes is a PITA, it always gets on my clothes, etc.) I dislike 3/4 length sleeves because they look like 15/16 sleeves like my top shrank in the wash.

    I like v necks, square necks, and sweetheart necks that are moderately low but still cover the grandma bras. LOVE wrap and wrap-style tops. Necks/collars on high-neck and turtleneck tops, and shirts and blouses, are consistently too small – yeah, I’m fat, but I also have a very solid build and have a neck like a rugby prop. (Maybe I’ll take up rugby once I get my cardio fitness back, heh.) I prefer skirts with stretchy waists as I’m a different shape when I sit down.

    I will happily pay more for good quality cotton or microfibre knits with lycra content – I hate how saggy plain cotton gets after a while. I don’t mind manmade fabrics that have moisture-wicking properties, especially t-shirts and leggings, etc, that I can wear for exercise. Polyester and nylon are not all evil: if it’s a good weave it’s better in hot weather/sweaty times than cotton, hemp, linen, etc.

    I’ll also pay more for garments with better quality fabrics that don’t pill, have quality construction, and attention to detail.

    And OMG I hate the recent trend of overcoats and jackets with short sleeves. I know layering’s in, but cripes, my forearms get cold too.

  43. It’s been really enlightening for me to read these comments since my sister and I were thinking of opening a plus-size boutique when she graduates for college next year. There are SOOOO many issues involved with selling clothing for fat people that it looks like we’ll have to pick and choose which ones we address or else offer in-store tailoring (which we were going to do anyway, but wow! I never imagined all the issues we’d have to address). I hate to say it, but I’m really beginning to understand why 99% of designers stick to designing for the under-14 crowd. I’m sure it’s much easier to design for straight lines. :-/

  44. I’ll also pay more for garments with better quality fabrics that don’t pill, have quality construction, and attention to detail.

    Oh, may I also add that I want materials that don’t pill and that don’t have a rough texture? I wear tanks practically every day, but they’re rib knit, so within a few hours, between the ribs and the pilling, the insides of my arms hurt from all the rubbing. I’d love to replace these tanks with something like silk or some other smooth fabric, but unless I make them myself*, I can’t find or afford them.

    *Can you tell me where to buy yardage with stretch in it? A recent visit to Joanne’s didn’t show any fabric with built-in give. :-(

  45. Rhonwyyn: “*Can you tell me where to buy yardage with stretch in it? A recent visit to Joanne’s didn’t show any fabric with built-in give. :-(”

    Try fabric.com. The only problem is that you can’t see the fabrics in person or feel them before you buy, but if you have a good idea of what you want, this might be a good resource for you.

  46. Count me in the “no sleevelessness” group. And the B-cup parade. 46″ around but my breasts are about a B-cup. So of course, I end up with C cup bras because apparently no woman with that much fat on her torso could have a breast smaller than a C. *headdesk*

    Actually I just bought two more bras at Lane Bryant on Friday because I had a coupon. There are 2 styles at LB that I like and I’m about to be sized out because they don’t come in a 48 (and being small and somewhat uncomfortable still with my cleavage, I don’t want to wear the fortress iron-shaped bras they sell that do come in 48s. I do not want to feel like an Amazon warrior woman strapping on my armor which makes my breasts bigger, thank you).

    Anyway, as I was checking out, the saleswoman was trying to make me update my credit card. I told her no, because I wouldn’t be shopping at LB much longer since they barely carried any bras in my size. (That I spoke up is totally due to y’all, btw. I’m so much more conscious of these issues after a few months of reading FA blogs including this one.)

    The saleswoman got all defensive and was waving her arms around and pointing to all the different styles in the store that come in a 46. Ignoring the C cup issue and the styles, I responded by pointing out there weren’t many 46s on the racks. She said it was because they sell out so fast, which made me wonder why, then, the store didn’t start stocking more of them. (Just like Sears and Penneys and everybody else sells out of 18s and 20s before they sell out of 12s and 14s, so why the hell aren’t they stocking more, etc.).

    But she added, “You can buy online too and find whatever size you’re looking for.”

    I looked back at her and said, “I don’t appreciate feeling punished, like I’m not allowed to shop in the store because I’m too big so I have to buy things online.”

    She gaped like a fish.

