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Average American women’s clothing size: comparing National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (1988–2010) to ASTM International Misses & Women’s Plus Size clothing


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The purpose of the study is to determine the current average clothing size of adult American women. Secondary data of average body measurements from the most recently published National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys were compared to ASTM International industry clothing size standards. Findings suggest that, contrary to popular assumptions, the average American woman’s (AAW’s) clothing size is larger than anticipated. The AAW wears between a Misses size 16–18, which corresponds to a Women’s Plus size 20W, with greater distinctions found when considering race and ethnicity. It is suggested that updating Misses and Plus-size clothing standards should be a major priority.
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International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and
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Average American women’s clothing size:
comparing National Health and Nutritional
Examination Surveys (1988–2010) to ASTM
International Misses & Women’s Plus Size clothing
Deborah A. Christel & Susan C. Dunn
To cite this article: Deborah A. Christel & Susan C. Dunn (2016): Average American women’s
clothing size: comparing National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (1988–2010)
to ASTM International Misses & Women’s Plus Size clothing, International Journal of Fashion
Design, Technology and Education, DOI: 10.1080/17543266.2016.1214291
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Average American womens clothing size: comparing National Health and
Nutritional Examination Surveys (19882010) to ASTM International Misses &
Womens Plus Size clothing
Deborah A. Christel and Susan C. Dunn
Department of Apparel Merchandising, Design and Textiles, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA
The purpose of the study is to determine the current average clothing size of adult American
women. Secondary data of average body measurements from the most recently published
National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys were compared to ASTM International
industry clothing size standards. Findings suggest that, contrary to popular assumptions, the
average American womans (AAWs) clothing size is larger than anticipated. The AAW wears
between a Misses size 1618, which corresponds to a Womens Plus size 20W, with greater
distinctions found when considering race and ethnicity. It is suggested that updating Misses and
Plus-size clothing standards should be a major priority.
Received 12 April 2016
Accepted 14 July 2016
Average American woman
(AAW); clothing size;
voluntary sizing standards;
plus-size apparel
1. Introduction
The US popular press recurrently reports on the increas-
ing rates of obesity, obesity-related diseases, and the
growing body size of American women. Todays
women are larger and fit into a wider range of size cat-
egories than in previous decades. The womens plus-
size category is a growing market segment with more
than two-thirds of American women classified as over-
weight or obese (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014,
p. 808). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) defines an American woman as a female, 20 years
of age and older, and living in the United States of Amer-
ica (McDowell, Fryar, & Ogden, 2009, p. 18). Currently
in the US, womens apparel sizing is arbitrary, non-
determinate, and differs among factors such as style,
age or size classification, and brand (Lee & Steen, 2014,
pp. 320323). This lack of uniformity presents challenges
when discussing and classifying female populations and
individuals by clothing size and not by body
Discussion of this topic, while voluminous, is often in
discord. A Google search for the phrase, average Amer-
ican woman clothing sizeresults in roughly 4,350,000
hits. Most recently, a PR Web article stated, size 14 is
the US average, but more than 60 percent of women
size 12 and over say that they cant find clothing in the
same calibre as in standard sizes(Corrigan, 2013).
Another market research company reported that The
plus-size market usually refers to womens size 14 and
up(Plunkett, 2015). It therefore appears that the
majority of American women wear plus-size clothing.
Owing to the constraints of this manuscript, the authors
cannot give in-depth consideration to the full gamut of
articles and publications considering the average Amer-
ican woman (AAW) wearing clothing size 14 that appear
in published resources. Sample references, however,
include (Aagerup, 2010; Acosta, 2012; Almond, 2013;
Bogenrief, 2012; Crow, 2010; Elejalde-Ruiz, 2015;
Gruys, 2012; Monget, 2011; Otieno, Harrow, & Lea-
Greenwood, 2005; Peters, 2015; Scaraboto & Fischer,
2013). While these sources cite 14 as the average size,
they are doing so in a non-standard sizing context.
Although AAWs size is a frequent topic of discussion,
the media rarely provide the citation or source of their
information. The consistent assertion of 14 as the aver-
age size sparked the researchersinterest into the validity
and accuracy of the AAWsclothing size. While the 2004
publication of the SizeUSA national survey claims to be
an excellent database for size comparison, it is not avail-
able to the public (Alexander, Pisut, & Ivanescu, 2012,
p. 7). SizeUSA surveyed 6814 female respondents age
18 and over, and reported that the AAW is a size 14
(Croasmun, 2004). The media continues to assert that
the AAW wears a clothing size 14, while the fashion
industry categorises size 14 at the beginning of plus
size (Winn, 2004, p. 491). Unfortunately, the SizeUSA
© The Textile Institute and Informa UK Ltd 2016
CONTACT Deborah A. Christel Department of Apparel Merchandising, Design and Textiles, Washington State University,
Johnson Hall Annex, Room C-15, PO BOX 646406, Pullman, WA, USA
survey data are over 10 years old. In order to determine
the accuracy of todays female body measurements, this
study incorporated more recent data collected from the
CDC and compared the results to ASTM International
(ASTM-I) Body Measurements Related to Misses and
Womens Plus Size Clothing.
2. Related literature
2.1. Voluntary sizing standards
ASTM-I (formerly known as the American Society for
Testing and Materials) is recognised as a leader in devel-
opment and delivery of voluntary consensus standards
and provides clothing size standards for females, includ-
ing Girls (regular & slim), Girls Plus, Juniors, Adult
Misses, Misses Maternity, Adult Misses Petite, Women
55+, and Womens Plus (Subcommittee D13.55, n.d.).
