What if plus sizes made up 80% of the market?

My friend Stuart has a blog called Pattern School. If you like my site, you’ll also like his. It’s interesting for me to read ideas I’ve thought or written about, from another perspective and in someone else’s words. Every time I visit, I fall in love all over again.

His latest entry is called Demographics part 2 (like me, he’s also writes lousy titles that don’t attract search traffic) about sizing trends which as you should know by now, is one of my favorite subjects. In this particular entry, he says using the full bust measure as an indicator of size is stupid. I agree. The under bust measure is the better indicator of one’s overall shaping and corpulence, or lack thereof. He also prefers to “use nape to waist as my vertical reference measurement as I get equally realistic relation to other vertical measurement” with which I also agree.

The point of his entry is in part to explain why sizes break down as they do, namely according to consumer purchasing. One question he asks:

Is it possible, or even helpful, to create a size increment which would have the same percentage in each size or at least a more even distribution? Why might we even consider this?

His is a theoretical question, interesting to think about but not commercially tenable. It would amount to having 3 different size 8’s, 11 different size 10’s, 4 different size 12’s etc (based on the percentages listed in his chart), wildly contributing to consumer confusion to say nothing of huge product development cost increases. That sounds like a criticism but I don’t intend it to be, it’s a fun idea to play with. This question and its possible solution is related to his next point (Stuart is wicked-smart) which is:

If the plus sizes made up 80% of the market then the whole sizing system would be different to the way it is now.

This is very true and gave me pause. What would size scales look like? As a practical matter, perhaps we should be thinking about this sooner rather than later. Opinions? Ideas? Why and how would size charts change? What would they look like?

Amended: Can we do this admittedly theoretical exercise without descending into rants or tirades (however deserved) about fitting frustration in plus sizes? Really think about his observation; if plus sizes made up 80% of the market, how would our sizing systems change? Pondering the matter may lead you onto pathways you hadn’t considered.

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34 comments

  1. katyrenee says:

    Wow. Thanks for another awesome resource.

    Last night I helped out in a beginning sewing class. Their first project is a loose t-shirt. The instructor another aide, and I measured everyone’s full bust size to help them determine what pattern size to use. I measured about 15 people–several people had the same full bust size, but very, very different body types/shapes. I agree that under bust would provide a more accurate measurement. I don’t think I would have noticed that if I hadn’t measure several people in succession, though.

  2. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    I’m not sure but look at how Lane Bryant sizes their jeans now. They have size 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. in 3 or 4 types of body each with its own symbol. So once you know your symbol and size, you can pick up any style of jeans and it will fit. (I hem my SIL’s jeans, I don’t shop there.)

    Then there’s WalMart. If you are tiny, you won’t find anything to fit you. I’m a size 8 or M in everyone else’s stuff. If I go to WalMart, I have to get a 6 or S (and I haven’t even seen XS in a lot of stuff). And the size S knit long-sleeved T shirt was slightly too big!!!

  3. Natasha Estrada says:

    Those Lane Bryant pants and jeans literally saved my wardrobe. Now I actually get to have slacks and jeans that fit and don’t make me look fatter than I already am. DE should bear in mind that fat people have money too. If you want to test this hypothesis just go to a mall and hang out at the Lane Bryant. Notice how the average shopper exits the store with 2 or more shopping bags. When we find something that fits and looks good we just buy it. We don’t wait for it to go on sale we pay full price.

    I would also like to point out that when you are overweight hope springs eternal that you will one day finally be able to lose it all and will stash smaller sized garment for such a day so I probably end up buying 2x as many garments than I need.

  4. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Also, I hate it when people tell me they want me to make them clothes, but only after they’ve lost some weight. Will that ever happen? What are you going to wear now?

