Study looks at shopping experiences of plus-sized teens

Laurel Romeo, assistant professor in the LSU College of Agriculture’s Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising, views a scan from the body scanner which takes a person’s measurements. Romeo conducted a study of plus-sized teens to learn about their shopping experiences. (Photo by Tobie Blanchard, LSU AgCenter)

News Release Distributed 07/07/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – Teenage girls who are considered plus-sized say shopping for clothing is a frustrating and often humiliating experience, according to a recent study.

Laurel Romeo, an assistant professor in the LSU College of Agriculture’s Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising, conducted in-depth interviews with 30 plus-sized pre-teens and teens, ages 12 to 17, and their family members to learn about their shopping experiences.

She also took body scans of the girls to get their precise measurements. The measurements will go into a database for a study Romeo is doing to get an accurate picture of the size of Americans.

“They had money. They wanted to purchase clothing, but they couldn’t find what they wanted in a size that fit,” Romeo said of the study participants.

Romeo said the teens and their parents reported spending full days trying on clothes, but finding little that fit or was an appropriate style. Romeo said juniors clothing typically does not have plus sizes, so they would try women’s, maternity or even the men’s section.

“They were embarrassed to shop in these sections, and they worried their peers would know they were wearing a maternity top,” she said.

According to the study, parents complained that women’s clothing had low-cut tops that were not appropriate for young girls, while the girls said the clothing in that section looked like something their teachers would wear and was not a youthful style.

Another parent reported purchasing men’s clothing and finding ways to feminize it with patches or sparkles.

Romeo said some of the girls in the study were athletes with muscular builds, which accounted for their body mass index falling into the overweight or obese category. They, too, couldn’t fit into junior-sized clothes.

“The apparel industry is still basing their sizing off of studies done in the 1940s. Industry changes need to take place,” she said.

Romeo began collecting data in 2013. The result of her study was published this year in the international Journal of Fashion Marketing and Merchandising and is the focus of an advertising campaign by Emerald Group Publishing.

“Emerald chose this study to feature because it bridges academia and industry. It is applied research over theoretical,” she said.

Romeo said plus-sized teen clothing could be an opportunity for retailers and designers to make a mark in the apparel industry.

“There is a viable market out there for the clothing,” she said. “They wanted to find clothes, had the money to buy it and even said they would have spent more if they could find it.”

Tobie Blanchard
7/7/2015 11:36:32 PM
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