I’m working on a new startup…for the 100 million women like me

It’s official: according to the fashion industry, I’m no longer sexy so I’m no longer worth creating clothes for. I disagree, and I’m embarking on a new idea to help solve a problem that is plaguing me and millions of other American women like me.

I HATE CLOTHES SHOPPING. It f*cking sucks.

I didn’t used to hate shopping — quite the contrary. I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on clothing and shoes and accessories. Sales were like a sport for me. I once bought 14 pairs of shoes in one day. I could spend 6 hours combing the racks for bargains. It’s just that now for some reason, it’s not so much fun anymore…

The problem for me started when I turned 45 and my body started changing. My metabolism slowed down, and the usual post-menopause weight gain occurred, so I went from my normal size 6 US to a scandalous 8/10. Gasp! I’m now undesirable in the eyes of the fashion industry. And then, I had the audacity to turn 50, which means that now I’m also expected to shop only at three “age appropriate” stores: Black Market/White House, Chicos, or Ann Taylor. All of which are NOT my style. I’m way cooler than that, or at least I think I am.

Dammit — I used to be a punk rocker! I had purple hair and wore Doc Martens and raged against the machine! I used to have an entire “costume night” wardrobe that included vintage cocktail dresses, a Russian fur hat, gogo boots and a full dominatrix outfit with working utility belt! I will NOT go silently into the night…at Chicos…but finding my new and authentic “mature” style is apparently not easy to do.

Not the average in the USA any more!

I did find some sanctuary in local boutiques that have curated collections of flattering pants and hide-your-belly tops, which are comfy and somewhat fashionable, but the prices are through the roof and there’s still a very limited supply of really stylish clothes that don’t look too much like a Midwestern suburban housewife (not that there’s anything wrong with that…but it’s not me). I end up looking more Hippie than Boho, or settle for uninspired-but-nice-enough to pass for a business event.

There’s a lot of us who feel this way: frustrated, underserved, unhappy with what retail thinks we are. In fact, if you want the market potential, try on the size “100 million”: that’s how many US women wear higher than a size 12, according to fashion icon Tim Gunn, who announced this week he is writing a book about the topic. I’m here to tell you though, I feel alienated and I’m only an 8, so you can probably add another 50 million women to that list to get a sense of the pent-up demand here.

You want to know why Macy’s and Nordstrom are failing? Because they failed us. We voted with our [restriction of] dollars, to not buy their crappy excuses for retail.

But I think I might have a solution, which is why I’m posting today. I recently found a fantastic designer in Romania who makes things I love, and she will literally make it from scratch to your exact measurements, and it’s about the same price as I’d pay here in the US at a good department store. And it got me to thinking…

Once upon a time in America, only wealthier women could afford “store bought” clothing. Everyone else had to make it themselves or have a dressmaker help out. The dressmaker knew you, your measurements, the colors that look best on you, and how to flatter your body. They used techniques like lining in pants and darting on shirts that made you look polished, smooth. Somehow all that has just gone into history, and the only options now for bespoke or custom clothing is either high-end couture and wedding, or menswear-inspired “career separates” that make you look like a Wall St. banker. Which I’m not. (And in tech, wearing a suit is pretty much a bad thing.)

I’d like to bring back the dressmaker, but at scale and using technology and international talent and really good quality. And find a way to keep the pricing in line with a regular department store option. Sound impossible?

My startup idea is to “reinvent the dressmaker” as an online platform that lets women of any size, height, shape and ability find great designs that are custom made exactly to your body measurements — without costing a fortune!

Image courtesy of allenforms.com

Once upon a time in the US, women’s custom clothing cost the same or less than retail, and the quality and fit was superb. I think we can bring that back, and open up to creative designers from all over the world to become your own personal style team! Think “Etsy with an upgrade”, where you build a private body and style profile, and quality dressmakers work to make you look awesome.

This is the first of a series of posts I’ll be doing to map out my thinking, and hopefully get your feedback.

****UPDATED: here’s Part 2https://medium.com/@danatodd/fast-fashion-our-cheap-clothing-addiction-is-doing-more-harm-than-good-5862836d9a23

Part 3: https://medium.com/@danatodd/could-custom-clothing-solve-fashion-woes-d7d83a60fbbe

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Interested in following my journey, or just want to be notified when I launch it so you can shop? Sign up for notifications here: https://goo.gl/forms/qXr6fFH7ME2YVOKw2

The logo for my new company, Balodana
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