Here's how bad it is — and why it matters.

By now, the numbers and issues surrounding the plus-size market should be familiar: Despite the fact that the plus-size apparel market was worth an estimated $21.4 billion in 2016 — representing a growth of 6 percent — and the fact that two-thirds of American women are above a size 14, there remain huge gaps in the retail space for plus-size consumers looking to get involved in fashion. 

Nowhere is that more true than in the luxury retail space. Even while the luxury market is in the middle of a big turnaround — it just rebounded to a projected 6 percent growth forecast, a number which includes both apparel and accessories — brands choose to ignore the opportunities in the plus-size sector. Plus-size clothing represents 10 percent of retail sales and has outpaced its straight-sized counterparts for over three years, with that coveted Gen-Z group driving an estimated third of all sales

There's no question that extending sizes isn't as simple as scaling up existing patterns. Getting into larger size ranges often means incurring extra expenses, like hiring another fit model, creating more patterns and using more fabric. But unlike smaller or newer brands, at the luxury level, these companies have the money: Gucci, as just one especially prosperous example, saw a 49 percent sales growth in the first fiscal quarter of 2018 alone, worth some $2.2 million. And there are a growing amount of would-be partners willing to facilitate the expansion into plus sizes, like new luxury e-tailer 11 Honoré, which offers expert pattern makers to brands and eats any extra costs incurred during the process.

If it's easier and more profitable than ever to expand into plus sizes, why aren't more brands doing it? The answer may be as simple as good old-fashioned snobbery. "Being overweight is not very healthy, so it doesn't matter how much of the population is fat; it's not a healthy image to be putting out there," one anonymous exec told Glossy in 2017Designer Prabal Gurung said that when he told people he would be collaborating with plus-size brand Lane Bryant, there was "snickering," with one person even asking, "Why are you designing for fat people?"

Ultimately, it matters that luxury brands offer plus sizes because they're the trendsetters of the industry. Yoox/Net-a-Porter Group went fur-free in June 2017, and Laura Brown announced that InStyle had been fur-free since she took over as editor-in-chief in 2016. When Gucci announced it would go fur-free in October 2017, it set off an avalanche of brands rushing to follow in its footsteps, like Versace, Michael Kors and John Galliano. What happens in one area of fashion generally becomes a trend, and then a movement, trickling down into the contemporary and mass markets. Perhaps these brands and retailers don't care that they're leaving money on the table; perhaps it's enough for industry insiders that plus-size women have options at the fast-fashion level. But they are quickly finding themselves behind the curve when it comes to the reality of the apparel market.

It's time for plus-size inclusion to become a true movement at the luxury fashion level. If designers and brands could offer larger size ranges, bigger sample sizes could be made available for editorial shoots with plus-size models or celebrities and runways could become more representative; if retailers would stock those sizes, they'd be available for women attending the shows to borrow or buy to be shot for street style. Most importantly, the joy of fashion would become available to a wider swath of women.

Representation matters. With that in mind, and to put actual numbers behind this concept, I spent a day poking around both brand and retail e-commerce websites to get a feel for what options are out there for the plus-size customer. I approached it as a standard consumer would, which is to say I based all of the below information on what I could find on e-commerce sites and did not reach out to the brands or retailers mentioned to inquire about further in-store sizing options. Spoiler alert: The results are not good. Read on for more info.*

Brands

There are obviously a number of luxury brands on the market and, quite frankly, most of them have a sizing problem. We narrowed the field down by choosing a combination of established luxury labels from Interbrand's list of the 100 Best Global Brands of 2017 and buzzier names from Lyst's top 10 brands of 2017 published on Business of Fashion. Certain big names, like Chanel and Dior, were hard to track as they don't retail their ready-to-wear online and thus did not make the final cut. 

Brands' sizing was determined by finding the size charts listed on their own websites, and then perusing the ready-to-wear options on each e-commerce site. It's worth noting that it's possible that higher sizes, often regarded as outliers, are produced in smaller runs and thus sell out faster, which could explain limited availability; these brands may also have the capability to offer custom sizing for top customers. Because there is no firm standard for sizing, actual fit will, of course, vary from brand to brand, even within the same size.

Here, a selection of the sizing options for 10 of the industry's top luxury ready-to-wear brands, pulled from their own e-commerce sites.

Balenciaga

Highest Size: US 12/FR 44/XL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: Items in the larger size range (FR 42/44, US 10/12) seemed limited to oversized denim jackets and hoodies; most of the more directional runway pieces stopped around a size FR 36 (US 4) or FR 38 (US 6).

Balmain

Highest Size: US 12/FR 44/XL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: Many items, especially more fitted pieces, seemed to stop around a size FR 36 (US 4) or FR 38 (US 6), though a selection of the brand's popular blazers went up to a size FR 46 (US 14).  

Burberry

Highest Size: US 14/UK 16/XL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: Many of the knits, sweats and outerwear extend up to a size XXL; classic trench styles go up to a US 16.

Dolce & Gabbana

Highest Size: US 10/IT 46/L, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: Strangely, Dolce & Gabbana's official size chart stops at a size IT 46 (US 10), but has a decent amount of options in IT 48 (US 12) and IT 50 (US 14). The only item in an XL is a "#Boycott Dolce & Gabbana" t-shirt.

Givenchy

Highest Size: US 14/FR 46/XXL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: Despite the fact that the highest size on the brand's chart is a FR 46 (US 14), a decent number of items extended up to a size FR 48 (US 16); most items did seem to go up to at least a FR 46 (US 14). 

Gucci

Highest Size: US 12/IT 48/XXL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: The only item available when narrowing the ready-to-wear options on Gucci.com down to a size IT 48 (US 12) is a pair of black stretch viscose pants; XXL brings up a selection of tees and sweatshirts. 

