That's a challenge ModCloth, an online clothing retailer that sells clothes by indie designers, faced when it decided to start offering plus sizes. ModCloth regularly works with 1,500 designers, but none of them offered plus sizes, says Samara Fetto, a category manager at the San Francisco-based retailer.
"More times than not, they were excited about entering the space but ... extremely inexperienced," she says. But, she added that "they didn't have plus size knowledge or expertise."
After ModCloth hired an expert to help the designers learn how to make larger sizes, the retailer started selling plus sizes a year ago and officially launched the category in June. Now, more than 100 vendors offer plus sizes and Modcloth's sales of plus-size items have quadrupled within the year.
"The plus-size customer definitely feels excluded in many areas of the fashion industry," says Fetto.
That customer has been gaining a voice on social media lately. Emily Sanford, who wears around a size 22, started a weight loss and plus-size fashion blog Authenticallyemmie.com, in 2009. "The blogging world is helping open up people's eyes to what is available and what isn't available," she says.
Another popular plus-size blogger, Gabi Gregg, collaborated this summer with swimsuit designer Swimsuits for All on a swimsuit line — typically an underserved category for plus sizes. The two-piece suits, nicknamed the "fatkini," with colorful designs such as a starry galaxy print, sold out quickly after it launched.
"Plus-size consumers are hungry for more options, unique options, not just same thing off the rack," Sanford says. "I hope retailers that have not gone into plus sizes realize we have the same amount of disposable income just like every other shopper."