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Business ideas for plus size clothing and customization

(29 Posts)
Kala101 Mon 07-Mar-16 20:48:45

Hi all,

I have been planning a business lately and I have some ideas. I just need some feedback on how others feel.

I have been doing research on plus size fashion and how the market is underserved for 16+ sizes. I have thought of selling dresses in cotton, chiffon, jersey and embroidered fabric in ethnic prints and vibrant and pastel shades. I have started contacting some plus size boutiques already. The differentiating factor would be using quality fabrics at affordable prices ( 50?) in all plus sizes.

The second idea is online customization where women would enter their measurements and they can also make changes in length, sleeve length and type and neckline. Clothes will be adjusted to height. Here standard sizes (all up to plus) will be offered, something like eshakti and lurap. Gorgeous couture does this in the UK but their dresses are 100+ in price. Now, these websites only cater to US and Canada. The downsides would be that it will take 2 weeks to deliver the custom made dress and it would be more than high street prices (however still less than designer wear).

Suggestions, criticisms, feedback all are welcome. Also, I will do a test run where I will offer dresses at discounted prices in return for your feedback. So go ahead! Thanks!

FATEdestiny Mon 07-Mar-16 21:19:29

There are plenty of everyday-wear economy ranges for up to size 24. For example ASDA and Sainsburys routinely stock up to size 24 in store. Over size 24 is less high street. Online there are lots of economy websites for plus sizes and some of these feature 'brands' in larger sizes - Simply Be for example stock plus size Jo Browns and Adidas. If I was looking for a £50 ish range, I would go to Jo Browns through Simply Be, but that is just my style.

Now then, customisation. This brings in another significant aspect of the plus size market. OP, are you plus size yourself? I am. I can tell you that over the last decade I have fluctuated around and changed by about 4 dress sizes. I can often change dress size several times a year.

One of the main reasons I don't spend a lot of money on 'staple wardrobe' pieces is because I know that anything I buy this summer, will probably not fit me next summer. I might be bigger, I might be smaller. Same goes for the year after and the year after.

Unless I was buying for a special occasion, there would be no point in me spending £200 on a custom-made high quality summer dress - because I might get a few months wear out of it and then it wont fit. If I was the sort of person who maintained by a set clothes size then I would see the sense in buying quality that lasted. I generalise here, but I don't believe the larger lady does this - she may drift between sizes fluidly.

This means that I am more likely to buy inexpensive clothing ranges specifically because I recognise that I am unlikely to get more than 1 seasons wear out of it.

AuntieStella Mon 07-Mar-16 21:27:00

Will it, like Pepperberry, attempt to clothe the large of nork? Who might be quite normal elsewhere on their body, so don't need wide sleeves or shoulders (which seem to go with large chest sizes for many brands).

I've been plus size, and the fabrics/colours you describe would appeal to me. But I'm not sure I would be interested in semi-bespoke. I'd rather try on and have altered.

Kala101 Tue 08-Mar-16 05:33:14

Hi @FATEdestiny,

Thanks for your invaluable suggestions.

I have seen economy ranges at ASDA and Sainsbury's and they don't seem to be for work or evening wear. I checked out Jo Browns and it's very casual, most dresses go upto 20 and are sleeveless. I did a survey with plus size women and most of them said that prefer sleeves or option to have sleeves/lengthen them as they feel they have flabby arms. Actually I also prefer sleeves as I am quite hairy in the underarm area and not always waxed.

Customized dresses definitely won't cost £200. It costs that much in gorgeous couture because they do very red carpet dresses. If I can get the volumes, it would cost 50-80 pounds. A simple dress at most high street mid-range brands (M & S, Monsoon) costs around this much or more. We pay so because it's a big brand, has brick and mortar stores and have a lot of inventory. We pay for the brand name.

I am actually not plus size but I also fluctuate in sizes. A good solution would be to have few (1-2) inches margin left in the dress. I find it very difficult to buy in standard sizes as I have small breasts. If something fits on the hips, it is baggy on the chest. For my wedding, I couldn't find a readymade dress in London, and customized would be unaffordable (1500+). So, I ordered it on It was customized, I entered my measurements, height etc and when I got it, it was exactly my size, all for 300 pounds including custom duty. Anyways, customization is very valuable to be because I am short so normal clothes in the UK are too long for me. Petite ranges have very little variety. If there are 100 pieces for regular sizes, there are 6 in petite.

I have a feeling that you're very young ( envious smile ) so you can get away with any length, casual clothes, sleeveless etc. Also, women start caring about fabric and details once they reach 30. In corporate offices and day events, one needs fitted structured dresses. One colleague of mine also complained that almost everyone in central London is wearing M &S which can be embarrassing if you run into someone wearing the same blouse.

Thanks for telling me about the fluidity in sizes though. I would think about it and find more solutions, but trust me it's a problem for everyone smile Plus size designer wear (Navabi, Anna Scholz) despite the very high prices, are doing exceptionally well in Europe, so women must be buying those. Have you tried ASOS curve, many people have complained it's polyester.

I have attached some pictures of dresses that would look good with customization.

And this is the kind of ethnic print and high quality cotton I was talking about.