    I dunno if it’ll make a difference in any way. That store is now the only LB within 40 miles of me, so I’ll have to go there if I want to shop at one of their stores. I certainly gave her a shock, though.

    DRST

  47. Good for you, DRST!

    Big chain stores really need to wise up about the message they send when they only make certain sizes available online. This is happening more and more, and the reasons are obvious, but it looks (and feels) really shitty. Way to alienate loyal customers, guys.

  48. Just a little fan girl- my two fave pieces of clothing this year came from b and lu– the lotus skirt and the merlot and black v-neck dress.

  49. (I do have to agree, tho’, that those are both in a jersey cotton. I’m not so fond of this season’s fabrics.)

  50. Whoa! Wait, sorry: the soveriegn is in a jersey poly/lycra! I seriously thought it was cotton: it feels and wears like cotton. Maybe I’ll try one of this year’s dresses.

  51. I actually own a boutique for plus size women. It’s in Chicago and called vive la femme, and has been open for six years! Hooray! The concept is “the latest looks and trends exclusively in sizes 12-24″.

    I have been carrying bandlu’s clothes from the day I opened, and they have always been a top seller for me. I also find myself taking a ton of their pieces for my own closet, which of course is a testament to their fashion-forward styles.

    It has become achingly obvious over the years that my best -selling sizes are 12-18. Period. Anything above a size 20 almost always ends up on the sale rack or even the “graveyard”, which is not good for a small retail operation. I used to go up to a size 28 but LITERALLY lost my shirt as larger sizes simply did not sell.

    I have also noticed in the most protracted and painful way that price is a pivotal factor at vive la femme. I used to carry SVOBODA and Anna Scholz; alas, no more. Nothing at vive is over $200, and most pieces fall between $35 and $125, which is comparable to Lane Bryant ‘s price points.

    Because vive la femme is a for-profit venture, I simply have to go where the customers tell me to go, which is cheap chic focusing on sizes 12-18. Ergo, I do a LOT of buisness with bandlu and can corroborate everything they have said in the aforementioned letter.

    It’s unfortunate, but basically everyone in the industry agrees that sizes 20 and up simply do not sell.

    Before I am skewered and slammed on this blog, please keep in mind I want my store to stay open, be able to pay myself, and keep my core customers happy – - just like any other entrepreneurial vision. Plus sizes are, at their essence, based on proven principles of the free market, and the facts are 3x-5x are tough sizes to move.

    Comments, questions, rants, raves? I enthusiastically welcome all feedback.

  52. I run anywhere from a 30-34 depending. I’ve gotten to a point where if you don’t carry everything in my size then the catalog is going in the trash because there are few things that piss me off more than finding something cute in a “plus-sized” catalog or website and then realizing it isn’t carried in my size. I avoid patronizing businesses that only carry some things in my size, not everything offered. Maybe that’s whay the 4x and 5x sizes weren’t selling as well. I know others of my size that feel the same way about only patronizing businesses that offer everything in a full range of sizes. B&Lu got completely cut off of my possiblities list because of that.

  53. voluptuousrobot, if you’re a boutique store, does it make any sense from a financial standpoint to set up samples? I’m thinking of having just one or two of each thing in the larger sizes for try-on, and then special-ordering for people, but setting it up as a pampering custom-fit experience rather than “ooo, we don’t carry your size, so we have to order it”. Maybe sending out information that you do have the larger sizes available, then doing special fittings for them to be sure which size looks best, and ordering what you need (keeping the samples on hand). That way your inventory is only 3 or 4 extra of each item, but you might sell a lot more of them by virtue of being able to try on before ordering. Then at the end of the season you could sell off the samples on sale. I’m not sure if the shipping costs would become a problem, though. But at minimum, even if you pass the shipping cost to the customer, you’ve beat catalog/online sales by letting the customer see and try it on first.

  54. voluptuousrobot, if, as you say, you focus on sizes 12-18, isn’t it an outright lie to say, as you do on your website, that your store Vive la Femme is about “style beyond size”?

  55. I’d say put the returns policy on the bottom of every page so we know that if we don’t like it, we can send it back. Also? ADVERTISE. I only found out about B and Lu because somehow I stumbled across Elastic Waist a few months ago, and in those short four months my clothing budget has skyrocketed 200%. Hell, I now own a DRESS I wear to WORK. This caused my best friend of 15 years to go all wibuwei when he popped by the office unexpectedly.

