No matter what trend or style of clothing, size has always mattered and has been an important aspect when it comes to clothing trends, and as fuller figured women have become increasingly prominent in the fashion world, they are now demanding sizes and styles that fit and flatter their varied body types rather than just your bog standard sizes.
Because of a general increase in obesity levels, as well as customers demanding stylish clothing, the plus-size market has increased in size (no pun intended). The plus-size women's clothing segment has been rapidly expanding over the past five years, driven by a growing customer base, as well as changing attitudes towards plus-size and plus-size fashion.
TV shows, popular plus-size celebrities and advertising campaigns have all contributed towards the changing perceptions of plus-size women and the fashion selections that are available to them. According to IBISWorld, this segment’s revenue is expected to rise at a compound annual rate of 6.7% over 5 years until 2014-2015, reaching a total size of £707.5 million.
Amidst this ever-increasing demand, retailers are now responding to these dynamics to serve a previously neglected market. In addition to the emergence of new brands that are solely dedicated to dressing women who are sizes 14 and above, a lot of retailers are including styles for this segment in their collections. These retailers are also making brave steps away from the cheap and badly designed eyesores found in many 'plus-size only' fashion stores.
Although retailers have expanded their selection of larger sized clothing – sizes 14 to 24, they are still not catering to sizes beyond these standard ones and more specifically to different body shapes. This has meant that individuals who do not fit into a standard size find it difficult to buy stylish clothing.
Well known Hollywood stylist, Sal Perez, who has dressed a number of celebrities including popular plus-size actress Rebel Wilson, for her role in ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ recently said, “I think the fashion industry has to realise the potential the plus-size market has.” He also added he was horrified by some of the clothing he found in stores, and that his hunt for the 20 outfit changes Rebel needed was 'very difficult.'
In my recent conversation with popular plus size blogger Georgina Horne, she mentioned that she feels that the styles available for the plus size market have gotten better in recent years, there is still room for a greater selection to be made available. She also felt that although it is nice to have off the rack clothing, made-to-measure clothing would fill a certain gap in the plus size market. Alongside plus size, made-to-measure is too expanding in the fashion market, but arguably not as much as it should.
For those who aren’t 100% clued up on what made-to-measure actually means, it typically refers to clothing that is sewn and altered from a standard-sized base pattern. While a tailored suit is the most commonly known example of a made-to-measure garment, the concept includes a very broad range of garments. The overall fit of a made-to-measure garment is mostly expected to be superior to that of a set sized ready-to-wear item of clothing, due to the fact that ready-to-wear garments are crafted to fit the manufacturer's definition of an ‘average customer’ (who knew there was such a thing!?), while made-to-measure garments are constructed to fit each customer individually.
Bespoke means the opposite of “off-the-rack”, meaning the clothing you pick up everyday on high street. Bespoke clothing is custom-made, which differs from made-to-measure. A made-to-measure item can be selected and then customised to specific measurements and details, whereas a bespoke item is made from scratch to someone’s specifications.
But this is where the issues begin - with custom services come custom prices. Typically, a made-to-measure garment will be more expensive than a ready-to-wear garment, but still cheaper than a bespoke one. Pricing is one of the main reasons why only luxury brands seem to be tackling the made-to-measure segment, and even then it currently seems to be only for exclusive customer sectors.
Although, savvy shoppers who are now spending their money on custom fit, made-to-measure pieces instead of standard size pieces, are part of what is being coined "the new luxury". Pricing aside, and taking into account the issues of sizing within plus size clothing, made-to-measure could well be the answer.
Why? Well for one, made-to-measure could directly tackle the main issue with the plus size clothing market - the lack of choice and sizing. If more retailers were open to made-to-measure for their existing styles rather than just creating a small variety of clothing exclusively for plus-size, it could ultimately expand the styles that are available for plus-size ladies.
While traditional retailers have responded to the demand, the more agile and nimble online retailers have adapted much faster. This could be for a number of reasons, but mainly because online retailer’s have the ability to expand very quickly in terms of collections and offerings. These retailers seem to be quickly outdoing traditional retailers by increasing the options being offered to customers and providing access to customers in non-city locations easily.
As an example, online fashion retailer Strand of Silk, which specialises in clothing from contemporary Indian designers, offers a unique made-to-measure service in which customers can add their specific measurements to their selected items. Alongside personalised sizes, colour varieties are also available for specific pieces, and a home measuring service is also offered selectively to customers.
The reaction from customers has been enthusiastic. In a recent collaboration with blogger Georgina Horne, the blogger sported a made-to-measure dress and said, “I was pleased at the way it fitted me so perfectly..”. Further adding that, “My measurements specified that the dress hit just below the knee which it did perfectly…”.
Have we stumbled upon the future of plus size clothing through the made-to-measure route? Does this mean that online retailers are able to satisfy customer demands of options and easy access? We’ll see!
Sources: Merinblog, Dailyrecord