It's Time We Had a Conversation About Fit
Clothes shopping has always been a struggle for me. I am just over 5 feet tall, and depending on the year and brand I’m trying on, I could be a “plus size” or not. According to a 2013 survey by ModCloth, I'm not the only one because half of US women today wear a combination of plus size and straight size clothes.
I grew up in a small, remote town and the nearest big-name clothes stores were a Sears and a Montgomery Ward. They were a two-hour drive away and there was no internet. The larger sizes I had to wear back then were called “Chubbies” and “Pretty Plus” at those stores. Some of you might remember how awful these clothing line names were.
From an early age, the annual Labor Day weekend pilgrimage to Sears and Ward's for new school clothes filled me with both dread (will anything fit me today?) and excitement (maybe something cute will fit me today!). Since then, I’ve grown up, gotten comfortable with myself, and now know what clothes work best for my shape and stature. But to this day, the same two feelings of dread and excitement punctuate the beginning of any shopping trip I make. I am now just more conscious of all the time wasted on a fruitless shopping trip.
Despite the lack of options when I was younger, there was one aspect to shopping that actually seemed better back then. The sizes made more sense. We all basically knew what we were getting with the numbered sizing from brand to brand, even if we knew the clothes wouldn’t fit us.
Clothes shopping now is a crap shoot.
Today we as consumers are presented with a vast array of clothing in stores. The appearance of an overwhelming set of options can make us think that finding clothes that fit would be easier. On the contrary, it seems harder than it used to be. Clothes shopping now is a crap shoot for nearly everyone. Online or in a store, it doesn’t matter. We never really know what we’re going to get until we try it on. According to the National Institute of Standards in Technology (Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce), since the 1980’s brands have treated their sizing methods as proprietary, meaning that there are no real standards and they all do things in their own ways. What the industry forgets is that this practice helps absolutely no one discover, try on, or purchase clothes.
We consumers are starting to talk about this more openly because the current state of affairs places a great burden on us to sift through clothing options to find what works. I loved this video from BuzzFeed that showed two women trying on jeans in the same size in different brands, or this post on the same theme. Both pieces showed what real women go through out in the wild. These posts quickly became among the top-viewed on BuzzFeed, generating millions of views.
We are not alone.
More than the posts themselves, what fascinated me most about these media pieces was how eager women viewers/readers were to comment and share their own experiences. If you were to dive into the hundreds of comments on those BuzzFeed pieces or even on this article from the New York Times, you would see several clear comment themes:
- The struggle is real and I have the same problem
- Have you tried Brand X or Brand Y – they always fit me.
- That’s why I won’t even go into a Brand Z store
- You’re beautiful, and don’t let a bad shopping experience convince you otherwise!
So, by now you know that I am a woman who doesn’t like to shop and I’m attuned to other women with fit and style challenges. I’m as frustrated as anyone, but I am also a problem-solver. Once I saw this phenomenon of women helping each other in more social media posts, I began to imagine what it would be like to have a central place for these conversations so everyone who was stuck or even happy to have found “her brand” would have a place to go. I imagined that instead of beginning an online shopping quest by Googling “pants for curvy petite women” and sifting through page after page of ads, perhaps I could simply ask a bunch of other curvy petite women what they liked to wear?
What do you think? If any of this resonates with you, let me know in the comments below. It's time we had a conversation about fit.
Clarissa Cooper of Portland OR is the founder of WeFiTMe, an online community of like-bodied women helping each other find clothes that fit. Clarissa has over 30 years of experience in the women’s apparel industry as a CONSUMER, as well as a background in finance in the energy industry.
Image: Death to Stock Photos