While world deals with some of the very serious issues civilizations have ever seen, my simple life has a small grudge, actually two .I tried rationalizing but have given up after years and years of same experience without much improvement.
My problem is with the industry that is engaged in designing, manufacturing and retailing women apparel.
India is such a land of diversity that till few years back ,it was easy to point out which state you are in by the way women in that region dressed .Most of the garments evolved over a period of time adapting to the kind of work women in each economic and social strata engage in . Clothes have to be comfortable, affordable, suitable for weather and convenient to perform jobs in.
However last few years have seen a rise in some staples like Jeans/western wear and kurtas/bottoms in Indian wear, not usually termed Ethnic unless you are outside India.Western wear is usually limited to urban upper middle class or students in metros whereas Indian wear consisting of shirts/kurtas ,fondly called suits in vernacular are the thing with most of others. Earlier, my grandma’s generation found wearing these dresses “vulgar” against quintessential saris .But by the time she reached 70s, she also found the wearing a salwar kameez much more convenient and of course fashionable.
So here we are, one of the largest democracies in world ,with almost two thirds of population belonging to various layers of evolving middle class and a demography that is being deemed as a gold mine for any potential venture capitalist (refer India’s fast growing Apparel Market) .A demography that is growing leaps and bounds and is being fed at the bottom .A huge portion of this class is women ,working and non working ,from domestic helps to factory workers, students to IT professionals, government offices staff to police, army and corporate boardrooms who are finding their feet and confidence to go out and shop alone. And it is constantly growing, evolving, transforming.(Refer Market Segmentation for Women’s Apparel in India).
And this is where I find issues of inconvenience.
- Standardization of women’s garments
We Indians are blessed with so much color and texture, especially in women’s clothing, that Canberra’s flower festival will be hard pressed to match us.
My cousin, when little, used to be fascinated with the colors girls get to wear, not to mention the variety, longs and shorts and very shorts, sleeves, quarter sleeves and full sleeves, straps and cuts, pockets and no pockets .
He had a point. I learnt to appreciate this diversity a few years later.
We are also blessed with sizes, all kinds ,big, small ,thick, thin, tall, short ,broad shoulders and narrow ones ,curvy here and curvy there . But apparently most of the stores stock dresses for standard size of women from 13 – 28 years of age with a variation of of 5-7% between sizes. People like me are outliers who despite willing to pay more, find less and less of attention when it comes to size, color or shape .Let us be honest. Being 40 is different from being 30, and of course very different from 20, and our designers need to understand that. Running through various brands , an L will suit you fine for one but for another ,an XL will make you look like a stuffed turkey .And believe me ,it is frustrating ,not to say embarrassing . No matter how empowered and secure we are, we would still like to believe that we are a size smaller. So please let us have a standard size and be done with it.
My recent trip to shopping (which I do only once in 2 years due to mentioned inconveniences) has made me very conscious of my arms whose size appears to be all wrong as compared to rest of my height. In some cases , looks like my neck is way too narrow for by shoulders .I would be living in constant doubt about my normality had I not been to US where I found shopping so much more pleasurable owing to so many sizes and such scientific approach to chest to waist to hip ratios .
2.Trial room dilemma
The second and more severe problem I have is with trial rooms. In short, they are small, stuffy, far from air conditioning and not very user friendly in general. Once into a trial room, trying a dress means one needs to get an opinion. For this,my only tried and trusted confidant is my husband ,who has, bless his soul, a taste and an eye much better than mine. Also, I am not sure if anyone likes themselves that up close in a trial room mirror.
So now I start the search by stepping out from trial room with matted hair and sweaty face while there is a chorus of disgruntled women murmuring and hoping me to vacate the room .I can’t, right, because ratio of room to women is 1:8 on a busy day. My husband being a man in his forties, is not comfortable standing in a place where a lot of women of all ages, primarily the aforementioned demographic, are in various stages of green room theatrics. He comes roaming around, gives me a look from far and uses a thumbs up or thumbs down for his opinion .I cannot ask him if it is the color or the fit that is wrong .I hurry back and the cycle continues. I earn a lot of evil glances and get out of trial room hassled and not very clear on what I want to buy .We somehow reach the billing where at least the AC is on.
The point being, why make the process so difficult. Why not provide better experience for a constantly evolving and demanding populace ?Agreed there are some stores which pamper you ,but the number is small. I am not sure if someone is paying enough attention to these tiny details. I would assume there are enough volumes and profitability to justify better experience for everyone without pinching pockets .Not just that ,I am sure some of the larger retailers can use analytics to help identify most common brands, sizes, fabrics and make . Pick outliers and use technology for standardization and enabling better designs .Some of the brands already do that .And please do not call them “Plus Sized” Stores or other such, thank you very much .
Stores need to provide better choices and better trial room experience.
Clothing Indian women used to be a highly customized activity using neighborhood tailors till a few years back .Small towns still prefer that model. Having readymade apparel in stores is a boon for time challenged folks like me. However as a customer, I now judge a store based on comfort I get in their trial rooms (since sizes are not really in their control) just like I decide on restaurants based on how clean and comfortable their restrooms are.
And that decides the amount that I am willing to spend. How do you find your experience in stores ?