Today’s shoppers are becoming more vocal about the need for expanded sizing in the denim space.
“I’m desperate to spend my money on good jeans, and I’d pay extra to make sure they fit,” said Meg Murph, a shopper frustrated with limited denim sizing dubbed ‘standard.’
Select brands are working toward greater size inclusivity—and finding it’s a solid business strategy with high growth potential.
Brands doing this have an opportunity to capture an increasing market share: The plus-size market alone is anticipated to reach $697 billion by 2027, according to Allied Market Research.
Those that succeed are the ones focused on product innovation, according to Jessica Quillin, Ph.D., and Co-Founder of It’s A Working Title, a boutique strategy and research agency for fashion and luxury brands.
“The recent shift toward ‘90s and Y2K-style denim—with lower rise jeans, baggier fits, and lighter washes—means innovating upon the dark skinny jeans that have become the go-to option for brands with size-inclusive options in recent years,” Quillin said.
One brand doing this well is Madewell, which expanded its denim offerings in 2018 to offer sizes through 4X and 28W. Petite and tall sizes have been integrated into its denim product assortment since 2012.
Offering size-inclusive denim offerings is no easy task, however. The design team at Madewell quickly learned it’s important to fit on multiple sizes instead of simply “grading up” standard sizes, as there are nuances with each size that can’t be captured with a simple formula.
As a result, Madewell’s design team spends time fitting every garment across all size ranges (standard, plus, petite, tall, and curvy) on a different model for each fit. Once the products are rolled out, they continue to tweak and evolve these sizes and fits as they receive customer feedback.
Abercrombie & Fitch is also working toward greater size inclusivity within its denim product lineup.
“We’re very intentional about designing and fit testing each of our inclusive styles to ensure they honor a diverse range of body shapes,” said Corey Robinson, Chief Product Officer at Abercrombie & Fitch. “Our ‘Curve Love’ fits represent a significant portion of our denim sales.”
Robinson went on to share that the introduction of expanded size ranges for denim has not only created more space for belonging within the brand’s community, but has also been incredibly popular on TikTok, generating positive social buzz for the brand.
Not all brands with expanded sizing offerings find it a smooth road to profitability and customer satisfaction, though.
For example: Old Navy’s foray into size-inclusivity highlighted all the challenges of introducing an expanded sizing line. What started as an ambitious plan to become the most size-inclusive brand eventually had to be pared back.
The brand introduced Bodequality in 2021, developing new technology to design garments that fit well across many body types. Old Navy committed to having the whole assortment available in-store, allowing customers to shop for different sizes at its brick-and-mortar locations.
One year later, however, the brand announced it had not seen the expected demand for extended-size products in its stores. As a result, they decided to realign in-store inventory, removing select extended sizes and adjusting store inventory based on local demand.
The lesson here: Brands that want to participate in the size-inclusivity movement (specifically in the denim space) need an ongoing feedback loop with customers and a strategy for long-term viability, both online and off.
There’s no doubt that the demand for size-inclusive denim will continue to blossom—but it’s up to brands to figure out the best way to incorporate expanded sizing into their business strategies so they can effectively meet customers’ needs.