  5. Cheryl says:

    I own a sewing business in Southeastern Ohio. PLUS SIZE is starting to become COMMON SIZES around here :( :( :( Problem is…..they don’t want to ADMIT they are ‘big’…. They bring alterations to me and want ‘tight’ because ……of course……they are “Going to lose weight”….I just smile and nod and agree and fit to the body they own NOW :)

  6. Dana says:

    Great site and an interesting theory to contemplate. As DE’s we certainly can’t fit the full range of sizes and body types. We need to chose a segment, know it well, and be consistent. What I struggle with more is how to improve upon the only real standard language we have to communicate sizing, ie. size 4, 6, 8, etc. To me this is the real current challenge. We all know a size 8 from Liz doesn’t fit like an 8 from Tahari. Does using a 1, 2, 3 system help or confuse? Does the goofy apple, pear body shape stuff help? Body measurements on a hangtag? None of these seems like ideal solutions for consumers. I haven’t found an answer other than to tell my customers, “my fit is similar too …” but I really would like to go further in exploring this.

  7. sfriedberg says:

    The nominal size on men’s pants is given by waist size and inseam (hem) length. Of course, those two numbers don’t describe body shape much better than “size 6”.

    Some of the larger men’s pants makers have been doing the same as Lane Bryant for quite a while. Levis has about a dozen numbered styles of jeans, many of which are strictly relevant for fit. (Thinking of the 512, 505, 550 and 560 sequence in particular.) Similarly, Dockers has four fits for many of their lines of slacks, keeping other styling features fixed across the fits.

    If you have an equator rather than a waist (like me), you wear Levi’s 560 or Dockers D4. If your silhouette looks like a flagpole, you wear 512 or D1. As a consumer, I didn’t find this too hard to learn, based mostly on manufacturer-provided in-store advertising placards and posters.

  8. Esther says:

    If 80% of sizes were plus sizes…. I naturally think of how that would affect grading. Each size proportionally larger. Then there would be the larger consumption of materials, larger tables for the cutting room and sewing machines, more space for hanging stock. Would we rename our sizes? You’re right, it does make you think of unconventional ideas.

  9. ClaireOKC says:

    This is a tough dilemma for the industry. To change what is already out there would be a major upheaval in a world that already deals with sizing neuroses out the wazoo! For those who know they can’t/don’t find anything in RTW to fit them, then to have change in measurements/sizing would just bring on more controversy. I think it’s probably a problem that will continue no matter what sort of sizing or measurement parameters the industry uses. The real solution is to create garments for each size – not very practical or responsible.

  10. Irene says:

    If plus sizes made up 80% of the market grading and patternmaking would be drastically different…
    My theories:
    -Current plus sizes would be graded closer, probably 1″ grade
    -Current small/standard sizes and plus plus sizes (wherever the 80% bell curve starts to bottom out again, size-wise) would be more like a 1.5″ grade
    -Having different block shapes would be necessary to satisfy customers’ fit requirements… plus sizes vary much more than small sizes in terms of their proportions, which I think is part of why so often the plus sizes are less-fitted styles. if I had to pick three general shapes (though I wouldn’t call them this, I hate these shape-names) I’d say rectangular (smallish bust, minimal waist definition), hourglass (full bust, full hips) and pear (smallish bust, full hips) would be the best. In my experience at least it’s much more rare (though certainly exists) for plus sizes to have large busts and relatively small hips.

    I think where the fitting complaints come from is that the spread of proportions in a size 8 is more tightly clustered (and hence more customers will be satisfied) than the spread of proportions in a size 18. I mean this just in terms of body shapes. I think fit complaints will continue in full force unless/until plus sizes make up a high enough market share that manufacturers feel like it’s worth their while to make multiple shape options per size. Those complaints are certainly understandable but from a financial perspective I think it makes sense that fitted plus sizes are currently a niche market.

    Sorry if I blabbered on long; I was working on grading earlier today so it feels quite topical.
    And Kathleen, it’s embarrassingly late but I just finally ordered your book this morning. I’m excited!

  11. Hi Kathleen. Much of the size controversy lies in the fact that no two manufacturers seem to adhere to the same design or sizing rules. Each designer has his/her own favourite cut, style or ease allowances … all of this even before they get to giving us pattern makers a set of measurements to work to. Then we’ll thrown in a few arbitrary XS, S, M, L etc sizes, petites and so forth. When you consider all of this, I doubt greatly if people will be any more confused than they already are … which they have every right to be.

