An Elegy For Eloquii – The Frustrating State Of Plus Size Fashion

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the fashion news, The Limited’s plus size fashion line Eloquii, will be no more by the end of summer. Right now, the discounts are ridiculously steep. We’re talking 70% and 80% off the original prices, for those willing to dig through the remnants of dresses, tops and bottoms. I can’t deny it, I shopped it up and got myself some cute summer basics. And I may buy some more before these sales are totally done. Normally, I shop with joyful abandon. This time, I shopped with a tinge of sadness, some regret, and a sprinkling of anger. Another plus size retailer gets it totally wrong, and the consumer is left with a void that seems to never be filled.

RIP Eloquii

It feels like such a never-ending cycle. Plus size retailer opens, and plus size fashion lovers get super excited. Retailer occasionally gets it right, but frequently doesn’t seem to be in tune with what customers are clamoring for. Customers can tell plus size retailer is doing plus size as an afterthought. Retailer changes its mind and turns tail, either selling the clothes online only, not promoting the items in the least, or demonstrating decreasing quality over time. Eventually some of these fashion lines die, and nobody wonders why. The answers are obvious. Rinse and repeat.

I’m so beyond disappointed in the cycle and I’m not alone – Jezebel wrote a stinging rebuke of the exclusion of plus sized fashion recently that said it all. To me, it seems obvious. There’s a customer base that’s looking for specific kinds of products. A customer base that is woefully underserved, and continually written about for being underserved. A customer base that deserves better, and who according to CDC statistics, is basically the average American woman.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what went wrong, regarding The Limited and Eloquii. Allow me to share my opinions on what led to this unfortunate state of affairs. Here are four areas where I think Eloquii could have done better by the brand and their customer.

#1 Price point – Eloquii is what industry insiders will call moderate-point fashion (read Marie Denee’s excellent, informed post on this topic for additional insight). Yet I found myself not drawn to purchase, based on their prices. When I looked at the fabrication and styles, I would tell myself – this is cute, but not at this price. To wit – look at the markdown on this 100% polyester striped tee, now available on Eloquii.com.

EloquiiTee

This was once $60. This makes me think of the lyrics of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop, re: $50 dollar teeshirts and the like.  If it was a fancy blend, or a more sophisticated or intricately designed item, we can talk. But this is a standard issue, striped tee. 100% poly. For $60? I can’t justify that.

SmokeyFridayBigWorm

 

Besides issues like that, Eloquii pretty much always had sales going on. So I found myself sometimes regretting purchases I had made because the next week the item would be marked down significantly and I’d be like damn! Shoulda waited another week! A stable, sensible price point on clothing, with specifically timed sales that customers could look forward to, would have helped.

#2 Style – This is an issue I have not just with Eloquii, but with many moderate-price point or fast fashion retailers working in plus size. Who is the audience you’re designing for? How many dowdy cuts, matronly styles or unflattering prints can you include in a collection before you realize that there’s a reason people aren’t buying as much as you’d like them to? Why not listen to the consumer, work with bloggers to design a capsule collection (I mean, Gabi just showed us ALL how it’s done, right?), or offer a collection of super chic basics in a vast variety of colors? So often American plus sized fast fashion or mid-priced fashion, skews really youthful (as in I love neon, crop tops and wedge sneakers) or REALLY older (as in, I’m looking for a tent-shaped dress to wear to church/a wedding/a funeral). It can be so ridiculously, unnecessarily difficult at times to find what you’re looking for fashion wise, when you’re over a size 16 and you’re looking for quality items at an affordable price, that speaks to a variety of age groups.

#3 Availability- Eloquii was in stores and online, but their in-store experience was teeny tiny to say the least. Their online store had a variety of clothing items that can be hard to find in plus size stores – blazers, belts, and wear-to-work basics. When I did journey out to the retail store here in Chicago, I found the selection didn’t match what I saw online all the time, but it was helpful to touch, feel, and try on the items. Some were cuter in person than online. Others felt like they weren’t worth the price, based on the fabric or style. But I did sincerely appreciate that this was both online and in-store, because you NEED to touch and try on before buying, sometimes. That’s the part of the game that I think Old Navy doesn’t get yet.

