A Fit for Purpose: Sizing Matters

By Nick Smith

We’ve been steadily increasing our size ranges and leg length options over the last few years. So when adding a size 18 we felt it was significant, only because so few companies were offering it in their technical clothing. We will move to size 20 and 22 as soon as our order quantities allow commercially.

However, we knew we needed to know more. 

What started as a conversation, a chance to listen, quickly morphed into a survey where we received an amazing 922 respondents.


The Industry Needs to Listen.

When you read what women feel about shopping for outdoor clothing, it’s an eye opener and absolutely alien to our Alpkit DNA.

We believe elitism has no place in the outdoors, we are all equal. How can we possibly enjoy the outdoors more than someone else. It’s there for everyone. Turns out we were wrong.

How can you possibly enjoy the worst of a Lake District storm if you can’t buy a decent mountain shell in the size that fits you.

We’ve all been quietly enjoying the outdoors but specifically excluding people just because they can’t find equipment that works for them.

We are all seeing an attitude change to race and gender equality in the outdoors, which is a fantastic and much needed step in the right direction, but this is a more subtle, more unspoken form of exclusion.


We Asked: How Does Shopping for Women's Outdoor Clothing in the UK Make you Feel?

“Short and too curvy”

“Uncomfortable. I'm very happy with/confident about my body but why cant it fit?? If it fits my hips it's too big on the waist, some trousers are really short!? I'd be fine if they were in line with high street fits or maybe need to include slim fit/relaxed fit”

“Not great - it’s so hard to find clothes that fit and that are not frumpy and pink!”

“Unwelcome” “Lumpy and ashamed to be honest"

“It makes me cry. It leaves me upset and embarrassed”

"like I don't belong in the outdoors”

“Makes me feel like I can't be appropriately kitted out for wanting to get back into the outdoors. Having gained weight through lockdown clothing feels like a barrier to me getting back to the things I love”

This wasn’t isolated to plus sizes, it was across the board. But there is clearly a cross section of the population that feels very uncatered for.

The reason for writing about this is to make a point that Alpkit is listening, and the industry needs to listen too.


We Asked: What is Your Experience of Shopping for Outdoor Clothing in the UK?

Nearly a fifth of all respondents hated shopping for technical clothing

The lack of choice forces Women to look at Men's options

 

 


A Call to Action

It's simple. The more choice, the easier it is to find something that works for you, yet currently the majority of technical clothing from retailers and brands comes in just size 8, 10, 12 and 14.

Advnture.com recently reivewed the best wateproof jackets from a dozen premium brands. Household names. Just 2 brands make size 18 jackets (Alpkit and Salamon) and the others make to size 16. 

This should be a call to action for the industry as a whole. Everyone accepts that we come in lots of shapes and sizes and not one company can offer all the leg lengths, body widths or tailored fits to suit all its customers. But if more companies offered more options, the industry as a whole can be more inclusive and less elitist. Choice is the key here.

We feel this survey has re-enforced what we've already been doing, but it's also helped highlight what a critical and immediate issue this. We know our part is to offer more sizes and more fits across mens and ladies, and make sure we continue our ground up design of ladies garments.

We’ll continue to listen, to make sure that everyone can enjoy the outdoors in clothing that fits and is fit for purpose.

A big thank you to Zoe Newham who helped and initiated the sizing survey. Zoe is a kayaking coach based in Scotland. 

11 comments

  • Thank you so much for asking this question! As a size 18/20 all my life I have struggled to find good kit for adventures. For years I have made do with my husband’s cast off waterproof jacket as I’d given up hope of finding anything better in the women’s section. Occasionally I have had made-to-measure bits of outdoor kit but this hasn’t worked out well, nothing beats trying something on to see the fit and range of movement. With outdoor leadership and coaching awards and a variety of committee positions in outdoor sports clubs over the years, it’s not that larger ladies can’t do all this stuff but not having the right kit, can be a significant disadvantage. Larger sizes can’t come soon enough!

