The average American woman is a size 14

Full Figures, Front and Center- AshleyGraham This might not be brand-newinformation to many of the U.S.women who wear a size 14 — thelowest end of the plus-size spectrum— or larger, but only in the past fewyears has the fashion industry at largeseemed to be taking note? Eager tograb profits with a piece of the plus-size pie, straight~size youth—orientedbrands such as H&M and Forever21have added collections for full-figuredShoppers in the past 18 months, andeloquii, owned by The Limited andlaunched online in late 2011, wasbuilt from the ground up to appeal to the modern professional plus-size woman. In 2012, the $7.5 billion plus-size apparel industry reaped nearly $664 million in profits,and the market grew 2.2 percent from 2007 to 2012, according to market research firmwww.5tatista.com to its 4834 women-s— lus—size-a arel-market-in-the—us with $9.8 billion in revenue in 2019 it is a big market. Yet although there were 6,019plus-size apparel stores operating in the United States last year, 62 percent of plus-sizewomen say they have a hard time finding the styles they want, and 56 percent aredisappointed with quality, saying plus-size fashions often aren’t executed at the level ofstraight-size designs, reports NPD, a market research company. What’ 5 more, says NPD,most full—figured women — 79 percent — are looking for apparel in the same trend4 forward styles their regular-sized friends are wearing, and more than a third preferbrands that specifically serve the plus-size shopper. while shapeless muumuus, caftans, and black stretchy garments long have beensynonymous with “plus-size,” lately brands and retailers designing for the full-figuredwoman have started to catch up to the dizzying breadth of styles and designscommonly offered in straight sizes. Much of this progress is due to advances in fittechnology, says Ed Gribbin, the president of fit expert firm Alvanon. While the ASTMstandard for the American female form was updated several times from 1942 to 1994,the basic shape — the classic hourglass figure — never changed. Unfortunately, thatfailed to reflect the true diversity of female forms in the American population, whichAlvanon discovered when it began body scanning and documenting actual consumershapes roughly 10 years ago. “The data has told us over the years that there is greater body diversity among theplus-size population,” Gribbin explains. “With a size 20 or 22 or 24, people carry thatbody mass in different ways based on ethnicity, diet and lifestyle, and activity level, sosome are very prone to projecting body mass in the front of body and others project inthe back. There are also extreme variations of musculatures — some women with verylarge arms or very large thighs. Others have very small arms and small legs, which don’tmatch up with their torso measurements.” It’s this body diversity that tends to scare off straight-size brands that arecomfortable designing for more predictable variations in body shape. “The problem isthat the industry wants to make as few sizes as possible,” explains Gribbin. “There’sthe rub. They say, ‘We’re all for plus sizes, but we’ll just do 1X, 2X, 3X and call it aday.‘ They want to make sizes as democratic as possible.” The bottom line thismarket creates challenges for designers that impact efficiency and costs. Successful brands serving plus sizes don’t offerjust one type of top and bottom — theycreate multiple shape-enhancing silhouettes. “If they balance line planning and theirmerchandise mix, these retailers can have a democratic product mix that speaks tomany plus-size shoppers,” adds Gribbin. Unapologetic, sexy, sassy and delicious “Beauty is an experience,” says Vuliya Raquel, founder of San Francisco-based plus-sizebrand IGIGI which has been designing exclusively for full—figured women sizes 12 to 32since 1998 and is known for its flattering dresses and gowns. “It has nothing to do withheight, weight, age, skin tone or length of legs.”

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