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Old Navy, Altar’d State Reconsider How They Address Size Inclusivity

Old Navy is knocking down the long-standing walls that keep women’s sizes and women’s plus sizes a world apart.

The Gap Inc.-owned value retailer announced Wednesday the launch of Bodequality, an omnichannel shopping experience that aims to democratize its fit process and how women of all shapes and sizes shop for fashion.

As of Friday, Old Navy will offer sizes 0-30 and XS-4X for all women’s styles at price parity, a move that comes after the brand reintroduced plus-size clothing in stores in 2018 after selling them only online for 11 years. Its fleet of more than 1,200 stores and online shops will be transformed into fully size-integrated shopping experiences as well.

Each store will offer all women’s styles in sizes 0-28 merchandised together, meaning plus-size consumers will no longer be directed to a designated section of the store. Additionally, store mannequins sizes four, 12 and 18 will be placed alongside new Bodequality marketing collateral to enhance the inclusive environment.

“We saw an opportunity to meaningfully change the women’s shopping experience by making it more inclusive regardless of size,” said Nancy Green, Old Navy president and CEO.

This will be replicated online with navigation for women’s and women’s plus collections merging into one platform for sizes 00-30. Garments will be showcased on models sizes four, 12 and 18, allowing shoppers to use a toggle feature to select their preferred default model display size, the company stated.

Behind the scenes, Old Navy revealed that it is working to “reinvent its fit processes and size standards” to offer a more comfortable and consistent size run. Steps the fashion retailer implemented into their women’s fit and design process include administered body scans of 389 women to create digital avatars based on real bodies and fit clinics with models in sizes 20-28 to build new fit blocks. These fit blocks were used to revamp garments to their unique proportions verses the industry practice of scaling up from regular sizes.

Along with interviewing hundreds of women about body image and related fashion concerns, the company reconsidered the lengths of its dresses, tops and outerwear. Old Navy’s denim range received special attention with designers considering pocket placement, denim waistband “pinch” and ankle tapers.

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“We set out to understand what women of all sizes wanted from fashion and the shopping experience and were inspired to revolutionize every area of our business—from how we fit and design our products, to how we communicate to customers in stores and online—to ensure that all women feel welcome and represented,” said Alison Partridge Stickney, Old Navy head of women’s and maternity merchandising. “This launch is a transformative moment for our brand and the fashion industry.”

Meanwhile, Knoxville, Tenn.-based women’s retailer Altar’d State, known for its Southern bohemian aesthetic, recently stepped out with an updated venture towards size inclusivity, albeit a smaller step than Old Navy’s plan.

The company unveiled Arula, the new name for the brand formerly known as A’Beautiful Soul, the mid-size and plus-size boutique attached to some Altar’d State locations, and a plan to expand its footprint across the U.S.

Consumer feedback help guide new size inclusive initiatives set by retailers Old Navy and Altar’d State.
Arula Courtesy

According to the company, the new moniker means “shining as the sun, brilliant and filled with grace,” while its ethos is “inspired by beauty.” The rebrand came in response to consumer gripes about the name implying plus-size people cannot be beautiful on the outside.

“We value our guests above all, and what we heard from them is that the old name had some negative implications, and that’s not how we want our guests to feel,” said Dana Seguin, Arula chief marketing officer. “We always want our guests to feel beautiful, inspired and uplifted in every way, and we know that words matter. After reflecting on this feedback, we realized that we needed a new name, one that more accurately reflects what we stand for.”

The rebrand aligns with the company’s mission to “erase industry standards and raise the bar for the mid-size and plus-size shopping experience.”

Spanning denim to dresses, Arula currently caters to 25- to 35-year-old millennial women who wear sizes 10-24, with 17 boutiques in 14 states and a refreshed online store featuring models of various sizes. More stores are on the way this fall, including Arula’s first standalone locations coming in October. The immersive store experience is said to engage shopper’s senses, the company stated.

Consumers seem to be responding well to the rebrand on social media. Some, however, question why mid-size and plus-size consumers that appreciate Altar’d State’s assortment need to have a separate shopping experience at all.

Instagram user @magsfig said, “Genuine curiosity—why can’t Altar’d State just be more size inclusive?”