Penneys resize themselves to fit the customer’s needs

Changes in clothes sizes suggest positivity and diversity are gaining traction in fashion

Penneys have reorganised their sizes to emphasise body positivity and plus size fashion

Penneys have reorganised their sizes to emphasise body positivity and plus size fashion

 

The news that fast fashion giant Penneys has scrapped conventional numbered sizing options, like 8, 10 and 12, and replaced them with S, M and L, which is from a UK size 4 up to a UK 24, has been welcomed by shoppers.

The store says that updating the sizing is “in line with other high street retailers and a response from customer feedback and research. It will be used for a small amount of lingerie plus a large selection of womenswear including jumpers, cardigans, jersey tops, sports tops, casual bottoms, workout apparel, shorts, light jackets and some swimwear.”

The new sizing will come into effect gradually. The change only applies to these items and there are no plans to change it in other departments, such as menswear.

On Oxford Street in London, I have gone to Uniqlo, Gap and H&M and found no co-ordination in sizing; a size 10 in one place is confusingly a size 12 in another and vice versa

Dress sizing, and plus-size fashion in particular, have always been loaded issues. In the US, where the average dress size is 16/18 and getting larger, retailers are increasingly aware of the commercial opportunities of addressing a wider spectrum of body types.

In the UK, the average women’s figure has grown in 60 years from a size 12 to 16, and Marks & Spencer’s recently introduced Curve range for size 18-32, which was designed on a size 24 block as opposed to the usual 12 and sized up and down from there.

Elsewhere, Debenhams introduced larger mannequins for its stores in 2013 and H&M, responding to customer pressure, announced last month that it would change its womenswear sizing in line with the UK so that the fit of a size 12 will now be 10.

Historically, there has always been a difference between European and US sizing and that variation is obvious on the high street. Lack of standardisation can be a nightmare. On Oxford Street in London, I have gone to Uniqlo, Gap and H&M and found no co-ordination in sizing; a size 10 in one place is confusingly a size 12 in another and vice versa.

With Penneys being the latest to take on these challenges, such changes are pointing to the fact that body positivity and diversity are finally gaining traction in the fashion world. According to self-styled plus-size Irish blogger, Louise O’Reilly, getting the right fit as Marks & Spencer has done “is a similar tactic to that used by German and Italian brands because what fits in one area doesn’t fit in another”. A tall woman who wears a size 24 dress has a totally different silhouette from a small woman who also wears a size 24.

While the Penneys move is to be welcomed, it will mean that there is less variation in more fitted items, like dresses and jackets. As such, the thrust of future collections will no doubt be less on structured shapes and more on easygoing, sporty silhouettes, which is in keeping with current fashion trends.

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