Clothing retailers boost large-size women’s lineup

by Haruko Mera

Kyodo

Department stores and other retailers are expanding their lineup of large-size clothes to meet growing demand among big women wishing to don fashionable apparel.

Nissen Co., a leading mail-order company based in the city of Kyoto, opened a store in the Parco Part3 building in Tokyo’s Shibuya district in March last year to sell clothing to larger women matching Japanese clothing size standards of “L to 10L,” as well as shoes sized 24 to 27 cm.

The store, called Smile Land, is designed to address concerns larger women often have — including a reluctance to try on clothing because they easily sweat and have difficulty bending their knees.

The store has large, air-conditioned dressing rooms and stocks clothes on shelves higher than knee level. While jeans with pads to prevent wear from rubbing the inner thigh have become a big hit, low-priced underwear, bags and ceremonial robes are also available.

Salesclerk Aki Saito, 25, who is herself a larger woman, voiced her sympathy for customers.

“I’m happy to see women, who come here in monotone sweatsuits for men, try on cute clothes and smile,” Saito said.

With the stores attracting larger foreign women as well, total sales at five Smile Land stores, including those in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, and Sendai have continued to grow at an annual rate of more than 10 percent in recent years, prompting plans to expand the Smile Land network.

Casual wear retailer Uniqlo began online sales of extra-large clothes for men and women last August. Starting with 13 kinds of clothing for the autumn and winter seasons, Uniqlo plans to offer 70 kinds for spring and summer as it continues its trial production in cooperation with 50 men and women solicited through the Internet to wear sample apparel.

“We want people who can’t stand heat and avoid wearing undershirts to try smooth and comfortable undershirts,” Uniqlo official Shinya Matsuyama said.

Large-size apparel for women is now a top seller at department stores.

Some 80,000 women annually visit the Clover Shop section for clothes size 13 and larger at the Isetan flagship department store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. The section was refurbished Feb. 13 and now offers 60 clothing brands for fashion-sensitive larger women.

The Isetan store was a trailblazer in the sales of large-size clothing for women. Before others, the famed department store began selling them as early as 1968, procuring them not only from domestic apparel makers but also from overseas.

“Many people accept clothes they like even if they are somewhat binding,” Ryosuke Okazaki, an Isetan procurement official, said. “I want them to know there are cases in which clothing one size bigger makes them look more beautiful.”

  • Kelly Benadie

    Really glad to see these ladies making a fresh change, hopefully they
    can inspire others to accommodate and innovate for the people who don’t
    fit into the ‘average’ mold. :)