    Sue Walters

  • Make the sizes and the people will come. My wife and daughter have struggled to find outdoor clothing the right size, more often then not having to purchase men’s.

    It has been shown, if folk have the right clothing they are much more likely to want to participate in whatever the activity.

    It is hard to get folk out the door, when the first thing they have to do, (putting on clothes) , makes them feel not a part, second class and decidedly unattractive.

    I would happy pay double what I paid for my outdoor trousers, if I could find good quality ladies outdoor trousers that would fit my family. I would pay double or even more because I know just how good it would make them feel. And that is even before getting outside!

    So yes please, please make the sizes and I can guarantee at least from this family, we will come….
    and you will be amazed at how quickly the message spreads.

    Regards,
    Nat Spring

    Nat Spring

  • My wife plays golf and finds it impossible to get suitable large women’s outdoor clothing. She tends to buy mens or accept that her outdoor clothing cannot be fully zipped up. We are surprised the % hating buying outdoor clothing or having to buy men’s are so low. There also seems to be a belief that good quality clothing is not required for larger women. We think there is a huge opportunity here but it needs careful marketing and to build up the right reputation which might take time.

    Nicholas C Ruxton

  • Good for you. My wife is a size 20 and its been difficult to source good outdoor clothes for her. There’s even a bias in North America. I have ordered trousers from a Canadian company who provide trousers for men up to a size 46 inch waist but for women only go to a size 16! My wife has summited Ben nevis but arthritis means she’s not as active as she used to be, but she still likes to get out into the countryside when she can. Especially as her son and her grandchildren live on a farm.

    Jeffrey Warlock

  • This is such an important initiative. I’m fortunate to fit a 12 in Alpkit (=16 in Inov8!!) but often trousers (& sleeves) are too short. I’m only 175cm. My daughter who is 6’ has to buy men’s clothes purely for length.

    Ilana

  • I am a size 16 now ( lockdowns fault) and find I have to wear a size 18, and they are tight !!!

    Mandy stewart

  • Great that alpkit have put it out there regarding kit fit sizes. I am tiny, a size 6 usually and only 5ft and nothing ever fits me, I have had to buy kids clothes at times which fit ok but aren’t always very flattering! More sizes and better womens colours in clothes, not all women like purple and pink! I enjoy a bit of yellow and orange but rarely find womens clothes in these colours!

    Zoe D

  • Read the bits about larger sized kit with interest. I’m a 16 and feel wholly depressed by what’s on offer…..one company have sorted this out for cyclists – Fat Lad at the Back.
    Stolen Goat have also added some bigger kit.
    Please also consider the larger chested amongst us.

    Rachel Dawson

  • The average women’s size is a 16. this means that most brands exclude half the female population. There are many larger women who would love to have quality outdoor clothing but have to accept either Mens or brands that, while looking ok, lack features such as breathability and pit zips. I am a size 24-26 and whilst my ankle is too buggered to head for the hills, would love good clothing for outdoors in all weathers horse handling.

    Hanora Crowley

  • I found your article about women’s outdoor clothes very interesting. 10 years ago I was a size 6, doing hours of ballet a week plus additional exercise and I had trouble getting sensible outdoor clothes. 10 years and several injuries later I’m a size 16 and still having the same problems. Now the issue is that I’m too short to be a size 16 (apparently) and my thighs are too big and let’s not get on to the size of my hips (yes, let’s say hips, ok?). It’s fantastic that you’re listening but the proof will be when we see the products. Thanks for listening.

    Zoe Maynard

  • Thank goodness someone is recognising and acting on this issue, and thankfully it’s a company with great ethical and sustainability aims – which also makes beautiful clothes… I couldn’t believe how well-made they were – just not made for people like me, who are not already fit and long and lean. I’m having to return my entire online order of 7 jackets and tops because size 16 fits comfortably round but is too long on arms and body – and 14 is too tight – just wrong proportions. I really wish some of them fitted – I really wanted them. :/

    Maja Mihajlovic

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