  56. It’s unfortunate, but basically everyone in the industry agrees that sizes 20 and up simply do not sell.

    Voluptuousrobot, I can understand that from a business perspective — and in fact, I referred to you in my comment over at The Rotund. (As someone who had to get rid of larger sizes to stay in business — but who’s also only dealing with one local market.)

    The problem is, there are people that size out there who need clothes. And while there’s no reason why YOU, or any individual business-owner, should be obligated to provide them, it’s really frustrating to hear time and again, “Well, your size doesn’t sell, sorry!” when you’re desperate to buy clothes in your size.

    I don’t have this problem with clothes, but I have it with bras. I’m a 36 G/H, and have in the past been a 34G, which is even worse. Most lines that have those cup sizes — which is not many to begin with — start their band sizes at 38. Intellectually, I can completely understand that there aren’t that many people buying bras my size, so it doesn’t make sense to stock them, but that still leaves me up shit creek.

    The internet, however, has helped a lot with that — I recently discovered Prima Donna bras (actually at LeeLee’s Valise — THANK YOU, Lisa, for carrying 36 bands), and have placed a couple orders with Bits of Lace, because they were the ONE online outfit I found that carries them in my size. (I could have ordered more from LeeLee’s, too, and might in the future, but F Everybody’s I, Bits of Lace is also a great company to deal with — and if you’re in Charleston, SC, you can even go in person.) This has solved my bra woes for the time being — but then, the catch is, Prima Donna bras run from about $80-$110. People my size who can’t afford to spend that much on bras remain up shit creek. (Hell, I can’t really afford it, but considering bras are arguably the most important item in my wardrobe, and get the best cost-per-wear, I bit the bullet.) The market for those sizes at different price points is out there — it’s just scattered, and there’s no obvious way to reach it specifically.

    Aaaanyway. Point is, however small the market is, it exists, and it’s both grateful and loyal to anyone who serves it — which online operations are obviously better suited to do. Christine says that 4X and 5X were once big sellers for B & Lu — what went wrong? How do they get that market back?

    It’s all well and good to say “Sizes above whatever don’t sell,” but you know better than anyone that the conventional wisdom used to be that sizes above 14 don’t sell! Look at the difference between shopping for 1X-3X clothes now and 10 years ago — let alone 20 or 30 years ago. People figured out that the market was there and how to reach it. There’s no reason why that can’t happen with larger sizes, especially for an online company that can ship all over the world. (Yeah, there are fewer women wearing those sizes than wearing 14-18, but still, we’re talking about a niche — and there are loads of successful companies built on smaller niches.)

    Again, I completely understand why a small business owner would choose to focus on what sells the best, even if it means cutting off one market. But it is SO infuriating to be standing there with cash in hand, ready to buy a certain size, and be told, “We don’t carry that size, because nobody buys it.” Well, what does that make me?

    Since Christine says she does want to keep carrying 4X and 5X — and furthermore, that they once moved well for her — I’d rather see people focus on how she can get that market back than the conventional wisdom that says it doesn’t exist.

  57. car — Hmmmm, that is a very interesting idea. I worked with Janelle at Love Your Peaches for sizes beyond a 24, and quite like her designs. I will definitely contact her to see what she says about that. Thanks for the great feedback.

    Miriam — As promised, inventory ALWAYS goes up to a size 24 and occasionally beyond. Currently I have ranges of awesome clothes from Spirit Acitvewear, Karen Kane, Trentacosta, Vanilla Sugar, and Zen Knits that are available up to a true 3x. However, all the 2x/3x from Spirit and Zen have had to go on sale — like below wholesale sale — because they were too big for the core customer. I always bring in at least one 3x in everything I order, and have in fact rejected certain lines because they stop at an 18 or even a 20. No outright lies at vive la femme — outright lies are for suckas!

    Mary Sue — enjoy your bandlu dress! Which one did you purchase?

  58. Another thought, which maybe deserves its own post… When you’re talking about fat women, self-esteem is always an issue. Loads of women do buy into the idea that if you’re fat, you shouldn’t wear clothes that call too much attention to yourself, show off your curves, whatever. If you’re selling trendy, form-fitting clothes, you’re not selling to the low-self-esteem market, which, sadly, probably is a larger percentage of plus-size women. And that might very well be even truer of women who wear above a 3X.

