What Size Are Conscious Consumers Actually?

A vicious cycle happens in fashion – most new brands don’t have a customer base to develop sizes with so they turn to “standard size” guides for their patterns (which are surprisingly often based on sizing that was developed decades ago – some drafting manuals used today actually date back to the 70s and 80s!). Then because they only produce a limited size range designed for an “hourglass figure”, only women who fit that size can shop with them and that becomes their customer base. The brand might adjust fits slightly based on feedback, but it requires a lot of work and risk for brands to completely change or add fits and sizes so most will just stick with what they’re already doing.

On the consumer side I constantly hear in messages and comments on my videosย and instagram about how women want to shop more consciously but can’t find brands that carry their size or they have trouble ordering online (which is often the only way to access sustainable and ethical brands) due to recurring fit issues.

I understand the challenges on both sides – it must be incredibly frustrating as a consumer to want to buy from ethical brands but can’t because of their often very limited sizes/fits. For the brands, so much work and money goes into producing a collection that they have to sell to keep the business going. Brands often are required to order a minimum number of garments in each size (unless they produce in-house) so sticking to “standard” sizes and limiting styles is the safest choice and sometimes all a new brand can afford.

Is there a solution to this problem?

After hearing about these issues on both sides I decided to create a size survey to get some actual numbers and data. There’s a few things that I think are helpful to know and I hope will come out of the survey:

  • What sizes are conscious consumers actually? Are there sizes under-served in the market?
  • What body shapes are people? What % of measurements line up with the “standard” proportions used by most brands?
  • Does size/fit drastically differ between regions and ages?
  • What are the most common fit issues people have?how to measure bust

I’m hoping that with enough participants we can have a strong set of data on sizes, measurements, and fit issues. This information will be compiled and I’ll put together a post/report which hopefully will help brands develop sizing and fits and work better for conscious consumers and maybe also give brands more confidence to take risks on fits outside the “standards”. It also would be wonderful as a consumer to give feedback to brands about fits and sizes and have some stats to back it up.

But this only works with your help!

We need a large enough group of participants to get viable data soย please fill out the survey through the linkย or below, it’s anonymous and should only take 5-10 minutes. Also please share this with anyone you know who shops or wants to shop from more conscious brands!

Let’s help shape a conscious fashion industry that actually considers people’s shapes!

Thank you so much for participating! ๐Ÿ’š


5 Responses

  1. Avatar
    | Reply

    I can tell you that the plus sized market is massively under-served when it comes to ethical, green, and local clothing. I’m a curvy girl who wants to wear all of the above, and it is next to impossible to find the kind of clothing I want to wear without placing custom orders – something I do with local makers. The vast majority of ethical/slow fashion brands don’t go above XL, if they even go that high.

    I’m somewhere between XL and 2X, and another problem I run into with larger sizes sizes is that they don’t take undergarments into account. A small top, for example, will have a neckline that hides your bra straps, but the scaled-up version has a neckline so wide that your straps show all the time. Or, a top that is very cute on someone who can get away without wearing a bra is simply impossible for someone who HAS to wear a bra. If the average size in the US actually is a 14, I really wish that ethical companies would consider how much business they’re missing out on.

  2. Avatar
    | Reply

    This is a very important topic which I don’t think many people understand and many companies don’t look into, and also why so many clothes end up not being worn enough. Also the problem is with proportions as well eg. the measurement from waist to hip. I see this all the time as a dress maker and have noticed that my customers are often over the moon when they realise how nicely a dress made for them can fit and I am not surprised.
    However, in a mass production it is more difficult to start making patterns for all the different body shapes as well as make the garments for all the different body shapes, in addition there might be difficulty finding the right one in the store. Unless the whole industry moves onto making garments made-to-measure it might be hard to implement better fitting clothes other than just making a wider variety.
    One thing I read from a lingerie designer What Lydia Made (can be found on instagram) is how most clothing is sampled on small sizes who have less curves and when the garments are graded up they don’t pay attention to them having curves and therefore the garments don’t fit. I thought this was also a very interesting point of view for the topic.
    Thanks for writing about this ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Avatar
      Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Oh definitely! All the brands I’ve worked with sample, fit on and grade up from a size 4, which I don’t think gives you the best fit for larger sizes. Ideally I think it would be great if brands always fit at least 2 samples – one on the smaller end and one on the larger and graded up/down from each. However I also know that a system like that would require a lot more time, resources and money which is especially difficult for small brands and would also end up costing more for the end customer which unfortunately most people aren’t willing to pay for. ๐Ÿ™

  3. Avatar
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    Hi, could I suggest tweaking the data collection to include a few further measurements to help assess body shape which is truly the key to getting a good fit? As well as the basic bust, waist and hip measurements, take the bicep circumference too, with the upper arm relaxed and also the thigh. Horizontal measurements should be taken along the shoulder and cross-back (or front, if easier) at bust, waist and hip levels so that it can properly be assessed how much of the overall dimension should be apportioned to the front and back blocks, and the distance between the tip of each breast given so that the proper position of the bust point can be established. Vertical measurements I would suggest would be arm length, nape to waist, mid-shoulder to bust point, mid-shoulder to waist across the bust point, waist to hip and waist to knee. If you collect all of the above youโ€™ll have a much more meaningful set of data from which it will be possible to draft up blocks which more closely represent the body shape and respect proportional differences that traditional grading simply doesnโ€™t address satisfactorily, hence the trouble with fitting. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Avatar
      Verena Erin
      | Reply

      I agree it would be great to have more measurements but a lot of those measurements are hard to take and difficult to explain how to take properly. Unfortunately the more complicated it is for people to fill out, the fewer people will take part. So I wanted to keep it as simple as possible while still getting some useful info.

      At this point I’m just hoping to get a good sample size of data to compare with basic size guides and also to look at basic body proportions – so are most people actually an “hourglass”, etc. I’m also using the question about common fit issues to get a better idea of some of those other points you mentioned, so for example waists on clothing being too big and hips and thighs being too small are already standing out as common fit issues. So while we don’t have exact number on areas like the thigh I’m hoping that the data can still be used to see what areas could use some attention/adjustments.

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