Published in May-Jun 2023
The term ‘plus-size’ was coined by the retail chain Lane Bryant in 1922, when they advertised a clothing line called ‘Misses Plus Sizes’ which were ‘bigger’ than their regular ‘Misses’ category. Five years later the term was shortened to ‘plus sizes’, and later people who wore such clothes started to be referred to as plus size. Today, the term symbolises inclusivity in fashion and acknowledges the different kinds of bodies that women have.
How is Pakistan faring when it comes to size inclusivity in the retail sphere? Aurora spoke with several leading and up-and-coming brands about the sizes they offer for women and how it affects their retail chains.
Sagar Kumar, Manager Gul Ahmed Textile Mills, says, “Ideas offers a wide range of sizes; we acknowledge that bodies come in all shapes and dimensions, and that fashion should adapt to fit the diversity of our customers without compromising on style, and keeping our collections fashion-forward and trendy. The sizes we offer range from extra small up to double extra-large in our ready-to-wear categories.”
Tinath Saeed, Manager Communications and PR, Khaadi adds that “As a brand, we know who is drawn to us and we try and make sure our audience is represented by the sizes we offer. The intent and motivation behind most of our campaigns is to show designs and collections that transcend age. We cater to the different moods and occasions of our customers.”
Generation holds a similar belief and caters to women of “all ages and sizes”, according to their brand manager, Harris Masood. “Our sizes range from XS to XL. These size ranges have been adjusted over the years based on customer feedback and extensive research.”
However, the fact of the matter is that most of the leading brands do not offer sizes larger than XL. In fact, Masood admits that true plus size lines should include sizes larger than XXL although they do not have the data to delve into plus sizes in earnest.
Clearly, mainstream and established brands still have some catching up to do when it comes to size inclusivity, although they do seem to be planning to widen their product range. Perhaps because of this, newer, smaller brands have emerged that aim to fill in the ‘size gap’, such as The Rack Couture and XERA which were established in the last five to 10 years and claim to be catering to plus size women across Pakistan – and even overseas thanks to their social media accounts.
Zenab Ali, Creative Director, The Rack Couture (which also caters to plus size men) was quite open about finding it almost impossible to find clothes that fit her in the market. “In 2018, I realised that about 60% of Pakistan’s population, specifically Punjabi women and including myself, are either curvy or chubby, and therefore plus size.” She says the clothes sold by mainstream brands did not fit her properly. “If the kurta fitted, the pants did not. If the upper part fit, then the lower one didn’t. Even when I bought unstitched fabric, my tailor would say it wasn’t enough because they did not provide enough fabric to fully cover a curvy body.”
Ali adds that the bigger brands didn’t actually make things easier. “Soon after my brand released plus size products in 2018, we learnt that a leading brand that prides itself on being diverse released its ‘supersize’ line. However, there were some problems with the plus size line that they introduced. They resembled large unshapen thailas (shopping bags) and women did not want to wear them.” Nevertheless, she appreciates the fact that big brands are becoming more inclusive (or at least are trying to), although she maintains they are falling short of doing so.
Zehra Husain, who runs XERA, another company that deals in plus size clothes, launched her brand due to her personal experience that plus size clothing was largely unavailable and not addressing women’s concerns. “Even if the shirt did fit the chest, it was tight around the armhole – or the shoulders were too tiny. These are all the issues our brand keeps in mind, as well as the fact that everyone has a very different body and tastes.” XERA addresses these concerns, and as a result, offers sizes ranging from XXL to XXXXXL; the company also has their own specific size chart that accommodates individual sizes.
Ali adds that The Rack Couture places an added emphasis on customer service. “Sometimes, women say to us, ‘We don’t feel sexy, we don’t feel attractive.’ So then we suggest cuts and colours and designs – our collection is always solely focused on how they can look good.”
It seems that the absence of plus size clothing options has led to the emergence of new plus size brands. In a way, it presents a good outlook for the overall market as more brands are coming in to fill the gap when it comes to plus size clothing and have been able to provide more options to women of all shapes and sizes.
Given this trend, it is quite surprising that the bigger brands, some of which have an international presence, have not been able to cater to the local plus size market in an adequate manner. Hopefully, this will change in the future as awareness grows. Ultimately, for brands, making fashion more inclusive is the way forward from a business standpoint and to promote a more inclusive society.