Why Women's Fashion Is Becoming Size-Inclusive & How to Ride the Trend

Why Women's Fashion Is Becoming Size-Inclusive and How to Ride the Trend | MakersValley Blog
Chastiny Walker

Chastiny Walker

For years, fashion has been one of the key ways that women express themselve​​s. Womenswear fashion brands in particular have progressed over the years in having models of different backgrounds, shapes, and sizes, however, for many years this was not the case. American fashion and beauty standards for female identifying persons were narrow-minded, leaving no room to showcase all types of beauty; however, a new generation of people with a different mindset is now allowing equal opportunity representation in the fashion world to grow.

Plus-Size Models Shift the Conversation

plus size models togetherYear after year, consumers have observed the trend of womenswear fashion brands only hiring thin models for their print ads and runway shows. While “thin is still in”, a new movement has risen, and plus-size models are in too. And by the looks of the trends, social media chatter, and resulting fashion brand sentiment, it seems that they are here for good.

Models have appeared everywhere in the media for decades. America's Next Top Model was one of America's most popular modeling shows in the early aughts. In 2013, during the show’s tenth season, Whitney Thompson made ANTM show history as the first plus-size model contestant. Even though Whitney Thompson did not go on to become a household name like Ashley Graham, one could say that she walked so that Ashley, Barbie Ferriera, and Precious Lee could run.

When Ashley Graham began her rise to fame in 2016, many people were excited about her rocking a two-piece bathing suit on the cover of Sports Illustrated. For the most part, women of different sizes loved that Ashley was putting the spotlight on a different type of female form.

So why did it still take so long for plus-size models to gain traction?

Why Diversity Matters in Fashion

plus-sized woman in bathing suit

Thin models have been the female beauty standard worldwide for centuries. The rationale was best captured by a controversial statement from Abercrombie and Fitch’s one-time CEO Mike Jeffries who stated that he,"...doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people." While some still argue that skinny models allow clothing to drape better, the subtext falls in line with Jefferies’ statement and equates thinness to beauty and worth. 

While this mentality is fortunately mid-shift, the path to where we are now is littered with many tragic stories. This practice of having thin models sent an unhealthy message to young people, and in some cases triggered mental health struggles with depression and eating disorders.

Luckily, years of backlash over a lack of size and inclusivity in fashion have had an impact. Torrid, a women’s plus-size clothing store, has solidly broken the stereotype that bigger women aren’t as profitable as thinner or medium-size women. The brand’s latest valuation at the 2021 launch of their IPO sat at a cool $2.5 billion.

Opportunity still exists in the plus-size market for other womenswear brands, if only they choose not to repeat the mistakes of past brands and manufacturers that skipped over the importance of material, sizing, and using influencers to reach the plus-size target customer.

3 Ways Womenswear Brands Can Earn Plus-Size Customers

1. Start with the Fabric and Materials

clothes made in fabric with textureMaterial is essential when looking for clothing because different bodies find different fabrics comfortable. Plus-size women usually look for clothing material that has stretch, breathability, and sometimes a loser fit. Below are some materials that plus-size women tend to prefer.

2. But, What About Sizing?

Different brands have different ways of sizing their clothing. Brands like Arizona Jean Company, for example, have continuously updated their clothing sizes. In fact, one pair of their size nine jeans might not fit like the last pair of size nine jeans an individual customer may have purchased. That's a risky strategy to take on.

Being inclusive when it comes to different size bodies is essential to the fashion brand, the retailer, and the end customer. Being consistent with sizing allows individual customers to pick up an item without trying it on which can make or break a sale, especially as e-commerce occupies a larger and larger piece of fashion sales each year. On the other hand, adding more sizes allows a larger number of people to buy from the brand and gives shoppers of different sizes the chance to feel beautiful and comfortable in the items that they wear from your clothing line.

3. How Influencers Influence

YouTube reviews

Lastly, fashion brands can improve by getting influencers or real people to model and review their clothing. YouTube is a massive platform for many influencers who test and review different clothing brands. These types of reviews allow people to see what the brand offers, especially as it regards factors of premium importance to the plus-size customer like comfort, sizing, material – plus, how the influencer felt overall about the item. Encouraging or reaching out to influencers for them to review your clothing brand can often turn hesitant prospects into quick sales.

Overall, womenswear fashion brands have come a long way, but still have work to do on diversifying model casting and improving size inclusivity. However, continuing down the path of allowing plus-size women to model your products will enable other plus-size women to feel confident shopping and sharing your brand. In addition, putting plus-size women in the spotlight shows customers of all types that your brand is for each and every one of them. 

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