Fashion

23 Plus Size Designers Who Personally Understand The Plus Size Shopping Struggle

I think it's no secret that I have a lot of love for indie plus size designers. And it's not just because I am one. Plus-size women have been bombarded with so many negative body image messages over the course of their lives that shopping for garments can be an emotional experience for some.

I think there's something special about being able to empathize with your customers rather than just sympathize. I know that I designed my first plus-size specific item, a '90s-inspired chain belt, because I was wanting to wear one and no one else was making it, especially not in my size. As a trained metalsmith, jewelry designer, and plus-size woman, who better than me to make it happen?

As I researched to make this list, I saw that many of these brands were also born out of similar personal frustrations with the lack of fashionable options for plus-size women. And to clarify, outside of those that I know personally, I looked through bios, press articles, and asked boutique owners and fellow designers, to do my best to confirm that the designers on this list are plus-size.

This is all not to say that non-plus-size designers cannot create amazing clothes for plus-size women: Nakimuli, Rue107, PLY, Neon Moon, and SmartGlamour are just a few of the many brands that fall into that category. But I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the designers and brands that know firsthand how to meet the needs of the plus-size community because they are a part of it.

Zelie For She

Zelie for She is a Los-Angeles plus brand known for creating jaw-dropping lookbooks and absolutely stunning garments. The brand is the handiwork of blogger turned designer Elann Zelie who studied fashion design.

Zelie worked in the apparel industry while she was blogging and she launched Zelie for She in late 2012. Though Zelie herself is not blogging anymore, Zelie for She releases multiple new collections year-round that keep the hype level at a constant high.

@zelieforshe

Re/Dress

Re/Dress started as a brick and mortar store in New York City. From 2008-2011, it was a plus-size fashion destination. When the store closed its doors, Cleveland-based designer and owner of one of the first plus-size vintage shops Rachel Kacenjar decided to revive the well-known business and bring it to her home city. The brand is known for stocking a wide variety of plus-size vintage, fellow indie designers, and, of course, its original leggings-tights hybrid design: teggings.

@redressluvsu

Jibri

When Jibri releases a new collection, you are sure to see it all over your timeline. You can almost picture people pulling out their fans to calm down from their excitement (myself included).

This contemporary plus-size line is the workmanship of Atlanta-based, self-taught designer Jasmine Elder, who has been selling her handcrafted garments since 2009. Her pieces are impeccably made, extremely glamorous, and have been featured in the pages of Marie Clarie, Lucky, Essence, and In Style.

@jibrionline

The Diva Kurves Collection

I distinctly remember my jaw dropping when I first saw photos from the Swim Thick “Malibu Edition” collection by Diva Kurves. I was not only blown away by the designs but also by the fact that the models represented actual body diversity. It was refreshing. And I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that the designer behind the line, Francie Maupin, was a plus-size model herself.

@thedivakurvescollection

Christian Ome'Shun

I first came across Georgia-based plus-size brand Christian Ome’Shun when I was living Atlanta and immediately fell in love with the classic curve-hugging silhouettes. The designer behind the brand, A’Shontay Hubbard, studied fashion design in school. She completed internships and assistantships to help build up her business savvy before founding her own brand in 2011.

@christian_omeshun

Chubby Cartwheels

You may recognize Bustle’s own Courtney Mina as one of the faces of the Portland-based brand Chubby Cartwheels. Known for creating everything from ethereal evening gowns like the Boleyn dress to necessary plus basics like their stretch cotton bodysuits, designer Shawna is totally badass and creates everything herself in sizes 1X-5X. Most recently, you may have caught Tess Holliday on the cover of People Magazine in a Chubby Cartwheels lace bodysuit.

@chubbycartwheels

Copper Union

Copper Union is another Portland-based plus-size line that recently came onto my radar. The brand specializes in plus-size separates and makes items in sizes 1-5 or 12-30 with a focus heavily on creating a quality fit across that size range. Claire Doody is the designer behind the brand and she has a background in jewelry design, costuming, and fiber arts that now informs her plus-size garments.

@copperunion

Z By ZEVARRA

Z by ZEVARRA is a luxury plus-size brand that knows just how to create a dramatic statement. From high slits and cutouts to winged cape sleeves and asymmetrical hemlines, there’s nothing subtle about Z by ZEVARRA pieces — and that’s a very good thing.

Founded in 2013 by former software engineer LaKisha Livingston-Brown, Z by ZEVARRA is a life-long actualization of Livingston-Brown’s childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer.

@zbyzevarra

Monif C.

Known for as one of the first to make sexy plus-size swimwear and dramatic bodycon dresses, Monif C.’s curve-hugging clothes are the 2005 conception of mother/daughter team Elaine and Monif Clarke.

It’s clear that Clarke has a strong understanding of what the plus-size woman wants when it comes to sex appeal, and thankfully, there seem to be no signs of her dominance in the high-end plus market ending anytime soon.

@monifcplussizes

Shavonne Dorsey

Shavonne Dorsey is the highly sophisticated self-titled brand of designer Shavonne Dorsey, who came from a family of seamstresses that taught her the importance of high-quality garments.

