By 2010, the average US woman's weight had grown to 166.2 lbs, and has been on an upward trajectory ever since. Roll forwards to 2019: if a woman were a size-16, she would probably not feel embarrassment, and almost certainly not shame. But then again, today's size-16 woman may not believe this is her size: actually, she might not have any idea what size she really is. As the population has grown heavier, the standard sizes being retailed have stretched their seams and become more generous, and some brands have gone even further and adopted so-called ‘vanity sizing’, whereby they have been sneakily moving their sizes upward, in tune with the waistlines of their customers. They have capitalised on the fact that virtually all people would prefer to think they are a smaller size rather than a larger one, and that a size label can be used as a subtle tool of flattery. Indeed, some women will not even think of trying on a garment if it is labelled as larger than the size they relate to. So, for some brands, what would have been a size-14 in 1960 has unceasingly crept upwards and would fit (an already stretched) size-16 today.
Plus-size fashion: the new Gold Rush?This is a copy of an article written for WhichPLM.
In today's guest post, Emma Hayes, womenswear customer fit expert and founder of At Last, explores the many issues around today's 'plus size' market, and what we can do to better this. Emma has worked in retail for over three decades, with a specific focus on womenswear and lingerie, and is fascinated by bodyshape diversity.
The black hole at the heart of plus-size fashionI learned at school that the all-powerful law of ‘supply and demand’ meant that where there was consumer desire for something, a market would emerge to satisfy it. Yet, on the surface at least, this law seems to mean nothing in the business in which I have spent most of my professional life... plus-size fashion. To this day, over a half of all women in the US are clothed in dress size 14 or over, yet this sector accounts for less than a fifth of women’s apparel sold yearly, and the UK fares no better.
Why should this be? Social media is pretty clear that it’s all about prejudice. The fashion industry 'hates' bigger people, and refuses to produce exciting enough clothing for them to want to buy. However, nothing happens without a reason and that particular one simply doesn’t hold water.
Fashion’s 'mind-blowing' factThe good news for fashion e-commerce is that customers are choosing to purchase apparel online in ever-growing quantities; the bad news is that some 40% of that is being returned.
It’s now common knowledge that these product returns create a matrix of detrimental effects on every element of the fashion industry. The loss of sales, customer dissatisfaction, forfeiture of loyalty, damage to stock, administrative/distribution/picking and re-stocking expenses, along with and ecological harm, create a powerful engine for change.
'Sizing' controlHave you ever tried to tell someone what clothing size they are? Did you attempt it with a friend or family member? How about a complete stranger? If you really did that, how did it go for you?
Informing someone what their dimensions are is a very difficult thing to do and it’s all the more sensitive if that person already has a strong idea what size they are; particularly if their idea is wrong.
Fitting into e-commerceI've spent most of the past 30 years working in independent large-size womenswear, and I had my own plus-size retail business for 22 years. To achieve a perfect result each time we fitted every one of our customers, altering more than half of all the fashion we sold. So I have undertaken many thousands of fittings, gathering so many measurements that it's hard to estimate their number.
During these fittings there was a friendly, fun atmosphere; it was cool, comfortable and private. We had a laugh, but when customers knew that I was trying to perfect their clothes, they realised that this was a serious business.