Fashion industry, listen up. Do you know that the average clothing size of an American woman is size 14? “Average” means that fully half of the female population is larger than a size 14, and because of the childbirth thing and the gravity thing, I guarantee you more than half of Boomer women are larger than size 14. If I know that, how come you don’t know that?
At least, it doesn’t look like you know, because most of your mannequins and models look to be about size 2 or 4. Can the average woman, who couldn’t be more different from Heidi Klum if she were a fish, identify with that? (Rhetorical question.)
Most Boomer women love clothes! They love fabrics, textures, embroidery, elegance, lines, shape, drape and color. And they are at the peak of their wealth and income—right now. They want to buy clothes. And it appears that very few of you want to sell to them.
There are a few exceptions. Chico’s, of course—which is a phenomenally successful brand. Coldwater Creek, whose customers send them glowing fan mail. Nordstrom definitely, because they always “get” what’s going on with women. L.L. Bean, because they are one of the most “authentic” companies out there. But beyond those? Hmmm…
I have a dear friend who works for a major department store chain. A huge part of their business is women’s apparel. I was talking with him about this size 14 thing, and he said, “Yeah, Marti, we tried that, but the problem was, with larger models, it’s hard to make the merchandise look as good.” Well, there’s your problem right there! It’s not about the models making the merchandise look good. It’s about the merchandise making the models look good.
Here’s a secret that will make you a million dollars: to make Boomer women love your clothes, you need to make clothes that love Boomer women. It’s that simple.
I have a “blast from the past” story to illustrate my point.
About 20 years ago, a woman I know who’s a little on the heavy side was shopping in the New York garment district and happened upon a store with gorgeous Joan Vass cotton knit skirts and sweaters. They felt like cashmere, and they even came in her size. Of course, she would never buy knits because when you’re on the heavy side, the last thing you want is fabric that clings to your bumps and bulges. A saleswoman invited her to try on something, and she declined, telling her why. “Nonsense,” said the saleswoman, “That’s because you don’t know how to wear knits.”
They went into the dressing room and the saleswoman showed her how to wear the sweaters bloused up to give them drape, instead of pulled down over the hips; how shoulder pads and pushing up the sleeves to just below the elbow raise the visual center of gravity, guided her away from mid-calf skirts and sold her on the knee-length (contrary to contemporary conventional wisdom), because she had slim, shapely legs.
In other words, the saleswoman didn’t focus on the clothes. She focused on the woman who would be wearing them. She provided useful information and helped her feel good about herself. This woman walked out of there with three garment bags stuffed with outfits, and for years, wore Joan Vass for work, socializing and special occasions. Later she said to me, “That advice made all the difference in the world. Why didn’t I know this stuff before? Where the hell is the fashion industry?”
Boomer women want a different product than their younger cohorts do. She wants fashion that flatters the figure she has, not the figure fashion designers wish she had. She knows mini-skirts may not make her look her best, but cropped pants and capris can cover many flaws and still show a shapely ankle. She isn’t looking for bustiers or jeggings. She knows princess seams, a deep V-neck, three-quarter length sleeves and a little light shoulder padding can slenderize her waist and pull the center of gravity up off her hips. And tiny dressing rooms cramp her style, literally.
Boomer women have a passion for fashion. They want to look fabulous, and your job is to help them. They want to give you their money. Where are you?