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Size 14 is average American woman's size, but not the average shopper's

Started 1349321173.99 in Fashion Talk | Last reply 1350262668.397 by songbird

Interesting article I came across:

Size 14 is average American woman's size, but not the average shopper's: Kim Crow

If the average American woman is a size 14, wouldn't it stand to reason that a size 14 would be the most common size sold in the United States?

Nope. In fact, size 14 is among the least purchased sizes out there for many manufacturers. So it seems that being a size 14 and buying a size 14 are in fact two very different things.

So what gives?

I read these facts the other day in WWD, the fashion industry/retail newspaper published five days a week in New York City. The story concerned the significant fit difficulties that face manufacturers and designers who want to target the plus-size market, and it also outlined the dwindling options that plus-size shoppers have because of it.

It's hard to ignore the relentless media coverage of America's obesity problem, and well, just as hard to miss the evidence all around us -- believe me, I couldn't miss it, as I spent last week at the beach. The bumps, the chunks, the cellulite, oh my. And that was just under MY umbrella.

So let's try to figure this out. If roughly 60 percent of the population is considered overweight, for argument's sake, let's say half of that number is women. So, of the estimated 310 million people in the United States, we can extrapolate that roughly 93 million are female shoppers in the double-digit size range.

But a funny thing happens on the way to the shopping mall. It seems that women who used to be a size 8 or 10 and have gained weight often simply don't want to shop for a size 14 or 16. Consequently, they make do with what they have. Women sizes 20 and up, many of whom perhaps have been plus-size their entire lives, seem to be more likely to have accepted themselves physically and shop as frequently as single-digit sizes, according to WWD.

So from these facts, we can perhaps start to explain why the majority of women just aren't as well-dressed as they could be.

I put this to the test by parking myself at a cafe table downtown at lunchtime to watch the people go by. After doing dozens of makeovers for The Plain Dealer, not to mention dressing myself through thick and thin, I have a pretty good idea of who wears what size.

Sure enough, WWD's story held true. While the thinner women weren't necessarily impeccably dressed, there was at least a nod to modern professionalism and style. Of the 30 or so women I noted who could be considered seriously obese, 21 of them were dolled up to the max. Cute little jackets, knee-length skirts and dresses and high heels were their outfits of this summery weekday, along with nicely styled hair and great accessories.

And yes, it was those "average American women," the size 14s, who seemed to ignore style the most often, at least in my informal survey. In the past, I assumed this was because the majority of people simply aren't all that interested in fashion. But could it be that this reluctance to shop for their current size 14 is what keeps so many women on the sidelines, and not a lack of interest?

There's more of an impact here than meets the eye.

For years, readers have told me they don't shop at small, local boutiques because their sizes aren't carried. But during these very same years, local boutique owners tell me that their size XLs and 12s-14s are usually the last to go. It's a classic Catch-22 -- people don't go into the shops to see if their sizes are there, so store owners don't see the demand and then shift their buying dollars to the sizes that are in demand.

Because it's easier to fit a wide range of people in a size 2 to 14, most manufacturers target this market. Above a size 14, fit becomes more difficult, because of the varying proportions involved; i.e., people carry their weight in very different places. Yet there are many companies devoted to this true plus-size customer because there's an opportunity to make lots of sales. It's the sizes in between that are getting squeezed.

If retailers place the greatest number of orders for sizes 4 to 8, that's where manufacturers are going to focus their production models. It simply doesn't make good business sense to go to the trouble of creating patterns and styles in a size 14 if nobody is going to buy them. So after a time, fewer and fewer of them don't produce these sizes for retailers to choose from.

At this point, a size 14 -- again, the most common size in America -- really does have something to complain about, because her choices are more limited than those in bigger and smaller sizes.

But there needs to be a certain level of personal responsibility here. How often have I told myself that while I love what I'm seeing in the mirror, it doesn't make sense to spend $100 on a pair of pants, because what will happen to these pants when I lose weight? Now, there may well be no active plan in place to LOSE weight, just a nebulous desire to do so. And so I'd skip the flattering pants and head to a discount store to buy something "temporary" that might not be flattering, but hey, at least it was a pair of pants that covered me up.

