The average woman in the U.S. no longer wears a size 14. According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, the size has actually gone up to a 16-18.
So how did they come to that conclusion?
First, researchers from Washington State University looked at data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and compared it to the ASTM International body measurements for “misses” and “women's plus-size” clothing, Revealist reported. By looking at a sample of more than 5,500 women 20 years old and older, they found that the women’s waist size has increased 2.6 inches in the past 21 years.
Guess that size 14 ain’t what it used to be.
Another important tidbit: For African-American women, our size clocked in a bit larger than 16. Data found that instead we rock on average a 18-20, which when you think about it, shouldn’t come as a surprise given that past studies have shown that four out of five of us are either overweight or obese.
And while we know that can have an impact on our health, what does this mean for the clothing industry? Simple: Researchers say that sizes need to be updated to reflect the new norm.
“The [average American woman] actually wears between a Misses size 16–18, which is equivalent to a Women’s Plus size 20,” the researchers wrote.
“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,” they added.
Now time will tell whether or not that will actually happen. Yes, the fashion has gotten a little better. Just look at NYFW; there was an uptick of women in a variety of size runs strutting down the catwalk. But clearly more work needs to be done.
According to a recent Washington Post op-ed written by Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, “only 8.5 percent of dresses on Nordstrom.com in May were plus-size. On J.C. Penney’s website, it was 16 percent; Nike.com had a mere five items — total.” That doesn’t read like real progress.
Perhaps this disconnect stems from the industry’s archaic reluctance to believe that larger women and high fashion can go hand in hand. Hence why actresses Dascha Polanco and Leslie Jones have such a hard time getting designers to dress them for the red carpet and why a lot of clothing companies cut off their clothes at a size 12 or 14.
If anything, we hope that the fashion industry pays attention to this study as it underscores that the fact that the 100 million women who identify as plus-sized in this country are not going away — and are even larger than once believed. And if they choose to ignore the data and continue on believing that only the thin deserve to be fashionable and fabulous, they are only shooting themselves in the foot.
Just think how much more money they could rake in every year if they catered — and catered well — to larger women? But that’s on them. Guess being sizeist literally outweighs potential profits.
(Photo: Andy Ryan/Getty Images)