Women in the market for plus-size clothing may have a harder time finding what they're looking for, according to a recent article at Crain's New York. Several clothing manufactures have trimmed or even eliminated their plus-size offerings, while many have moved their larger lines, generally considered to be sizes 16 and up, to an online-only basis.

Popular women's clothing lines such as Bloomingdale's, Liz Claiborne, Ann Taylor, and Ellen Tracy are among those cutting their plus-size offerings, citing falling demand as the primary reason. "From March 2008 to March 2009, sales of plus-size apparel fell 8 percent, while sales of standard sizes only fell 2 percent," reports one New York article.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, neither obesity levels in the U.S. nor the average weight of U.S. women (163 lbs.) is decreasing. So why are plus-size women buying not only less than they used to, but also less than their size-14-and-under counterparts? One reason, offered by "plus-size expert" Catherine Schuller, is that many plus-size women are homemakers and cannot afford to spend a lot of money on clothes. I couldn't find any statistics on average weights of stay-at-home women versus those who work outside of the home, but regardless, Schuller's explanation doesn't seem to fit.

A more plausible reason, offered by Slate's women's magazine, Double X, is that larger sizes are harder both to produce and to fit. A size 10, for example, is designed to fit a range of women who all fall more or less within the specified measurements of a 10. But the range covered by a size 18, by necessity, has to be greater - so the clothes are more difficult to design, less likely to fit an individual woman, and thus more liable to end up hanging on the reduced rack after months of being tried on and passed over. (Double X links to a wonderful array of spreadsheets and statistics, which I highly recommend if you're curious about bell curves or curves in general.)

On the other end of the spectrum, while America downsizes, British retailer Marks & Spencer recently published an apology to larger-sized women - specifically women with larger bust sizes - for "surcharging" them extra for bras with cup sizes DD and up. In a full-page ad that ran in British daily newspapers and featured the torso of a curvaceous woman in a green bra and matching underwear, Marks and Spencer proclaimed, "No matter whether it's large or small bras you need, the price will be the same."

Professional courtesy or publicity stunt? You decide.

Laura Leonard wrote for Her.meneutics about youth-oriented mega-retailer Forever 21 launching, Faith 21, a line for plus-sized teens, which The New York Times covered this week.