It's much easier said than done to accept yourself at every size and dress accordingly, not to mention find the money to do so. But perhaps if we think of it as a civic duty to do so -- Save the Size 14s! -- it might be the very thing to make us invest a little bit more in ourselves at every size.


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"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein

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Gioiella1349323195.873339 PostsRegistered 6/4/2008

Fascinating. This makes a lot of sense to me. In my own travels up and down the scale, I've always been aware of what I think of as the 14/16 gap. Because I've gained and lost weight so many times, I have clothing in a wide range of sizes. But the place where I always seem to have the most difficulty, and the least amount of clothes, is at 14/16. Once I was an 18 or above, I just thought of myself as a plus-sized woman, and shopped in the Women's department or various plus-sized stores. And when I got down to a 12 or less, I could comfortably shop Misses departments, or cute average-sized boutiques. But in the 14/16 range, I wasn't quite big enough for plus, or quite small enough to be comfortable in average sizes. I always felt like that was a spot I needed to get through, rather than a place where I felt comfortable. I just thought it was a quirk particular to me and my weight issues. It's interesting to see that I'm not the only one who experiences the 14/16 gap.

TY1349324952.4974114 PostsRegistered 3/22/2007

It also could be that size 14 and up are shopping online more and shopping at bricks and mortar stores for clothing less because the clothing isn't there or the clothing is ugly or old fashioned. I don't find that L or XL tops are the last to go, they are usually the first to go at Winners in Canada. There's also a big jump in clothing sizes from a size 14 to a 14W or 16W or an XL to a 1X and that's the manufacturer's fault, IMO, for not properly grading up the patterns that are used to make those clothes. Ever shop at a bricks and mortar store and the petite sizes, plus sizes, and the missy sizes are all over the place? I can shop in all 3 departments depending on the clothing item but why should I have to do that much hunting around to find something?

feline fine1349325651.8573178 PostsRegistered 9/4/2012where Phillies fans rule

Just an FYI: the "average American woman" AND the "average (female) shopper" is also only 5'4". If she is taller, there's more room for the weight to distribute around, shorter - much less.

Cool thread, FHG. 8-)

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~ Albert Einstein

BeckiWV1349326959.2133891 PostsRegistered 4/12/2011

LOL, I thought I couldn't find many size 14's because they were so popular and sold out first.

It's sort of like size 7 shoes never being on the shelf in the shoe I want. :)

songbird1349346864.7772162 PostsRegistered 12/31/2004

I always see my size all over the place. Never have any trouble finding anything. {#emotions_dlg.tt1}

AngelPuppy11349348434.4438856 PostsRegistered 5/26/2008

I know in my neck of the woods, it's hard to find what is referred to as plus sized clothing. Any time I have tried to find anything decent for my mother, it's like pulling teeth. To find something in an actual store is like non-existent. If they have something that might fit, it is way too young. I have like 2 catalogs that I might find something occasionally for her, but it's rare. If they are saying there is an obesity epidemic in this country, then where do people find clothing? Maybe it's not this way in other areas of the country, but it's very difficult to find things here.

As to what the OP was saying, probably true - because I know it was for me --- quite often when you gain weight, you don't always feel like shopping for clothes. Trying them on, spending the money, etc. I just kept saying --- oh, I will wait until I lose the "X" number of pounds before I buy any new tops, slacks, etc. It was not fun for me to shop when I gained a lot of weight and was not happy with myself. So, this probably has a lot of bearing on this article.

"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night." - Steve Martin.

KatCat11349348565.9317492 PostsRegistered 7/21/2011

I have always noticed that when there is a sale size XS and S are always available on several websites and in the stores so I don't understand this theory at all.