    But as the expansion of 1X-3X options in recent years has shown, it’s hard to figure out the chicken-egg thing there. For years, people thought fat women only wanted clothes they could hide in — then some companies started offering more fashionable stuff and discovered a market that was probably always there (and built upon it, as more fat women went, “Hey, wait a minute — I don’t have to wear polyester tent?”). That really hasn’t been tested yet in the plus-plus market, and I get the impression that there are a lot of people operating on the assumption that women above 3X either don’t care about their appearance or only want clothes they can hide in — which is exactly what they used to assume about anyone 14+. Is the market not there, or is it simply undiscovered because no one’s really given it a good try yet?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, and I’m not the one who has to put up money to find out. But I do know that the current conventional wisdom about the plus-plus market sounds a lot like the old conventional wisdom about the smaller plus market, and the latter turned out to be wrong.

  59. Kate — as usual, excellent points. Perhaps in my case the situation is that of a local trend. Would certainly love to hear from any other shop owners about their size sell-through patterns as well. Has anyone checked with Kiyonna or igigi, or spoken with LeeLee’s?

    To wit, I encourage EVERYONE here to check out http://www.loveyourpeaches.com for adorable and affordable clothes up to a size 6x. Janelle, the owner, is one of the coolest women in the industry and definitely a heroine of mine.

  60. Has anyone checked with Kiyonna or igigi, or spoken with LeeLee’s?

    Good question. Ozlem from Igigi sometimes pops by here — maybe I’ll email her for input. And LeeLee’s only goes up to 28, I believe, though of course that’s still better than most. (I’ve never talked to anybody at Kiyonna, but I should change that.) I was actually thinking of e-mailing Anne Kelly at Junonia for any thoughts, too, since I think (though I don’t know) the larger plus market accounts for a good portion of their business. (It’s always smaller sizes that end up in clearance, anyway.) And Junonia wouldn’t really be a direct competitor to B&Lu, unlike the others mentioned.

    And yes, Love Your Peaches rocks.

  61. If it hasn’t already been said, I would like to say it now:

    Sleeves.

    Please.

    I’m all about showing some skin, but my flabby upper arms are not the skin I’d like to show. I’d prefer a wider (possibly interesting, maybe lower?) neckline, perhaps even some shoulder showing, but please (please!) give me a sleeve that approaches the elbow.

    I wear a 26/28 top, DD, so being able to accentuate a nice neck and chest is great. Covering the upper arms even better!

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment!

  62. This is an interesting issue, and the feedback from customers saying “Hey, I want to buy clothes in my size!” and the feedback from retailers saying “Hey, what sells best for us is sizes 12-24, and the other stuff just sits and sits!” is a fascinating case of market disjunct.

    Clearly, the millions of people who wear size 26 and above wear clothing every day, and need as much clothing as people who wear size 24 and below. It would be a great subject for someone studying business and/or fashion to research in depth.

    Most of the people I know who wear 4X or above seem to buy a lot from Making It Big, Love Your Peaches, and Junonia when it comes to online shopping.

  63. Having shopped at Vive La Femme (Hey, S, it’s me, Tamani!), I can say that she does sell things beyond a 24-26-28 range. They usually end up on the sale rack and my size (16-18-20) are *long gone* when I venture in and I usually end up buying outfits right off the mannequin.

    Now that I’ve since moved to New York, I’ve become a LeeLee’s devotee. And again, it is harder and harder to find my sizes because they fly out of the door. The last time I bought something it was the absolute last thing AND I had to take it off the mannequin. LeeLee’s does stock a fair amount of merch above a 2x-3x but Lisa also does a weekly (I think) spot on the Today show about dressing for your size. That’s a lot of advertising to help move those sizes.

    Another thing people don’t realize is that a lot of merch is sold in pre-packs where you have to buy batches of sizes in lots and also a buyer has to meet *minimums*. Unless you have a very very very good relationship with a manufacturer, you can’t cherry pick garments here and there. And most mills aren’t interested in dealing with people who have small stores because that means small orders and most likely won’t be able to hit minimum orders.

    There are so many factors that go into a retailer’s decision to carry or drop sizes. From sheer availability to where the market is for a particular size range.