#4 The apparent unwillingness of brands to TRY. When I visited London, I was so delighted to stroll down Oxford Street and see the variety of clothing I could buy. Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Primark – all within walking distance of my hotel. I was particularly enthralled with Dorothy Perkins, which includes a range from smaller to plus sizes, without having a separate plus section of clothes tucked away somewhere. Their items range up to a UK size 22 (which seems to be  US 18/20 or 2X). In boutiques in Brighton, I discovered that unique plus size fashion wasn’t that hard to find. The style there is very self expressive and fashion forward – lots of unique prints and ways to pair things. I’m writing a longer blog on UK fashion discoveries, but in the meantime I must ask – why is America so behind in this arena? Why is there this blunt refusal by brands to take the plus size consumer seriously, by so many mainstream fashion brands that could be making money from an overlooked market? There was minimal marketing, and The Limited only gave Eloquii a shot for a year before calling it quits. And now what? Seems like such a wasted, misguided effort.

There were so many ways Eloquii could have been great, but with no advertising, minimal blogger outreach (at least in my personal experience), and the aforementioned missteps, it seemed that the brand was designed to fail. And that’s upsetting. If you’re sensing frustration in this post, it’s because that’s how I feel right now.

This past week, I headed out to Chicago’s busy downtown shopping area to get a red dress for an event next week. I went to all my usual favorite stores, only to discover that there were literally NONE to be found. Not a single red dress. Not even a cute red top you’d want to rock to such an occasion. I went to four different places before finding a suitable option at Ashley Stewart. I know for variety in plus sized shopping, online is where you need to go. But what about when you need to buy something in store, or in a hurry? That’s when you find that the item you’re dreaming about that should be easy to find, just straight up doesn’t exist for plus sized women, or if it does exist in store, it’s dowdy or matronly. Or online only.

Plus sized women are the ultimate fashionistas because we often have to make it work. But it can be extremely frustrating getting to that point. There are some moderately priced fashion brands that are getting it right – Modcloth is working hard to give trendy, chic plus size shoppers what we’re looking for, and that’s very encouraging. But what about items for the women who aren’t looking for adorable dresses or skirts in cute prints? What about women who are seeking chic work wear, or on-trend pieces for an over-30 year old’s summer wardrobe? Shopping in store still feels like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack. I look forward to the days when that frustration fades into just a memory.

Additional posts on this topic that I loved:

This Anecdote Completely Sums Up How Much Designers Hate Plus Size, via Business Insider

An Open Letter To the Limited Brands and Eloquii, by The Curvy Fashionista

Retailers Can’t Ignore 100 Million Plus Sized Women Forever, via Business Insider.

Whew. Now I can get off my soapbox and ask my fellow plus sized bellas – how do you feel about the state of affairs in plus size fashion? Do you feel like we’re taking two steps forward, or two steps back? What do you think led to the untimely demise of Eloquii? Do you see signs of hope that I’m missing?

PS: Click here to shop Eloquii’s remains while you still can!

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Comments

  1. i have nothing to add. this was great!

  2. naturalista88 says:

    I think that once designers & people in general stop treating plus sized people like creatures that should be locked away in an attic, we will begin to see more & better options.

  3. I always complain when I go to department stores. The plus size section is so small and they have the nerve to put clearance in that section, I mean the whole store is misses there’s no other place to put it. America is behind the ball considering the avg women wears a 12/14. I would say boycott but where would I buy my clothes lol. I’ll continue to complain to the stores manager ( who upon seeing me usually sighs and rolls eyes) every time I go to the store.

    • A lot of stores have started kicking us out too. I recently went to a Nordstrom that decided to eliminate it’s Woman’s department, and Sax has moved its 14-24 sizes online only. And Old Navy did it a while ago. Gap only carries XXL online, and then only in a handful of item.

