Plus Size Fashion: Old Navy Is Redefining What Inclusive Shopping Looks Like
Alison Partridge Stickney, Head of Women’s and Maternity Merchandising at Old Navy, is beaming as
Alison Partridge Stickney, Head of Women’s and Maternity Merchandising at Old Navy, is beaming as she explains how the last three years have culminated in BODEQUALITY. The initiative promises that, come August 20, every garment in the Old Navy women’s section will be available online and in store in sizes 0-28 (with size 30 being available exclusively online) in the same styles, for the same price, completely integrated into the existing women’s section. “It’s simple, right? If more than half of women in America are plus size, we now have clothes for all of them,” Stickney says. That’s right —Old Navy will no longer have a plus size section, because the entire store will be integrated to make for seamless shopping, regardless of size. The feat will make Old Navy the first business of this scale to guarantee true size-inclusivity across it’s 1200 stores (and yes, that includes international stores as well).
“After intensive research where we spent time listening, learning, and walking in our customers’ shoes, it was clear there was an opportunity to do more to meet their needs and make sure that every woman saw herself in our brand,” Nancy Green, President and CEO of Old Navy, said over email. “BODEQUALITY represents a complete transformation in how we run our business—from the design and production process, to our shopping experience across stores and online, and how we engage with our customers across all brand touchpoints. This launch reinforces our brand belief in the democracy of style.”
Every part of BODEQUALITY sets out to meticulously ensure that the word ‘inclusive’ is upheld and not merely tokenized. It’s a departure from the all too common experience of brands choosing to make plus sizes only available online or at limited stores. It’s an experience both myself and Lindy West (per an Instagram story rant in June 2021) have shared in the last year—being desperate to try on a dress, only to stand in their stores and be told to go home and order it online. These emotional experiences of wanting ease of access to essential wardrobe staples and inclusion are a driving force behind rebuilding Old Navy’s approach to plus sizes, which took three years from start to finish, and goes beyond surface changes. “We saw that it was going to take more than a rack or a tab on a site and that we had to actually completely revolutionize the way we work,” Partridge Stickney says. “It was this idea of creating a most inclusive shopping experience in the retail industry and making it simple. All products, all sizes, all the same price. It doesn’t matter if you’re on our site in our stores, no more guessing games, it’s just that straightforward and simple.” However, the process to get there was anything, but simple.
From the product development standpoint, Old Navy has redeveloped all of their existing plus size grading with the use of 3D avatars made with 389 body scans of real women in partnership with the University of Oregon. This fit direction Alison assures will be familiar to their existing customers (their size should still be the same), however the fit will just be better and, based on early feedback, more comfortable. Next, all in-store staff will be receiving training so the in store experience matches the diversity of clientele size. “Democracy of style is so important to us, but equally important is the democracy of service, and so when you walk into an Old Navy store, you should feel included no matter what size you wear,” says Allison.