Plus-Size Shoppers Are Turning To Vintage

Men still largely run the fashion industry and have set the guidelines of how large a fashionable femme should be.

image for article Plus-Size Shoppers Are Turning To Vintage

Men still largely run the fashion industry and have set the guidelines of how large a fashionable femme should be. Business of Fashion reported that women designed less than half of the womenswear fashion brands and make up less than 14% of leadership positions among the top brands. These mass market brands have largely chosen to be limited or totally exclusive of plus-sizes until the last decade.

“History has not always been kind to bigger bodies and some of fashion’s most iconic and successful brands have not made inclusive sizing a priority for men or for women,” said Jennifer Jefferson, director of content at THRILLING – an online marketplace for vintage fashion. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average woman over 20 is just under 5 foot, 2 inches, weighs just under 171 pounds, and depending on her build can range from size 14-18. 

There was a time that femme bodies above a size 14 had few options outside of small sections in department stores and plus-size specialty stores such as Lane Bryant and Catherines – which shuttered their brick and mortar stores during the pandemic – even while being long-time players in an industry.

According to The NPD Group, the plus-size segment accounts for almost 19% percent of U.S. women’s apparel sales. In 2019, before the pandemic, the plus-size clothing market was a $480 billion industry, according to Allied Market Research. Sales revenue for women’s plus-size apparel grew by 18% from 2019 to  2021, which is over three-times faster than consumer spending on the remaining women’s market, reports The NPD Group. Allied Market Research expects the market to grow an additional 27% by 2027.

“Plus-size shoppers have observed the disconnect between the big-box apparel chain store buyers and the plus-size consumer,” says Sierra Harrington, owner of Curvy Vintage. “These stores continue to push out clothing that is irrelevant to the intended target market.”

The reality is that there are still not enough options for plus-size women’s clothing. So where are shoppers who are looking for women’s plus-size apparel turning to find their wares?

Vintage from Berriez

Well, fast fashion and, more recently, vintage shops.

“Fast fashion is popular because it is easy, it's everywhere and it’s cheap,” says Lisa Michaud, owner of Two Big Blondes.

“It’s what all the other plus-size women are wearing on social media,” says MarQui’ Hopkins, owner and fashion stylist at Vintij MarQui. “Whatever brand is trending for the moment is what some people tend to go to. However, the fast fashion is cheaply made and most of the pieces don’t support in certain areas because the fabric is so thin.”

For shoppers that want quality plus-size clothes and standout style, she recommends vintage. “Vintage is a good option for us curvy women because it’s unique,” MarQui’ says. “You're going to stand apart from all the other women that’s wearing the same pieces from the fast fashion brands. Vintage is made well – especially when it comes to those luxury pieces.  Those pieces were definitely made with women in mind. These garments support curves. Also you will look expensive even if you’re on a budget.”

Lisa agrees: “With limited styles available in plus-size clothing in general, choosing from vintage pieces gives you a wider range of looks to choose from and gives you more room to express your creativity in styling.”

“As a plus-size shopper myself, buying vintage gives me the chance to create a timeless wardrobe while on a budget,” Sierra Harrington says. 

Currently, Thrilling aims to recruit more vintage curators to help source for its growing need for quality clothing in inclusive sizing. Partnering with shops such as Curvy Vintage, Berriez, Two Big Blondes – who has been sourcing plus-size vintage for over 25 years, and Vintij Marqui who all have a large inventory of plus-size inventory on and offline. Partners such as Psychedelic Vintage, New Nostalgia, Rustic in Lubbock, Junk for Joy, who offer a range of sizes, have helped grow Thrilling’s plus-size inventory tremendously with sizes up to 4X. 

Search for “plus-size” (those who type plus size into Thrilling’s search bar) has grown 318% year over year. 

Over the same period, our site search for plus-sizes has increased:

  • Size XL (14 - 16) has grown 345.49%
  • Size 2XL (18-20) has grown 335.35%
  • Size 3XL (22 - 24) has grown 326.18%

“There is a demand for ethical size-inclusive clothing that is not being met by the broader fashion industry,” says Shilla Kim-Parker, CEO and co-founder of THRILLING. “Our store owners are not only dressing themselves, they are sourcing clothing solutions for those underserved.”

Shilla founded THRILLING in 2018 to provide an e-commerce solution for indie vintage shops largely left behind by technology and who struggled to survive on crowded marketplaces. She discovered that 95% of the now 1,500 partner shops that sell their vintage on Thrilling are woman and/or minority-owned. 

The average American woman is finally seeing herself in fashion and that charge is being led by other women who have largely been left out of the fashion conversation. 

Shilla, who is a woman of Black and Asian descent, realized that there is a community of business owners who are already solving the sustainability and plus-size problem. They just need the right tools to grow their businesses. 

“It may take a bit more work to find plus-size vintage clothing, but as we expand our options plus-size shoppers are starting to realize the range of choices for them,” Lisa says. “Thrilling is a great option because it consolidates options from small shops around the country instead of having to go to separate websites.

Shop the best curated vintage finds at

Back to Style Archive