Louis Vuitton

Highest Size: US 14/FR 46/XL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: The Louis Vuitton e-commerce site does not offer the ability to sort by size, but random sampling came up empty for anything in a size FR 46 (US 14), and found that most items came in under size FR 42 (US 10) or FR 40 (US 8).

Off-White

Highest Size: US 10/FR 42/XL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: One miniskirt came in an FR 44 (US 12); sizing was available sporadically from item to item but most hit the FR 42 (US 10) mark. XL was not available as a size filter.

Prada

Highest Size: US 14/IT 50/XXL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: In addition to not offering the ability to sort by size, Prada's e-commerce site lists every single size it offers next to every item, with only sizes in bold indicated as being available; this made it challenging to discern how many actually ever came in the full size run. On Prada's own site, there was little over size IT 46 (US 10), but through other Prada retailers, it does seem a small amount of options come in the IT 50 (US 14) size. 

Valentino

Highest Size: US 12/IT 48/XXL, per a sizing chart on the brand's website
Notes: There was one miniskirt in size US 12; most other items stopped at a size US 8 or a US 10.

Retailers

There are, of course, luxury fashion brands which make plus sizes — most notably Prabal Gurung and Christian Siriano, who are proving to be pioneers in the space. The trouble comes when retailers either refuse to stock extended sizes, or neglect to push the designers they stock to extend their size range. For the plus-size movement to really take hold, it's essential that retailers get on board, too.

To keep things broad, we choose luxury e-commerce websites which could easily be shopped globally; sizing can become more limited at the brick-and-mortar level, especially when talking about independent boutiques. It should be noted that items could have sold out in certain sizes, which would make for discrepancies in what is actually offered. We took samples from offerings in smaller sizes to show variance. And again, because there is no standard in sizing, retailers may translate sizes differently from the brand's own e-commerce (for example, Dolce & Gabbana lists an IT 50 as a US 14, while Matches Fashion lists it as US 16). 

Here, a selection of sizing options at five luxury retailers:

FarFetch

Highest Size Offered: XXXL/US 16, per a sizing chart on the retailer's website
Total Number of Ready-to-Wear Items Available: 78,988
Items Available in Size XS (US 4, per size chart): 50,436
Items Available in Size XL (US 12, per size chart): 9,510
Items Available in Size XXXL (US 16, per size chart): 513
Notes: Marchesa Notte and Sachin & Babi wildly dominated the brands found in the XXXL size range; there were limited pieces from Carolina Herrera and Rosie Assoulin.

Matchesfashion

Highest Size Offered: XXXL/approximately a US 14/16, per a sizing chart on the retailer's website
Total Number of Ready-to-Wear Items Available: 11,084
Items Available in Size S (US 4, per size chart): 8,446
Items Available in Size XL (US 12, per size chart): 4,382
Items Available in Size XXXL (US 16/FR 46/IT 50, per size chart): 318
Notes: If you're looking for cooler brands, this is the place to shop: Matchesfashion carries larger sizing from Altuzarra, Prada and MaxMara.

Moda Operandi

Highest Size Offered: US 16, per a sizing chart on the retailer's website
Total Number of Ready-to-Wear Items Available: 3,917
Items Available in Size US 4: 3,025
Items Available in Size US 12: 1,646
Items Available in Size US 16: 220
Notes: Unlike other retailers, Moda Operandi doesn't break out sizes like XL or XXL, which means many of the options listed under a size US 16 are actually items which come in sizes XS through XL — like knitwear from The Elder Statesman or swimwear from Lisa Marie Fernandez — which might not even fit a size US 16. Sized items included eveningwear from Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and Safiyaa.

Net-a-Porter

Highest Size Offered: XXXL/US 16, per a sizing chart on the retailer's website
Total Number of Ready-to-Wear Items Available: 11,324
Items Available in Size S (US 4, per size chart): 8,778
Items Available in Size XL (US 10/12, per size chart): 2,852
Items Available in Size XXXL (US 16, per size chart): 33
Notes: Seriously, 33. Brands on offer include diffusion lines like Michael Michael Kors and Marchesa Notte, plus a few dresses from Oscar de la Renta and Lela Rose.

ShopBop

Highest Size Offered: US 14, per a sizing chart on the retailer's website
Total Number of Ready-to-Wear Items Available: 16,092
Items Available in Size US 4/S/M: 9,499
Items Available in Size US 12/L/XL: 1,734
Items Available in Size US 14/XL: 762
Notes: Hopefully you're in the market for maternity gear or underwear, as those categories dominate the size US 14/XL size range. Otherwise, there are a few cute items from hip brands like Monse or Ganni.

Consignment

With the secondhand market poised to overtake fast fashion in 10 years, there's no question that resale is going to be a huge component of the future of retail. Of course, consignment shops and sites can only stock what they're sent, which means the lack of plus-size garments in standard retail inevitably trickles down into this space. To show how this happens, we took a sampling of options available at The RealReal; there are, of course, many other resale sites out there, but we chose The RealReal for its broad luxury selection and ease of sorting.

The RealReal

Highest Size Offered: XXL, appears to correspond to a US 16 but can go beyond
Total Number of Ready-to-Wear Items Available: 204,308
Items Available in Size S (approximately US 4): 58,712
Items Available in Size XL (approximately US 10/12): 6,132
Items Available in Size XXL (approximately US 16 and up): 1,015 
Notes: Surprisingly, the XXL size is dominated by Chanel, with garments running up to a size US 18. Otherwise, expect more mature styles from the likes of Escada and Oscar de la Renta, and options marked "One Size" (think ponchos).

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Homepage Photo: Backstage at Moschino Fall 2018/Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

*All figures as of a search conducted on April 24, 2018.