In the US, however, standards are driven by the private
sector. Many standards are voluntary and developed
through consensus methods that reflect the needs of pro-
ducers and manufacturers, users and consumers, and the
government. The American National Standards Institute
(ANSI), a non-governmental and not-for-profit organis-
ation, coordinates the activities of the standards develop-
ment community in the US (A guide to United States
apparel and household textiles, 2013). Some apparel
standards are mandatory rather than voluntary. For
example, childrens pyjamas (A guide to United States
apparel and household textiles, 2013) must be flame-
resistant and self-extinguishing, while oil workerscloth-
ing is also required to be fire-retardant (Occupational
Safety & Health Administration, 2010).
Within ASTM-I, each standard has a sponsoring
committee that governs recommendations. As technol-
ogy advances, ASTM-I requires each standard be revised
and re-approved by the committee at a minimum of
every eight years. If the deadline passes and the standard
is not revised or re-approved, ASTM-I considers it with-
drawn, inactive, and discontinued, as is the case with the
standard for Womens Plus (ASTM D6960-04,2004).
Standards may be withdrawn with or without replace-
ment. Withdrawn standards are still available and used
by the public for informational purposes.
2.2. Review of American clothing sizing systems
Body and clothing sizes are concepts often used inter-
changeably. Anthropometric data collection, such as
that of the CDCs publications, determines body size
and measurements, which are primarily used in health
contexts (Fryar, Gu, & Ogden, 2012). Anthropometric
data are generally defined as the study of human body
measurements especially on a comparative basis
(Anthropometry, n.d.). The National Health and Nutri-
tion Examination Survey (NHANES) and CDC anthro-
pometric data (Harrison & Robinette, 2002) contribute
to ASTM-I clothing size suggestions. However, individ-
ual apparel companies in the US ultimately govern labels
and clothing size with no legal regulation (Bubonia-
Clarke & Kontzias, 2012, p. 165).
Clothing sizes are typically determined relative to
figure types for merchandising classifications, such as
Juniors, Misses, and Womens departments. Many
womens apparel manufacturers base their current size
labelling on one of two resources: ASTM-Is standard
tables of body measurements, or the US voluntary size
standards, which were published in 1958 and based on
data collected in the 1930s (Brown & Rice, 2013, p. 202).
2.3. Merchandising classifications
Merchandising classification of apparel further compli-
cates sizing issues. Womenswear is divided into various
merchandising categories, independently determined
by each retail store. Three body types or size classifi-
cations for womenswear often correlate to the merchan-
dising categories. For example, Junior sizes are designed
to fit a short, slender, growing, and youthful figure. They
feature higher bust lines and higher waistlines than
Misses sizes. ASTM-I standards classify Junior sizes as
019 in odd numbers (ASTM D6829-02,2015).
The body type known as Misses, also called Missy
sizes, is intended to fit the average proportion and height
of American women (Lee & Steen, 2014, p. 277). Misses
sizing is designed for a fully developed female figure,
with breasts and hips, that has not yet experienced child-
birth or body ageing effects (Subcommittee D13.55, n.d.).
ASTM-I suggests Missessizes should range from 00 to
20; most Misses retailers, however, only carry up to a
size 12 or 14 (Alexander et al., 2012, p. 3).
The body type sizes designated Womens are con-
sidered to fit adult women of an average height with
full, mature figures (Brown & Rice, 2013, p. 208; Bubo-
nia-Clarke & Kontzias, 2012, p. 165). ASTM-I does not
classify an independent category as Womens. Rather,
ASTM-I provides Plus-size standards, which were pre-
viously designated as sizes 3452 (Voluntary Product
Standards, 1971) but now are classified with the same
size designations as both Misses and Women. The sub-
jective definition of plus-size clothing is generally recog-
nised as beginning at a Womens size 14 (Peters, 2015).
ASTM-I begins its standards for plus-size figure types
at size 14 with a W that distinguishes Womens from
Misses (ASTM D6960-04,2004). However, ASTM-I
withdrew this standard in 2004 (ASTM D6960-04,
2004). It is currently working to expand and clarify a
wider range of sizes that expands to a womans 32W
(ASTM WK41040, n.d.).
Many retailers have notable merchandising sections
that cater to age, figure type, and size stereotyped styles.
Although the stereotyping of size designations and ages
can be justified to a degree, no designated age range
falls under Juniors, Misses, Womens, or Womens
Plus Sizes. For example, the majority of Junior-size con-
sumers are young teenagers; so the styling of Junior
apparel is oriented to youthful trends. However, there
are exceptions to these generalisations, which make it
difficult for adult women with a Junior figure to find
a clothing style appropriate for their age, lifestyle, and
desired size (Burns & Bryant, 2002, p. 142). Many retai-
lers today, for example Wal-Mart, simply designate a
Juniors department, combine Misses and Womens
without clarification of figure type, then have a separate
plus-size clothing section. As the US population has
become increasingly diverse in body shape and size,
clothing sizes have become even less reliable (Clifford,
2011) and more frustrating for many plus-size
2.4. Anthropometric data collection
Government and private associations play a part in col-
lecting body size data to help understand body growth
patterns for tracking obesity and body shape and size.
However, there are few sources of public data from
which to draw information to help identify the shape
and size of the AAW. The most valid source of bench-
mark data for determining average American measure-
ments is the National Health and Nutritional
Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES was most
recently conducted between 2007 and 2010 by the
CDC, which is housed under the US Department of
Health and Human Services (Fryar et al., 2012). The sur-
vey collected body measurements from a representative
sample of 5552 female respondents aged 20 years and
over in the US.
For decades, the CDC has tracked changes in body
height, weight, and various other measures of health
information using variations of the NHANES. However,
the publication dates and time span of data collection are
scattered. For example, data collected between 1988 and
1994 were published in 2009 (McDowell et al., 2009),
while data collected between 1999 and 2002 were pub-
lished four years earlier in 2005 (McDowell, Fryar,
Hirsch, & Ogden, 2005). While these disparities do not
inherently seem problematic, conflict can arise when
other governing bodies, such as ASTM-I, use the data
to develop sizing standards. With an information gap
of over 10 years, the most appropriate method to form
an up-to-date analysis of the AAW clothing size is to
access national and public anthropometric measure-
ments similar to that collected by SizeUSA.
