A plus-size shopper browsing a coat rack

Bringing Sizeless Commerce to Plus-Size Apparel

Although most shoppers now fall into the plus-size category, shopping for plus-size apparel remains exceedingly difficult and burdensome.

Human bodies are incredibly diverse; it's a fact that should be celebrated, not shunned, so why is shopping for plus-size clothing still exceedingly difficult? For years, plus-size shoppers have been forced to explore obscure corners of department stores or spend hours searching online for clothing that (hopefully) compliments their unique figure. It's an overall burdensome process that vastly dilutes the enjoyment most "average-bodied" people get when shopping for apparel.

With that said, not all hope is lost. Advances in sizing and fit technology combined with promising entrepreneurial efforts have signaled a potentially significant, positive change for the plus-size shopping experience, but are these steps in the right direction adequate?

Plus-Size vs. Size-Inclusive vs. Straight Size

Many women locking arms to show both friendship and body diversity

When we talk about plus-size clothing, it is essential to clarify what plus-sizing clothing truly is. Plus-size is defined as any size above a size 16, a category which, surprisingly, 67% of women in America fall into. Straight size is defined as any size from 0-16 and is considered the "standard," while size-inclusive (interestingly) does not follow a specific size category; rather, it is the extension of a brand's existing styles into the realm of plus-size. While plus-size and straight-size garments are relatively commonplace, few brands engage in size-inclusive apparel. 

Why do these classifications matter? True plus-size collections pale in comparison to their straight-sized counterparts in appearance, selection, and fit, which is especially troublesome since the garment that initially attracted the plus-size shopper to the brand may not even be available in their size. These issues are not confined to basics. Plus-size options are nearly nonexistent for categories such as luxury and purpose-built activewear as well. It's an interesting scenario because even though 67% of American women are considered plus-size, they are treated as the minority, an obscure corner of fashion not worth exploring.

Fast Fashion Isn't Great, But It's the Only Option

A woman shopping for plus-size apparel but unsatisfied with the options

Because selection is so sparse, many plus-size shoppers have resorted to fast fashion, which only continues to perpetuate its environmentally harmful effects on the planet. Obviously, plus-size shoppers cannot be held to the same sustainability standards as their straight-size counterparts, but that doesn't mean that sustainable clothing brands should turn a blind eye to this issue. By not including plus-sizes into the size pool of sustainable fashion, these shoppers are being actively excluded from the same movement that claims to have strong foundations in inclusivity and equal representation.

It's Not as Easy as Just Making Bigger Clothing

Apparel designers creating plus-size apparel

Contrary to popular belief, making plus-size clothing isn't as simple as just making existing designs bigger. There are a wide variety of different body shapes that brands need to account for during the design process to ensure that sizing and fit are up to par. Despite this, there seems to be this notion that plus-size is immediately synonymous with a pear-shaped body which couldn't be further from the truth.

It's painstakingly apparent when clothing designed for smaller bodies has simply been made larger; the product doesn't fit right, it doesn't flatter; the best definition for this clothing is shapeless or frumpy. The reason why simply sizing up doesn't work is that body diversity even within highly targeted groups can be significant, and brands that lack knowledge of the body types of their shoppers cannot truly create clothing explicitly made for these shoppers.

With most plus-size clothing options remaining online, plus-sized shoppers are also at a heightened disadvantage when it comes to product impressions and sizing. Even with the continuous rise of eCommerce, brands still have trouble accurately portraying a product through the pixels on a screen, with issues such as color, shape, and fit remaining persistent. Considering the aforementioned issues, brands looking to curate a shopping experience that celebrates body diversity have their work cut out for them.

To the credit of brands, making plus-size fashion isn't necessarily easy or cheap. Implementing a plus-size line can easily require the resources needed to release several seasons' worth of products, which is simply infeasible for many brands. However, for those with existing plus-size collections or start-ups looking to provide some much-needed diversity in the wardrobes of plus-size shoppers, there are solutions available that enhance the plus-size shopping experience.

Perfecting Sizing and Fit is a Crucial First Step

A Nomads Swimwear plus-size model

As previously mentioned, sizing and selection are the primary hurdles that plus-size shoppers encounter during their journey. While selection will gradually improve as brands realize the opportunities within plus-size apparel, sizing is an issue that requires a more immediate remedy; that remedy is modern sizing solutions.

At their core, modern sizing solutions were created to provide online shoppers with their best-fitting products without them ever having to use a measuring tape, take pictures of themselves, or submit any personal information. In the absence of a physical fitting room, modern sizing solutions provide unparalleled confidence in sizing and fit, which eCommerce shoppers often lack when purchasing apparel online.

Take WAIR as an example. Our sizing solution is built atop the world's largest and fastest-growing database of 3D body scans, encompassing over 3 million unique scans to date. WAIR leverages this data to predict the precise body dimensions of each shopper and align them with the body scan that matches their body shape. On the backend, WAIR also factors in the designer's intended fit of the garment to ensure both a flattering and comfortable fit for the shopper every time. This process is overall exceedingly seamless but amazingly accurate.

WAIR's value add, however, does not end with size recommendations; as shoppers use our sizing tool to order their best-fitting products, their unique body data is seamlessly captured in the background. WAIR takes this information and relays it into powerful dashboards that help brands gain enhanced clarity on the body types of their core shopper base. When brands obtain this valuable information, it opens up a plethora of benefits, including inventory optimization, improved product designs, targeted marketing by body type, and much more!

A great example of a plus-size brand benefitting from WAIR's solutions is Nomads Swimwear. Nomads realized that an overwhelming amount of their support tickets were for sizing guidance and wanted a seamless way to communicate sizing to their shoppers. After implementing WAIR's sizing solutions onto their eCommerce site, their shoppers have become enamored with the simplicity and accuracy of WAIR, and the collected body data has been integral in shaping Nomads' eCommerce strategy.

As eCommerce continues to dominate the plus-size shopping experience and brands yearn for shopper insights, modern sizing solutions like WAIR will continue to pioneer in the future of sizeless commerce. A future where shoppers, regardless of body size or shape, can shop with confidence, knowing they will receive clothing that will fit their unique bodies every time.

The Future of Plus-Size Fashion is Brighter Than You May Think

Simply put, everybody deserves to wear clothing that makes them both comfortable and confident. Current sizing and selection hurdles have undoubtedly bogged down the rise of plus-size apparel. Still, with growing sentiment around body positivity and the appearance of modern sizing solutions, it will not be long before this vastly unappreciated market truly begins to flourish.

Eager to learn how WAIR can transform your eCommerce brand through sizing? Schedule a demo here, and be sure to follow us on TwitterInstagram , LinkedIn, and Facebook for all your fashion content needs!

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