    As you pointed out, my comments were theoretical, and aimed more to spur students on to consider the reasons behind sizing. The exercise teaches the lesson “ok so you don’t like it, but give me something better!” … which inevitably they can’t, but by the time the lesson is over you find them arguing the case for the current system. It’s an exercise in understanding, not a search for answers :-)

    That said, given the medium sizes constitute such a large percentage of the population, you’d think that half-sizes would be more popular. It’s done for jeans quite frequently (along with long, medium and short inside leg versions). So why isn’t it done for blouses, skirts and dresses?? I could easily justify an Australian size 9, 11 and 13 stuck in between our 8-10-12-14 for example. So are they missing purely because of production costs or are these women truely happy with the fit from existing sizes?

    Of course for those who believe in vanity sizing we could easily establish that those half sizes already exist from another manufacturer but are mislabelled. So from an economics point of view the arguement is also moot … you make the 8-10-12-14 and I’ll make the 7-9-11-13 and we’ll both profit evenly, have no extra production costs (beyond printing some strange labels), and the public will have an increased chance of finding a better fit …. and most of all, if I honestly represent my 7-9-11-13 as such then the average Australian woman would understand it was a half size interval …

    … I’m really thinking about this because if I’m the only person offering only half sizes then theoretically half of the entire fashion market would find a better fit by buying my product. At least theoretically. It’s of course a marketing ploy for someone.

    But do people really want the choice of in between sizes? Do they need it?

    Thanks for listening. As ever I love the conversation. Stuart

  12. OK how about I try to answer the question you actually asked … or was it me that asked the question …

    “If plus sizes made up 80% of the market, how would our sizing systems change?”

    Well by now perhaps you’ll see why my previous post went the direction it did.

    Due to the difficulty of fitting all the shape variations found in larger sizes I believe we’d see a more vigorous trend toward the whole concept of geometric shape analysis. You’ve seen a lot of this type of discussion around the place over the years but it never really gets off the ground because there isn’t significant variation in shape for the smaller sizes (the real 80%).

    Recently a lady asked me what the percentage of each geometric shape was and I replied by asking her to define each geometric shape in mathematical terms so that I could run them against my sets of data. Then we could really see whether geometric shape terms would work if plus sizes made up 80% of the market.

    Care to try to define them? :-) Come on … I know you can’t resist it.

  13. Betty Morgan says:

    This seems to me would have a big effect on the amount of fabric needed to sew the larger sizes. That would change the profit if you could not increase the price. What sort of effect is this having? It isn’t just ego since cost of doing business always matters. You have to follow the market if you want to sell to the masses.

  14. Due to the difficulty of fitting all the shape variations found in larger sizes I believe we’d see a more vigorous trend toward the whole concept of geometric shape analysis.

    Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner!

    However, let’s carry this through to its logical conclusion. For the sake of comparison, in the context of today’s sizing scales, plus sizes (18-20) amount to 10% of the total -in your chart (it’s higher in the U.S.). Now, if we re-designed sizes to shape profiles, those percentages of sales for 18-20 (6.3% & 3.7% respectively) would further splinter according to shape deviations from the mean. Iow, that 3.7% (size 20) would divide into as many as six different shape sub-type (see Istook, pdf) size 20’s or .6% of the total or according to your sample population of 27,000 respondents, 166 people per size sub-type. Even on such a small scale, it quickly becomes obvious that the market is too small to support the considerable expenditure of resources to develop the sizing sub-types of shape derivations in ways consumers would find meaningful.

    You’ve seen a lot of this type of discussion around the place over the years but it never really gets off the ground because there isn’t significant variation in shape for the smaller sizes (the real 80%).

    Agreed. But now let’s turn my points above to the proposal if plus sizes were the 80%. It quickly becomes obvious there is more financial incentive to develop the sizing to shape sub-types because the percentage of customers per profile dramatically increases.

    Now, since obesity is so rampant in the U.S. with 30% obese and another 30% morbidly obese, 60% isn’t so far off of that theoretical 80%. So it could be argued we’re bumping up against that tipping point of developing shape/size sub-types. We’re probably already there.

