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Credit: Thaddeus Rombauer

The plus-size apparel industry racked up almost $18 billion dollars in sales in the last year alone. So why do so many women still have trouble finding fashion-forward clothes larger than a size 12?

That’s a question that was addressed head on at The Curvy Con, a two-day event of shopping and seminars in New York City that celebrates full-figured fashion. Curvy Con co-founders Chastity Garner and CeCe Olisa gathered editors, designers, and bloggers, like Nadia Aboulhosn (@nadiaaboulhosn) and Chante Burkett (@everythingcurvyandchic), to discuss everything from finding your personal style to the art of dressing your curves, a topic that drew actress Sherri Shepherd (below) to the stage.

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Credit: Thaddeus Rombauer

In another panel on Saturday afternoon called “Dear Retailer," a group of industry VIPs, from brands like Gwynnie Bee, Eloquii, JCPenney, Eleven60, Plus Model Magazine, and our sister publication, StyleWatch, gathered to talk shop and answer questions about the ever-evolving state of plus-size fashion.

One major takeaway? If you’re not seeing the sizes or styles of clothes that you want from your favorite site or store, now is the time to speak up. “Make no mistake, the fashion world is paying attention,” said Nathan Laffin, JCPenney’s VP of Womens Brand Trend Design, to the crowd of bloggers and shoppers. “There are very few pockets of the business that are growing today and this is one of them. You are a group that is organized and has a voice that can still help shape what we do.” In fact, all of the retailers said they regularly rely on customer feedback, via social media or product reviews, to help inform their business and design decisions.

The group also addressed the inspiring shift towards body positivity and diversity both online and within advertisements and media. “We show real women of all sizes in the magazine,” said Lisa Arbetter, Editor of StyleWatch. “And it’s not just about bigger and smaller. It’s about showing multiple body shapes in a trend, so you can actually get an idea of what you would look like in it.” Eloquii Creative Director Jodi Arnold answered a question from a shopper about the lack of options for petite women who are also full-figured. "Eloquii has things in store for you," hinted Arnold, about more size ranges in the pipeline.

Designers joined the Curvy Con conversation this year too with online clothing subscription service Gwynnie Bee unveiling an exclusive collaboration with indie designer Rachel Antonoff on the first day of the convention. “The industry is making progress,” said Michelle Korchinski-Ogden, Gwynnie Bee's Director of Marketing. “Rachel is traditionally a straight-size designer and she has extended her line to offer plus-sizes. We are always trying to work with designers in this way because it’s a key part of our mission.” Antonoff's seven-piece collection of quirky printed dresses and tops are available online now in sizes 10-32W, or L-5X.

For more information about The Curvy Con, including how to get tickets to next year's event which will take place during New York Fall Fashion Week, visit