3. Methodology
3.1. Analysis of secondary data
Secondary data review is one of several methods used for
obtaining information to asses or compare data.
Through the use of secondary data, the researchers
hoped to form a clearer, more detailed, and up-to-date
analysis of the clothing size worn by the AAW. Second-
ary data are data that has been collected, collated, and
analysed by other agencies, institutions, or bodies
(Cooper & Schindler, 2003). Databases consisting of
US physical examination information and clothing size
standards were utilised for the analysis.
To acquire secondary data containing physical exam-
ination information and average body measurements of
Americans, the researchers accessed the NHANES
from the CDC. The data sets used within this study
.Anthropometric reference data for children and
adults: United States, 20072010, National Center
for Health Statistics (Fryar et al., 2012);
.Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and
Adults: United States, 20032006 (McDowell, Fryar,
Ogden, & Flegal, 2008);
.Anthropometric reference data for children and
adults: United States, 19992002 (McDowell et al.,
2005), and;
.Anthropometric reference data for children and
adults: United States, 19881994 (McDowell et al.,
The NHANES samples are reported to be representa-
tive of the population of the United States, and the results
may be generalised to describe the population.
The second source of data was collected from ASTM-I
Adult Female Misses Figure Type, Size Range 0020
(ASTM, 5585-11,2011), and the Womens Plus Size
Figure Types, Sizes 14W32W (ASTM D6969-04,2004).
For the purpose of the study, the authors focused on
comparisons of waist measurement, which is a reliable
measurement to determine clothing size, and is the pri-
mary measurement from which pants sizes are derived
(Huang et al., 1999; Lee & Steen, 2014). The main part
of the study involved the production of tables to compare
the waist measurements from the CDC data sets to the
ASTM-I standards.
4. Results
Tables 1 and 2were created using clothing sizes from the
data sets Adult Female Misses Figure Type, Size Range
00-20 (ASTM, 5585-11,2011), and the Womens Plus
Size Figure Types, Sizes 14W32W (ASTM D6969-04,
2004). The tables display the numeric size designation
with the corresponding waist circumference. Most nota-
bly, Womens Plus-size 14 corresponds between Misses
size 1012 and brings to light a complex problem. A
Plus-size woman with a 31 ½′′ waist actually wears a
smaller size designation in Misses.
Next, tables were created that compare the mean waist
measurements from four NHANES data sets from 1988
and 2010. This information is presented as three racial
and ethnic categories, as distinguished by the NHANES,
and is summarised in Tables 35. Each table displays the
years in which the data were collected, publication date,
sample size, the mean waist measurement in centimetres
and inches, and the corresponding ASTM size desig-
nation for Misses and Plus size.
Table 3 provides an overall illustration of collective
measurements for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic
Black, and Mexican-American women.
It is evident that the AAW has increased in waist cir-
cumference over the past 21 years. Womens waists have
increased 2.6′′ between 1988 and 2010. Comparison of
this data to ASTM-I in (Tables 1 &2) suggests that the
AAW, including White, Black and Mexican-American
races and ethnicities, now wears between a Misses size
1618 which corresponds to a Womens Plus size 20W.
Table 4 provides an overall illustration of collective
measurements for Non-Hispanic Black American
For Non-Hispanic Black American woman, illus-
trated in (Table 4), the waist circumference increased
3.11′′ between 1988 and 2010. Comparison of this data
to the ASTM-I suggests that average non-Hispanic
Black American women currently wear between a Misses
1820 which corresponds to a Womens Plus size 22W.
Table 5 provides an overall illustration of collective
measurements for Mexican-American women.
From 1988 and 2010, Mexican-American Women
increased in waist circumference by 2.283′′. Comparison
of this data to the ASTM-I suggests that the average
Mexican-American woman, currently wears Misses size
18 that falls between a Womens Plus size 20W22W.
While shown in (Table 3), and reported in a summar-
ised, collated manner in the source data, American
women who identify as Caucasian were not reported
independently of Black and Mexican races and ethnici-
ties, thus making comparison between White, Black
and Mexican-American race and ethnicities not feasible.
However, the authors can see that independently, Black
American women increased in waist size by 3.11′′, fol-
lowed by the collective group by 2.6′′, and lastly
women who identified as Mexican American increased
waist size the least by 2.283′′.
5. Discussion
After comparing the data sets from NAHNES and ASTM-
I clothing size charts, the authors determined that the
notion of the AAW clothing size 14 was from one of
two sources. First, noted with an asterisk in (Table 3),
the CDC data published in 2009 were compared to
ASTM-I sizing charts and found to correspond to Misses
size 14. A second possibility is that many articles and
media reports refer to SizeUSA as the survey that con-
cluded the AAW wears clothing size 14 (Zernike, 2004).
Many articles, academic and otherwise, do not directly
cite or mention any source to this statisticsorigin,
Table 1. ASTM-I standard tables of body measurements for adult
female Misses.
Size 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
Waist 29 ½ 30 ½ 32 ¼ 34 36 38 ½ 40 ½
Note: Figure Type, Size Range 0020 (ASTM, 5585-11,2011).
Source: © [ASTM International]. Reproduced by permission of Kathe Hooper
ASTM, 5585-11 (2011)Body Measurements for Adult Female Misses, copy-
right ASTM International, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, West Conshohocken, PA
19428. Permission to reuse must be obtained from the rights holder.
Table 2. ASTM-I standard table of body measurements related to
Womens Plus Size.
Size 14W 16W 18W 20W 22W 24W 26W
Waist 31 ½ 33 ½ 35 ½ 37 ½ 39 ½ 41 ½ 43 ½
Note: Figure Types, Sizes 14W32W (ASTM D6969-04,2004).
