Now that we’ve taken a look at how plus size models are portrayed in the media, debated the existence of a size spectrum in fashion, and seen the world through plus size model Mandy Fierens’ eyes, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… ModCloth’s take on the size of the times.
After Monday’s “Size of the Times” post, you really told us just what you thought. Comments ranged from stinging criticisms, such as Natalie’s, which challenged us with, “If ModCloth are behind women who don’t fit into straight sizing, why is there virtually nothing on your site to fit us?” to kudos-mixed-with-critique, such as Jill’s, in which she said she appreciated the conversation and loved the site, but invited us to practice what we preach, “because there hasn’t been a plus size item on [the] site in a LONG time, and the few things you did carry were not up to par [with] the cute items for regular sizes!” Allow us to explain.
As the majority of you most likely already know, we are an online retailer and we carry various brands and designers. Each and every one of those lines has a unique size structure upon which the fit of their garments are based. So, to answer Marie, who asked, “How come I’m not a plus size, that I fit in regular clothes in many shops, but that I can’t even fit [into] an XL in many of your skirts and dresses?” The reason is that, unfortunately, there is no standard, all-encompassing, and all-powerful size structure in fashion. Trust us, we wish there was!
In Monday’s comments, Those Tricks also brought up the idea that standardized sizing may be easier if women’s clothing ran by waist and length measurements, like men’s. While that does appear to be a step in the right direction, we still have to take into consideration the issue of body shape, as we discussed in Wednesday’s post. If we ladies have such vast variations in body type, and we have those wonderful hips to take into account, sizing by waist and length measurements would still be difficult. It also raises the question of how dresses, tops, and skirts would be sized? Sigh. Still no solution.
So, back to attempting to find the root of the problem: The fashion and manufacturing industry has been around for years and years. Most garments come in standard packs of sizes, and according to Deanna Hardin, ModCloth’s Vendor Relations Specialist, “We usually can’t break the packs.” This means that we cannot request more of one size and less of another. Given that, even if we know that we usually sell, say, more larges in a particular style, we simply can’t call up the designer and say, “Hey, we want a tradesies! 10 smalls for 10 larges!” because the answer will be “Nope.” Want a very relatable example of this? How about shoes?
Most ladies love shoes. Shoes don’t care if you had an extra helping of ice cream, and shoes don’t care if you’ve been hanging out with Jenny Craig. According to “The Professional Shoe Fitting Manual,” the average American woman’s shoe size is 8.5. However, I checked in with Lacey Volk, our Supply Chain Manager, and she informed me that when we order a case of twelve shoes, there are typically three pairs each of sizes 7, 7.5 and 8, but just two pairs of 8.5. This is a perfect representation of the fact that, as ModCloth CEO Eric Koger stated, “The industry hasn’t caught up to real American sizes yet.”
We’re working with the supply chain that exists now, but their sizing guides are often based on data from yesteryear. Plus, we’re an indie store, so the vast majority of our designers serve small boutiques. Due to that, they simply are not capable of producing extended sizing in garments – it wouldn’t make fiscal sense for them to produce those garments just for ModCloth when they’re uncertain that a profit can be made. We understand that, and we’re working to change it. Enter: “Be the Buyer.”
You’re probably already familiar with our “Be the Buyer” program, but for those who are not, I’ll give a brief overview: “Be the Buyer” allows designers to send us samples of garments that have not yet been produced or sold. We post pictures of those items, you vote yea or nay, and when a piece receives enough positive votes, it’s put into production! This program is still in its early stages, but once we’ve shown designers that they can profit from products in this format, we can begin making sizing demands! Until we have enough facts and figures to do that, however, we must be patient. As Kristina keenly observed Monday, “I know this is tough for an indie business, but it would be great for you to have leadership in this area.” We want you to know that we are trying to carve that path!
There have been some bumps in our previous plus size path, however. After Part I’s post, Catherine commented, “I’ve also noticed that you haven’t been selling the extended sizes lately.” You are absolutely right. Many of you probably noticed that we did have a “Plus Size” section for a while, but we no longer do. There are a multitude of reasons for this.
Given that our aesthetic is indie, retro, and vintage-inspired, we were met with a dearth of genuinely cute plus size clothing that fit our criteria. Disappointed by the lack of choices, but driven by our desire to cater to all women, we forged ahead in our plus size plan. Our intentions were good, but the results weren’t always positive. We received much criticism along the lines of “Your plus size dresses are nowhere near as pretty as the straight size ones.” However, our plus size bathing suits have done remarkably well! They are cut using “traditional” plus size fit guidelines, which is likely part of their success. However, we had fit issues with many other plus size garments.
More than once, we were told a garment was “plus size,” but when we received it, well… It wasn’t! Oftentimes the item would be closer to a size 10 than 16. We also discovered that little attention was paid to cut and fit with many plus size pieces. It was as if manufacturers simply added more fabric and called it a day. As Deanna Hardin put it, “They appeared to be straight-sized styles made with extra fabric, which produces a bad fit on most plus-sized proportions. A [thin] girl’s hips are often in a different ratio to the rest of her body than a bigger girl’s, and tops often don’t take into account that bras are not optional for really busty women.”
Ultimately, we had to stop and re-evaluate the size situation. Kathy commented Monday, “I hope you will integrate real plus sizes into the line-up permanently… a transient handful would simply lend a ‘gimmicky’ air to your collection,” and we agree. We want to live up to your expectations, and that means providing cute clothing in an array of sizes. And we don’t want to do it “half-way.” So, while we’re currently figuring out our next move, we’d like to ask for your help. Do you know of any designers out there offering real, quality plus size clothing that fits the ModCloth aesthetic? We want to know! We will not give up on the “democratization” of fashion, because fashion is for every body.