    And when LB stops carrying those sizes (as a retailer who should be able to afford to carry them), that is a sure sign that *everyone* is feeling the pinch.

    As for Old Navy consigning their women’s plus to the online graveyard, I feel doubly shitty because they’ve put petites online as well. They used to carry petite and tall (at least in pant lengths) in store. And talk about an underserved market, being plus and petite is a HUGE FREAKIN’ DRAG.

    And don’t give me the old saw about how it’s easier to just cut something off.

    It’s not. Say I buy a pair of rockin’ flared jeans but they’re 4 inches too long. If I cut the 4 inches off, I’ve lost the flare. I might as well have bought boring old boot-cuts. It killed me when Svoboda stopped making petite length when (as it was my experience when I went to buy some at Vive) they were ALWAYS SOLD OUT.

    Same deal at LB. Petite lengths in things are always sold out. Dresses are always too long, waists don’t fit right, sleeves are too long, armholes are always too big. (you hear me Igigi?!) I’m willing to spend the money for something that fits correctly, so where are my clothes?

  64. I run into a “chicken and egg” thing looking for work clothes. I work for a very conservative company in a conservative industry. Our dress code at the office is strictly professional, as in men wearing jackets and ties every single day (not even business casual Friday). Women have a bit more leeway, and I can usually find work-appropriate blouses and wear a pair of pants from LB. But when I must wear a suit, it’s tough to find something appropriate.

    I wear size 28, and my choices for professional, tailored clothes are limited to Ulla Popken and Catherines. For the most part, their definition of “professional” is somewhat different than mine, as I don’t find metallic stripes, contrast colored stitching, “loose” fitting or 100% artificial fibers to be “professional.” I feel I’m letting down the team by meeting every stereotype of fat people in my polyester clothes. No matter how carefully done my hair and makeup are or how awesome my shoes might be, I sit down at that table full of people (usually all men) in $1,500 suits and look like a schlump because the only thing I could find that was even vaguely professional was a polyester suit with an unlined jacket. Not that I could spend that much for a suit, but I’d be happy to spend $300 or $400 each for a few IF they were classics in lightweight wool that I could wear for a long time that were in my size! I suppose I could have a suit hand-made, but then I’d be “that fat lady who wears the same suit all the time,” because I doubt I could afford more than one.

    I suspect that part of the problem with very big sizes is that most professional people who get to be this big see it as something temporary, and don’t want to spend money on an expensive wardrobe. And I know that there are a lot of people who just can’t afford to spend this kind of money for clothes, particularly given the economic discrimination against fat people in our culture. But it’s a real Catch-22: if you don’t look the part, it’s tough to get the high-paying, high-profile jobs. And without the cash from them, it’s tough to pull a really professional look off if you work in an industry (like finance, law, etc.) where you can’t really be too fashion-forward.

    I live in the NYC area, and would go to LeeLee’s, but from what I’ve seen on their website, it’s not the kind of stuff I need for work. There used to be Forgotten Woman and August Max, where I could find professional looking stuff. LB, Junonia, etc. are great for casual clothes and for some “everyday” work things, but please, please, please … anyone who’s a retailer, tell me: where can I find size 28 traditional professional clothes? Thanks.

  65. “Clearly, the millions of people who wear size 26 and above wear clothing every day, and need as much clothing as people who wear size 24 and below. It would be a great subject for someone studying business and/or fashion to research in depth.”

    JupiterPluvius, I’m studying business and I agree with you. However, my research focus is on consumer culture, and I think there might be deeper issues involved here…
    The social norms that the fatosphere fights against – the prejudice and stigmatization of fat – may signal to marketers that once they start selling larger sizes regularly, they’re becoming outsiders – just like their fat customers. They won’t be on catwalks, editorial picks of glossy magazines, they won’t dress celebrities.
    Selling larger sizes means accepting larger people – acknowledging they are consumers like any other – and this challenges the status quo…

    Maybe these are just my disparated thoughts and I’m sure somethey don’t apply to all marketers. Anyway, I’ve been researching a lot about this issue and I wrote about it in my blog – if you want to discuss it, I’ll be happy to share my thoughts!

  66. It killed me when Svoboda stopped making petite length when (as it was my experience when I went to buy some at Vive) they were ALWAYS SOLD OUT.

