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Designing for All: Strategies for Fashion Brands to Implement Inclusive Sizing

Fashion, darlings, is having a moment. 🌟 Inclusive sizing is no longer a niche demand but a fundamental expectation.

Contrary to what you might believe, inclusive sizing in fashion means more than just adding a few extra sizes to the rack. It's about acknowledging the diversity of body shapes, types, colors, ages, and needs to ensure everyone feels seen and celebrated. For brands, embracing inclusive sizing can enhance their image, boost customer satisfaction, and expand their market reach. Today, we'll explore what inclusive sizing truly means, how to achieve it, and the challenges new fashion brands may face. We'll also highlight a few brands leading this critical industry movement. Let's break it down!

What Does Inclusive Sizing Truly Mean?

Three women of diverse body types and ethnicities posing together in minimal clothing, embracing body positivity and self-confidence. They are sitting and lying on the floor, looking directly at the camera with neutral expressions.

Beyond Numbers:

Inclusive sizing is about more than just offering a broad range of sizes. It's about creating garments that fit well and look fabulous on all different body types. Imagine walking into a store and finding clothes that not only fit but also flatter your unique shape, regardless of your size. That's the goal! It's about recognizing that a size 14 apple-shaped body has different needs than a size 14 pear-shaped body. Brands need to delve deep into the nuances of body proportions, offering more than just a larger or smaller version of your base fit model. The good news? The tide is turning. More brands recognize the importance of catering to all body types, and the push for inclusive sizing is gaining serious momentum. 👏

Representation Matters:

Let's be real—fashion has a long history of promoting a narrow standard of beauty along with unrealistic ideals. But times are changing, consumers are demanding more, and we've seen amazing progress lately. Seeing a diverse range of body shapes, sizes, and types in fashion campaigns isn't just a feel-good moment; it's a necessity. When people see models who look like them, it sends a powerful message: you belong. Brands that embrace this diversity aren't just following a trend; they're leading a revolution. By showcasing a wide array of models, brands can help dismantle harmful beauty standards and promote a more inclusive and accepting culture. Brands like Girlfriend Collective and Savage X Fenty are leading the charge with size-inclusive collections that don't skimp on style or quality. They've set the bar high, proving that inclusive sizing isn't just possible—it's profitable and essential.

The Psychological Impact:

We can't talk about inclusive sizing without acknowledging its profound psychological impact. When you slip into a piece of clothing that fits just right, it's like a little confidence booster in fabric form. Inclusive sizing helps break down the stigma around different body types, fostering a culture of body positivity and self-love. It isn't just about fashion; it's about helping people feel good in their skin, celebrating every curve, line, and angle. Not to mention–when consumers feel seen and valued, their loyalty to a brand skyrockets, creating a positive feedback loop that benefits everyone.

Achieving Inclusive Sizing

Research and Data Collection:

To design for diverse body types, brands need to do their homework. We mean that brands (especially the big ones) need to perform extensive research and data collection on different body measurements and proportions. We're talking about analyzing data from various sources—body scans, customer feedback, and partnering with universities or research institutions. The goal is to create a comprehensive database that reflects true diversity of body shapes and sizes. With this kind of comprehensive data, brands can develop patterns that are not just scaled up and down but thoughtfully designed for each size.

Two women with different body types posing together in fitted activewear, showcasing body diversity and inclusivity. The woman on the left has a slender build and wears beige, while the woman on the right has a fuller figure and wears brown, both displaying a sense of connection and confidence.

Collaboration with Diverse Models:

One of the most effective ways to ensure your designs work for everyone is to collaborate with models of all sizes during the design and testing phases. These collaborations can reveal fit issues that might not be apparent on a standard fit model. It's about more than just a photoshoot; it's about an ongoing partnership where models provide invaluable feedback throughout the development process. By involving diverse models, brands can fine-tune their designs to ensure they look and feel great on a wide range of bodies.

Design Considerations and Grading Sizes:

A few major considerations you need to make when designing for a broad size range involve:

  • Making thoughtful adjustments to patterns.

  • Considering the distribution of weight and body tissue.

