I recently surveyed 138 self identifying Curvy Sorority women (141 total respondents) and decided to would write about my experience. I really wanted to know what challenges they had while searching for clothing especially for Sorority events.
After starting the survey I wanted to think about how to get honest feedback from the women I wanted to help. I really wanted to step in their shoes and see things through their eyes. I wanted the good, the bad, the ugly, the tacky, the tears, the feelings of dread and joy. I got a virtual earful and I'm ready to share what I learned.
Biggest Clothing Challenge
The surveyed women were asked to freely let me know what their biggest style challenge overall was. With this in mind I decided to start dissecting what I learned. I wrongly assumed that most Curvy Sorority women's biggest challenge would be the available styles. However with further digging I found a common theme in the respondents answers.
Digging Deeper into Challenges
As I dug deeper into the survey responses I noticed some common themes. A lot of women identified certain body parts such as butt, thighs, and stomach as their biggest challenges. Without further context I can't assume what the nature of the challenge is of these noted body parts. I also noticed that many women listed particular types of clothing like dresses, pants, flattering bottom, shoes. Again not a lot of content to go from. As I looked more closely I realized that even if I didn't know the exact specifics I could interpret these women's challenges as mostly relating to fit.
Biggest Challenge of Looking and Feeling Beautiful
I asked this group of Sorority ladies "What is your biggest challenge about looking and feeling beautiful?" I learned that confidence barely made the list (less than 5%) and while current weight was pretty significant (37%) there was another option that made #1. 39% of the Sorority women I surveyed let me know that they were unsatisfied with the clothing choices in their size. Almost 10% of this group stated they didn't know what looked good.
One of the biggest surprise take aways from the results I got was that the majority (77%) of women knew what their body shape was. Only about 9% of women stated they didn't know what their body shape was and 14% stated they didn't fit any of the 4 major categories (straight up and down, bigger on top, bigger on bottom or balanced.
Dressing for Sorority Events
The most revealing question for me was question #5 "What is the most important thing to you when deciding what to buy for a Sorority event?" This was the research question I was dying to know the answer to! And boy did my ladies give me what I was looking for. Again I had originally hypothesized that the most important thing to my Curvy Sorority sisters would be style. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. That's why it is so important to ask!
By far the most important thing when shopping for attire for a Sorority event was FIT! Almost 1/2 of the respondents chose this answer (48%), this was followed by color (26%) and style in third place (15%). Interestingly enough only 11% were most concerned about the cost of the garment.
Now that I gathered the data and started to crunch it a bit (don't mind my nerdiness it's natural for me) it was time to track the trends. I was able to summarize that the underlying theme of the data was all about clothing fit.
Dissecting Clothing Fit
I searched high and low for resources to help curvy women perfect their clothing fit. I searched Google,YouTube, Teachable, forums, anywhere I thought I might find help. I came up short unfortunately.
I couldn't find more than the standard advice for curvy women, the basics on dressing for certain body shapes (which most of my ladies already knew) and the 2 schools of thought for plus size style. Either wear whatever the heck you feel like or regimented, outdated style rules that no one has time for.
When I realized I couldn't find a single helpful tool to help these ladies learn more about clothing fit for their curvy bodies I got to thinking. I realized over the many years that I had been sewing for my own Curvy body, I had learned quite a few tricks about fitting clothing. Attending New York Fashion Academy gave me a ton of technical skills as I focused on learning how to design and make patterns for plus size women.
I went further than the survey and reached out to a few Curvy Sorority women that were willing to share their biggest challenges with clothing with me. I used that information and the knowledge I'd acquired over the last 15+ years sewing, studying personal style and being a member of my Sorority to develop a program tailored specifically for Curvy Sorority Women looking to finally figure out clothing fit.
This was my experience with surveying Curvy Sorority women about their style challenges.
I started with a hypothesis (you can take the researcher out of research but not the research out of a true researcher) that Curvy Sorority women were struggling most with style and possibly confidence. The data clearly shows I was wrong on both accounts!
I hope my process will help you achieve the results you're looking for.
I'd love to hear about your own experience with curvy women's style, so let me know in the comments section.