    Considering that the market does respond to incentives, is it possible pressures exist as well as market responses? Arguably yes to both. Consumer complaints about fitting are unparalleled. So how might market response exist or be developing? Again, I propose this is being done by individual producers who are fitting to a given profile, likely one that matches their own (iow, DEs).

    Rather than doing something silly such as implementing sizing standards (don’t get me started), it’s best that individual producers have a free hand to fit the customers who are attracted to their offerings. Those that do the best job of it will grow. Those that do not will fall by the wayside.

  15. Sandra Bryans says:

    It seems to me that approaching the problem from a geometric shape analysis is what two Australians (Kathy Berry and Lois Hennes) claim to have achieved, and published in a (very expensive) text book, The Fashion Design System. I understand they worked with the department of Anatomy at Adelaide University, and used a body scanner. There are two workshops happening in early Feb, but frustratingly I doubt I can get there.

    I might have to spring for the book, but I’ll try an inter-library loan first :-) Their website seems to be down right now, but I’ve pasted the information from the National Library of Australia’s online catalogue below.

    Author: Berry, Kathy & Hennes, Lois F
    Description Nambour, Qld. : The Fashion Design System, c2008. 482 p. ill. (some col.) ; 31 cm.
    ISBN 9780646500775

    Summary
    This unique fashion resource presents: Current data for the shape of women of the 21st Century, information and knowledge in a self-paced format throughout, colour coded step-by-step scaled diagrams with instructions, how to draft the generic master blocks of bodice, sleeve, skirt and pants, how to draft all additional master blocks from the generic master blocks, how to use the full range of blocks in design, integral topics of basic anatomy, human variation and measurement taking, fashion illustrations, trade drawings and specifications, workroom practices, concepts and processes. (Cover)

    Subjects: Clothing and dress measurements – Computer-aided design. | Tailoring – Pattern design – Computer-aided design. | Fashion – 21 st century. | Dressmaking – Handbooks, manuals, etc

    Also Titled: Pattern engineering for the twenty first century

  16. Stacy says:

    I absolutely agree that overall body sizing is better attained with the Underbust. When doing development for virtual 3D models on the Bernina MyLabel it was better to get our starting point with Underbust and Height. Then all the other measurements are adjusted accordingly. The Bust measurement would then drive the Cup size.

    After many years of grading and developing sizing systems it all comes down to understanding your target market and how many SKU’s you want to manage. You could follow industry standards for sizing or you can make your own. Some questions to consider:
    -What is the smallest and largest person your styles will look BEST in?
    -Do your styles have high tolerence fit (jeans and bras) or easy fitting (knits/loungewear)?
    -How many sizes you want to cut, sew and inventory?
    Then break it down from there. Most small companies can not afford to manage sizing from 0-18. But managing 4-5 sizes is achievable.
    You can tell Walmart and Lane Bryant are answering those questions.

    On the topic of Base pattern fit….again – who is the target market? The Apple Shape woman (Waist and Hip-same measurement or Waist larger than low hip) or the Hour Glass Shapes(Waist smaller than Hips). These 2 shapes represent the Plus Size Market. So if you are going to address this market then YES! you will need to offer 2 different Fits – especially for pants.

    Thanks for opening up discussion on this important topic.

  17. Now, if we re-designed sizes to shape profiles, those percentages of sales for 18-20 (6.3% & 3.7% respectively) would further splinter according to shape deviations from the mean. Iow, that 3.7% (size 20) would divide into as many as six different shape sub-type (see Istook, pdf) size 20’s or .6% of the total

    Precisely. And the reason we haven’t seen a great move toward this as yet. Indeed the only real attempt to break sizes into smaller groups has occurred in jeans and even these are targeted at the middle sizes.

    I’m not a believer in the USA or Australia being generally obese. No country in the world is more fashion or health conscious than the USA. Now don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that the doctors have good numbers to support their arguements, but I really believe the definition of obesity is out of control. I, for example weigh 100kg (220lbs), I’m 6ft tall and very healthy … but I apparently qualify as obese and I assure you I’m not. What you rarely see in these obesity assessments is a set of measurements beyond body fat index. Until I get those measurements I’m going to rely on the data I have that suggests the USA is only one size larger on average than the rest of the world … with Australia sitting nicely on the average. Yes there are some serious obesity problems out there, but I don’t believe (in fashion terms) they make up the large percentages we fear they do.