    No kidding. I deal with that every time I look at LB for pants. Same size, in petite? Pretty please? Sorry, sold out, we can’t keep them in stock, they run out the door as soon as we get them.
    Um, then maybe order more of them?

  67. @Jmars – a friend in a similar situation got traditional suit tailor made, after she’d found and bought the fabric, and it wasn’t expensive but do-able. The jacket was the expensive part – $500? – but it had gorgeous princess seams and a waist and pepl… peplin? Peplum? A flare over the hips, and lovely lapels and was just so beautiful.

    Anyway, she whips out the tailored suit for Super Big Impression days when she needs the extra professional, and jigs it around with accessories, and makes do with other stuff the rest of the time. So she’s not feeling like she’s wearing the same suit all the time.

    The other day I stumbled on Just My Size blazers in polyester for cheap — but I thought they might be more basic and shaped than at a lot of other extended size places:
    http://www.jms.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce/ProductDisplay?prnbr=20489&cgnbr=20L1000000

    And maybe, if you were brave or knew a non pro-seamstress, you could rip one of these apart and use it as a pattern for good fabric once you’d picked a style you like? I mean, then you can try it on ahead of time. Because with a taylor, the thing that freaks me out is that it might be a perfect fit but totally unflattering.

  68. Sorry, it wasn’t INEXPENSIVE, but it was do-able. Mainly compared to all the stuff that she’d tried but had failed her.

  69. Voro –

    Thanks for the links. These might be good for non-meeting days (and I did see a couple of other items on LMP that might work), but what I’ve never really understood is why can’t things like these be made larger than size 24?

    http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=322160&CategoryID=35284&LinkType=EverGreen

    http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=246781&CategoryID=34087

    http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=319798&CategoryID=34833&LinkType=EverGreen

    Arwen, thanks for your suggestion, too. I actually started looking into some custom made stuff … I’m going to have to see if there are any seamstresses where I live who can make whole garments (as opposed to just fitting pre-made stuff).

    And in a funny way, your comment about something fitting right but not being flattering is part of the issue for me. I’m sure that the stuff at LMP would be more flattering (and comfortable, too) than those suits I linked to, but, in that weird corporate culture kind of way, what I need to do isn’t necessarily to look good … it’s to look the same as everybody else!

    Thanks, ladies!

  70. If plus sizes don’t sell, why are so many “mainstream” designers jumping on the bandwagon? In the past few years, I’ve seen everyone from Calvin Klein to Michael Kors suddenly bust out with plus sizes. And those kind of empires don’t make stuff that isn’t going to sell (Calvin Klein surprised me the most..).

    As to B and Lu, it would be helpful to shoot the clothes on actual people. I have to say, I don’t like to spend $50 on something, plus $10 for shipping, and then have to send it back. (I can live with buying crap from Old Navy because it’s so cheap and shipping is free for me on their stuff..) So I’ve never bought anything.

    I’ve also heard concerns about the quality of the clothes on fatshionista, which keeps me from buying. I don’t mind if the quality is cheaper if the price is cheaper (like Old Navy), and I don’t mind paying more when the quality is outstanding (hello, Michael Kors plus-size stuff..although to be fair, I always buy when there’s a little bit of a sale on, or scour Nordstrom Rack for it!) But I don’t want to pay $40 for an Old Navy-quality top..

    I mean, maybe it’s a bad rap..I don’t know, but it does keep me from buying..

    @jmars, it’s worth checking out some of your higher end department stores (like Nordstrom’s). Although the label tells you they go to a 24/3X, when I was a 28-30, I’d often find skirts that fit just fine (bias-cut and a-lines, I don’t do straight skirts). Stay away from Jones New York though, I love them but they run small..

  71. Lyssa — quite a few of the mainstream designers are actually licensing their name and designs to major apparel companies such as Russell Kemp and Kellwood to reporduce in plus sizes.

    J.Lo/Sweetface, for example, had a very foxy plus-size line through Kellwood, as did Emme, but when Kellwood decided the lines were no longer a profitable aspect to their companies, they canned them.

    Russell Kemp and ECI do just the opposite, letting desinger name plus-size lines put their labels into what are essentially mass produced clothes for the woman’s market.