Vivian1349349137.7573437 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004
I agree that at sales, it's the xs tgat seems to be most plentuful but I can understand and accept the notion put forth in the WWD article. Is it possible that since 12-14 is the most common size, more are in stock and it appears therefore that more are left over for the reasons cited? I don't know but I do think Chico's may be on to something with their 0,1,2,3,4 sizing system.

Brinklii1349349540.88710278 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004Northern WI

Very interesting...It seems to me I heard about a year ago that size 12 was the average American women's size. Guess we're continuing to gain. I went up to a 12 for awhile and felt the same way though...didn't want to buy clothing at that size. Actually, I was just doing the consignment shops at that size. Now I'm a 10 struggling to get back down to an 8. I'll...but not "investment" clothing...just lower end (but not Wal-Mart type) pieces that I need to pick up.

A tongue has no bones, yet it is strong enough to break a heart. Be careful with your words.

WoW1349353465.091526 PostsRegistered 12/27/2011

I think the confusion is caused by the word "AVERAGE".

If I have 4 bank accounts with these balances:

1) $100

2) $500

3) $1000

4) $5000

my "AVERAGE" bank account balance is $1650. But not one of those 4 accounts actually has just $1650 in it.

So those who say the "AVERAGE" American woman wears a size 14, I think they're using the same (il)logic.

house cat1349353984.356497 PostsRegistered 8/23/2012Southern California

Thanks for posting a very interesting article. I would think that it would be obvious to retailers and boutique owners that larger size women would have more varying body types and issues to work around. Perhaps if they had tailors on site and offered tailoring with the purchase, like men's stores do, they would draw in more customers and make more sales. I know that being short and fluffy and often needing alterations, it's very daunting to know I have to make the purchase and then make the separate effort to take it for alterations.

>^..^< house cat

imaclothes­hog1349354164.72322409 PostsRegistered 2/12/2006

That's so true it is all about how the weight is distributed and how much body fat/muscle you have and where it is. I am a size 12 (five 8.5) and I am not overweight but I carry my weight in my hips. Some women my size and height have slim hips but larger busts. It is all about distribution.

For example I am guessing Michelle-O (flotus) is about a size 16 or 18 and probably weighs close to 200 lbs. BUT she is about 6 ft. tall. She is not overweight and probably has very little body fat.

It may be that the most common size for American women is a 14 but that does not mean that all women that wear that size are overweight. You can have a woman that is a 14 and 5'4 that is very overweight, but a woman that is 5'9 or 5'10 that is a 14 that has a normal BMI with very little body fat.

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"If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it". ~Erma Bombeck

BonnieBelle1349354908.79719677 PostsRegistered 4/13/2007
On 10/3/2012 FunkyHulaGirl said:

But a funny thing happens on the way to the shopping mall. It seems that women who used to be a size 8 or 10 and have gained weight often simply don't want to shop for a size 14 or 16. Consequently, they make do with what they have.

There you go, you hit the nail on the head.

At least with me anyway, I just don't go shopping.

Two pregnancies, age, spinal conditions - it's just not fun to shop when you don't look good, feel good or feel good about yourself.

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imaclothes­hog1349355591.1522409 PostsRegistered 2/12/2006

I think that is a big factor too--- many women do not want to buy a size larger, so they try to make what size they have in their closet fit, even though it is snug. There is some mental block with needing to buy a larger size in clothing, no one wants to do that. another reason why there is vanity sizing.

"If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it". ~Erma Bombeck

suzeecat1349355664.9271976 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004

Fascinating perspective. I really enjoy reading articles like this, and I think this one makes a lot of sense. Right or wrong, it seems most women perceive themselves to be either thin or plus-size. The women who are actually in between consider themselves to be "in transition", going either up or down to where they believe themselves to actually belong. So, why purchase clothes in what they see to be a temporary size? I get it.

MSA20041349356813.094675 PostsRegistered 8/3/2010Midwest, USA

Buy what truly fits you and cut the tag out. Yes, after children, aging, weight gain, weight loss, etc. you are no longer the same size you were 10 years ago.

