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

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.

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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.