      A lot of stores still put the plus section in the corner behind homegoods while all of the other women’s clothing is on the same floor/section of the store.
      The few retailers who want to take our money still don’t want us in their stores, and Eloquii seemed to want this venture to fail so they could say that it isn’t worth it to make plus-sized clothes b/c you can’t make any money.
      As a 30 something, the options are way better than when I was a teenager, but it’s still a lot of nice clothing (so not all plus-sized teens want to go retro, goth, or punk which is what Torrid offers).
      And price point is an issue b/c one of the reasons I have much better clothes is b/c I CAN pay for nice basics at Nordstrom or Talbots (which I still have to order online b/c if they have a women’s section they have about 5 things).
      If you look online though, you see that the fashion world is still geared to give women size 10 and under every option under the sun.
      If I’m looking for a dress at an online retailer, no matter the size, I can view every dress they have in a couple of minutes ,b/c we are talking 2-3 pages tops.
      When ATTEMPTING to help an size 8 or 10 friend look for a dress, there were so many options at just one store that you have to narrow things down to style/pattern, color, etc. and STILL have more dresses to look at in one online store than I’d find looking at about 6 online merchants.

      I’d love to hear from a size 6 if the site of an 18 in the same dress as her would make her swear never to use that store again, b/c that is how the people making decisions seem to view things.

      So many excuses, the incorrect assumption that it takes 10 yards of fabric to cover fat bodies, or that all smaller women have the same shape but that heavier bodies have so many flaws to account for that it is impossible to make any standard clothing for them.

      Eloquii made it possible for me to find well-made suits and other great clothes for work. I had been buying a lot from Talbots but Eloquii’s bottoms and dresses fit me way better than Talbot’s. I had probably a 95% hit rate when ordering online and picking a size. That never happens. I sized out of Express in high school and hadn’t been able to shop at any of their stores until last year. And now they are kicking me out and saying that they can’t be bothered trying to treat me like an equal customer with the same green money as everyone else. And that pisses me off b/c that mindset is the rule, not the exception.

      The problem with a lot of the independent designers/stores is that they are frequently very one note with the styles and patterns they offer. That is very true if you’ve ever used Kiyonna or Igigi. It’s like they have 1 or 2 patterns that they just remake each season in different colors or fabrics, so it does not take long to no longer need to go back to those stores.

      • “I’d love to hear from a size 6 if the site of an 18 in the same dress as her would make her swear never to use that store again, b/c that is how the people making decisions seem to view things.”

        Good Lord no. I’m a “straight-size” model, and I think that’s mental. I’m more likely to shop someplace if they have a decent-looking plus size section. It means the designers they carry have experience designing for more than one body shape. This is particularly important to me, because MY particular body shape happens to involve fit problems that are generally more common for larger women — gapping at the back waistband, seams and darts hitting me in the wrong place, skirts hanging much shorter in the back than in the front, not being able to button things over my boobs, etc.

  4. rocharron says:

    Afrobella, like you, I shopped the eloquii final sale…bought several cute dresses at much reduced prices. When they arrived, I realized that I never would have paid $130 for an unlined dress…that clung to everything. Why even sell a sheath dress without a lining at that price point?! I was so disappointed. I have to say however, that this weekend I ventured into Bloomingdale’s at 900 N. Michigan, and was greeted by a very attentive saleswoman, who showed me some very on trend items in their plus sized section. I was very impressed, and will be returning to shop there in the future. I wanted to jump up and down in the section and proclaim how happy I am to know that in a pinch, and whenever I just want to shop, I have a place to go where I’ll find something to fit my plus sized self that makes me feel like the beautiful woman I am. I’m sure it’s on your places to go, but if not, you should stop by…The saleswoman told me that in the past few months they have been really trying to find items to please the younger (30s) shopper.

    • I like Bloomingdale’s but you know a lot of people need a more moderately priced option, and I think what plus-sizesd shoppers lack is one place that can meet all of their needs. If you are under a size 14 and need to fill your closet with work clothes, you can go to one store and pretty much hook yourself up. Same is true if you need a dress. I love my wardrobe but it took a lot of time, money, work, and many, many different retailers to get to this point. And it’s not something I could have done when I was in school or first working.

