Forgotten Cusp of Sizes

The average woman in America is “plus sized.” But only just…

Sixty-seven percent of US women are a size 14 or higher, typically defined as “plus-sized.” Yet, the average of all US women is a size 16.

So here’s a question: why do “straight” fashion lines end at size 10 or 12 and “plus-size” start at 14-16?

You know how this works, right? For the average clothing company, they create a pattern somewhere in the middle of their size range. They perfect the fit on that one size. And then they do the math to “attempt” to fit it on all the other sizes they offer.

There are two huge problems with that. And it doesn’t take a veteran fit technician to see them.

First, if there are only two groups of fashion sizes (“straight” or “sample” and “curvy” or “plus-size”), then the average fit wasn’t designed for the people on the cusp of those groups. In other words, the average US woman, sized around a 16, is not going to find perfect fits in either place.

The Problem with Plus-Size Ranges

Here’s an example…

The retail giant, Target, made recent news with the introduction of its first major plus-size line, Ava & Viv. We picked a random dress from this line. It runs from a size 14 to a size 30.

Think about that. Have you ever looked at the difference between a woman who wears a size 14 and one that wears a size 30? The idea that you can grade up or down between these sizes to find the perfect fit for each size is laughable. That doesn’t even touch on the fact that at each size there are different body shapes (pear, apple, hourglass, etc.).

Now, we’re not picking on Target. We don’t know their fit process. They very well might be the exception to the rule and fit on each offered size. If so, however, they would be the exception.

This example shows that for the average woman at size 16, she isn’t actually given any more choices because she’s “on the cusp.”

She was on the cusp of the so-called “straight” size lines. Now, she is on the cusp of “plus-size” lines. Just because a new line comes in her size doesn’t mean it was designed to fit her.

Made to Actually Fit

This Ava & Viv example (again, just using this as a hypothetical) brings us to the second major flaw in sizing and fitting in this industry: one size fits all.

So if you happen to fall on the cusp of “sample-size” lines or “plus-size” lines, and you can never find a great fit, you’ll know why.

Like we said, we have no idea if Target used just one fit and graded it up and down its entire size line. But even if Ava & Viv didn’t, many, many others do just that. In other words, much of the clothing we all buy was never even fit on people of our size.

Now, it makes sense for a company to do that. It’s obviously cheaper than paying for several fit models and hours of technical designers and patternmakers to work on the different cuts. It’s also a lot quicker to run it in an Excel sheet to find your sizing dimensions.

And true, it’s not completely fair. Some experts can get it close even without an actual person to fit each size on. After years of previous experience they know that when you cross over from one size to another when grading a pattern, you’ll have to take out more in the bust as opposed to the waist… or add a bit of fabric to the sleeves there. But that’s not designing to fit. That’s designing for profits and quick-to-market turnaround times.

It doesn’t have to always be this way. In fact, the first problem we mentioned (fitting industry size-ranges) is solved by addressing the second (fitting clothes on each size in which they are offered). And that’s exactly what we set out to do at DNA Design Collective.

Remembering the “Forgotten Cusp”

We’ve been in business for over a year now. And in that time, we’ve been told that we are just another plus line. We’ve also been told that we don’t make clothes big enough to be a plus line. We’ve had people complain that we don’t offer enough sizes to be in either group.

Frankly, that’s fine. We aren’t the typical fashion company making size 0-12. And we aren’t a plus line going from 14-30. We aren’t either of those things because the average US woman isn’t really either of those fits either.

We don’t grade up or down to any size without fitting on that particular size first. We make adjustments and get it just right.

So, we feature sizes 10-20… the forgotten cusp sizes. We’ve put in the work on those sizes. We know we have gotten them right in all of our styles. And those sizes make up the vast majority of what women wear.

Does that mean we couldn’t expand? No, of course not. But we won’t do it the easy way.

We won’t just add our brand to the thousands of others out to make a quick buck without valuing fit. And we won’t get caught up in the fallacy of trying to gain a label like “plus size.” We refuse to fall in line with the fashion industry’s broken sizing. Thus our motto: Engineered For You. Be You. (not them)

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