Seriously think about it, why isn’t women’s clothing sized like men’s? I don’t want arguments saying we should, I want you to ponder thoughtfully why we are not. Consider the ramifications of it through the whole chain -from your design conceptualization- to display at retail.
There is a now obscure school of (economic) thought called functionalism. It holds that a condition or situation can only exist if it is functional for someone. How has failing to size women’s clothing like men’s been functional? Here are some suggestions for thought:
Idea #1: Women’s clothing manufacturers tend to be much smaller than men’s wear producers. Why would this matter?
- It matters because women’s producers do not have the resources to make pants (for example) in the variety of sizes (minimally 90, yes, 90 sizes) that would be required in accordance with the expectations there are for men’s clothing.
Idea #2: Women’s clothing is trendier. Why does this matter?
- It matters because styles change more often and trends age quickly. Meaning you could have a lot of inventory aging on the shelf that is returned (most department stores require an 85% sell through or you have to take it back) if the buyer chooses the wrong size mix. Men’s wear changes very slowly; the same style Dockers on the shelf is replenished, not changed from season to season 4 to 8 times a year like women’s clothing.
- It matters because trendy women’s clothing is riskier. Men’s firms have less risk so they can grow larger (to attain those economies of scale to make all those sizes).
Idea #3: Retail display and merchandizing, why does this matter?
- It matters because tops and bottoms in women’s styles are coordinated to match. If you size like menswear there is no neat way to display 5- 9 sizes (for example) of bottoms for every style of top, they will have to be separated. This means the way you design will have to change, no more coordinated style or color stories because you’ll be making separates that will have to cross merchandize with other product lines in the market place.
- It matters because production and purchasing of women’s clothing lots are smaller per style, there isn’t enough product of a given style to fill retail display cubbies (you’ll have to go to cubbies for all those sizes). You will have to share cubby space with other brands -an anathema. When have you ever seen Levi’s and Dockers sharing the same space? And they’re owned by the same company.
- It matters because shoppers will now be annoyed if you don’t produce tops and bottoms in their size. They will say you’re myopic, blind, stupid or whatever because every given individual knows they are an appreciable slice of the market and you’re either ignoring or discriminating against them.
An alternative strategy to get your thinking going: women’s bras are sized by measurements and it seems to work fine (or not?). How is the market for women’s non-intimate apparel different from bras? The only hint I will give you is that there are similarities between bras and men’s slacks. What are those?
Please seriously think about this with your designer -not consumer- hat on. Think of all the limitations this would impose on your bottom line, the costs associated with producing a much larger line, its distribution, display at retail et cetera. It is only through teasing out the problem that we can arrive at tentative solutions -ideas for which I’ll include in my next post. Thanks everybody! And be nice and look smart. The NPR crowd will be heading over here soon.