Chic, skinny French women: Exploding the sizing myth

Picture courtesy BalmainThere’s a well-known book called French Women Don’t Get Fat that conveys a picture of the average French femme as eating what she likes (but not overeating) while staying a chic size that will allow her to squeeze into even the most unforgiving designer labels.

Well, new research shows that the book’s basic premise is… to put it politely, rubbish.

French women, it seems are just a prone to weight gain as the rest of us however great their Gallic genes and lifestyles. Apparently, around 40% of French women wear a size 44 or bigger (that’s a UK 16/US 12), according to a survey by ClicknDress, a website that promises to find shoppers clothes based on their size/shape/height.

And they frequently can’t find what they’re looking for in stores. ClickNDress research based on analysis of 8,000 items shows that there’s three times as much choice for relatively small number of French women seeking a size 36 compared to those hunting down a size 44. Not only do slimmer women have more choice, but they’re outnumbered 2.3 time by women who take a size 44 or over.

Just look at the survey’s figures for how sizes break down across the French female population. Only 6.4% are size 36, 14.6% take a 38, 19.5% a 40, and 18.5% a 42. Those are the favourite sizes for designer labels. But 14.5% wear size 44, 9.8% wear size 46 and the remaining percentage is taken up with larger sizes.

The issue is further complicated by height. As a size 36 but a very short one myself, this really does hit home as clothes are usually cut not for people just a few inches taller than me but seemingly for the tiny percentage of women hovering around the 175cm mark. The survey shows that 22% of French women are under 159cm and only 5.8% are 175cm or more.

OK, given that ClickNDress is all about hunting down those elusive sizes and wants to make the most of this issue, and given that all surveys have a margin of error, the figures might not be as bad as they look. But ClickNDress based the survey on data from 55,000 women so even more conservative interpretations still leave us with a scenario where retailers are basically saying “don’t bother” to a massive consumer group.

It all adds up to a sizing nightmare for shoppers and a lot of lost sales for retailers.

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