Understanding Plus Size Fashion Segments

As fashion and plus size evolve into a recognized and (soon-to-be) respected segment in fashion, so do the idiosyncrasies and nuances of fashion itself, as it pertains to plus size.

You see, ten years ago, plus size only belonged in one lump segment, leaving us fashionistas with very little or if any options for shopping and discerning which pieces were of a "fashionable" standard. However, now, with the amalgamation (yes, I had to use this word) and plethora of fashions within plus size clothing, one could easily find herself lost, frustrated, confused, irritated, or flustered when shopping for an ideal outfit or piece of clothing.

Why?

We no longer have "one type" of fashion option for the plus size woman- we have many. However, to better understand and sort through the madness of them all, a budding fashionista must first understand what these newer segments are and learn the identifiers of these to shop smarter, not harder.

No really... WHY?

See, as in the straight- sized market, you will find certain segments within fashion that are grouped together, and for the most part, you know what to expect when shopping from that retailer or specific set of retailers. With the evolution of Plus Size Ready-to-Wear Fashion, the same now holds true. For sake of argument, we will group these segments for plus size fashion as straight sized fashion does to help explain the price discrepancies, size differences, in relation to the integrity and quality of a retailers' or designers' garment. The fashion industry is divided into five segments: haute couture, luxury, contemporary, fast fashion, and discount.

* Haute Couture: Synonymous with "high fashion," haute couture is a derivative of the French term "high sewing." In France, the label "haute couture" is a protected designation. Designers, who attain this elusive and oft coveted title, produce custom-made clothing for the world's most influential and wealthiest.
* Luxury: Pret-a-Porter or "Ready to Wear" is one-step down from Haute Couture relative to price and exclusivity, but still serves a discerning and well to do client.
* Contemporary: This fashion forward segment presents mid-priced fashions both fashion forward and quality driven. Oftentimes, these designers interpret fashions from the couture houses, making these fashions readily accessible.
* Fast Fashion: Quickly produced product in a cost efficient manner, delivering "high fashion looking" garments, at the lowest price possible. Relates to the manner of which items from the runway manufactured predominantly overseas with an extremely efficient turnaround.
* Discount: Usually looked at loss leaders, have quickly adapted to the fast fashion concepts leveraging their consumer's buying power and reputation to fashion exclusive designer collections.

However, the division and classification of what to expect from these segments do not stop there. Please read further into each segment, sans Haute couture, as to understand which designers and brands fall into each classification and what differentiates each one.

Luxury Plus Size Designers

Yes! They do exist! Goods that are of a higher quality and a respective higher price point are the fashion leaders within plus size. Designers such as:

* Anna Scholz
* Cinzia Rocca
* Elena Miro
* Lafayette 148
* Marina Rinaldi
* Peggy Lutz

Are oftentimes carried in either specialty boutiques, specialty department stores such as Saks and Neiman Marcus command, at minimum, a $250 starting point. Expect the finest fabrics, usually imported from overseas, naturally a more conservative cut, with the exception of Anna Scholz and Elena Miro (the only plus size designer to continually show during Milan Fashion Week), impeccably tailored, fully lined, natural fabrics, with exclusivity in feel and wear.

Contemporary Plus Size Designers

Mirroring the contemporary collections represented in Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Saks, contemporary plus size fashion offers the fashion forward plus size woman options tailored to her curves at a moderate price point. These designers such as:

* Amanda Uprichard
* David Meister
* Igigi
* Jibri
* Melissa Masse
* Monif C.
* Svoboda

Are often the thoughts leaders, innovators, and risk takers within the plus size fashion segments, as they continually challenge the status quo or the norm in what fashion should be for the discerning plus size woman. This segment's prices usually range from the low $100's and can command up to $500 for more specialty pieces. Quality in these fabrics are only a sidestep lower than their luxury counterparts, introducing innovative blends in fabrics, specific silhouettes inspired by the designer's artistic inspiration, and, like its luxury designers, have more intricate detailing.

Plus Size Fast Fashion Designers

In the light of Forever 21's counterfeit lawsuits, fast fashion has received a tarnished image although fast fashion provides an amiable compliment to its contemporary counterparts. Popular designers in this segment include:

* Torrid
* Faith 21
* Ashley Stewart
* Lane Bryant
* Evans

With the ability to mass produce up-to-the-minute trends and incredulously low price points, fast fashion provides edgy, often directly inspired from design houses, looks that range from as low as a $10 price point up to a $150 price tag. In order to deliver the trends to the market quickly, the quality, can, at times, be inferior to the luxury and contemporary designers. Expect polyester blends, wool blends, single stitched garments, either a looser silhouette or a variety of shapes that vary from garment to garment. To be worn for the moment, the lifespan of these fast fashion fashions are intended to last for the current season.

Discount Plus Size Designers

Challenging and changing the fashion climate over the last year, discount leaders have created strategic partnerships with Contemporary Designers to bring affordable fashions to the masses. Retailers such as:

* Old Navy
* Wal-Mart
* Target

Have collaborated with the likes of Norma Kamali, Just My Size, Pure Energy, and others to bring quality fashion at an affordable retail price. Discount leaders have allowed women an introduction into fashion options rarely seen and experienced. Discount designers serve as an introduction as well as dispel the notion of plus size fashion not being available. Each segment both provides and serves its purpose for the 60% of us plus size women in the ever diversifying industry of plus size fashion. It is important about knowing the differences in these segments so that you know what to expect when shopping a particular designer or retailer. Learning the difference affords you the ease of a headache or frustration when shopping to put your best curve forward.