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The Difference Between Understanding and Monetizing Plus Size Lingerie Consumers

Image via Tutti Rouge

Image via Tutti Rouge

The plus size part of the lingerie market has taken off in the past few years, in part because companies have finally realized plus size consumers have money and are willing to pay for access to lingerie and other fashion items. We've seen this most recently with Nordstrom picking up the Addition Elle line, but it's clear many companies have figured out that plus size customers want to shop just as much as their core size customers. Plus size customers also know their options are limited, which frequently makes them grateful for almost any new option that enters the market. In other words, plus size customers have a reputation as a group that is easy to profit from without much effort. 

While companies recognizing that plus size customers have money to spend seems like a good thing, there is a serious downside. Many companies have figured out how to successfully capture plus size dollars, although they don't really understand their plus size customers. Nor, in many cases, do they actually want to. After all, it's easy to make excuses about why plus size consumers should contribute to company profits but don't deserve much extra attention. Plus size customers experience this neglect in all aspects of their shopping experience: items are frequently cheaply made, provide no shape or support, and are plain compared to their core size counterparts. If customers complain, they're quickly relegated to the "angry" segment of plus size customers who aren't willing to spend money on quality lingerie and clothing.

Vintage Chemise by Tia Lyn

Vintage Chemise by Tia Lyn

Now that body positivity, diversity and fighting sizeism are cool topics among online consumers, companies want to get in on it. Unfortunately, many only pay lip service to these ideas. I see this behind the scenes when companies talk about only using "attractive" plus size models who are 5'11" with "great legs" or when they talk about lingerie just not "looking the same" on darker skin tones. Unfortunately, many companies have figured out marginalized groups are easy to monetize --- in part because even a bad choice is better than no choice at all. Many of us are desperate for lingerie that fits (really, any lingerie that fits) and lap up even small attempts at acknowledgement.

SS16 Collection by Tutti Rouge

SS16 Collection by Tutti Rouge

Some of this is retailer driven, but some of it is a conscious decision by companies who have decided to do the absolute minimum. By providing open support to marginalized consumer groups, companies can create new fanbases and drive tons of sales. However, understanding your new customers just enough to grab their shopping dollars and actually understanding them as people is completely different. Companies have no incentive to put in the extra work as long as consumers aren't asking for anything better --- and in many cases, consumers aren't asking companies to go the extra mile.

Addition Elle x Ashley Graham

Addition Elle x Ashley Graham

As consumers, plus size lingerie lovers been trained to embrace companies who display even minimal support for us and feel grateful for it. However, as we enter a new era of online shopping where consumers have a more direct role in influencing what is designed and sold, I also think we can do much better for ourselves. However, to do so, we'll have to start thinking critically about the companies we buy from.

SS16 Season Photos by Tutti Rouge

SS16 Season Photos by Tutti Rouge

Before you make your next lingerie purchase, ask yourself this short list of questions about the item and the company you're purchasing it from:

1) Does this company support marginalized customer groups? What kinds of models do they use? What does their social media presence have to say about their philosophy?

2) Is the construction and quality of the item worth the money? Does the design display an understanding of a certain body type or lifestyle?

3) Does this company have a history of supporting diversity and body positivity or is their commitment to it new? Some companies can document an amazing commitment to these issues going way back, but most can't. In those cases, they may just be doing enough to get your money but not enough to actually service you well as a customer.

4) If a company is new, make sure you look at both their advertising and their social media. What do they say on a daily basis? What do their images show? If a company is new, this can also be a great time to actually ask them about their feelings on social media sites. You may not get the boss, but you'll certainly at least be able to hear from someone who knows what the official company position is.

5) Be vocal in your support for newer companies who do display a genuine interest in serving marginalized groups of consumers. Taking a stand on the side of good is risky, expensive, and frequently unpopular. The forward-thinking companies who do need even more support!

In the end, what companies care about most are sales. If a company is making quality plus size pieces and using truly plus size models in their advertising, try saving up for one bra from them versus buying three from a big box retailer. Share advertising campaigns that you love on social media and talk about why. Politely let companies know what you would like to see in the future. Customer feedback, along with sales data, can help a company develop a new line that pleases both customers and furthers their own growth as well.

Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

3 Comments on this post

  1. Kevin Reese says:

    This is a great article, we are a plus-size lingerie company just breaking into the market and it is hard to find reliable sources of lingerie that is quality, I have a handful of companies that are great but hate to add some of the same old lingerie with skinny figures on my website. We’d love to hear your opinion on breaking in the market.

    • DDtop says:

      Hi well can’t go far wrong with Eveden brands(Elomi/Goddess etc but Glamorise have a great range.
      USA brands go large but also some of the eastern Europe like Polish brands do larger sizes.
      but also brands like Empreinte and Prima Donna do some larger band/cup sizes ive both and great quality.
      One good way is to check as many places as you can like Catalog companies see what they have as many do very large sizing then have ideas to go with yourself.
      Mind there are many more lines out there now plus if not catering there loosing out as people are larger now the size zero is history and 36B is 38F/G etc
      Also many more colours/designs now as if large used to be white/beige odd black ones now reds/blues/multi patterns and great fabrics too choose from.
      Ive bought some fantastic bra’a/briefs etc(far too many)but soo nice you just want them.
      I don’t mind paying for quality as i need/want support so don’t buy/wear store type bra’s that are flimsey
      mind other day bought a Prima Donna Deauville and Empreinte Thalia set and lady said wow many ladies don’t want to spend £20 on bra’s! but if i have it i don’t mind spending on things worth it sometimes i don’t have cash though.
      But if there’s items for £20 from China and items from Europe for £60 the Europe get’s my cash every time.

  2. DDtop says:

    Well there is a far bigger proportion of the population is what they’d term plus size than skinny!
    One reason i stick with Elomi/Goddess as supports the more ample person and good quality well designed lingerie at a reasonable price they have made some boobo’s but generally there things are great and some other well known plus sizer’s aren’t so hot as with me having Fibro/Raynauds things pressing hard on the skin like gore on breast bone can cause pressure sores quite easily so for me the Eveden brands just do it and if they support us i/we should support them.
    Being a male with hormone problems hasn’t been easy but always had great help and support from Elomi with very polite staff which many companies could learn a lot from and not made in China either i steer clear of China Lingerie now as had some poor items maybe there other items are better but once burnt twice shy and rather invest else where.

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