Larissa Larson has worked for the whimsical fashion, lifestyle, and home decor brand Anthropologie for eight years, but she’s never been able to buy the specialty store’s vintage-inspired clothing — whether slip dress or coat dress, skinny pants or wide legged trouser — because she’s a size 22W.
So when Larson, 28, got wind that the Philadelphia company would be launching APlus by Anthropologie, she was beyond excited. Her fashion hunger would be fed. She finally felt like she belonged.
“I had to shop on brand without being able to shop the brand,” said Larson, who works in the URBN complex in the Navy Yard as Anthropologie’s assistant buyer for stationery. “A huge amount of women just aren’t being serviced in retail. [Moves like this] make us feel valid, that we can actually be a part of the brand.”
On Thursday, the Anthropologie store in King of Prussia was one of 10 nationwide where the APlus line was made available (it’s not in the Rittenhouse Square location yet). The APlus collection is the first power move of the brand’s new co-president, Hillary Super, who took over the role last year.
Historically, there have been many iterations of what plus-size clothes look like, from mumu dresses and elastic waistbands to specialty stores catering to women who wear size 14-plus. But even though places like Lane Bryant tried to make trendy clothes, plus-size women did not feel they were being taken seriously in the fashion conversation.
But the market is forcing retailers and designers to consider the needs of plus-size women as equal to those who wear straight sizes. After all, the average size of the American woman is a 16 or 18.
APlus features more than 120 pieces, all very modern with a feel that’s old-school chic. Prices range from $48 to $260, and my favorites include a striped wrap dress, animal-print maxi skirts, and moto jackets. Many are the same pieces Anthropologie offers in straight sizes from labels shoppers are already familiar with. It has just expanded the collection to include sizes 16W to 26W. A major fashion treat includes premium denim from DL1961. That’s worth noting because any girl — curvy or otherwise — can attest to how hard it is to find jeans that fit.
Neil Saunders, managing director of Global Data Retail in New York, says Anthropologie’s move to include more sizes is the latest indication that women who are larger than a 14 are starting to win the war on fashion. It sure took long enough.
In the last year, mall fixtures like Nordstrom and Macy’s, as well as JCrew and LOFT, have expanded their plus-size offerings, Saunders said. Target has also expanded its line and is using mannequins — even to show off bathing suits that are also full-figured. Like Anthopologie, Target is offering the same styles in sizes up to 26 or 28W that it sells in straight sizes.
The seemingly new interest in achieving size parity is largely due to the fact that several smaller brands — from underwear label ThirdLove to ready-to-wear line Elloquii (recently bought by Walmart) — offer modern clothing that people want to wear and decent service through social media.
Locally, designers including Mary Alice Duff of East Falls’ Alice + Alexander offer a full range of custom-made pieces for women of all sizes. That combined with suffering sales from traditional retailers give brands like Anthropologie no choice but to offer equitable sizing to all women.
“What people don’t want is the plus-size offering that’s old-fashioned,” Saunders said. “We are moving away from plus-size being a distinct part of the market as something separate. It’s becoming an integrated part of the mainstream fashion market now rather than something that stands alone and is different.”
Georgette Niles, 47, the social worker behind the Grown and Curvy Woman blog, tried on clothing Thursday night in between sipping spring cocktails, nibbling from the cheese bar, and enjoying pistachio macaroons. “It’s nice to to be able to go in a store and actually shop the same clothes as the other women and not just have to rely online … I feel disheartened when I go into the plus size of a store and there are items in plus that have no pizzazz, no color … nothing. The size 20 is a real size 20, not a junior size 20.”