  5. bleu_grl says:

    I whole heartedly agree with you. Sometimes I find that I would like to walk in to a store without having to locate the special section or corner where the plus size fashion is located. I’ve given up on Target where you can’t tell plus size from maternity.

  6. Peachysweet2007 says:

    Amen!!! I am so disappointed by this brand and it’s lackluster effort. 1 year? Come on.

  7. You know what’s even worse? Try being on the high end of plus size fashions. A retailer may eventually deem it worth their while to cater to the 14 – 18 size crowd, but if you need a 24 -30, you become a scientist just to look presentable on a daily basis.

  8. Hi Bella!

    I know it’s another online option, but have you tried the Asos Curve line? A lot of their stuff is junior, but there are some very cute pieces to step out in like this dress I was looking at yesterday:

    http://us.asos.com/ASOS-CURVE-Exclusive-Body-Conscious-Dress-In-Mirror-Floral-Print/10fv9g/?iid=2952779&cid=9577&sh=0&pge=5&pgesize=36&sort=-1&clr=Multi&mporgp=L0FTT1MtQ3VydmUvQVNPUy1DVVJWRS1Cb2R5Y29uLURyZXNzLUluLU1pcnJvci1GbG9yYWwtUHJpbnQvUHJvZC8.

    lol-sorry for the long link. Something like this is cute to wear to work with a short fitted white blazer and peep toe pumps. And I love that Asos has videos of the models so you get a better idea of how the clothing fits. I’ve never ordered from them so I have no idea about the quality, though.

  9. I absolutely abhor shopping for this very reason. I’m a size 16-18 and have honest to God been looking for a swimsuit for TEN FREAKING YEARS! As a mom of young children I would like to buy a 2 piece. I have to take my toddler into the bathroom with me and would prefer not to have to get naked to pee. A tankini would be lovely, but because of my muffin top I need a high waisted bottom. The only suit I’ve found works is from Land’s End and the damned bottom is more than $70! Did I mention I’m a WAHM who can’t afford to spend more than a hundred dollars on a swimsuit?!?

    Plus sized clothing is overpriced and dowdy as hell. I’m no fashionista and actually prefer classic lines. For some reason designers think that being plus sized means wanting to be covered in some hideous hibiscus print that would make me look like a bedspread. It’s crazy frustrating and the main reason I’m trying so hard to lose weight. Being fat is damned expensive!

  10. I agree. I like a mix of classic and trendy. I liked eloquii for somethings, but their price point is too darn high. I dont think they gave it much of an effort- one year is not enough time to make an impact.

  11. I consider myself a fashionista but I didn’t even hear about Eloquii until this past March when researching competitors for my very own store. When I looked at the prices I clicked right off. I will say this, it is so hard to find fashionable items wholesale, even when I do find someone who even sells plus size. Unless you have enough money to manufacture your own looks than it doesn’t seem like there will be any type of progress soon!

  12. Great post! UK ladies are on the whole bigger than those in USA and so their designers make sizes beyond 8 etc. Lovely clothes in great colours and fabrics at excellent prices.

    One can only live in hope that in the future this target group gets the clothing it desires in a more regular and sustained method.

  13. Great post.

  14. I almost feel sorry for eloquii…but I cam all the way up on some great items from their sale. Heck, I even placed a second order tonight! Can’t wait for my items.
    #stoked

  15. Being a BBW, I can relate to everything said here. Finding clothes that are affordable, fashionable and comfortable has been a long term struggle. In general, I do NOT shop for clothes online, I can’t stand having to return purchases. Hell, I hate shopping period! I know, I know…an exception to the rule. Of late, I’ve been seeing online ads for Zulily with BBWs wearing some cute dresses. In the past, I’ve seen its online ads for children’s clothing so I was surprise to see that it carries a range of plus sizes. I plan to explore the website soon and see if it’s for me. I don’t like to window shop either. LOL Is anyone familiar with this line and/or purchased anything from it?