  • Thoughtful placement of seams.

  • The overall silhouette.

For instance, plus-size garments might need a different or additional dart placement or added support in certain areas. Pattern grading—the process of scaling a pattern to different sizes—becomes a sophisticated art form, requiring a deep understanding of how fabric drapes and stretches over different body types. It's about ensuring that every garment, from the smallest to the largest, offers the same level of comfort, style, and quality.

Checking graded sizes is a crucial step in this process. Each size should be reviewed to ensure consistent and flattering proportions and fit. Reviewing the graded sizes involves creating physical samples in each size and conducting thorough fit sessions with models representing the full-size range. Many companies avoid doing this because of the costs of making all these extra samples. When done correctly, adjustments are made based on wearer feedback, ensuring that each size maintains the design's integrity. 👚

Pro tip: You can save a lot of energy by cross-checking in 3D before you cut your graded samples to make the most of your grade checks when they come in real form. Ask our team about this for more info on the work we do in 3D!

Reconsidering Construction Methods:

When designing for larger bodies, brands might need to reconsider specific construction methods to provide adequate support and comfort without altering the design too much. This could mean adding reinforced seams, using stretchier fabrics, or incorporating additional structural elements like boning or lining. However, it's essential to maintain the overall aesthetic and silhouette of the garment. Size 2 and 22 should look like they belong in the same collection, not like they were created for entirely different brands.

When there are specific construction or design element differences, brands need to be transparent about this. Clear marketing communication should explain why certain construction methods are used for larger sizes. This transparency helps build trust with consumers, ensuring they understand that these adjustments are made to enhance comfort and support, not to create a different design. 🌱👖

Quality Control:

Maintaining high-quality standards across all sizes is non-negotiable. This means rigorous testing and quality control at every stage of production. Each size should be tried and tested to ensure that it meets the brand's standards for fit, comfort, and durability. Consistency is key—every customer, regardless of their size, deserves a product that feels tailored just for them.

Challenges for New Brands

Four women of various ages and body types standing together in neutral-toned bodysuits, celebrating body positivity and diversity. They display a sense of unity and confidence, with their arms around each other and smiles on their faces.

Production Costs:

Let's be real—expanding size ranges can be expensive. But it's worth it. Expanding size ranges can increase production costs due to more extensive grading, more fabric usage, and the need for additional fit testing, as well as increased SKU count. It's essential to budget carefully and plan for these expenses. That said, by investing in inclusive sizing, brands tap into a broader market and foster loyalty among a diverse customer base. Smart budgeting and efficient production methods can help manage these costs. 💰📈

Inventory Management:

Managing a larger inventory can be complex, but it's doable with the right strategies. Effective forecasting, inventory management systems, and smart logistics are key. Brands must be agile and adaptable to meet the demands of inclusive sizing. Predicting sales for each size and understanding market demand can be challenging, especially for new brands. Continuous market research and customer feedback are vital to making informed decisions. 📦🔄

Finding the Right Partners:

Not all manufacturers are well equipped to produce high-quality garments across a diverse size range. Finding partners who share your commitment to inclusivity and quality is crucial. Also, grading usually falls on the side of the manufacturer, so you need to make sure you have a partner who is good at grading before expanding your size range to include a wider audience.

Consumer Education:

Educating consumers about fit and sizing is crucial. Clear, detailed size guides and virtual fit tools can help customers make informed choices, reducing returns and increasing satisfaction. You also need to ensure you have the market potential for the audience you're seeking – your potential customers need to be able to see themselves on your site, or else they'll move on quickly without realizing you carry their size. It's all about helping shoppers find their perfect fit. 📏

Wrap Up

Inclusive sizing is more than a trend; it's the future of fashion. By embracing diverse body types, brands cater to a broader audience and contribute to a more inclusive and positive society. Let's continue pushing for progress and celebrating every body. Share your thoughts on the future of inclusive sizing in the comments below. 🌟👗

P.S. In our next post we’ll share a comprehensive look at several brands we feel are doing a great job with inclusive sizing, so stay tuned. 

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