Do Plus Size Brands Just Do Plus Size Better?

by Jodie Layne

I'm a complete lingerie fanatic. But I used to be the type of person who would buy a new white and nude bra to alternate every nine months or so and call it a day. I've always had breasts that were a bit on the bigger side and have pretty much been at least a DD cup since puberty. And the biggest size I was able to get at the lingerie chains in Canada was a 36 DD, because as anyone with a fuller bust knows, the sizes available dwindle as the numbers and letters on the bra size go up. The first to go have always been the sexier styles and so, t-shirt bras became my staple — and my idea of a "sexy" bra was the same fuller cup with a little push-up, maybe in black.

Of all of the tragedies and hardships that could befall me in my life, frumpy bras aren't even monumental enough to be on the radar. I lived, I dealt, I thrived. I felt sexy enough in a matching bra/panty set with garters and stockings when it came to lingerie as seduction and no one seemed to have any complaints.

In my heart, though, I was drooling over and pining for the most delicate French lace and enough matching bras and panties to be considered the owner of a "lingerie wardrobe." You know, a bra for each neckline — every type of strap and material. Unfortunately, practicality ruled and until last year, I had a version of a boring black t-shirt bra and thought that's all there was for me in this cruel world. Sure, the internet and my first Visa debit card brought with them access to corsets, teddies, and enough other lingerie to satiate my desires for pretty special occasion pieces — but nothing that was actually pretty was simultaneously supportive, or vice versa.

Shopping the newly-revamped and renamed in-house line from Addition Elle was nearly an emotional experience for me. My first new bra in ages was from their lingerie collaboration with Ashley Graham and having a "pretty" bra for the first time, well, ever was an amazing feeling. I picked the frilliest, most extravagant bra just because I could. The rest of the bras were lovely enough but not unlike everything else I'd been wearing for years already.

The new Déesse collection has definitely upped the game and delivers the type of luxury product and experience that other people could so easily take for granted. Take, for example, that even with me being a 38 DDD, I was still able to have my pick from every single style. The line is designed so thoughtfully with features like a U-back to keep bra straps from slipping, being able to adjust the position of the straps on the back, some major support, and gorgeous detailing. When I left, I got to carry out a heavy, glossy paper bag with my delicates wrapped in tissue instead of crammed in a plastic bag.

I went home and looked over my purchases, carefully unwrapping them and photographing them for Instagram because I couldn't believe how pretty they were. When I put them on, I felt comfortable, confident, and supported. It's what many people experience when shopping for lingerie, but something that I had never really had.

The only downside to this experience was that it made me question one of my deepest-held beliefs about plus-size clothing: That pretty much all clothing lines should just extend their sizes to carry clothes in the plus range. I mean, if you have an XXS why is there not an accompanying XXL at the very least, right?! But the experience of shopping Déesse was so intuitive — the designs just showed a deep understanding of the subtle ways that some plus-size people's bodies are different. Different enough that it made me wonder if those nuances would be missing from plus-size lines at non-traditionally plus brands — because I'd miss them so much if they were!

I've already experienced the frustration of trying to buy underwear that isn't designed with the understanding that an XL human probably needs a bit more room to accommodate for tummy. Ditto goes with trying on rompers, dresses, sweatshirts, and so on. All plus-size bodies are so very different, just like any other type of body, but there are some universal truths about fit and design that Addition Elle has been in the unique position of hearing and being able to incorporate. Not all brands are going to be able to grasp these things right away and it might turn off potential plus-size customers.

Do we all remember how quick Target was to use the excuse that plus-size didn't sell in their stores in order to keep the Lilly Pulitzer collabs' plus-sizes available online only? It was only a short time after the plus-size community's outcry that they announced that their new plus size line, Ava and Viv, would be available in all stores. I have no doubt that the idea that one of the biggest chain retailers couldn't move plus-size merchandise was scary to a lot of others thinking about dipping a toe in plus-size waters. But it was definitely not the first time that plus-size shoppers have been blamed for a lack of plus-size options.

Has anyone considered that in addition to the many reasons why plus shoppers might not purchase from the expanded size selection of straight-size stores is the simple fact that their clothes actually don't fit that great? That maybe the brands that have been dressing plus-size women for ages actually understand their needs better? Would brands just extending their line without some of that knowledge lead to failure and lead to less options in the long run? Sure, maybe. Should brands do it anyways? For sure.

The importance of knowing that your body is seen, recognized and validated is immeasurable. On top of that, plus customers deserve choice and variety. And luckily, the types of things that Addition Elle has clued into are learned — meaning that if new retailers are really trying and really listening to their customers, they'll pick up on a few things. It's going to take time for us to feel included and for you to hit your stride. So woo us with great products and by letting us know you're there. Take a few chances on us. If it's not working out, we can break up — but chances are that it's not me, it's you.

Images: Courtesy Addition Elle; Giphy