Don't squeeze yourself into something two sizes too small. Buy the 16 and cut the tags out. We won't tell.Wink

Something Wonderful Is About To Happen!!!!

Pinky Ann1349357287.2271730 PostsRegistered 7/16/2009

Thanks for a terrific article, Arlene! What great points to be made! I totally agree with the poster who mentioned having tailors available in women's stores like there are in mens. It seems so obvious, yet there aren't any available in our area. pinky

Kathleen1349358264.13713442 PostsRegistered 8/7/2006East Side, West Side, All Around The Town ... London Bridge is Falling Down
On 10/4/2012 WoW said:

I think the confusion is caused by the word "AVERAGE".

If I have 4 bank accounts with these balances:

1) $100

2) $500

3) $1000

4) $5000

my "AVERAGE" bank account balance is $1650. But not one of those 4 accounts actually has just $1650 in it.

So those who say the "AVERAGE" American woman wears a size 14, I think they're using the same (il)logic.

I agree with you. Many people have no idea how "averge" is calculated.

JJsMom1349361260.85319954 PostsRegistered 10/25/2007

I know I am more motivated to buy clothes when I am thinner. I wouldn't want to invest a lot of money on larger sized clothing because I'm afraid it will make me feel comfortable at being a heavier weight.

jmsmall1349368092.8271569 PostsRegistered 7/10/2011

That sure makes me feel good. I wear a size 14 and am happy that

I am considered average then.

Page Turner1349368851.82927 PostsRegistered 5/21/2007"More hay, Trigger?" "No thanks, Roy, I'm stuffed!"

I totally agree with the article. I gained weight on medicine and went to a size 18-20 at my heaviest. I've since lost the weight and am back to a 6-8. I did not buy clothes between 12 and 18 because I refused to waste good money on temporary clothes. I bought a few cheap disposable things in between but I had to buy when I got to 18 because I could not even sausage squeeze into my existing clothes. When I lost the weight, I also refused to buy new clothes until I got to 12, under the same principle that they were temporary. Now I buy 6's and 8's, high quality things, whenever I feel like it. But I never would have done that in 12's through 18's, so I definitely fit the profile of this article exactly!!!

songbird1349375518.5532162 PostsRegistered 12/31/2004

I'm a clothes hound. Can't drive by a mall with out heading in there to "look around". Lost cause. One disadvantage with being my size. A ton of cute clothing all over the place. So I'm spending a ton of money on clothing had I been heavier, would never have purchased. So I'm spending money, I would have otherwise saved.

bonnielu1349376012.995908 PostsRegistered 10/6/2004Western Maryland

Great article thanks. I see less and less "carefully dressed" anybody out there. It seems that we have a casual society where anything goes, especially in our area. I know for myself I have gained weight. I am trying to do something about it. I do believe the stores are making clothes bigger with smaller size numbers just to keep people like me happy and feeling like we are not wearing a BIG size.

Body type does come into play. I am 5 feet and I know that finding clothes is getting harder and harder. (those that really fit).

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GoodStuff1349376457.5215725 PostsRegistered 11/11/2008

Interesting post! I'm a short, round 2X, and I've never had so many great shopping options in my life! Almost every major store has a decent (sometimes fantastic) plus size department, and the online choices are even better. I enjoy nice clothes and accessories and appreciate all the great fashion for us larger ladies. Happy shopping for me!

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itslikeher­dingcats1349378819.034039 PostsRegistered 9/20/2010

No wonder!! I embraced the size-14-is-what-you-are (and sometimes a 12) since its pretty darn obvious the 8s and 10s in my wardrobe are growing mold and collectng dust with no movement at all and I'm waaaay past the idea I may wear them next year after I lose this extra weight.........{#emotions_dlg.w00t}! So, I go out to buy said size 14 or 12 and can I find them easily, everywhere? NO! Now the explanation comes out. It makes sense now as to why they are hard to find.

I guess I just have to totally resign myself to what this article said about why that size is never easily available, easy to find, or in the styles I like. {#emotions_dlg.w00t}

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