Source: © [ASTM International] Reproduced by permission of Kathe Hooper
ASTM D6969-04 (2004)Body Measurements Related to Womens Plus Size,
100 Barr Harbor Drive, West Conshohocken, PA 19428. Permission to
reuse must be obtained from the rights holder.
Table 3. White-, Black-, and Mexican-American race and ethnicity.
Years data collected Published Sample size (N) Mean cm Inches ASTM-I Misses ASTM-I Plus
19881994 2009* 8061 88.6 cm 34.881 14* 16W/18W
19992002 2005 4212 92.7 cm 36.496 16 18W/20W
20032006 2008 4134 94.1 cm 37.047 16/18 18W/20W
20072010 2012 5552 95.2 cm 37.480 16/18 20W
Note: Waist circumference for females, 20 years old and above 19881994 (McDowell et al., 2009), 19992002 (McDowell et al., 2005), 20032006 (McDowell et al.,
2008), and 20072010 (Fryar et al., 2012). *Authorsconclusion of one source of average American woman clothing size 14.
possibly assuming the information is common knowledge
(Monget, 2011; Scaraboto & Fischer, 2013). The SizeUSA
survey also has notable potential flaws. The survey is 11
years old and may be outdated to the current populations
composition. Respondent ages, while disclosed, are not
discussed or analysed by apparel categories, which affects
size classification. A study of SizeUSA states that,
Researchers weighted their samples according to a CDC
study of average height and weight to make sure they
did not count too many people who were especially
heavy or light, short or tall(Zernike, 2004). The CDC
used 2004 data for weighing, which was twenty years
old from the time of the study. The SizeUSA survey there-
fore weighted and considered outliers by outdated data,
potentially skewing their statistical analysis before data
collection began. The specific methodology of excluding
individuals deemed as outliers is not disclosed, and is sus-
pect to the valid statistical analysis of this data.
Examining other data sets presented in this study, the
authors speculate the AAWs clothing size 14 was deter-
mined using the 50th percentile waist measurement, 34′′,
from the 2009 CDC report and compared to the ASTM-I
Standard Tables of Body Measurements for Adult
Female Misses Figure Type, Size Range 0020 (ASTM,
5585-11,2011). The Misses Figure Type (Table 1) indi-
cated the waist girth measurement of 34′′ correlated to
a Misses size 14 resulting in the determined average
clothing size. This conclusion is problematic for two
reasons. First, the data published in 2009, which was
the basis of the average size, were from measurements
collected between 1988 and 1994 (McDowell et al.,
2009) and compared to ASTM-I Misses Standards
(ASTM D5585, 2011). As a result, the average size 14
was 20 years outdated even before it was published.
Second, the use of the term average is problematic
because the statistical language and use of data is
incorrect in reporting the actual mean. The 50th percen-
tile number refers to the median number, which is dis-
tinct and different from the mean. The median is
defined as the 50th percentile of a set of measurements
when the data set contains a total odd number of obser-
vations. In the case of an even number of observations,
the median can be considered the average (Pagano &
Gauvreau, 2000, p. 41). The CDC data sets of waist cir-
cumference publish both the 50th percentile in an odd
data set, together with the mean. From this, it appears
that the individual who first came to the conclusion
assumed that the 50th percentile indicated the average,
when in fact it does not.
The understanding of body and clothing size leads to
well-designed and well-informed research. The authors
therefore question the validity of the research and articles
that present the AAW size 14 as fact. It could be said
that the size 14 fact was used so frequently and with little
fact checking because it was, and still is, a critical refer-
ence point. Unfortunately, many writers failed to cite
where they found the fact, while critical research was
also not used to verify or validate the accuracy.
The results indicate that the AAW have been evalu-
ated under false data for decades. Countless news
articles, fashion periodicals, and academic manuscripts
have justified research and discussions based on the out-
dated and misleading conclusion that the AAW wears
clothing size 14. The consequences of misrepresentation
of data may be damaging for all parties involved.
5.1. Consumer impact
The womens plus-size market, size 14 and higher, is a
growing segment in the USA as more than 66% of Amer-
ican woman over the age of 20 are classified as over-
weight or obese as of 2012 (Ogden et al., 2014, p. 808).
Table 4. Non-Hispanic Black.
Years data collected Published Sample size (N) Mean cm Inches ASTM-I Misses ASTM-I Plus
19881994 2009 2296 92.8 cm 36.535 16/18 18W/20W
19992002 2005 830 97.5 cm 38.385 18 20W/22W
20032006 2008 906 99.2 cm 39.055 18/20 20W/22W
20072010 2012 1046 100.7 cm 39.645 18/20 22W
Note: Waist circumference for females, 20 years old and above 19881994 (McDowell et al., 2009), 19992002 (McDowell et al., 2005), 20032006 (McDowell et al.,
2008), and 20072010 (Fryar et al., 2012).
Table 5. Mexican-American race and ethnicity.
Years data collected Published Sample size (N) Mean cm Inches ASTM-I Misses ASTM-I Plus
19881994 2009 2019 91.1 cm 35.866 14/16 18W/20W
19992002 2005 1001 92.7 cm 36.496 16 18W/20W
20032006 2008 790 95.8 cm 37.716 16/18 20W/22W
20072010 2012 998 96.9 cm 38.149 18 20W/22W
Note: Waist circumference for females, 20 years old and above 19881994 (McDowell et al., 2009), 19992002 (McDowell et al., 2005), 20032006 (McDowell et al.,
2008), and 20072010 (Fryar et al., 2012).
