Build it and they will come.
When “it” refers to denim and “they” refers to plus-sized women, the adage certainly holds true. The number of denim brands serving the plussize woman has more than doubled over the last five years. Denim brands recognizing the value of the underserved, but stable, plussize demographic are capitalizing on both the popularity of denim and the opportunities the plus-size consumer represents.
According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™, 22 percent of women wear a size 15 or greater. While this percentage has remained steady over the past decade, the plus-size penchant for denim has grown exponentially. In 2007, 71 percent of female plus sized respondents say they prefer jeans over casual slacks, a dramatic shift from a decade ago when a far lesser 43 percent preferred jeans to casual bottoms.
|Prefer to Wear (Females Size 15 and Greater)|
The current appetite for denim corresponds with a global change in attitude towards jeans, observes Richard Metzger, a designer of plus size fashions. “With all of the exciting things going on in the denim market today, the consumer thinks of jeans as a trouser that she can dress up or down with practically anything in her wardrobe. It’s a true pant to her and not just a jean for wearing in the backyard.”
The demand for jeans has clearly been fueled by their appropriateness for virtually any venue or occasion. Today, the size-15-plus set can join in, thanks to a greater variety of denim silhouettes that feature savvier styling, on-trend direction and a more concentrated attention to fit. The combination of all of these factors elevates denim to must-have status for a woman of any size and shape.
“Denim is universally flattering across all body types and it’s become the cornerstone of women’s wardrobes as the world has become far more casual,” explains Naomi Sasaki-Whalen, Designer for Denim and Activewear at Avenue, a retailer offering women’s fashions for sizes 14 to 32. “When we create an assortment, we are mindful of offering styles that can go to work or out for fun. The garments must be directional but appropriate for this consumer.”
“Our customer is a fashion customer and the product must be on trend,” says Norman Weiss, owner of Alight, an online fashion retailer serving the plus-size woman. “When it comes to denim, it’s all about novelty in cut, wash and embellishment.” Commenting on current trends, Weiss states, “Right now, there are skinny and wide legs, darker hues and pocket detail and trims. It’s about the style and not just about the basic five pocket for this customer; she wants newness and fresh styling in her jeans.”
She is also demanding a better fit, Weiss adds. “I think all manufacturers are working on fit as they know that it’s a primary concern for women when buying jeans. It’s just as important as the style.”
The advent of lower-rise waistbands has gone a long way toward improving the fit of denim for women with curves, considers Susan Barone, a founder of Plus Size Living, a web site dedicated to serving this segment. “Jeans finally fit perfectly because the button and band hit at the right point. We talk to plus-size women every day and they now say that they have jeans that stay in place, whether they are standing up or sitting down.”
Manufacturers would be wise to pay greater attention to the fit and cut for every garment in the plus-sized market. According to the Monitor, an astounding 80 percent of females sized 15 and greater report that the current styles do not flatter their shapes, far surpassing the 48 percent of females sized 15 and smaller making the same claim.
“A flattering fit is a must for a woman of any size,” says Melissa Bastos, Manager of Market Research in Supply Chain Planning at Cotton Incorporated. “And while there is no doubt that there have been great strides in the plus size market in recent years, significant opportunities for manufacturers still exist.”
Improving the styling, fit and offerings for the plus-size market creates opportunities at the cash register, as well. While 45 percent of plus-sized female respondents told the Monitor that they “like” or “love” shopping for clothing; that figure lags behind the 55 percent of females in the non-plus population who say that they “like” or “love” shopping. These sentiments of the plus-sized consumer cause her to shop slightly less often than her smaller sized counterparts, according to the Monitor.
“It’s an extremely important market so manufacturers should consider the needs of the plus-sized consumer and tailor their offerings to meet her needs,” Bastos continues.
Those needs include specific styling with the more generous body shape in mind, rather extended sizing. “It’s about a beautiful and appropriate cut that is on trend and flattering for this woman,” offers Sasaki-Whalen from Avenue. And when it comes to denim for the curvier woman, beautiful cuts, thoughtful style and exquisite detail are now checkmarks in the plus column.
This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.