Making Plus-Size Clothing Is More Complicated Than Just Extending Sizes

Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.
Despite the fact that more and more brands are extending their sizes, on average, only 17% of all money spent shopping for womenswear comes from plus-size women. Given that 67% of women in the United States are a size 14 and up, the statistics prove just how underserved they continue to be. Alvanon, a global consulting firm working to solve the challenges of sizing and fit in the apparel industry, partnered with theCurvyCon to figure out why shopping while plus remains so difficult. 
After surveying over 215 women, they realized something major: Women are having a hard time identifying their own body shape, which informs how they shop. In the study, 81% of women misidentified their own body shape. While 36% of women surveyed considered their bodies to be hourglass-shaped, 0% actually were. Most of the people surveyed were actually pear-shaped (53%), but only 15% claimed to be so. The survey posits that this discrepancy happens because of the way brands market and sell their clothing.
For many retailers, extended sizing means simply making straight-sized garments in larger sizes, a process that neglects the fact that women have different sizes and shapes. It’s no wonder that the survey reported that 72% of women say that they are unhappy with the clothing offered in their size. 
Of the 62,000 specialty stores in the U.S., only 2,000 of them focus on plus-size women. The study finds that brands are struggling to play catchup as their customers become more vocal about their needs.
The good news is that not all brands are getting it wrong. The survey lists Torrid and Good American as brands who understand their customers. When Liz Muñoz, Torrid’s CEO, decided that she wanted to shift the clothing line to include pieces that fit “young, sexy, and cool,” she said the brand’s former CEO told her not to give up until she created the fit she was looking for.
“The CEO before me said go into the fit room and don’t come out until you have nailed fit,” Muñoz said. “I did not come out for three and a half years. I must have fit 40,000 garments. I learned what worked. Every rule as a pattern maker had to be broken.” 
Similarly, Khloé Kardashian and Emma Grede’s company Good American, which insisted Nordstrom merchandise its 00 to 24 range together instead of separating the straight sizes from the plus, inspired the department store to offer customers a new way to shop — which is all the survey’s respondents want. “What I found very quickly with Good American was that the people with experience were the ones saying don’t do the lace-up jeans in a size 24, or do less,” Grede said in the survey. “But it was the first thing to sell out — it was the customer voting for more daring, more fashion-forward items. The choice has always been made for me — the customer is there, she is voting for what she wants and it’s been an incredible education for us.”

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