As a key social consequence, many women compare
themselves to the mythical AAW clothing size 14 and
evaluate how they differentiate. The authors speculate
that women may be relieved in knowing the average
clothing size worn is larger than thought. The industrys
lack of compliance to a standard of sizing, in addition to
the subsequent discrepancies of fit, further contributes
and distorts consumersperceptions of size (Kennedy,
2009, p. 517). While the smaller clothing size style and
figure may be desirable, it is not reality; thus, it is impera-
tive that our society considers the veracity of the true size
of humanity.
The authors further consider how this knowledge may
influence the retail categorisation of plus-size apparel. It
is difficult to comprehend that while most plus-size
clothing starts at a size 14, the AAW of today has not
worn a clothing size 14 or had such measurements for
over 20 years. ASTM-I has withdrawn the clothing size
standard for adult female plus figure types, which ranged
from size 14W to 32W. According to ASTM-I, a new
standard guide for this figure type is under development,
though the expected release date is not yet apparent
(ASTM Standard WK41040, n.d.).
The AAW actually wears between a Misses size 1618,
which is equivalent to a Womens Plus size 20. In light of
this overlap in sizing classification, frequent reports of
female customers being frustrated about the general fit
and sizing of clothing is understandable (Scaraboto &
Fischer, 2012). This situation reinforces the recommen-
dation that updating plus-size standards should be a
major priority for ASTM-I.
5.2. Industry impact
With sizing standards provided and followed, the
amount of returned clothing could be reduced and the
shopping experience of women could be improved.
Inconsistent sizing designations and classification factors
have contributed to greater product returns and
exchanges (Faust & Carrier, 2010). Variations in sizing
contributed to $194 billion in returned clothing in
2010, and more than $264 billion in lost sales for US
retailers in 2012. Returned merchandise impacts stores
and adds up to millions of dollars lost in state sales tax
revenue. At present, the US is losing a total of $536
million to $1.04 billion in sales tax revenues at a time
when state budgets need it the most (Consumer returns,
6. Conclusions and future study
The AAW in the United States does not correspond to an
apparel size 14, but instead wears between a Misses size
1618, and a Womens Plus size 20W, with greater dis-
tinctions among racial and ethnic groups. Based on the
results of this study, much work is needed in clarifying
the classifications of apparel. Little unification between
academic, professional industry associations, and the
fashion industry exists in the sizing and retail merchan-
dising classification of apparel. Compounded with
inconsistent size ranges, this disparity is partially due
to the plus-size demographic having not yet been clearly
defined. The markets of Misses, Womens, and Womens
Plus-size appear to be interwoven and should be con-
sidered a topic in future studies. Future research should
consider psychographic and demographic information
when discussing the plus-size population.
The inefficiencies in todays understanding of body
size and clothing size may be better addressed by accu-
rately using current data from public CDC studies. The
practice of using outdated CDC data and expired
ASTM-I standards is problematic for several reasons.
First, when no standard is available, or if it has expired,
companies and consumers are left to develop their own
standards. Second, the use of outdated, discontinued,
or withdrawn data and standards may be dangerous, or
could be composed of irrelevant data that create incon-
sistency for manufacturers and consumers. The fashion
industry should consider public, accurate, and reliable
body measurement data to classify and discuss the popu-
lation (Daanen & Ter Haar, 2013). New standards based
on data collected through body scanners should be devel-
oped optimistically with academic rigour, or through
accessibility and careful analysis. Improved standards
would better reflect todays current clothing merchandis-
ing categories and ASTM-I classifications, more accu-
rately characterize women, and hopefully improve
standards, even if they remain voluntary.
In light of the problems and inconsistencies found, it
is the researchershope that this information accurately
expresses the average size of adult women in America
and clarifies how womens clothing sizes are determined.
The authors have attempted to provide a better under-
standing of the apparel industrys inadequacy in defining
and meeting the demands of the AAW consumer.
Designers and retailers may find that they need to repo-
sition themselves in consumersminds to regain their
lost target market.
7. Limitations
This study used public nationally governmental funded
body measurements to determine average clothing size.
The authors recognize that other studies may have
used privately purchased body measurements data sets
and different clothing standards and therefore may
have come to different conclusions. The authors ana-
lysed collected body measurement data and provided
observations and criticisms/commentary to the reported
corresponding clothing size from an academic perspec-
tive. Similar results are expected if other measurements
were analysed, and a future analysis of a more holistic
view of measurements is proposed. Data analysed and
discussed are representative only of the adult female
population within the US and may not be generalisable
outside this population.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
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... In fact, the dictionary defines plus-size as, "a clothing size designed for people who are above the average size (Collins Dictionary 2018)." Specifically, plus-size refers to anyone wearing a size U.S. 14 or larger (Christel and Dunn 2016). Plussize is much more than a term for clothing though-it has become a movement. ...
... Exercise apparel typically comes in two sizes: straight and plus-size. In the United States, straight-sized clothing (for fully developed women) are sizes classified as 00-12 and plus-size clothing is considered anything over a size 14 (Christel and Dunn 2016). While this distinction seems simple enough, the reality is that for a plus-size buyer, the experience of choosing, purchasing, and wearing plus-size clothing is frustrating, annoying, and unfair. ...
Women competing on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour recently began wearing clothing that diverted from historic norms. Some LPGA stakeholders found the attire to be distasteful, resulting in the implementation of a dress code dictating what participants could wear. LPGA members and outside stakeholders were somewhat taken aback by the dress code, declaring that the guidelines were essentially policing the women’s bodies and that the LPGA was showing a lack of trust that players will wear athletically appropriate attire. Our findings uncovered divergent reactions to the dress code and indicated the female athlete paradox still significantly impacts women’s professional golf.