    Thanks for a great review, Afrobella!

  16. I think the plus size market continues to go two steps forward then one size back. I was surprised to find a great top last weekend at Macy’s. It is usually hit or miss when I go there but they seem to be offering more plus size clothes than in the past. Maybe they realize what a significant market it is!

  17. “But what about items for the women who aren’t looking for adorable dresses or skirts in cute prints? What about women who are seeking chic work wear, or on-trend pieces for an over-30 year old’s summer wardrobe? Shopping in store still feels like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack. I look forward to the days when that frustration fades into just a memory.”

    You said this perfectly. BIG whole in the plus size fashion that needs to be filled.

  18. Wonderful post!! I wanted to love Eloquii, but returned about 95% of the items I bought from them because they just weren’t quite up to par. The exception being some of their skirts…those always seemed to win me over. I was sad to seem them go though because it’s one less place for me to look. And you’re so right about the over 30 summer wardrobe. I am 32 and work in a business casual environment and this summer has been really hard for me. I have been wearing pretty much the same handful of dresses over and over because I can’t find anything locally or online that isn’t neon, covered in rhinestones or butterflies or made for an 80+ year old woman. Hoping the fall clothes are better. I saw a few cute fall things pop up on Lane Bryant’s site the other day.

  19. Could NOT agree with you MORE or said it any better.

    One note on the snobbery of designers: Eileen Fisher. She wants plus sized women to buy her clothes, but hates them and does not want to be associated with them. Find a designer who embraces womanly curves and wants them to look their best while not breaking the bank – that person will be the richest designer in history.

  20. Great article. I was excited when Eloquii came out because I thought it would duplicate the look of The Limited. I did buy 3 things, on sale, but a skirt I bought was ill-fitting. When I tried to return it, they sent it back saying it was non-returnable. What? I had to call and get authorization, and I finally just kept the outfit because of the hassle. After that, my opinion changed, and the styles just got frumpier and frumpier.

    It is true that plus sized women have to be more creative. I would rather go to the stores I have gone to for a long time, than give money to a retailer who does not even try to make us look good. With the right designers, PR, and the Limited name, they really could have done big things.

  21. I agree with most of the points.

    However, I thought Eloqui had great style selections. Where I think they went wrong was the name. It was not catchy and it separated itself from The Limited name.

    Being only sold online isn’t a problem either because there are lots of clothing sites that are online only.

    Where I agree most is the price point. Although, I think the quality was better than Ashley Stewart.

    I also don’t think Eloquii had enough variety. It seemed more career oriented whereas The Limited had a fresher, younger esthetic.

  22. This was a great article!! I wish I had seen it sooner because I had no idea that Eloquii was closing :( boo. With that said, It wasn’t one of my favorite stores. I’m a plus tall and most of the skirts and pants that the sites offer never hit me right so I’m very limited. I’ve actually taken up sewing! To find what I want takes years or lots of money because I have to have it made or sew it myself. I did like the couple of sweaters I bought on sale. I thought the quality was fair but I bought last winter….It could have changed later in the year.
    I have been very depressed with shopping. When I lost a bunch of weight years ago I had so many more options! When I say that I’m talking mostly tops! lol I mean basic cute sweaters, quality, cuteness all went out the window when I gained weight :( Even Talbots isn’t what it used to be! But I have to say that when you go to a place like NYC and you look for fashion….and its the most horrific dowdy departments that you’ve ever seen, its more than depressing!!! I’m willing to pay for clothes, I’ve shopped at salon Z and at Neimans when they did plus size. Because I’m so tall most things don’t fit me right… If the Avenue didn’t make plus tall I wouldn’t have any jeans because I don’t know how to sew them! I’m still looking for a long winter coat! It seems that they don’t make them anymore for plus gals!

  23. HEADS UP! Eloquii is coming back according to their website.

  24. ELOQUII is coming back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Eloquii Fiend! says:

    Eloquii is back Spring 2014…. The power of the consumer works!!

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