    Another prominent plus-size line, DKNY Woman, has also come and gone due to these types of deals, coupled with the fact the line was launched without fanfare or marketing and as a result performed poorly at retail.

    Anna Scholz, the highest end of highest end plus size designers, has done design work for Lane Bryant in the past, because they were the only one hiring people with her expertise.

    Plus sizes are a strange animal for both retailers and customers for a whole host of reasons. Department stores, which are usually part of large public companies, are held to strict standards for sales goals, turnover, and profit margins in order to satisfy shareholders. Stores such as Lane Bryant/Charming Shoppes have actually perfomed fairly well, but I have seen places like the Avenue and Rainbow Plus Sizes close a slew of their shops recently, which is very upsetting.

    Further, many plus size women outright refuse to spend money on clothes at moderate/expensive price points for reasons with which we are all familiar.

    So a lot of the consumer gap between buyer and seller starts from the top and travels downward at a significantly distressing clip.

  72. I just wanted to add that I’ve spent a great deal of time building a search engine composed of plus size clothiers. It’s a Google extension, Fat Chic clothing search and it has all the places mentioned by previous posters plus a few more.

  73. Kate, have you ever talked with the people at Zaftique? I’ve purchased some clothing from them in the past. They have good sizes, really attractive clothing… they may be someone you want to include when you talk about plus-plus retailers like Kiyonna, igigi, Junonia et al.

  74. Probably this has been mentioned several times already, but for those of you inclined, seriously consider making your own? I’m in the midst of making a new wardrobe (I wore my old one to threads, and I decided I deserved something nice, flattering and that FIT).

    This is a great book for inspiration: Plus-sized sewing.

    DISCLAIMER: Sewing sizes are not the same as ready-to-wear sizes. I often wear a size 22-24 in ready-to-wear, but I can use a size 24-26-28 pattern size (usually having to adjust the bustline, or some other adjustments).

    All the major pattern companies have plus-sized patterns. Simplicity’s is especially stylish for plus-sizes: Simplicity plus-sized patterns. (Look past the Halloween costumes. There are some cute, trendy styles there.)

    Vogue (always my favorite in the past) has a line called “Today’s Fit” that doesn’t do regular size numbers, but goes by letter designations. I think the largest size equals something like a size 28 or 30 in ready-to-wear: Vogue Patterns. Vogue also has many stylish (even “designer”) patterns that go up to size 24 (pattern size, which is maybe a size 20 in ready-to-wear) but with some clever adjustments, you can make them fit you if you’re a size 24-26+ in ready-to-wear. (The sewing book I link to above gives tips for adjusting “regular” sized patterns for plus sizes. The author seems to be around a size 30-32 herself.)

    Butterick has a lot of Connie Crawford patterns (some of which I find a bit dull, but you could spruce up with the right fabrics) but they also go up in size (her pattern sizing seems more similar to read-to-wear—in her sizes, I would be a size 18-20 in the hip, which is strange.) Butterick Plus-sized patterns. Crawford goes up to size 42-44W.

    You can buy a used sewing machine for less than $100 (those old metal Singers made in the 50s, 60s and even 70s can be excellent and are cheaper to repair than current models). I buy inexpensive cotton on sale and have made myself several “lounge pants” already that cost me maybe $7 each to make, and they fit well and are COMFY. I save a lot of money by sewing and spare myself a lot of the frustration of trying to shop at plus-sized stores. Gah!

    I just mail-ordered some fabric from Fashion Fabrics Club: http://www.fashionfabricsclub.com/ You can make yourself a fabulous outfit with maybe 5 yards of fabric, at $5-6 a yard, you do the math—not bad! And it’ll fit you and be in a style that you like.

    (Hope these links work, and pardon me if I’m repeating something that is oft-discussed. I’m just a big advocate for sewing!)

  75. Goodbye b&lu, hellooooo Daphne!

    Thanks, voluptuousrobot, for posting the link!

    The clothes at Daphne are MY TYPE OF STYLE, and the fabrics are NOT ALL POLYESTER! Yippee!! :)

  76. I realized this blog is a little old but I wanted to share something for those still frustrated with B&Lu. One of the sisters Lucie has just opened her own shop and she is offering sizes up to 5x. And the styles are not frumpy! I think the prices are pretty reasonable, too. Her shop is at lucielu.com.

Comments are closed.