Past research suggests that sexualized women are dehumanized and viewing sexualized images negatively impacts viewers’ body image; however, plus-size women are mostly absent from this research. The current studies investigate how sexualization impacts dehumanization of plus-size women and participants’ body image. In Study 1 (N = 277, Mage = 19.52, SD =1.77) men and women viewed images of plus-size and thin sexualized and non-sexualized women and rated the women on traits linked to dehumanization. Results indicated that sexualized thin targets were perceived as less human than plus-size sexualized and non-sexualized targets. Plus-size sexualized targets were also perceived as less human than plus-size non-sexualized targets. In Study 2 (N = 500, Mage = 18.98, SD = 1.51) we investigated the impact of viewing sexualized images on participants’ feelings about their own body. Results indicated that sexualization, but not body size, impacted women’s objectified body consciousness. Men’s body esteem was impacted by the body size of the image. Perceived race of the image also impacted feelings of body control for both men and women. Taken together these results highlight that sexualization, at any body size, impacts women’s views about themselves and sexualized women, at any body size, are dehumanized.
Background: While the American standard of beauty idolizes unattainable thinness, social media exposure has been instrumental in crafting a more inclusive perception of beauty. Methods: Using several websites with public data on models, we gathered body measurements and characteristics of both plus-size and the overall top 10 paid mainstream models. We then collected social media data for these models using the social media analytics tool called Social Blade. We compared social media data between plus-size and mainstream models. Results: While plus-size models have increased BMI, the waist/hip ratio was 0.74 on average, compared to 0.71 in mainstream models. The average social media following among the top 10 plus-size models was 3.8 million compared to 38 million amongst the top 10 mainstream models (p = 0.039). There was no significant difference between the average likes per post, average comments per post, and total posts between the top mainstream models and top plus-size models (p-values 0.11, 0.12, and 0.15, respectively). Conclusion: With the changing societal body image in America, plus-size models have gained in popularity and positively impacted a body-inclusive model of beauty. However, the mainstream model still prevails as the social media powerhouse of influence.
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Social media have gained traction in advertising campaigns for luxury and fashion clothes using influencers, who shape trends of photography. To remain competitive, however, influencers depend on how they convey authenticity, which largely relies on the key visual elements of the photographs they post in social media. The purpose of this study is to explore the visual elements of photography used by social media influencers and to compare the main photography trends in digital media. Specifically, it aims to shed light on how new photography trends such as urban background style and fashion models with large body sizes produce effects on consumers.
This study investigates the effectiveness of inclusive advertising featuring both plus-size models and straight-size models on consumers’ responses. By building on the Brands as Intentional Agents Framework (BIAF), the study also investigates the mechanism of the positive effect of including plus-size models on brand performance. For this study, a between-subjects design of model body size (diverse versus straight only) and a moderator of consumer body size (plus versus straight) were used; a multivariate analysis of covariance was conducted, along with a mediation analysis, to test the proposed hypotheses. The results indicated that inclusive advertisements depicting models with diverse body sizes had a positive main effect on brand attitude and an indirect effect on brand attitude and purchase intention. Brand warmth mediated the positive effect of diverse body sizes on brand attitude and purchase intention. This study contributes to the literature on body image by demonstrating the effectiveness of including plus-size models on two levels of consumer responses – brand attitude and purchase intention – and by demonstrating the mechanism of brand warmth. This study also informs brand managers as to how embracing plus-size models can benefit brand performance.
The extent to which the U.S. fashion industry is becoming more size- and shape- inclusive is highly contested. To assess whether or not this is occurring in women’s fashion, I draw from a content analysis of 162 online job advertisements for female fit models in the U.S. collected between 2012 and 2018. I show that fit modeling is, indeed, more size- and shape- inclusive than fashion modeling. However, when compared to the broader U.S. population, the sizes and shapes recruited in fit model ads are not inclusive. For example, only 16% of job ads recruited “plus-size” models, none recruited fit models larger than size 20/2X, and virtually all specified fit models with hourglass proportions. To the extent that fit models are selected because they mirror fashion brands’ “target customers,” these findings suggest that the U.S. fashion industry is not, in fact, becoming more size- and shape- inclusive.
This article considers the messy intersections of fat liberation and fashion. In doing so, it analyzes two case studies – Big Beautiful Woman magazine’s “I’M MAD AS HELL!” complaint slips and the more recent “#MakeMySize” social media movement – through the critical lenses of commodity feminism and commodity activism. When viewed through these lenses, these case studies demonstrate that although some critics have deemed fashion a frivolous preoccupation, it has in fact played an important, if complicated, role in the ongoing project of resignifying fat embodiment and in pushing the fat liberation movement forward.
In recent years, a number of clothing brands have launched viral body-positive marketing campaigns featuring diverse groups of women of various sizes and body types in Photoshop-free ads. These anti-Photoshop campaigns that stress “real” bodies “exactly as they are” serve to counter the narrow and quite distorted image of beauty presented by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. While these campaigns alter the landscape by eliminating Photoshop from their image production process, their attempt to increase size diversity actually maintains the status quo since the plus-size models on display are typical commercial plus-size fashion models who are on the smaller end of the plus-size spectrum. Despite its best efforts, fashion hides bodies over a size 16 from consumers. In this paper, I discuss the regulation of plus-size models and the strategic use of padding in fashion, and how this perpetuates a narrow and fabricated image of beauty. I also discuss the rise of size 22 model Tess Holliday, who revolutionizes the commercial definition of plus size and rages against the status quo in fashion.
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Women’s bodies are frequent sites of stigmatization. The internalization of negative attitudes toward the body can have negative implications for women’s sexual wellbeing. In the current study, we examined the relationships between young women’s internalization of body stigma—including body shape, genitals, and menstrual periods—and sexual satisfaction. Additionally, we tested two mechanisms that may mediate the relationship between body attitudes and sexual satisfaction: dehumanization (i.e., feelings of a loss of autonomy and subjectivity) and communication with a sexual partner (e.g., expressing needs and desires). We collected and analyzed survey data from 569 undergraduate women. We tested serial mediation models, such that more negative body attitudes would predict greater feelings of dehumanization, and more dehumanization would predict less comfort communicating with a sexual partner, and less comfort communicating would then predict decreased sexual satisfaction. We found support for serial mediation, which suggests that the links between body attitudes and sexual satisfaction may be partially explained by feelings of dehumanization and communication with a sexual partner. Our findings identify opportunities for intervention in practice and policy, and further clarify the ways that sociocultural stigma surrounding women’s bodies extends beyond the body—affecting women’s feelings of power, relationships, and sexual lives.