    I truely do believe, as Kathleen suggests, that we are headed in this direction and we will eventually need to consider the ramifications more practically. I just don’t believe we’re near there yet.

    I haven’t read the Berry and Hennes book yet but if we’re talking the same book then yes this is the one that breaks down fitting into overall geometric shapes inorder to find the appropriate block method for pattern making.

    I’ve always believed that geometric shape is a misleading concept because its so poorly defined. It’s easy to tell a top heavy/bottom heavy hour glass figure from a straight up and down twiggy, but is the inbetween shape a rectangle or an hourglass?? At what point does someone become an hour glass … a B C or D cup (where waist doesn’t change). Is it the statistical halway point (%’s) or a median cup size? This arguement goes for all the shapes.

    Perhaps we might best think in terms of top heavy or not and bottom heavy or not … by treating top seperately from bottom we can suit almost all the shapes. How many women find a skirt perfectly fitting hip with the waist gaping? That’s the percentage we need to look at.

    But geometric shape is two dimensional thinking and poor thinking. Experience has told me that if we turn the bodies sideways we have a whole new set of geometric shapes from hunched to deep sway to arched to square to hourglass all over again … and none of these directly correspond to their front shapes. This also changes the pattern even if the measurements are the same.

    Oh gee I could go on forever here :-)

  18. Rather than doing something silly such as implementing sizing standards (don’t get me started), it’s best that individual producers have a free hand to fit the customers who are attracted to their offerings. Those that do the best job of it will grow. Those that do not will fall by the wayside.

    Ever the practical common sense thinker … I love it!

  19. Miracle says:

    Now, since obesity is so rampant in the U.S. with 30% obese and another 30% morbidly obese, 60% isn’t so far off of that theoretical 80%.

    I read most of your technical analysis, but want to throw this into the argument:

    Consumer behavior.

    You’re making the assumption that the 80% of the population = 80% of the purchasers. When, in reality, you just might find that the bigger people get the less they shop, particularly among the types of categories you cater to (indie designers vs very large manufacturers like Lane Bryant).

    My initial thought (before reading the comment was)

    “What if plus sizes made up 80% of the market?”

    Then everybody would fight that much harder for the 20%.

    After reading your analysis, I still stick to that simply because we know that roughly 60% of Americans (lets just say) are outside sizing norms. And yet major retailers are cutting back plus size departments (or eliminating them entirely or moving them online), and some manufacturers are cutting back (or eliminating) plus size lines. So, even though I hear a lot of stuff from plus sizes about wanting more options more this more that, in every instance where I’ve personally known a DE or retailer to try and cater to the market, the sales weren’t substantial enough to continue.

    So I believe that there is this disconnect between desire and purchase. I believe that has a lot to do with the psychological impact of carrying excess weight and how that affects our clothing shopping habits. I think that you would find mass market retailers like Wal-Mart and such make widespread efforts to cater to geometric sizing, but you would find less adoption among the higher price points.

    The flipside of sizing is fit, and anyone knows that a 14 is different than an 18 which is different than a 24, which means as you keep going up and up in size, there are diminishing returns with good fit. It’s just reality.

    I don’t think it would affect non-plus sized sizing much, though.

  20. I’ll comment on this not from the technical perspective (wish I could) but from the business opportunity perspective.

    At the intimate apparel tradeshows I attend I’ve been asked numerous times if we offer plus sizes (to date we have not). Our styling lends itself to plus, is what people are thinking.

    So several months ago we did a phone survey of what we call our “A-list” target stores — specialty stores we’ve ID’d as good potential fits (scuse the pun) for our product. These are small-ish lingerie shops that carry sleepwear/loungewear in the price range of our product, with other products of the same styling concept. 50% of them (I repeat 50% of them!) carry plus sized apparel.

    So I am eager to add plus sizes to our collection (1x, 2x, 3x)…altho with this crummy economy our product development budget is TIGHT so it might have to wait awhile…

  21. Consumer behavior.

    You’re making the assumption that the 80% of the population = 80% of the purchasers. When, in reality, you just might find that the bigger people get the less they shop.

