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Posted by HSG on May 16, 2004 at 06:39:28:

Linked below is one of the smarter articles about junior-plus fashion that we have read in some time.

It is not as positive as it could be, and suffers from the writer's obsessive use of the term, "overweight." (Over whose weight, pray tell? Lara Flynn Boyle's?) But it provides interesting information for both professional and for general-interest readers alike--including details about topics as particular as full-figured pattern making.

The article ascribes Torrid's success in this field to giving customers the alluring clothing that they cannot find anywhere else:

The look is Britney Spears wannabe, full of curvy silhouettes with hip-hugging jeans and revealing tops.

But it also itemizes some of the glaring mistakes that other junior-plus competitors have made. Consider the following account:

In January 2003, Wal-Mart started offering the clothing line of teen stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in extended sizes.

Sales have been lackluster, however, in part because the items were "lost on a rack of regular sizes," said Judy Swartz, executive designer at the Olsen twins' company Dualstar Entertainment Group Inc. "The problem is, we still don't really know who this girl is, so it's been incredibly difficult to find the right place to put her clothes."

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., says since January it has been displaying the Olsens' plus-size clothes on separate racks.

So who even knew that this line was available in plus sizes? Was there a major promotion of any kind, featuring visibly full-figured junior models? Not as far as we know.

On the other hand, while Wal-Mart and similar chains "still don't really know who this girl is" (i.e., the girl who shops for plus sizes), Torrid knows "this girl" very well:

Torrid's ideal customers are "young, fashion-forward and not afraid to be sexy, feminine and sassy," according to its annual report.

The Olsen situation also underscores the advantages of a creating a separate chain for fuller-figured girls--or, at the very least, of grouping plus-size apparel in a distinct section. If most junior departments only carry straight-size clothing, then why would full-figured teens browse the regular clothing racks, looking for the sporadic items that do come in larger sizes? But if a "curvy vixen" goes into a Torrid, or Voluptuous, or MXM store--or into a separate plus department--then she knows that the outfits will be available in her size range.

Another interesting point of difference between Torrid's approach, and that of the other players in this field, is in their attitudes towards their customers. Torrid correctly sees its clientele as "sexy, hot, and feminine," while other companies retain 20th-century "shame" stereotypes. Even the supposedly hip J.Lo line

has decided to steer away from more risque designs because it thinks that some looks -- halter tops, for instance -- "won't work appropriately," said Denise Seegal, chief executive of Sweetface Fashion Co., which owns the JLO line.

This kind of thinking boggles the mind. No human male can resist the allure of a "curvy vixen" dressed in a halter outfit (which is surely one of the most figure-adoring styles ever designed). So why would any company deny a plus-size teen the opportunity to compete with her underweight rivals for the attentions of a mutual crush?

At any rate, the article notes both the progress that has been made in the junior-plus field so far, and the many opportunities that still remain--opportunities that call for more progressive attitudes, as well as for more progressive designs.

Melissa M. modelling for Torrid, Summer 2004:

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