Little is known about how people’s routine body movements when they are at work affect the perceived fit and comfort of their uniform/workwear. This knowledge gap was addressed in this study through carefully planned interviews. First, known theories from previous studies were analysed to establish a theoretical framework. Next, primary data and new information were collected through semi-structured interviews with fifteen subjects from eight industries to refine the investigation. Through these interviews, data were collected in relation to the subjects’ (1) jobs; (2) routine body movements in the workplace; and (3) evaluation of the fit and movement comfort of their uniforms. Both deductive and inductive approaches were used to process the collected data so as to understand the wearers’ needs for, and perceptions of, their uniform fit and movement comfort in their workplaces. This study lays the foundation for further research on uniform/workwear improvement.
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More than one-third of adults and 17% of youth in the United States are obese, although the prevalence remained stable between 2003-2004 and 2009-2010. To provide the most recent national estimates of childhood obesity, analyze trends in childhood obesity between 2003 and 2012, and provide detailed obesity trend analyses among adults. Weight and height or recumbent length were measured in 9120 participants in the 2011-2012 nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In infants and toddlers from birth to 2 years, high weight for recumbent length was defined as weight for length at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts. In children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI-for-age growth charts. In adults, obesity was defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Analyses of trends in high weight for recumbent length or obesity prevalence were conducted overall and separately by age across 5 periods (2003-2004, 2005-2006, 2007-2008, 2009-2010, and 2011-2012). In 2011-2012, 8.1% (95% CI, 5.8%-11.1%) of infants and toddlers had high weight for recumbent length, and 16.9% (95% CI, 14.9%-19.2%) of 2- to 19-year-olds and 34.9% (95% CI, 32.0%-37.9%) of adults (age-adjusted) aged 20 years or older were obese. Overall, there was no significant change from 2003-2004 through 2011-2012 in high weight for recumbent length among infants and toddlers, obesity in 2- to 19-year-olds, or obesity in adults. Tests for an interaction between survey period and age found an interaction in children (P = .03) and women (P = .02). There was a significant decrease in obesity among 2- to 5-year-old children (from 13.9% to 8.4%; P = .03) and a significant increase in obesity among women aged 60 years and older (from 31.5% to 38.1%; P = .006). Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.
This article investigates the voluptuous female silhouette in fashion. Is it a super imposed image of a desired female form or simply a way of accentuating the ample assets of a larger sized body? Body image has been identified as crucial to clothing provision and fashion consumption Research has recognized that fuller-sized and obese people were considered unhappy, unconfident, unattractive and identified a huge level of discrimination and negativity towards the overweight (Blumberg and Mellis 1985, Clayson and Klassen 1989, Miller 1990, Salusso-Dounier 1993). Presenting and describing a body as voluptuous could be a more palatable way to repackage and reconceptualise the larger sized. It is perhaps a more flattering description shrouding prejudices with regards to fashion, style and garment selection. The investigation includes a number of approaches. Object based research investigates the design and manufacture of garments for the fuller sized figure. Action based research in the design studio considers fashion designer’s attitudes towards the plus-sized and its effects on production and consumption. Semi structured interviews and case studies support the qualitative approaches taken and identify the fashion choices available for voluptuous bodies and if these clothes involve levels of body modification. They also suggest how the repackaged voluptuous body could continue to be represented in a future global market place.
The paper explores the values "owned" by local plus-size brands and if these values are sought by plus-size consumers. According to recent studies, plus-size women had difficulty in finding well-fitting fashionable clothing in general, making then unhappy shoppers. The paper aimed to address the problem-determining if: plus-size consumers associate plus-size brands with attributes that differentiate them from competition, consumers connect a brand's "owned" attribute to consequent values and express a preference for the brand whose consequent value is most congruent with their own. The ever-changing lifestyle that led to a change in eating patterns resulted to the rise of hefty-sized consumer market called the "plus-size"-women with body and clothing measurements of 14 and larger. These plus-size consumers who give importance to specific values likely to prefer the brand with the attribute is its functional or psychosocial benefit. Furthermore, perceive each of the brands as owning an attribute entirely different from the brand's positioning. Perhaps, "Moda Plus' brand position is "providing clothes with styles that flatter the full-figured" being the value they offer, yet consumer perception dictates that "Moda Plus brand" owns an entirely different value. The paper presents the uniqueness of the Philippine market in comparison with its foreign counterparts. Existing researches anchored their study on various contexts such as: aesthetics, store image and perception, it somehow failed to explore consumer perception of brand value and its consistency with brand positioning. The paper provides relevant insights for plus-size brands about consumer perceptions of value and suggested marketing communication.
This article examines the overlooked market of plus-size fashion and explores the ways in which the fashion industry neglects and marginalizes fat consumers. Faced with limited options in garments colloquially known as “plus-size” or “outsize” that are typically relegated to dark corners of clothing stores and are excluded from the pages of high fashion periodicals, the plus-size consumer lacks options in fashioning her self-identity. Under these circumstances, the role the fashion industry has played in further entrenching fat stigma in the collective consciousness and in abetting the processes of fat identity formation amongst plus-size consumers merits closer examination. Drawing upon the collected sartorial biographies of three self-identifying plus-size women, this article considers the ways in which fat identities are formed through the intimate practices of self-fashioning and via social channels such as shopping and fashion blogging, thereby bridging the fields of fat studies and fashion studies. It also takes into account issues of performativity and dress as a situated bodily practice. Through these case studies, the role the fashion industry plays in the processes of fat identity formation is brought to the fore, as are the complicated, creative, and sometimes subversive means through which fat women engage with plus-size fashion.
