A greyscale photo of clothing and footwear on shelves

Sizing Remains a Major Hurdle for Gender-Neutral Apparel

Gender-neutral apparel is here to stay, but as brands break down the gender barriers in fashion, how will they address the issue of sizing?

As the years go by, the importance of gender expression has gained considerable momentum, and the lines between men's and women's fashion have continued to grow blurrier. Many of the wardrobe staples we enjoy today could easily be worn by our male or female counterparts without anyone blinking an eye, and the emergence of a more casual (sweatpants-ridden) daily wardrobe due to the pandemic has only accelerated this effect. Does this mean that all apparel is headed for a gender-neutral future? That's yet to be seen, but that hasn't stopped gender-neutral apparel from carving out a strong niche within the world of fashion. There remains one noticeably large elephant in the room, however, and that's the issue of sizing and fit.

The Gender-Neutral Style and Fit

People wearing gender-neutral apparel

When most people think of gender-neutral apparel, images of oversized, neutral-tone hoodies and basketball shorts immediately come to mind. While this image has been projected into our minds by fashion icons like Billie Eilish, most modern, gender-neutral brands reject this style and are introducing more diverse options into their collections. For these brands, truly gender-neutral apparel doesn't result in an amalgamation of men's and women's clothing; it means refining existing styles to fit the bodies of any gender.

Loose-fitting khakis on women and crop-tops worn by men are just a few notable examples of how gender-neutral apparel brands are moving beyond the cliche "gender-neutral" designs of old. However, as gender-neutral brands improve product diversity, they must ensure that their sizing strategy is up to the task. After all, if the product doesn't provide a flattering fit across the gender spectrum, can it truly be considered gender-neutral?

Endless Body Diversity

Traditional unisex apparel took a "one size fits most" approach to sizing and fit, but when we take a look into the body diversity that lies on the gender spectrum, it's evident that this approach will not work for gender-neutral apparel. Upon pulling body scan data from WAIR's database, our team was able to identify a few average differences in measurements between those who identify as male and those who identify as female (in America) and found that:

  • Men are on average 5.4 inches taller than women.
  • Women weigh on average 30lbs less than men.
  • Chest size varies by 3 inches between men and women, with men averaging 42 inches around and women at 40 inches.
  • Waist size varies by 2 inches between men and women, with men averaging 38 inches and women at 36 inches.
The average body dimensions of males and females in America

As we can see, there is significant variance in height and weight between the genders, as well as a noticeable difference in chest and waist measurements. Gender-neutral apparel brands will need to take this body shape diversity into account during both the product creation process and during the development of their sizing strategy.

As we have seen from many eCommerce apparel brands, creating a concise and reliable sizing solution is a difficult feat. While most brands tend to rely on size charts and model dimensions in the absence of a physical fitting room, the outlandishly high eCommerce return rates for apparel tell the whole story; these methods aren’t working. It's for this very reason that apparel brands have become enamored with virtual fitting room technology (like WAIR), as these methods give shoppers absolute clarity on how each garment will fit their unique bodies.                                            

An Inventory Nightmare

An inventory manager forecasting orders for gender-neutral apparel

As if getting shoppers into their best-fitting products wasn’t difficult enough, gender-neutral apparel brands also have significant inventory-based hurdles in their path. Vast size runs (everything from XXS-XXXL) will need to be stocked in each product to ensure brands can readily offer products that fit the body dimensions of their diverse shopper bases. These requirements are likely to result in significant inventory costs, making order forecasting an even more critical step in maintaining a brand's profitability.

This becomes an even greater issue when seasonality is taken into account. Inventory costs and stocking requirements will make continuous seasonal collections simply infeasible for smaller brands which, as a result, will be forced to rely on wardrobe staples as their primary revenue stream.

New Shopper Apprehension

An eCommerce shopper pondering reasons to convert or not. Conversion rates

Many gender-neutral apparel brands are not benefitting from external funding and do their best to manufacture their products using ethical production practices. These factors all add up when it comes to sticker price, making many gender-neutral collections much pricier than their gender-focused counterparts.

When faced with such prices, a routine resupply of one's basics becomes a high-involvement purchase, amplifying fears of ordering the wrong size, color, or style. Without clear guidance on the previously mentioned factors, shoppers are highly likely to abandon the purchase altogether, a worst-case scenario for the brand in question.

Does a sizing Solution For All Bodies Even Exist?

When we observe these glaring roadblocks currently undermining the potential of gender-neutral fashion, there is an interloping theme that connects them all, a lack of clarity on shopper body dimensions. This is an ongoing issue throughout the entire apparel industry, and the ramifications of a poor sizing strategy have proven to be significant.

While it can be tempting to follow other brands by relying on custom size charts and model dimensions to address this problem, the only way for brands to gain true insight into their shopper's bodies is through modern sizing solutions.

Size Recommendation for the WAIR Fit Advisor for female users

Take WAIR as an example. Our virtual fitting room platform is built atop the world's largest and fastest-growing database of 3D body scans taken from real people across the globe. We use this data to align each unique shopper with the body scan that best matches their specific body dimensions, ultimately providing them with a personalized and accurate size recommendation.

Beyond size recommendations, WAIR also captures unique shopper body data during the sizing experience. We then relay this data into powerful insights dashboards to help brands capitalize on this information through inventory optimization, targeted marketing, improved product design, and much more.

With these solutions at their disposal, gender-neutral apparel brands can easily overcome sizing and inventory hurdles by shaping their eCommerce strategies around the bodies of their shoppers.

Breaking the Sizing Barrier to Success

Gender-neutral apparel is officially here to stay, but for it to truly succeed, brands are going to need a bit of help in the sizing department. As the apparel industry continues to move past traditional sizing methods, brands will have access to readily-available sizing solutions that will prove vital in optimizing their eCommerce strategies around the bodies of their shoppers.

Are you ready to unlock the true potential of your brand with WAIR? Schedule a demo here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for all your fashion content needs!

Related Blog Posts