DALLAS — Shopping for a pair of pants is frustrating and demoralizing for many women, who conclude something must be wrong with their bodies since so few off-the-rack trousers fit them.
Is the solution to offer three different cuts of the same style of pants? Maybe.
At Nordstrom at NorthPark Center, on Feb. 23, Options by Garfield & Marks introduced a basic straight-leg black pant in three different fits. The measuring and grading system, called Fit Logic, was developed by Cricket Lee, president, chief executive officer and founder of Fit Technologies, based here. It has licensed the system both to GM Group and to Jones Apparel Group.
Based in part on her own research with thousands of women here and in New York, Lee concluded that 90 percent of American women ages 35 to 55 are contoured in one of three ways: a relatively straight silhouette; an hourglass, or a pear, which she numbered 1, 2 and 3, respectively. (“No woman wants to be called ‘straight,'” she learned, or “round,” for that matter.) The measurements reflect changes in the body that occur with age and weight gain, lowering the waist, for instance, on sizes 12 and up.
By offering a style sized 2 to 16 in the three shapes, the theory is most women should be able to find a pair of pants that conform to their curves and eliminating gaps at the waistband. During the two hours that I and four other shoppers slipped on the Options styles, about half of the women loved them and bought them and the other half passed for various reasons.
A big hang-up was the pockets, which gapped on some women, including myself, thus adding volume to a place most women want to streamline. That could be corrected, Lee pointed out, by sewing down the opening of the pockets and creating a false pocket. A second issue for me was the ho-hum nature of the basic style, but most of the other shoppers, who were in their 40s and 50s, had no complaint about it. (Most of these women were in the 35- to 55-year-old age range targeted by Fit Logic.)
“It’s incredible,” marveled Kathy Harvey, who was so happy with her size 6, shape 1 Options pants that she came back with a friend in tow. “Not only does it fit, but I feel it’s flattering. Usually pants are too tight in the waist or big in the hips. It’s not very often that I can walk into a store and buy a pair of pants.”
Karen Pickering came to Nordstrom after seeing Lee describe the system on a local morning TV chat show. “I just don’t fit any pants,” she lamented. “I was desperate, and when I saw that on TV I thought, I have to get there.”
Pickering had to try all three cuts before finding that number 3 worked for her in a size 14, except for the pockets, which created creases across her tummy. A Nordstrom fitter was summoned to pin them down so they could be sewn shut.
There’s no mystery to the Fit Logic process and not even a tape measure was necessary. A Garfield & Marks merchandising manager eyed me, patted down the side of my waist, and pronounced me likely to be a 1. She was right: the size 8 in the 1 shape wrapped perfectly around my natural waist and draped nicely across the derriere. The only fit issue was that the rise was about an inch too long, probably because of my 5-foot, 3-inch stature. Petite sizing, soon to come, would address that, Lee assured me.
Still, I wasn’t enthralled enough to invest $198 on the triacetate, polyester and rayon pants. Nor was Lynn Handlin.
“I didn’t like how the pockets fit,” Handlin said. “And I want a more sleek style to go underneath a jacket. But I love the idea.”
Susan Mowder, regional merchandising manager for GM Design Group, explained the company applied the Fit Logic technology to its best-selling pant.
“The target is that woman who isn’t a perfect body,” Mowder said. “And that lady does still like a waist-banded pant,” she added in speaking of her experience with customers.
Jones Apparel Group was the first to apply the fit system to pants, which were sold at Macy’s last fall under the Jones New York label and on QVC Feb. 24 under the label Jones Elements Featuring Fit Logic.
Mark Mendelson, chief merchandise officer at Jones Apparel Group, is considering expanding the technology to more structured pieces, like jackets. “My general impression is that the system is great,” he said, though he acknowledged the triple-sizing system requires significant financial investment and display space in stores. “The consumer in the U.S. isn’t all 5-feet, 7-inches, white and a size 8.”
Mendelson said the Jones Elements rayon-blend pants, incorporating the Fit Logic system and priced at $59, on offer during the QVC program, sold out in 40 minutes. The network plans to sell them again sometime in March or April, he added.
While Mendelson sees the concept as one remedy to antiquated sizing systems, he said Fit Technologies needed to give it some more marketing oomph to inspire consumers. At Nordstrom, the Options area featured explanatory videos on a bank of screens, which could draw the interest of shoppers.
“I wanted Jones to be first in, so I worked with them,” Mendelson related. “Now we’re waiting to see what happens, but we wanted to dip our toe in the water and we’re happy we did. Inevitably, we want the consumer to be happy.”