Drawing on participant observation at a women's plus-size clothing store, “Real Style,” this article draws on the unique experiences of plus-sized women in their roles as workers, managers, and customers, to examine how mainstream beauty standards, body-accepting branding, and customers' diverse feeling rules shape service interactions. Despite branding that promoted prideful appreciation for “Real” bodies, the influence of these body-accepting discourses was constrained by women's internalization of mainstream fat stigma, resulting in an environment characterized by deep ambivalence toward larger body size. This ambivalence allowed hierarchies between women to be reified, rather than dissolved; although plus-sized employees and customers expressed gratitude to have Real Style as a “safe space” to work and shop, workers experienced gender segregation of jobs, and thinner employees were privileged with special tasks. Further, managers and white (but not black or Latina) customers used body-disparaging “fat talk” to elicit workers' emotional labor while confronting thinner workers for defying aesthetic expectations. This research offers a more nuanced understanding of the ties between aesthetic labor and emotional labor, while highlighting some of the factors that prevent stigmatized groups from successfully reclaiming status within consumer contexts.
An overview of whole body scanners in 1998 (H.A.M. Daanen, G.J. Van De Water. Whole body scanners, Displays 19 (1998) 111–120) shortly after they emerged to the market revealed that the systems were bulky, slow, expensive and low in resolution. This update shows that new developments in sensing and processing technology, in particular in structured light scanners, have produced a new generation of easy to transport, fast, inexpensive, accurate and high resolution scanners. The systems are now moving to the consumer market with high impact for the garment industry. Since the internet sales of garments is rapidly increasing, information on body dimensions become essential to guarantee a good fit, and 3D scanners are expected to play a major role.
Purpose This paper explores fashion availability, fit and affordability in the UK stores especially for those women who wear size 16 and over; and examines their satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the retail experience. Design/methodology/approach The satisfaction of customer needs remains a fundamental tenet of marketing theory, research and application. This survey was an exploratory study into satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the fashion provision and shopping environments for women in the UK. A questionnaire solicited the views of 250 women thereby enabling the researchers to gauge consumers' views on sizing, fit and fashion availability, perception of current offers, pricing and shopping environments. Findings A large percentage of females, particularly those who wear size 16 and over, are dissatisfied with retail environments, fashion and sizing provision among major UK market players. While most women shopped from the high street and department stores, the larger woman had great difficulty in finding well‐fitting fashionable clothing in general, and with certain categories being most problematic. Respondents' views would appear to contradict previously accepted wisdom that clothing consumption activity is leisure and pleasure orientated; many negative experiences prevailed leaving them unhappy and disenfranchised. Research limitations/implications The findings presented are the views of women's experiences in one city in the UK. Future research could include a wider sample from more cities. Practical implications Marketers should be aware of the need for affordable fashions for larger women. Lack of appropriate sizes is a major source of dissatisfaction. This creates negative emotions in terms of: merchandise choice, visual merchandising, store environment, sales personnel attitude, pricing policies and promotional activities. These factors are the very foundations of consumer satisfaction and the evidence of consumer dissatisfaction resulting in avoidance behaviour should be particularly worrying for retailers, given that they are operating in an increasingly competitive and saturated fashion environment. Originality/value This paper provides an initial indication of what creates consumer satisfaction or dissatisfaction about fashion, fit, affordability and retail environments in the UK particularly among larger women. This paper shows areas of specific concern for marketers.
The women's plus-size apparel category is a growing market segment in the USA as more than two-thirds (64%) of American women are considered either overweight or obese (Flegal et al., 201012. Flegal , K. M. 2010. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2008. Journal of the American Medical Association, 303(3): 235–241. Available from: [Accessed 6 July 2010] [CrossRef], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®]View all references. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2008. Journal of the American Medical Association, 303 (3), 235–241. Available from: [Accessed 6 July 2010]). Pisut and Connell (200724. Pisut , G. and Connell , L. J. 2007. Fit preferences of female consumers in the USA. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 11(3): 366–379. [CrossRef]View all references. Fit preferences of female consumers in the USA. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 11 (3), 366–379) and Simmons et al. (200427. Simmons , K. P. , Istook , C. L. and Devarajan , P. 2004. Female figure identification technique (FFIT) for apparel, part II: development of shape sorting software. Journal of Textile and Apparel Technology and Management, 4(1): 1–16. View all references. Female figure identification technique (FFIT) for apparel, part II: development of shape sorting software. Journal of Textile and Apparel Technology and Management, 4 (1)) reported that women today reflect a more pear-shaped silhouette than in previous decades. Kurt Salmon Associates (200017. Kurt Salmon Associates. Annual consumer outlook survey. Paper presented at the American Apparel and Footwear Association apparel research committee. Orlando, FL. View all references. Annual consumer outlook survey. Paper presented at the American Apparel and Footwear Association apparel research committee, Orlando, FL) reported that more than half the women have trouble finding well-fitting clothes. Consumers' figure types play a significant role in affecting sizing measurements of apparel (Njagi, R.K. and Zwane, P.E., 2011. Variation in measurements across different brands of same style ladies' pants in Swaziland. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education, 4 (1), 51–57). Apparel patterns are made for hourglass-shaped women and are graded from an average size, assuming that women's measurements increase proportionally as size increases. Based on SizeUSA, a national dataset, women were classified into each size category based on their bust, waist and hip measurements, and their measurements were compared to American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. Results showed a significant difference for most size categories. Within each size category, fewer participants satisfied all three measurements of bust, waist and hips. From these measurements, women's hip shape was determined and evaluated for sizes 14W–32W. Analysis of hip shape revealed that different hip shapes exists within a given apparel size. Research methods and implications are discussed.