I am in London now but I anyway plan to start this in India as plus size fashion is almost unavailable here.

Kala101 Tue 08-Mar-16 05:55:33

hi @Auntiestella,

Thanks for showing interest and your views.

Could you please explain why you would find semi-bespoke unappealing. I actually think that customized clothing would be the best solution for your situation. And alteration might not help you as one can always make the garment small but not bigger on the bust. You will need a bigger garment and alter it everywhere else which might cost a lot and would be time-consuming. I personally have the opposite problem. I have small breasts so it's too baggy for me in the chest area.

I have attached the kind of fabrics and prints I have in mind though there will be other solid/non-ethnic ones too. These are loose as India is quite hot (and models are super thin sad ) but in Europe people might want more fitted silhouettes.

GrinAndTonic Tue 08-Mar-16 06:45:38

By customisation do you mean like eShakti in the USA?

I would love to find more preppy/classic not mumsy style clothes that ARE NOT patterned. Im fat not a table.

AuntieStella Tue 08-Mar-16 07:05:12

The problem is that unless you are familiar with the cut, it is very difficult to get a good fit without trying it on and seeing exactly how this specific garment needs to be different in this specific body. If semi-bespoke, garments are (usually) non-returnable and I would not use a service on that basis.

i've had good items from supermarkets (eg linen tunics from Asda, work trousers from Sainsbury) and shop from all price points when I see something I like.

Sleeves, good (as long as they are integral to the design, not an after thought). And consider offering more skirt lengths - the proper midi (ie calf length) seem to have vanished.

There are lots of dresses with the silhouette you show (first and third) out there. I'm not buying them because I don't like that shape. I would be surprised if the fourth sold in plus size because of the bunching at the waist. The second is very short waisted and will flare in a place that makes someone look bigger.

Read the M&S threads, BTW. I'd be surprised if running in to someone in the same blouse was really a risk

Kala101 Tue 08-Mar-16 07:36:00

Hi GrinAndTonic,

Yes, I meant eshakti. Have you used it?

Yes, I understand, may be you could attach some pictures to show what you like. Everyone is so different. I have asked so many women and what one finds classy, the other finds mums. I think the solution is variety.

Thanks for the comment smile.

Kala101 Tue 08-Mar-16 07:49:01

I understood your point. Some actually accept returns for customized goods or pay for alterations to the customer.

The problem is that if you get alteration locally, it increases the price of the garment and is a hassle. At least that's how I see it.

I actually wanted to show the kinds of fabric, these are all heavy cotton traditional Indian prints. Yes I agree about the last one but I am in love with the light embroidery, peach color and fabric. smile

What cuts do you like by the way?

Achieving midi length would mostly be possible by customization/alteration as everyone is a different height. I am 5 feet only so sometimes high street dresses that would be knee length for others are midi length for me, and not in a nice way. I would love to wear maxi dresses but too short so need to shorten the hem.

In India most Indian dresses like sprees and suits are cotton, georgette, silk, chiffon, linen, wool. It's only western wear that is made of polyester. This is why I felt quite disappointed when I started living in Europe and was unable to find quality fabrics at good prices.

It's great that you care about the fabrics you wear.

sleepwhenidie Tue 08-Mar-16 08:51:54

I came across this US website yesterday and I think it seems like a good idea and answers the problem of fluctuating size mentioned up thread. Something to think about maybe OP? Also I'd be interested to see what others think. I think the clothes look fantastic.

GrinAndTonic Tue 08-Mar-16 09:37:07

No, eShakti won't ship to Australia so just look at the website and feel sorry for myself.

Kala101 Tue 08-Mar-16 10:40:51


Thanks for telling me about this website. It sounds like a good idea but for the customer. I am not sure how sustainable it would be as a new business, with no funding. Shipping costs might add up. I will have to see how last this company lasts.

Kala101 Tue 08-Mar-16 10:43:39

Hi GrinAndTonic,

don't worry, keep in touch and if I start such a business I definitely would smile . US market is much more attractive due to high population for eshakti. What are your specific pain points with clothing? There are some plus size brands In Australia too.

LovelyFriend Tue 08-Mar-16 10:44:46

I despair in the the lack of below the knee dresses available. I don't want to wear maxi's all the time but most options seems to be above knee or maxi.

I'm 5'8" so not that tall, but on many websites where the dresses show as below the knee they are above the knee on me so get returned.

I also don't want to wear polyester all the time and go for natural fabrics.

polyhymnia Tue 08-Mar-16 10:57:09

Hi OP, good luck with the enterprise.
I'm a larger size but never buy from cheap ranges, eg Simply Be, Joe Brown's, supermarket lines as I like quality.

Afraid I'm not a great ethnic print fan either. Can't stand East and on larger women this look can resemble a chintz sofa.

I actually buy from Boden ( not the 'fun' and garish prints) and sometimes Marina Rinaldi, though they are ££.
I just want to have simple, stylish chic clothes like smaller sized women.
Would love a site that offered me Hobbs or LKB type clothes, but in my size. And also the possibility of ordering in longer versions, or with sleeves. Would like to hear your thoughts on my suggestions.

