It’s no surprise that a recent survey we commissioned at Mys Tyler revealed the number one thing women felt underrepresented in by the fashion industry was size. But it’s not only a lack of diverse body sizes that’s letting us down when it comes to fashion, women also felt their age, height, ethnicity, and abilities were all underrepresented.
Past research shows that when we’re exposed to body diversity, we can be less critical of our own bodies and our latest research shows that seeing women who are representative of how we look makes us feel better about our bodies with 78% of women feeling more relevant, better about their bodies, and/or inspired to try new styles when they see women who look similar to them in the fashion industry.
While having diversity in models and fashion campaigns is now considered a must for the fashion industry, it’s going to be important for the industry to look at diversity from all angles, not just in relation to size. Not only do diverse bodies in advertising campaigns allow consumers to feel seen and create an inclusive environment, it’s also helping to create a frictionless shopping experience, with better fit, less returns, and more happy customers. A win for everyone.
Through our research we found that underrepresentation in fashion advertising causes high friction when it comes to shopping. One in two women struggle to find clothing that suits their body/age/style and 82% of women have recently had issues finding clothes that fit. It’s no wonder that 28% of women say that shopping for clothes is usually a negative experience for them.
Body confidence and fashion
The research showed us that our confidence is intrinsically linked to what we wear with 89% of women saying their confidence is improved by wearing an outfit they feel good in. These results would lead us to expect that women would choose to wear outfits to boost their confidence every day, however only 15% reported that they could achieve this daily. But why?
Most models don’t represent most women
When we’re looking at clothing modeled on bodies that are different to ours, it can be hard for us to imagine what those clothes would look like on us – the very reason we developed our FiT algorithm on the Mys Tyler app – and this lack of a representation makes finding clothes that fit a challenge. A staggering one in two women found that clothes they had purchased didn’t meet their expectations after looking different on them than they did on the model. And just like that, another woman who feels defeated by the shopping experience and another clothing item that needs to be returned – a vicious cycle that has both huge environmental and economic impacts.
The average size of a runway model is reported to be size 8 or smaller. 85% of our survey respondents fell outside of this size range with nearly half of the women being size 14 or above. But when it comes to fit, the research shows that while size is important – with 59% of women feeling underrepresented in this area – fashion advertising is still missing the mark when it comes to representing diverse body shapes. Not all size 8 women look the same, and not all size 20 women look the same – when it comes to fit, our research revealed shape is actually the biggest problem not size – demonstrating that size representation is just the start of creating a true solution.
More than just the number on the label
Second to size, age was the next area women felt grossly underrepresented in, with over half of the women surveyed not seeing women their age in fashion advertising. While one in three felt underrepresented by their height, a huge number considering height rarely gets a mention when we talk about diverse bodies. Ethnicity and abilities were also key areas the fashion industry was lacking in and women wanted to see more representation across both.
Representation in fashion is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a must. We need large-scale diversity across the industry to tackle this problem, help women feel seen, and to easily find clothes that make them feel great.