Size inclusivity is so much more than an extended size range on a store rack; it is a fundamental philosophy that guarantees an enjoyable shopping experience for all individuals. If the average American woman wears a size 16 or 18, then calling them ‘plus-sized’ is no longer current, nor is the practice of segmenting their product offering. To be inclusive in today’s society, brands need all their clothing to cater to customers of size 24 or greater, while not forgetting the petite or tall customers either. Size-inclusivity requires the careful and constant consideration of all body shapes at all stages of a garment’s life cycle.
For the longest time, fashion brands followed and maintained an unrealistic size convention promoting a singular body image that all should adhere to, especially if one wanted to dress fashionably. Society and fashion have come a long way in recent years, and yet there is still lots of room for improvement. While the collective positive attitude towards inclusivity has generally translated into a larger array of clothing sizes, the problem now is that what’s on offer usually doesn’t fit very well.
When a style is initially created, it is made to a standard size, usually in line with a brand’s fit model. This standard size will then be systematically increased or decreased according to a set of ‘grade rules’ (these determine the amount of change between sizes for each measurement point). While this method might work for the first few size increments, by the time you get to the larger sizes the fit is terrible. The human body does not scale the way designs do.
Innovation in technology is one of the keys to creating an inclusive and sustainable industry. Many apparel brands are already adopting 3D technology into various stages of their business model, from design through to retail.
In an ideal world, every style would be sampled in every size to ensure an accurate fit for all. Unfortunately, this would be an expensive, wasteful, and time intensive process, and so apparel brands have generally always resorted back to the systematic methodology of grading. With the huge advancements being made at the intersection of fashion and technology, brands are now able to utilise 3D body scanning technology in both the design phase and the retail phase. 3D design software, such as CLO3D and Browzwear, can massively reduce sampling costs, lead times, and the resulting environmental impacts. Brands can simulate a range of digital avatars that reflect their actual customer demographic instead of using a single fit model. These digital avatars can then be imported into any 3D design/sampling platform and designed directly onto. Digital samples can be made to accurately fit a wide variety of avatars without ever having to create a physical garment. This means great fitting garments at every size, and no excuses about being hindered by cost or capability.
While online shopping comes with its many conveniences, it also presents several challenges; fit issues, high returns, and the ensuing financial and environmental implications. Many fashion brands and their online shopping networks are now exploring the benefits of virtual try-on technology. By using 3D body scanning technology, shoppers can quickly and easily capture their unique body measurements from their smartphone, anywhere, anytime. Brands are then able to simulate garments on 3D digital avatars and make accurate fit recommendations using body analytics. This virtual try-on technology encourages customers to make informed decisions when purchasing, in turn resulting in a higher satisfaction rate and lower return rate. Good for them, good for the environment, and good for you!
By integrating 3D technology into their retail platforms, apparel brands can also gain a greater understanding of their market. Data collected from 3D fit simulation can be leveraged to create data-driven fit standards and improve the production of size-inclusive styles. In the future, a brand’s fit standard could be optimised and tailored to its own unique demographic based on the actual body shapes and metrics of their customers.
Size-inclusivity presents a huge opportunity for all apparel brands, no matter how big or small the company. The market for ‘plus-sized’ fashion is growing at twice the rate of the total apparel sales in the US which demonstrates a huge potential for growth. From a financial perspective, there’s a clear demand with a lack of supply, while from a human perspective, the opportunity could not be clearer. Today’s consumers want to feel a connection to the brand they are shopping from, but that’s only possible when they feel represented. With such innovative technology at our fingertips, there is no reason why everyone can’t enjoy fashion.