More American teen girls are buying plus-size clothes, and not just for the reason you think

A store opening for rising plus-size brand Torrid.
A store opening for rising plus-size brand Torrid.
Image: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Torrid
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Sales of plus-size clothes to teenage girls in the US are rapidly growing. But before you panic about the obesity epidemic, know that there’s a positive reason for the news too.

The statistic comes from a survey conducted by research firm NPD Group, which found that 34% of teenage girls (ages 13-17) in 2015 said they had bought plus-size clothing for themselves, up from just 16% in 2010. The growing number of overweight teens is behind part of the growth, according to NPD, but it’s also because retailers are offering more variety in plus-size clothing, prompting more girls to buy it.

“Retailers are seeking growth in places they had vacated from the recession, eight years ago,” says Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “They are now looking at those areas to bring in more business. When they do this, retailers generally see great results among these customers who want to look just like their regular size friends.”

Cohen says the styles have changed too. Retailers are finally recognizing that plus-size customers want the same kinds of clothes as everyone else. “It used to be no bright colors, no bold prints, no stripes, no stretch or tight fits,” he says. “But today those rules are gone in the consumer’s mind and stores are finally catching up.”

The market for plus-size apparel has grown steadily in the US according to previous research from NPD, reaching $17.5 billion in the 12 months through April 2014, the most recent figure available. (Research company IBIS World had a smaller estimate last November of $10 billion.) Sales have increased as the average American woman has grown from a size 8 to a size 12 or 14 over the past few decades.

Many larger women feel they’re still being widely ignored. But at least according to NPD, their options are slowly increasing, as retailers—including those, such as Torrid, that cater to plus-sized women specifically—capitalize on a long-under-served market.

Those retailers would be smart to pay attention to teens, too. They’re the next generation of shoppers, and they’re happy to open their wallets for clothes that look good.