Three-quarters of US women over the age of 35 experience issues with fit when shopping online for clothes, and are frustrated by the lack of standardisation in sizing, new research shows. 

The demographic, which, ironically, is also the most lucrative group of clothing buyers, was most severely impacted by the failures of fashion firms, according to research from Chicago startup Balodana.

The idea for Balodana – a made-to-measure fashion marketplace – started when founder Dana Todd found herself frustrated with the retail shopping experience in America. Even at high-end stores, she noticed that garments didn’t fit her body or were made poorly. She found this to be a common complaint among her friends of all ages and body types, but it was particularly an issue for mature women and women who wore larger than a size 6.

Prior industry research had held that nearly half of women experience issues with fit, but Balodana’s research on internet shoppers aged over 35 shows that 75% experience moderate to severe issues finding ‘off the rack’ clothes that fit them and were frustrated by the lack of standardisation in sizing. In addition, 72% said they wear different sizes from brand to brand, even in similar garments.

“Other industries know that the consumer is in control now, but fashion design and manufacturing has not fully adapted to incorporate consumer feedback and data into its product development,” Todd says. “The combination of insular designer attitudes plus offshoring our intellectual property has left America with a massive problem: we no longer make clothes women can wear, and we no longer have the systems in place to innovate our way out of it.”

Tom Ramunno, founder and managing partner at apparel manufacturing and digital platform company Pleneri, believes the industry is being driven by disruptive new players, and foremost among them are direct-to-consumer marketplaces and custom-made clothing brands.

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“The reason nothing fits women is because, simply put, the Asian manufacturers co-opted the US and European designs over the course of the last 40-plus years and developed new patterns for a different smaller body type,” he says. “New, disruptive players are learning how to adapt and improve technologies and methods from other industries that solve similar problems that add new value for consumers through personalisation.”

Balodana found that there is a healthy existing demand for custom clothing among these women, with 11% stating they intend to buy a made-to-measure garment within the year, and another 45% who said they would consider it.