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Make It Work: Tim Gunn takes on the issue with fit in fashion

March 1, 2018

Emmy award-winning co-host of “Project Runway” Tim Gunn went on NPR’s On Point to discuss major growth opportunities for the industry in the way of extended sizing. Gunn, along with Time magazine culture staff writer Eliana Dockterman addressed the issues of fitting women of all shapes and sizes against the current practice of vanity sizing – and how this affects both shoppers’ experiences and retailers’ profits. True Fit is mentioned in the interview as a technology and collaborative data solution that is partnering with retailers to help solve the sizing and fit problem.

“This has been a pervasive issue for decades,” said Gunn, bewildered as to why more brands have yet to address missed opportunities for both their consumers and their general salability in offering only limited sizing. “When you consider the number of women who are larger than a size 12 – and the numbers range from 85 to 100 million in this nation alone – those are needs that are profound and needs that should be addressed.”

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Image Credit: Lifetime

Designing for all bodies is an opportunity that the fashion industry has by-and-large missed. Upon asking designers why, Gunn mused that the most common excuse he heard was “'No two size 16s are the same,'” he recalled. “I would counter that no two size sixes are the same either… Getting our fashion right and looking great in our clothes is about three elements: silhouette, proportion and fit. When they’re in harmony and balance we will look great no matter what size or shape we are.”

"...Getting our fashion right and looking great in our clothes is about three elements: silhouette, proportion and fit. When they’re in harmony and balance we will look great no matter what size or shape we are.”

Retailers Getting it Right

Because each and every body is unique, using data to find flattering fits at any size goes one step further to help women of all sizes shop online for clothes they will love that will work with their unique dimensions. True Fit is working with retailers such as LOFT who are on bridging the gap between mainstream retail and extended sizes, with their recently launched LOFT Plus line, featuring True Fit technology to help women of all sizes find their best, most flattering looks with the power of data. The line has already been worn by Chrissy Metz and was featured on the red carpet, as seen in E! Online here.

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From E! News "Chrissy Metz's Go-To Dress Brand Is Actually Affordable


Retailer Lane Bryant, mentioned by Tim Gunn as one of his go-tos for plus size women, is helping its shoppers find their true fit in store and online. Within about "60 seconds," shoppers can fill out a profile based on items currently in their closet, and True Fit's algorithms use this information to suggest the best styles and fit.  

"Insanity Sizing"

Also featured in the segment, Eliana Dockterman author of the Time magazine’s piece “One Size Fits None,” spoke to the associated frustrations of non-standard industry sizing conventions. “This is a crisis that’s affecting shoppers, no matter what their size,” said Dockterman on the podcast. “Different brands and different stores size all of their clothes in different ways, so a study that we conducted showed that a size six pair of jeans can vary as much as six inches in the waistline, so that makes it impossible when you’re walking into a store… to know what your size is. It’s even worse when you’re shopping online, because you have no idea when you’re ordering something, what size it might be.”

Vanity sizing, or “insanity sizing” as it’s less-than-affectionately referred to, is a result of numerical sizes downshifting to appeal to customers’ egos. A nice gesture in theory, but one that has taken its toll on the industry and confused consumers in the process. “Now that $240 billion worth of apparel is purchased online each year, it has become a source of epic wastefulness,” writes Dockterman in Time. “Customers return an estimated 40% of what they buy online, mostly because of sizing issues. That’s a hassle for shoppers and a costly nightmare for retailers, who now spend billions covering 'free' returns.” 

So what’s the solution to the inconvenient – and expensive – vanity-sizing conundrum? Big data. “If we look at data, we can pair people with the right clothes that fit them,” explains Dockterman in the podcast. “True Fit partners with many brands and companies, and has the data of how they size their clothing, and will ask you when you shop online at one of their partner brands, what your favorite shirt is and what size it is, what your favorite shoe is and what size it is, and they will use that information and look at the data they have on how the clothes are made and the sizing of the clothes in each brand.”

Last year, sales of plus size clothes hit $20 billion, and sizing-related returns have cost retailers exponentially more than that. So creating a more representative sizing spectrum, and helping shoppers find clothes that will fit right from the first try-on is a win-win for retailers’ bottom line – and consumers’ shopping satisfaction.