    So I believe that there is this disconnect between desire and purchase. I believe that has a lot to do with the psychological impact of carrying excess weight and how that affects our clothing shopping habits.

    Yours are good points (emphasis is mine). I would think it is indisputably true that the heavier one gets, the less they shop but I don’t know of anything quantifiable to prove it. We should get the academics on that and do a study.

    Turning that around tho, there’s a lot of push back from consumers, anti-thin sentiment and the whole fat acceptance movement continues to grow. I am surprised at how much heavier the actors/actresses in the commercials are. I don’t watch TV often so maybe that’s why I may notice it more. Push back on the fat acceptance movement seems to be from young men (the anti fat acceptance movement). I did read a study not too long ago about increased anxiety over eating disorders but it’s bizarre because eating disorders have been steadily decreasing. Markedly even. Point is, will consumer consumption increase once being overweight is more accepted? I’m guessing it won’t. Not appreciably.

    I think that you would find mass market retailers like Wal-Mart and such make widespread efforts to cater to geometric sizing, but you would find less adoption among the higher price points… Then everybody would fight that much harder for the 20%.

    Just an observation here, not sure it’s true but I’m wondering if (speaking of fighting for that 20%) if the designer/bridge market is over-saturated.

    Wealthier people are thinner so you you’ll find less adoption in higher price points. Likewise, their lifestyles require more varied and expensive attire for their range of activities and opportunities. The high end of the market has a higher percentage of thinner people than the mean. It would only make sense that lower end retailers are more likely to adopt varied sizing to shape because a greater percentage of their customer base is overweight; are they at 70% now? More? Iow, that theoretical 80% plus size market is still going to be weighted toward the lowest end of the social economic strata. More so now with the economy in the tank. With the tightening of credit and lay offs, I’d next expect sales of high end handbags to decline a lot. Previously with easy credit, overweight women could signal with designer bags even if they couldn’t buy the clothes.

  22. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Yes, generally the wealthier people are thinner, but I was super poor for years and I’m a stick. Well, I was, but I’m a size 8 now. I never got over 100 pounds till I was out of high school and was a size 0/1.

    I found a height-weight chart here: http://www.shwedarling.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/height-weight-chart.gif

    It has 3 body frame sizes and ideal weights for heights for both men and women. Sorry, non-Americans, it is only in feet, inches, and pounds. Note that these things are ideal and probably very arbitrary. Who figured out these charts anyway? According to it, Stuart, you’re just a little above your ideal weight, which doesn’t mean obese.

    While clothing can look good on thinner models, it doesn’t need to be on the size 0 model who is obviously emaciated. It can be on someone with more meat on her bones. But why do they always seem to have no bust? Plenty of thin women have a bust and I’ve seen bigger women with small busts, so ???

  23. nowaks nähkästchen says:

    If plus sizes made up 80% of the market…
    nothing would change at all.

    I may be pessimistic, but even plus sized and obese people (I think there are differences…. a size 18 or 20 is stil something else than a 36 and a size 18 on an wiman that is 1.80 m long is different from a 18 on a woman 1.55m short) have to buy clothes. As long as no one offers something different or better from what is offered now… they will still buy. Just because they cannot go naked. (And this may be a reason why they don’t spend a lot of money on clothes…. why should you if everything you get is boring, tent shaped and ill fitting?)

    On the contrary I could imagine if a big company (I don’t know who in the US is big in selling clothes) would introduce a better fitting system (and interesting fashionable designs) and the customers would start to shop there and not at the other shops… then they might consider to change something.

    But otherwise… change is something that most companies (and probably also most humans) try to avoid. There is always a risk in it and risks are to be avoided.

  24. Betsy Johnson says:

    While wealthier people do tend to be thinner, I have noticed a change among them too, particularly among their children. It is now common for children to be somewhat overweight when their parents are not. At a private beach populated by wealthier people, I not seen people in the morbidly obese range, but have seen many teenage/young adult girls all wearing bikinis, even though their weight would have precluded bikinis 20 years ago. Seeing this makes me think that the weight point at which richer people keep buying clothes has gone up.

