Plus-size fashion? Some Big Data SEO research reveals an unexpected finding: larger women and girls have given up on things that most take for granted.
October 27, 2014

I had kind of a WTF? moment at work today, that turned into a moment that made me think, and finally into a full-blown depressing moment.

We're working on a project for a retailer that sells a wide range of clothing to women. We were examining the strategic keyword analysis workbook looking for patterns and insights in the search data for an upcoming presentation, when we tripped across this disheartening realization.

In every category - Dresses, Blouses, Skirts, Prom, Formal, Homecoming, etc. - there's a huge volume of search for color: [blue prom dress], [red skirt], [green top], etc. Every category except one, that is: Plus Size. When you look at the search data for plus size queries, there's almost no volume for color. The only term that shows any life at all is [white].

My first reaction was that can't be right. My second reaction was a few moments of quiet reflection. Okay, I get it. The options out there for larger girls and women is minimal enough that they're less likely to search on color because they know there's no point in being picky. Why waste your time - you'll be lucky to find something that fits and looks decent in any color.

Still, I couldn't quite fathom the magnitude of what I was seeing in the data. I get that these women know enough about the reality they face that they're not going to search on color as often, so if you'd told me that color query volume was half what it is for "normal"-sized shoppers I'd have said yeah, I get that.

But the volume wasn't half. It was damned near nonexistent.

This is where the depressing moment landed hard. Millions of girls and women have given up. They don't even try anymore. The fashion industry is running the largest learned helplessness experiment in the world.

What started out as a data analysis and marketing question had quickly morphed into a Sociology problem.

I don't know what it is to be a woman, let alone a "big girl," but I know enough about American media culture and the way it warps our view of womanly perfection to know that this has to be maddening for anyone with the gall to be bigger than a size 2.

American retailers should be ashamed.

And yeah, I'm loving the coincidence that I tripped across this on the same day that Jezebel uncovered Walmart's Fat Girl Halloween Costumes line....

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