TEEN PLUS: Finding The Right Fit

Trying on clothes can be frustrating, especially if designers don’t make what you want in your size. It’s a big challenge for a certain group of teens to fill their closets with stylish trends. But, researchers at Iowa State University are trying to make it a little easier.

Finding cute clothes hasn’t been easy for 20-year-old Shelby Curtis. She says, “I’ve noticed a lot of stores are starting to have better plus size sections because a lot of plus size stores were thought of as old lady stores.”

Curtis now works at Maurices in West Des Moines. A section of the store is dedicated to sizes 14 to 24. Manager Julie McDaniel says, “We started in 2007. It took the place of our menswear, so the company and industry really just saw a need for the plus size business, and it’s boomed ever since then.”

But, not every store offers teen plus styles. Many only sell the clothes online. That’s something Iowa State PhD Candidate Laurel Romeo wants to change.  She says, “I’m doing a pilot study, hoping we can then take this nationwide to find out the actual size and shape of our teens today.”

Romeo says no one has ever studied plus size teen measurements in the United States. So, she’s taking on the challenge, looking for fifty plus size girls between the ages of 12 and 17. She’ll talk to them about shopping. And, she’ll take their measurements with a state-of-the-art 3D body scan. To do the scan, the young women will step into a private dressing room and change into a white lycra suit before stepping into a scanning machine.

Thirty-two white light cameras capture a 3-D model of the body, and in 15 seconds, you get digital measurements for every part. Romeo says she hopes the information she collects from the study will help designers create clothing for teens of all sizes.  She says, “Many companies would like to go in the plus size teen market, but they don’t have a basis of measurements, up-to-date measurements to base their patterns of off.”

Curtis says that would be a good thing. She says,”Before it seemed like they would just take core size clothes and make them bigger, but there are differences between the body types.”

Romeo is looking for those 50 teens by the end of March. The interview and body scan takes about an hour and a half. Participants will get $25 and a chance to win an IPod.  If you’re interested, contact Romeo at LDROMEO@iastate.edu. She asks you provide your name, phone number, and best time to contact you.

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