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This is How Retailers Can Prepare for a More Size-Inclusive 2021

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement put the spotlight on diversity and fashion’s many shortcomings. As a result, a recharged emphasis on diversity in fit emerged, highlighting the need for fashion to embrace size-inclusive apparel.

Even the denim brands known for their extended sizing are expanding their offerings to appeal to a wider demographic. In December, Good American applied its size-inclusive ethos to footwear, and just this month, NYDJ debuted a line of pull-on jeans that stretch to fit three sizes—and sold out within a week.

This increased focus on diversity, along with Gen Z’s penchant for celebrating acceptance and individuality, signals that the demand for more size-inclusive apparel will only increase as time goes on.

According to data published in a new report from retail market intelligence platform Edited, the industry has made strides in progress, with an 11 percent increase in the number of new plus-size or curve styles compared to 2019. Women’s brands such as Missguided and Nasty Gal grew their offerings by 42 percent and 128 percent, year-over-year.

Men’s options for larger apparel are also growing. Arrivals in this category increased 24 percent year-over-year, with brands such as Jack & Jones and boohooMAN leading the charge.

Despite the renewed focus, fashion still has a long way to go in appropriately offering this category to consumers, beginning with the language it uses to describe women’s plus-size ranges. The words “flattering” and “slimming”—which both imply women’s bodies need to change—were used more often in plus-size apparel than in straight sizes. Similarly, while more plus-size models appeared in magazines in 2020, representation on the runway declined.

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Tall apparel is also growing in popularity, highlighted by the success of Megan Thee Stallion’s Fashion Nova collaboration designed for women over 5’10, which reportedly drove more than $1.2 million in sales on the first day. Similarly, Boohoo increased its tall range 12 percent year-over-year.

Maternity clothing is seeing a 10 percent increase in arrivals year-over-year during what’s called the “Covid baby boom” era. Brands such as I Saw It First and Missguided introduced their own maternity products, and Esprit increased new arrivals by 219 percent.

Despite the demand for size inclusivity across the board, the petite category is seeing a decline in arrivals. New petite products dropped 7 percent across the U.S. and U.K. combined. Women’s retailers Dorothy Perkins and Loft, which have both faced recent financial troubles, cut arrivals by 40 percent and 22 percent year-over-year, respectively.

In order to get it right, Edited noted that retailers should be sure to offer the same trends across all sizes, rather than dictate “what different sizes can and cannot wear.” Additionally, they should be cognizant of the price, which can be as much as 11 percent greater for plus-size apparel.

Edited added that the industry still skews in favor of smaller sizes despite the demand for better representation, and noted that retailers “may be walking away from a profit to uphold a distorted and outdated image standard.”