New York City, a place widely known for having everything and more, seems to be lacking in one particular category: fashion diversity. The accessibility of plus-size clothing in the scope of fashion has often been a widely scrutinized topic. According to the NPD Group, plus-size clothing in the United States is now a $17.5 billion market, but it remains one of the most widely ignored segments of the fashion industry. Finding inexpensive pieces in New York is already difficult, but hunting for inexpensive pieces in sizes 12 and up seems nearly impossible.
I wanted to see if I could pull off finding plus-size clothing in popular stores throughout New York City. I was disappointed to find out that H&M, a store known for it’s stylishly affordable clothing, recently pulled their plus-sized collections from all of their New York City stores. Forever 21’s plus-size section offers both chic styles and low-price styles, but their inventory drags behind. In the company’s Herald Square franchise, plus-size clothing only takes up a small corner out of the three stories. The same applies to both the Union Square and Broadway stores near NYU.
Other popular stores near campus include the likes of Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom Rack; however, Urban Outfitters recently faced backlash over using plus-size model Barbie Ferrara to sell clothes, despite not carrying her size. Urban Outfitters only goes up to a size 16, and but Nordstrom Rack offers a wide selection of clothing for plus-size women up to a size 28 in tops and 24 in pants.
A recent study that concluded the average woman is a size 16, which further emphasizes the disproportionate division of clothing availability. Why do some of the most popular stores for millennials cater to the latter portion of the size spectrum? And why do the stores that have plus-size lines have such a limited quantity?
As the fashion industry continues to push for a specific body image, the number of body positivity advocates rises. Models like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence remain outspoken on their views of the industry’s need for size diversity. However, as the merchandisers fail to keep up with the times, plus-size people still need clothes.
For popular retailers with plus-size collections, Forever 21’s Times Square stores dedicates a large section of their bottom floor to their plus-size line. Other retailer’s such as Uniqlo and Mango offer a range of sizes—Uniqlo’s sizes extend to XXL while Mango carries up to a size 22.
The mass reproduction of these garments guarantees stock in a variety of sizes, but thrift shopping allows students to find unique pieces for affordable prices. Unfortunately, the uncertainty in inventory makes shopping all the more difficult. Finding chic, thrifty pieces for plus-size women requires hours of searching the racks.
Shops close to campus like The Cure and East Village Thrift Shop lag behind in their over size 14 options. Currently, The Cure’s stock features less than 10 pairs of plus size pants/shorts out of at least 100, and their blouses face a similar state.
In contrast, stores like Housing Works and Buffalo Exchange carry an array of sizes—plus or otherwise. Students can buy and sell all clothes, shoes, and accessories to Buffalo Exchange for a reasonable rate. Those looking for higher end plus-size couture should head to Housing Works. Over the past five years, popular plus-size labels such as Gwynnie Bee, Rue 107, and NYDJ have donated pieces to the chain. While there, pick up some designer bags and accessories to accentuate any stellar finds.
The fashion industry has a ways to go to before they catch up with the plus-size community, but certain strides in the body positive direction has led to the current number of options available. For the NYU area, retailers and thrift stores alike host a degree of options that appeases their audience, but fails to proportionately serve them.
Alyssa Kelly is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.