FATEdestiny Tue 08-Mar-16 10:57:36

I checked out Jo Browns and it's very casual, most dresses go upto 20 and are sleeveless

Just for information, it is the Simply Be website that holds the plus ranges for Jo Brown. Jo Brown main website goes to size 20, you are right. Pus size Jo Brown goes up to size 32.

I'd also add that an excellent off-shoot for the plus-size clothes market is boots sold by calf measurement. More are available nowadays, but go back a few years and I simply could not wear knee-high winter boots because my calves were too wide. There are UK ranges now that offer customisation in calf width for boots. If India have a non-existant plus-size market, then they probably don't have access to wide-calf boots.

Kala - I think this sounds like a wonderful idea! I am a very plus sized woman, and I struggle to find clothes to fit and suit me.

I particularly like the customisation idea, because there are so many times when I love a dress or top, but it has no sleeves - and I just cannot wear sleeveless tops/dresses (my arms are so awful).

I also applaud you for wanting to use natural fabrics - I much prefer cotton, for every day, over synthetic fibres, because of comfort and breathability (though I do wear some synthetic jersey fabrics, because those do seem to breath).

I can sew, and do make some clothes for myself, especially skirts - but I don't have an overlocker, so I think I would struggle to make t-shirts or jersey tops. And making my own clothes is not always a cheap option, once you've bought the fabric, notions etc.

What I want from my clothes is fairly simple, but not always easy to find on the high street or in the catalogues - I want comfortable clothes, in a good range of fabrics and colours (Evans, for example, went through a phase where almost every skirt in their range was black or very dark-coloured - fine for office wear, but even if you do work in an office, you are not there 24/7 and might want to wear something other than black outside the office - radical concept, I know). I need sleeves on tops and dresses. And items that can be dressed up or down would be good too - because there is so little available for me in the shops, all my clothes have to work very hard - I don't go out that often, so can't justify a big wardrobe of 'best' dresses/outfits, so I need to be able to dress up things I wear normally.

Good luck with your venture!

Maverick66 Tue 08-Mar-16 19:08:43


As a size 22 I want well cut non polyester style trousers.
Good quality fabric tops.
Dresses that fall below the knee not above or on the knee.
Ideally I Would like the waist band of my trousers to be adjustable iykwim think something like the way little boys trousers have an elastic with a button for adjustment.

Kala101 Sat 12-Mar-16 05:34:52

Hi Lovelyfriend,

This is why I think customized dresses are a good idea where one can change the length of the dress and sleeves. What do you think?

I have been surveying markets and the viscose, tencel , modal are in these days. Cotton is of course great but these are also natural.

Kala101 Sat 12-Mar-16 05:35:40


nobody wears boots in India, it's a very hot country.

Kala101 Sat 12-Mar-16 05:41:57

Hi Polyhymnia,

Thanks for sharing your view. The more I talk to people, the more I feel that there's real value in customization as you said you would like to change the length and sleeves of the dress. Although customers would need patience as it would take 2-3 weeks to make and deliver.

I see that you shop high-end. Do you only trust established brands or are you open to new ideas/websites?

Kala101 Sat 12-Mar-16 05:49:02


Thanks. If you don't mind, may I ask your size?

I also like the customization idea and I hope I will be able to implement it soon. By the way, how much would you be willing to pay for a customized cotton dress, that's the real question. High street brands are able to offer cheap clothes because they are made on assembly line model and that's the reason why they don't fit.

Regarding the fabrics, I think viscose, rayon, tercel, jersey all breath well. Polyester is the one that makes me sweat.

As I understand you would like to have basics in good fabrics in your size. I thought there were many options for plus size women at least online, then why do you say you have little choice. Did you mean you don't find clothes with sleeves? what length do you prefer? Message me if you don't mind discussing on more detail.

Kala101 Sat 12-Mar-16 05:50:57

Hi Maverick66,

Thanks for writing.

I think below/above the knee problem is a tricky one as women vary so much in height. This can be rectified by customization though. You give your height and the dress is adjusted accordingly. Do you also prefer sleeves or sleeveless dresses?

Chewbecca Sun 13-Mar-16 18:13:26

Hi Kala, I like your ideas. Some thoughts from me:

- I dislike the customised idea as the ability to return items is essential
- natural fabrics are very attractive, I never buy polyester
- being a shortie & a size 18 is a challenge, many larger clothes stop at a 16. I don't need it customising though, just a shorter length option for dresses/trousers
- agree with the need for 'classy' clothes in bigger sizes, not sack-like, just skimming/semi fitted dresses
- I like specific necklines - scoops and Vs are much more flattering on me
- I am prepared to try new brands, but free delivery & returns are a must for anywhere unknown

Good luck!

travailtotravel Sun 13-Mar-16 18:41:50

Natural fabrics
Classic - well cut, not a sack or skin tight
Price vital

Like other posters, my size fluctuates so when you say leaving an inch or to for later adjustment that's just not going to happen.

Customisation may work with a particular type of item. Eg I want a shift dress sleeveless, short sleeves, elbow length sleeves. I may look at that kind of classic dress but otherwise

PS I love ethnic stuff, it has limited value for workwear

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