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Are plus-size garments really expensive to make?

Buying an XXL or XXXL garment often means paying extra. We asked brands about their cost algorithm and the impact it has on the consumer

A model presents a creation by designers Ester Manas and Balthazar Delepierre as part of their Fall-Winter 2022/2023 Women's ready-to-wear collection show for their brand Ester Manas during Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, on 5 March.
A model presents a creation by designers Ester Manas and Balthazar Delepierre as part of their Fall-Winter 2022/2023 Women's ready-to-wear collection show for their brand Ester Manas during Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, on 5 March. (REUTERS)

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As conversations around inclusivity and democratising fashion rise, there’s one aspect that’s not talked about enough: why many designer clothes for bigger people, mostly women, cost extra?

Technically, creating a XXL or XXXL garment means using extra material, which does increase the price point. But if a brand is buying material in bulk and has a dedicated designing and tailoring staff, crafting a plus-size shouldn’t increase the final price as drastically as we notice on some designer websites.

To get clarity, we asked some labels whether plus-size garments really do cost a lot to make.

Also read: Want to make fashion sustainable? Make it accessible, verifiable

According to designer Shruti Sancheti, a plus-size garment does require extra fabric and more construction time, making it more expensive. “However, while formulating a business model, brands can come up with a uniform pricing strategy from an XS to whichever size they cater to,” she says. “This is how a pricing strategy should be on paper.” Her brand readily offers clothes till XXL. Larger sizes can be made to order without extra charge, she says.

Several factors determine the final pricing of a garment, from the quality of the fabric to the kind of embroidery it carries.

“For any brand to draw up an unvaried pricing, they have to cover costs in other parts of the size chart and invariably, the consumer ends up paying a bit extra. So, it is a slightly tricky strategy for any brand and should depend on the brand positioning, target consumer and brand aesthetic,” adds Sancheti. “The inclusive pricing strategy has to be backed by viability.”

Besides the extra price, fashion influencers and models have often complained about the lack of chic options in the market when it comes to plus-size clothing.

As designer and influencer Nitya Arora says: “I’m sure plus-size garments takes the costing up, but I believe that just like brands accommodate pricing of packaging, tax, rent and salaries, they can accommodate the customer demands.”

Aparna Badlani, creative director of multi-designer store AZA, agrees bigger clothes don’t have to be expensive. She says: “I’m not sure if it’s expensive as designers also have a fairly sizable profit margin that they work with. This is something they could extract from their margin. It’s not like an XXL size ensemble costs twice as much as standard sizes. There are designers who are not charging for plus sizes anymore.”

The additional pricing depends on what you’re making, points out designer Pria Kataaria Puri. “For instance, kaftans are made according to the width of the fabric so it isn’t affected. But if you’re making a Western silhouette, like a gown, then the width of the fabric may have to change. Instead of 45m, you may have to buy a 55m-width fabric. But the price increase shouldn’t be more than 25%,” she explains.

If a woman wants a longer blouse, the cost increases since instead of 1.5m, you’re consuming 2.5m. “If you’re adjusting a maxi size, it shouldn’t affect the cost. However, if it’s a fully embroidered lehnga in UK size 8, the embroidery is only done in panels to that size. But if you’re looking at a size 18, then the embroiderer takes more money as there are more inches to be embroidered,” adds Kataaria Puri.

Most Indian premium retail brands have fixed MRPs, be it any size, S, L or XXXL. But when it comes to couture, the price brackets start moving.

Designer Arpita Mehta, who specialises in embroidered pieces, says she always has to spend more to make the outfits. “But we absorb the cost of the same,” she plugs. “It’s a brand ideology. If we don’t charge less for an XS, how could we charge more for a bigger size? The cost of making an XXL piece is more than a regular size... because the consumption of the fabric and the quantity of embroidery is more. But we do not charge our clients the same.”

Minu Margeret, founder of BlissClub, an activewear brand, observes that it takes 30-40% less fabric to make XS to XL sizes, than XXL and above.

Payal Singhal follows a fixed formula to calculate the costing for her brand’s garments. “I take into consideration the cost of manufacturing, overheads and retail margin. The price point for the end consumer doesn’t change if the two main variables in costing, fabric consumption and the cost of embroidery remain same. If either increases, the costing will go up proportionately,” she says.

According to model Varshita Thatavarthi, designers give an excuse when they say it takes extra fabric to make clothes in bigger sizes. “There is only a little difference in fabric size. They should not be charging us so much for the same garment that is priced less in smaller sizes.”

For Janette Tirkey, also a model, shopping for clothes has often been a disheartening experience. The few brands that offer bigger sizes put heavy price tags and they are hardly ever on discount, she says. “I’ve never found discounted plus size options at Fabindia. What’s worse is that Indian wear brands in Delhi’s Rajouri and Chandni Chowk markets charge extra for plus-size customisation. I understand they require extra material but they also make huge profit margins. Why can’t they adjust? Why can’t we wear the clothes we desire without being made to feel not normal?”

Also read: Why can't Indian fashion get over the lehnga-choli?


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