An interesting controversy on the sizing of apparel for the eco market has surfaced on a discussion list I belong to; that of the business members of Co-op America. There were three elements to the discussion that I thought would be worth discussing here:
- Appropriateness of unisex sizing
- Typical size ranges and availability of given (out) sizes
- A specific fitting defect
While many thought unisex sizing was a good strategy to hit both sides of the market (men’s and women’s apparel), others disliked it. The most common reason cited was poor fit.
I won’t wear unisex shirts because frankly, they add about 25 pounds to my appearance and turn all my curves into flabby cylinders. I give all the unisex t-shirts I get to my boyfriend.
…many times women’s t shirts ARE cut differently, slimmer through the waist and shoulders, more form fitting, not that this should cost more just that it would make it more of a challenge to label all t-shirts unisex. Even though I am not a skinny minnie, I still like a bit of a tailor in my t-shirts, not skin tight but some shape, not just a box.
A retailer said
The trouble with a unisex shirt is that Men’s shirts are usually longer and have that “beefy-t” look which women don’t especially care for. I’ve been through every manufacturer and the only way to get it right is to have a custom shirt.
Generally, I dislike unisex sizing. I summarized my arguments by saying:
…men have their center of gravity in the chest and items are cut accordingly. Women are just supposed to live with it. Paradoxically, how come unisex proponents don’t suggest we cut bottoms with unisex sizing? That’s because women have their center of gravity there, the waist to fork is longer and it won’t fit any men, other than the corpulent “over belly” guys. How come women are supposed to acquiesce and buy unisex apparel (sized for men) but producers would never assume men would buy unisex sized apparel designed for women?
Generally, the unisex sizing strategy is a cost reduction strategy. There’s nothing wrong with saving money, but I think there’s better ways to do it. No one is fooled by that. I mean, if it’s actually sized to fit men (and it is), just say so, be honest. Those women who readily buy men’s sized apparel will continue to do so.
I pulled my punches considering the audience but as you know, have little compunction about doing so here. I worked for a company that did some unisex jackets. I thought it would have been more honest to add sizes at the low end of the size range for women who might buy them but they’re weren’t flattering. Also, it mattered that this company would only buy zippers in two lengths (!) so the jackets were always too long. In the end, they dropped them, the concept didn’t go over well. That’s not to say it wouldn’t work for you.
I think I’ll save the next section, size ranges and availability of given (out) sizes for another entry. I did an interview that’ll have some bearing on the topic which would make this entry too long. In advance of that, if you have any questions about sizing for the eco market, leave those in comments. Also, if you’ve been producing a few seasons, I might like to interview you.