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Pretty Meets Practical

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March 15, 2016

It’s all about lifestyle when it comes to womenswear this year, with suppliers offering up-to-date, tailored-to-her looks fit for the gym, office and everywhere in between.

In the women’s apparel world, a just-right hem, drape or seam can be the difference between a miss and an instant classic — and suppliers once again are proving attention to detail is the key to this fashion-driven market.

With flattering cuts, comfortable styling, easy layers and versatile neutrals, this year’s looks offer great style with an air of effortlessness.

Every Size, Every Shape
In a departure from juniors-esque looks of years past, looser-fitting contemporary styles dominate the womenswear market, with choices designed for a woman’s real-world need for clothes that cover and flatter. Suppliers are looking to meet wider demand with silhouettes and sizes that are suitable for all body types.

“From our perspective, we don’t want to silo women to just one fit,” says Andre Murphy, senior manager, marketing and business development at LAT Apparel. “Our goal is to create tees for every woman, for every body, every shape. It doesn’t matter if you’re curvy, junior, slim-fit or somewhere in between.”

To ensure the company meets that goal,  LAT offers three different cuts across most of its styles: juniors, a slim-fitting style; modern, which is slightly more contoured; and classic, a relaxed style.

American Apparel, too, is working to offer a wider range of choices for female customers, with a classic women’s T-shirt (style 23215) in a fine jersey construction with a distinctive tapered silhouette.

“This is in direct contrast to our standard women’s T-shirt, which a lot of people find is more of a junior cut,” says John Espiritu, marketing coordinator for American Apparel. With a more feminine silhouette and longer length, he says style 23215 was designed to meet customer demand for a tee that offers more coverage.

Mark Seymour, chief sales officer, Next Level Apparel, says the company has expanded its size range, now offering new XS, 2XL and 3XL options in some styles. “We’ve always taken a real generous grade in what we do, but we’ve expanded, opening up the opportunity [for customers] to go after segments of the market that they hadn’t before with better fabrics and stylish pieces.”

Comfort First
The trend toward a wider range of sizes and silhouette options isn’t just about reaching new market segments, but it also is indicative of a new focus on comfort. With terms like “athleisure” buzzing in the fashion world, the wearables market is following suit with an upsurge in looser, easier pieces.

“Loungewear is trending really hard in retail,” says Kevin Kelly, CEO, US Blanks. “It’s one of the fastest-growing sectors right now.” US Blanks, which offers lounge basics like a women’s cami slip-on tunic in a tri-blend and a French terry raglan top with a matching pant, has seen these fabrics and styles exploding in the last year-and-a-half and expects the boom to continue.

“These are your leisure, loungewear, yoga/beach/store looks,” he says.

With a market demand for soft, stretchy, medium- to lightweight fabrics, style 9000 is Next Level’s answer to the athleisure trend. The mid-weight French terry raglan is a look that suggests customers don’t care as much about “their size” as they do comfort and ease, Seymour says.

“It’s unisex but it’s really made specifically for the women’s part of the market,” he says. “It’s made to be worn over leggings. It’s like wearing your older brother’s sweat shirt.”

Lived-In Looks
The “borrowed-from-your-brother/boyfriend/husband” look transcends the silhouette conversation, influencing in-demand hues and fabrics.

De-saturated, muted hues — a far cry from the trendy neons that reigned supreme in recent years — that complement the vintage, lounge styles are particularly popular. “We’re continuing to see all sorts of gray,” says Megan Huntz, design director for Alternative. “Even the colors that we offer, it’s like they have a touch of gray in them.  We have all these different shades, from silver to stone, coal and black.”

But while neutrals are in high demand, most suppliers continue to produce styles in a wide range of color options for the womenswear market — offering everything from pretty pastels to classic team colors. “With menswear you can get away with 12 colors,” Seymour says. “For womenswear, you just have to have more choices. That’s always a big part of the women’s offering.”

In step with the lived-in look, “the softer the better” endures as the fabric mantra for this market, with tri-blends, lightweight modals and French terry maintaining popularity.

“[People are looking for] things that can be worn across a couple different segments,” Seymour says. “Fabrication is a big part of that.”

In 2016, womenswear market demand goes beyond styles that flatter. Today’s female customer is looking for options that aren’t just pretty, but also practical. And with a plethora of versatile, ease-focused styles — this year’s offering is sure to make the comfortable cut.