Frustrated by the lack of options available for a plus-size woman like herself, Dorsey started her brand in 2007 in Gary, IN.

@ShavonneDorsey

Cherry Velvet

When it comes to plus-size, pinup style dresses, the Canadian-based Cherry Velvet is a favorite. The brand carries sizes XS-4X of retro-ready garments. Designer Diane Kennedy told Dare Magazine that the label was born when she set out to find a retro dress for herself and found that there was nothing in her size. The rest is modern-day pinup history.

@cherry_velvety

Cabiria

You may know the brand Cabiria as the first plus-size designer to show as a part of New York Fashion Week, but this luxury plus brand is not just a flashy headline. I first learned of the brand when one of my favorite plus boutiques, BLAIR, started to carry Cabiria and I was immediately drawn to the quality garments designed and conceived by Eden Miller.

A costume designer and stylist, Miller started Cabiria to bring high-end garments in bold fabrics to the plus-size market. Brittany Howard of the band Alabama Shakes recently wore Cabiria in the pages of Garden & Gun Magazine.

@cabiriastyle

Hissyfit

Hissyfit’s designer, Lucy, creates handmade, plus-size, vintage-inspired garments mostly of the ’40s and ’50s style variety. Designing and selling garments since 2003, Hissyfit makes one-of-a-kind pieces for one-of-a-kind bodies — which to me makes total sense.

HissyFit

CandyStrike

Elizabeth, the designer behind Arizona-based brand CandyStrike, has been designing for almost a decade. Elizabeth is also responsible for creating Tucson Fashion Week. Clearly a passionate artist with indie sensibilities, CandyStrike’s S-4X tees, apparel, and accessories are sassy, unapologetic, and totally badass. The success of her most recent collection proved once again that her voice is needed in plus-size fashion.

@candy_strike

Size Queen Clothing

I found out about Size Queen Clothing from Rachel Kacenjar of Re/Dress and was so excited to see that designer Bertha Pearl makes these handmade garments up to a size 8XL.

It also didn’t surprise me one bit to learn that the brand was based in indie plus haven, Portland and is carried at one of the city’s famed body positive retailers, Fat Fancy. The brand also showed recently at Oakland’s Queer Fashion Week.

SizeQueenClothing

Domino Dollhouse

From cheeky pinup style dresses to sexy sheer lingerie, Domino Dollhouse has a little something for everyone. Tracy Broxterman started as a blogger before bringing her keen eye for style to the plus-size fashion world and it’s safe to say that we are all grateful she made that move!

In addition to being an indie design powerhouse, Broxterman still maintains the blog she started in 2009.

@dominodollhouse

Harlow

Harlow is one of those brands that does plus-size minimalism so very well. Working from a monochrome palette, there’s a very rocker chic vibe to this Australian-based label. Creating limited garments, the design duo of Kerry and Angelo Pietrobon just gets it. Kerry’s own perspective as a plus-size woman and the lack of available options informs their designs for Harlow.

@harlow_au

Liesl Binx

The self-titled plus-size sportswear brand, Liesel Binx was founded out of Binx’s inability to find garments with high-end garment construction while still being on-trend. Binx received her education at FIDM’s renowned fashion design program and her education and training contribute to her unique handmade designs.

@lieslbinx

Anna Scholz

In an industry that sometimes still feels like an infant, designer Anna Scholz has been in the plus-size fashion business so long that her website has a timeline on it. She started plus-size modeling in 1988 and sold her first plus-size clothing collection to Lane Bryant in 1996. To say that she is an empowering veteran is an understatement.

@annascholz

Courtney Noelle

Courtney Noelle is the plus-inclusive brand formerly known as Rum + Coke that took the mainstream media by storm earlier this year when a news story broke that designer Courtney Smith was only going to use plus-size models in her campaigns, with a specific focus on plus models of color, to sell her size 2-22 garments.

Smith’s fresh approach to plus-size fashion is continuing to get the brand attention, and rightfully so.

@courtneynoelleinc

Feminine Funk

I totally understand the disappointment of finding the perfect graphic tee only to discover that a ladies XL is the largest size available. Luckily, Feminine Funk designer Nicole Grier recognized that major gap in the plus-size market.

Feminine Funk is a brand that solves that problem, creating statement tees, crewnecks, and crop tops in sizes M-3XL. Tee designs have a '90s feel and make good on celebrating curves, too.

@femininefunk

Shop Majour

New on the scene and quickly becoming one of my personal favorites, Shop Majour is the brainchild of designer and creative director LeTicia F. It’s clear that LeTicia’s editorial background comes into play in her designs, which have a flair for the dramatic and are bold to the max.

The brand launched only two months ago and designs have already been worn by Jazmine Sullivan in a live performance.

@shop_majour

Ready To Stare

Yours truly here! Ready to Stare is my brand, and I hand-make statement pieces in sizes S-5X with a specialization in plus-size body chains. I’m not gonna gush about myself but, of course, I think Ready to Stare is a body positive brand you need to know.

@readytostare

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