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A phenomenon scientists call “enclothed cognition” clothing can affect mood, confidence, and even health. Often used as a tool of expression, professor Karen J. Pine concludes “When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it” (Ferguson, 2017). This correlates the relationship between psychology and fashion. I personally have always used clothing to elicit confidence within myself. The retail industry utilizes many marketing tactics, as it is an especially competitive industry. Some retailers build their brand and promote the idea that their clothing will make people feel a certain way or make it seem like they fit into a certain type of class. There are retailers that design for specific markets that are considered niche, such as the plus size market. The key is to develop a powerful brand identity that generates reoccurring customers. With competition in the retail industry being inevitable, it is essential to keep up with trends and to listen to consumers’ wants and needs.
While Abercrombie and Fitch remain fixated on using offensive tactics to cater to their ideal market, Torrid has acknowledged the steady growth and demands of the plus-size industry and has chosen to appease the needs that have been long-awaited.Effects of Body ShamingBody shaming is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.” Whether it be shaming someone for being “too thin” or “too fat”, body shaming proves to have many effects aside from damaging self-esteem. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that body shaming increases eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Body shaming tends to leave people with poor body image, a perception of how a person perceives their physical appearance. This perception is often influenced by environmental factors such as the media and the opinions of others.
In America, obesity affects about 93.3 million adults (CDC, 2016). While being overweight can be the cause for other health issues such as type-two diabetes and heart disease, body shaming might be used as a tactic in efforts to get someone to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. However, many studies have proved that body-shaming actually has the opposite effect. In a study called The Ironic Effects of Weight Stigma, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers concluded that when exposed to weight stigmatization, women showed less restraint when it came to eating (Major, Hunger, Bunyan, & Miller, 2013.) Being shamed often leads people to engage in emotional eating in efforts to comfort themselves. There is a negative bias and stigma attached to being overweight, and it induces stress, anxiety, and even depression. Certified Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapist and Somatic Psychotherapist April Lyons concludes “Ultimately, body shaming labels and excludes people based on an unattainable “ideal” image.” (Lyons, 2018).
In the plus-size industry, the words plus-size themselves have a stigma attached that if you are considered plus-size, you don’t fit into society’s perception of beautiful. This is especially apparent in the fashion and retail industry. Models who are size eight and up are considered to be plus-size, and it is not often that models of this and higher sizes are used in the media. What is considered plus-size in America varies from sizes 10 and up, though most retailers define it as sizes 14 and up. This market has not had many options when it comes to shopping in the past. However, retailers are beginning to expand their offerings for the plus-size market. Some companies are paying attention to the statistics and those who use the media to spread awareness for the lack of options in the industry, as well as promoting body-positivity.Modern Plus-Size Clothing Industry According to a 2016 study published in The International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, the average American woman is size is a 16 (Christel, Dunn (2017).
This updated study disproves the popular belief that the average size is a 14. In 2016, the plus-sized women’s clothing market grew 23% since 2012, making it a 21.4 billion-dollar industry. The plus-size clothing industry makes up for 17.5% of all clothing sales, with a faster growth rate to all other clothing sales, which is 9.9%. The plus-size market is expected to grow 4% annually from 2015 to 2020 (NPD Group, 2017.) Some retailers see these numbers as a growth opportunity to either start or improve their plus-sized clothing. TorridSince its debut in 2001, Torrid has been continuously evolving. From styles, offerings and aesthetic, one aspect Torrid has never altered is its fundamental purpose; to create clothes for young women sizes 10-30. Torrid was created when Sycamore Partners, the owners of Hot Topic, responded to feedback from Hot Topic shoppers saying they wanted clothes to be available in larger sizes. Torrid has since strayed from Hot Topic’s alternative clothing style, adding more feminine clothing, accessories, swimwear, and lingerie.
Understanding there aren’t many options for the plus-size market, Torrid has teams dedicated to studying trends to offer fashion-forward clothing. In addition to this, Vice President of design Liz Munoz explains their process for ensuring quality in every garment using fit technicians and designers. They also test their clothing on plus-size models and send clothing to bloggers to get feedback straight from potential customers.Perhaps Torrid’s most sought after feat is to ensure the company exudes body positivity and offers a welcoming, judgment-free zone for the in-store shopping experience. Torrid hires employees that have the same mantra in every management level, this includes the sales associates. The store also has a different approach in their sizing charts such as 1X and 2X. This is to deter connotations about sizing and to think more about the fit rather than the number. Torrid has heard many testimonials from customers about their past shopping experiences at other stores before Torrid. Hearing how customers referred to past shopping trips as an “inherent terror”
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