Target Causes Outrage by Selling Plus-Size Lilly Pulitzer Range Exclusively Online

But is the anger justified?
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Tyler McCall
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But is the anger justified?
A preview of the Lilly Pulitzer for Target line. Photo: Target

A preview of the Lilly Pulitzer for Target line. Photo: Target

Target's latest designer collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer may not have made a huge splash in the fashion community, but it did cause a social media storm among plus-size consumers — and not for the reason the retailer was probably hoping.

The plus-size community has long complained that designer collaborations -- like those done with Alexander Wang and H&M, Joseph Altuzarra for Target, and Peter Som for Kohl's -- stop at a size 16, so that the Lilly Pulitzer collection would come in plus sizes should have been great news. Unfortunately, that news came with one major caveat:

That Target would test the waters of a plus-size collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer makes perfect sense: Unlike, say, an Altuzarra (which, despite the buzz, was a relative duds), this is a widely recognized brand, especially in middle America. Popular since the 1960s, Lilly Pulitzer is a key part of uniforms ranging from WASPs like Jackie Kennedy to Southern sorority girls. Niche designer fashion this is not.

And, despite the backlash, it also makes sense that Target would offer plus sizes exclusively online. It's a way for the retailer to test the waters of an extended range without having to sacrifice space on store floors. It's not unheard of for retailers making a foray into plus sizes; just recently, Nordstrom began selling Eloquii exclusively online, and may bring the line to stores if it's a success.

So, as is so often urged by plus-size fashion advocates, vote with your dollars. The plus-size market gained 5 percent in sales last year; if that can be translated into sales for Target, perhaps more future collaborations will include extended ranges — maybe even in stores.