  25. Barb Taylorr says:

    It seems to me most obvious thing that would change if 80% of the population wore plus sizes is the DESIGNS, and sample sizes we show. I expect part of the reason for the disproportion between the percentage of large people in the country vs. the large sizes we sell, is that many styles were never designed to look good on bigger people.

  26. Miracle says:

    Point is, will consumer consumption increase once being overweight is more accepted? I’m guessing it won’t. Not appreciably.

    I don’t think the problem is with being overweight, I think the problem is when people start teetering on obesity. People say “better fit” but there is a point beyond which better fit is almost irrelevant, it won’t look the way it looks on a 12/14. So my thinking is even when you have more money, will you buy MORE clothes that don’t really look good on you? I think that’s why you see more purchases with accessories and shoes.

  27. Dorothy Klein says:

    I would like to hear from children’t apparel specialists as to whether distribution of sizes among that market has changed in the last 15 years. It would be especially interesting to hear from those dealing in children’s school uniforms. All children are supplied with clothing by their caretakers. Their size changes more rapidly and frequently than adults sizes do in a comparative time period. Perhaps there are more thin than overweight children in rich households/perhaps not. But since many schools have embraced uniforms as a social equalizer, perhaps actual historical data from these sources mayplus shed some light as to whether or when plus sizes comprise 80% of the market.

  28. Betsy Johnson says:

    As a shopping mother with kids over a range of years, I have seen a great change in sizing. Many more children’s clothes are available in slim, regular and plus for each size. The hidden button elastic waists in many pants allow each size to cover a greater range of measurements than they used to.

    My children range from 2T to 14-16. In older hand-me-down clothes from 10 years ago, they wear regulars. In current clothes of the same brands, my normal (slender not skinny) children are well below the size chart weight range for the slims. We find the situation worse in larger sizes.

    I tried to meet my children’s school dress code requirements this year with Land’s End clothes. Unfortunately, by the time we cinched up the slims enough that they wouldn’t fall off, they looked silly.

    I’m looking at the Land’s End school uniform website, in big girl pants and shorts, they have 12 styles in slim, 18 styles in regular and 14 styles in plus. The slims cover what would have been regulars a few years ago, and the regulars would have been plus. The change has already happened and Land’s End is producing clothes for the overweight majority of children.

  29. Dorothy Klein says:

    I had a feeling we were already, and have been for a good while in a market where the majority of clothing wearers (not just purchasers) are larger-sized. Given the current variation of children’s biomorphics, the large-size market can only rise exponentially. The apparel industry must remove pre-conceived value judgments regarding obesity, health, and biomorphic variety from production-oriented decision making. If you don’t want to work on large sizes, go to a skinny market, but don’t complain about market density issues. And if you want to look down on fat people, go ahead. Just don’t ask the rest of the apparel industry to join you.
    If the larger-size market doesn’t spend as much on clothes as the small-size market, perhaps there are market-driven reasons. Due to all of the above-noted factors (population size per geographic shape, top-heavy+/-bottom- heavy, torso and extremity length variations), large-size structured clothing is a “stab in the dark” as far as fit is concerned. Therefore, the current large-size client is often choosing from shapeless oversized garments (which are worn by a large market segment) lacking in style.
    Why can’t the “suit showroom” business model be used for women’s as well as men’s fine apparel? Why can’t women choose from alterable, coordinating dresses and separates that can be fitted to them at the store? Don’t women demonstrate as great a figure variety as men? Wouldn’t this type of business model benefit all sizes of women?

  30. Betsy Johnson says:

    Out of curiosity, I took an imaginary average height girl 9 years 10 months (49th percentile for height) and used the CDC BMI percentile calculator apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx to check the BMI percentile for various weights.

    With a BMI in the 24th percentile, she would be too slim for a Land’s End size slim and would not fit Land’s End clothes.
    With a BMI in the 63rd percentile, she would wear a 10 slim.
    With a BMI in the 87th percentile, she would wear a 10 regular.
    With a BMI in the 95th percentile, she would wear a 10 plus.

    I find it interesting to see the difference between the weight distribution in the population used to create the government charts at the time they were created and the weight distribution in Land’s End customers.

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