68% of Women Prefer Fashion Retailers Who Depict ‘Real Women’

Mod­Cloth sur­vey reveals fas­ci­nat­ing insights on the por­tray­al of women in the fash­ion indus­try

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

A Mod­Cloth sur­vey sug­gests that the major­i­ty of women believe there’s a dis­con­nect between the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mod­els in the indus­try and what’s “real.” Fur­ther­more, a large major­i­ty of women state that they would pre­fer to buy from a brand that por­tray real­is­tic female images. Do fash­ion brands need to seri­ous­ly re-eval­u­ate their adver­tis­ing mes­sages and visu­als to real­ly con­nect with con­sumers?

U.S. fash­ion retail­er Mod­Cloth sur­veyed 1,500 women for their “Truth in Fash­ion” report, reveal­ing some fas­ci­nat­ing insights on the effects of fash­ion adver­tis­ing on the mood and shop­ping behav­iors of women.

The study found that 66 per­cent of women said they were more like­ly to buy from a brand that used mod­els of vary­ing sizes in their mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing. The gen­er­al frus­tra­tion lev­el at the way women were pre­sent­ed by fash­ion brands was high, with only 13 of women agree­ing with the state­ment that “real women were accu­rate­ly por­trayed in the fash­ion indus­try.”

Key Fashion Industry Findings

Across a range of con­sid­er­a­tions, Mod­Cloth’s “Fash­ion Truth” Report revealed a clear dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the way women were being por­trayed by the fash­ion indus­try at large.

  • 71 per­cent of women agree that there needs to be more diver­si­ty among fash­ion mod­els.
  • 47 per­cent said they feel exclud­ed by the fash­ion indus­try.
  • A even greater pro­por­tion, 65 per­cent of plus size women said they felt exclud­ed.
  • 62 per­cent think that the fash­ion indus­try is harm­ful to women’s body image.
  • 39 per­cent of all women stat­ed they couldn’t relate to fash­ion adver­tis­ing.
  • 52 per­cent of plus-size women stat­ed they couldn’t relate to fash­ion adver­tis­ing.
  • 58 per­cent are more like­ly to buy from brands that use mod­els of vary­ing eth­nic­i­ties.
  • 52 per­cent are more like­ly to buy from brands that use mod­els of vary­ing heights.
  • 73 per­cent of women think that the cur­rent amount of retouch­ing used in the fash­ion indus­try is mis­lead­ing.

How Does This Affect Buying Preferences?

When asked about how these fac­tors affect­ed their buy­ing pref­er­ences, there was a pow­er­ful trend: two-thirds of women told Mod­Cloth that they were more like­ly to buy from a com­pa­ny that addressed these con­sid­er­a­tions:

  • 66 per­cent of women stat­ed that they were more like­ly to buy from brands that use mod­els of vary­ing sizes.
  • 67 agreed they would buy more from a com­pa­ny that uses lim­it­ed amounts of retouch­ing and Pho­to­shop­ping.


In an open let­ter to the fash­ion indus­try, Susan Gregg Koger, ModCloth’s co-founder and CEO, put out a call to action to the fash­ion indus­try to “start using its pow­er for good”. In the let­ter, Koger spoke of her deep dis­ap­point­ment with how fash­ion indus­try push­es con­sumers to con­firm to a stan­dard of beau­ty built on “high­ly altered and often unre­al­is­tic images”:

Imag­ine a world where flip­ping through a fash­ion mag­a­zine is an empow­er­ing and life-affirm­ing expe­ri­ence! That’s a world I want to live in, and that would be an indus­try I’d be proud to be a part of.”

And indeed, these beliefs seem to be the pil­lars on which MoCloth has built it’s PR and mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. Recent­ly Mod­Cloth became the first fash­ion retail­er to sign The Brave Girls Alliance “Truth in Adver­tis­ing Heroes Pledge,” an anti-air­brush­ing peti­tion encour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pants to “do [their] best not to change the shape, size, pro­por­tion, col­or and/or remove/enhance the phys­i­cal fea­tures, of the peo­ple in our ads in post-pro­duc­tion.”

On the back of the sur­vey find­ings, Mod­cloth launched the #Fash­ion­Truth cam­paign, which ampli­fies their mes­sage cham­pi­oning the use of real­is­tic female images in the fash­ion indus­try. Part of #Fash­ion­Truth also includes a cast­ing call open to all women, which enables any cus­tomer who tweets or Insta­grams a self­ie to become a face of Mod­Cloths future mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Alto­geth­er it makes a pow­er­ful mes­sage about Mod­Cloth’s com­mit­ment to depict­ing women as their true and real­is­tic selves.

Moving From ‘Corporate-Centric’ To ‘Consumer-Centric’ Content

Mod­Cloth have made a bold state­ment of intent about their stance on the media rep­re­sen­ta­tion, on the back of some pow­er­ful find­ings revealed in their Fash­ion Truth sur­vey. The depic­tion of female imagery in the fash­ion indus­try has been a top­ic of debate for some years now, and Mod­Cloth’s recent activ­i­ty is notable for its strik­ing sim­plic­i­ty.

Mod­Cloth’s #Fash­ion­Truth cam­paign is a great exam­ple of a brand seek­ing out the opin­ions of, and real­ly lis­ten­ing to, their con­sumers. By empha­sis­ing with their con­cerns, Mod­Cloth have also found a pos­i­tive avenue with which to engage their con­sumers on social media. In the fash­ion indus­try par­tic­u­lar­ly, it marks a shift from brands pro­duc­ing ‘cor­po­rate-cen­tric’ con­tent, to much more ‘con­sumer-cen­tric’ mes­sag­ing.

Accord­ing to Ann Han­d­ley, Chief Con­tent Offi­cer, Mar­ket­ing­Profs:

“Too many com­pa­nies are cre­at­ing cor­po­rate-cen­tric con­tent instead of cus­tomer-cen­tric con­tent. What’s the dif­fer­ence? The for­mer is about you, while the lat­ter is about what you do for your cus­tomer – a sub­tle yet crit­i­cal shift. A good lens through which to view any con­tent you pro­duce is this: Will your cus­tomer thank you for this con­tent? In effect, will your cus­tomer thank you for mar­ket­ing to them?”

And that, is a great direc­tion for brands to be mov­ing in, espe­cial­ly in a ver­ti­cal such as fash­ion where con­sumer pref­er­ence is a pow­er­ful dri­ver for buy­ing pref­er­ences. As the huge­ly pos­i­tive response to #Fash­ion­Truth has shown, per­haps the rest of the indus­try should fol­low Mod­Cloth’s lead of seek­ing out and incor­po­rat­ing con­sumer sen­ti­ment in their adver­tis­ing mes­sages.

Do you work in the fash­ion indus­try? Is it time for fash­ion brands to be more ‘con­sumer-cen­tric’ in their adver­tis­ing mes­sages? Share your thoughts in the com­ments below.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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