Women's Promo Apparel Trends You Need to Know
This year in women’s apparel and, more specifically, branded apparel collections at retail, we’ve seen a lot of trendy vintage and old-school styles. (Think biker shorts, crop tops, tie-dye and more.)
But we wanted to dig deeper into women’s apparel trends to find out what styles are trending in the promotional apparel space, what decorations and materials to be aware of, and what distributors should know about selling this category.
So we asked the women’s apparel experts. Here, Andrea Lara Routzahn, senior vice president of portfolio and supplier management for alphabroder, Trevose, Pa.; Jennifer Oleksik, design and merchandising manager for LAT Apparel, Ball Ground, Ga.; and Eileen Collins, director of merchandising at Delta Apparel, Greenville, S.C., gave us the insider info on everything women’s apparel. Let’s go!
Trending styles are always a hot topic, and it’s easy to understand why. Fashion can change on a dime, and the last thing you want to do is present your clients with apparel options their end-users won’t want to wear. This is especially important in the age of social media, where every outfit needs to be Instagram-ready.
That said, if you’ve been following our women’s apparel coverage the last few months and years, you know that athleisure has remained the queen of trending styles. And, yep, it’s still sitting atop the throne—though it’s hardly staying static.
“Athleisure continues to evolve across all categories, especially women’s apparel,” said Oleksik. “Knits and jersey fabrics are the most prevalent in the market right now as the soft, easy-to-wear fabrics tie back to the athleisure trend. Cut-and-sew design, as well as color-blocking, continues to stay at the forefront of women’s apparel, too.”
This has been the top trend for a while. How long can we expect it to stick around? Our supplier experts believe athleisure has staying power, for a few reasons.
“Trends are coming in and staying much longer than in the past,” said Oleksik. “We are seeing trends like athleisure stick around, but evolve with color and fabrics that are appropriate for each season. Women are looking to fill their closet with apparel that is multifunctional—pieces that they can wear to work, wear on the weekends, or just wear to feel comfortable.”
Routzahn agreed that women are looking for more versatile apparel options. “We are seeing unprecedented growth in our industry of women’s styles that are designed specifically for women, not as smaller variations of the men’s style,” she said. “Flattering silhouettes in tunic lengths with retail details are more readily available in our industry. Women more and more are demanding work apparel that is no different from the apparel they buy for themselves personally.”
There have also been changes in how women’s apparel is designed. Before, men’s styles dictated everything in the promotional apparel space. Women’s options were mostly companion styles. That’s changing in a big way.
“There are lots of times now at alphabroder that we develop the women’s style first and then design a men’s companion style to coordinate back,” Routzahn said. “It’s a total 180 from where the industry was even three to five years ago!”
Look and feel
Of course, there are other factors to keep in mind beyond the style and cut of apparel pieces. Decoration, material and color trends play a huge role in determining the right piece of women’s apparel for a client.
According to Routzahn, woven shirts have seen steady growth over the last few years, allowing for new fabrications beyond the usual solid oxford, broadcloth and denim. This has also extended to other styles, like blouses.
“Not only are patterns and textures becoming more in-demand, but blouse fabrications like crepe and stretch poplins allow us to create flattering styles designed specifically for women,” she said. “We tie these blouses to the standard men’s shirts through cohesive use of color for a true corporate outfitting look.”
As for decoration, Oleksik noted that two particular methods seem to be the most in-demand, though there are some wrinkles, so to speak, in locations and techniques.
“Screen print and heat transfers are definitely the most popular decoration trend right now,” she said. “Embroidery is minimal and when it is present, it is seen mainly in small left chest designs. Screen printing is also evolving, and the market is showing more of a need for soft-hand prints as fabrics become softer and lighter.”
Color trends have been all over the place this year. We’ve noticed everything from bright highlighter shades to Millennial Pink, but we asked our experts what they’ve seen recently. Collins noted a few color trends she’s watching.
“Our Platinum line is having significant growth,” she said. “While styling is basic, fabric and color are the factors impacting the trend. We offer a CVC slub fabric in beautiful dusty colors that are more fashion-forward than traditional pastels. Our Quartz colors in tri-blend further expand on this color trend.”
Style goes beyond just appearance. It also has to do with the fit and feel of an apparel piece. If a T-shirt or blazer doesn’t fit correctly—if it’s oversized or too tight—it won’t matter how nice it looks. People just won’t wear it. And with so many body types and personal preferences, fit remains a huge challenge.
“Fit is still the biggest hurdle when selling women’s apparel,” said Routzahn. “Size is a number, but fit is very personal. You can have three women with the same overall body dimensions and their size selection may be different based on personal fit preferences. Sampling for trying-on purposes is always a good idea whenever possible!”
Oleksik agreed that fit is a high priority, and advised stressing that to clients.
“The apparel industry has evolved, and now, more than ever, a great-fitting women’s garment is important,” she said. “The best advice I can give to a distributor is to educate your customers on the importance of providing product that women want to wear and will feel comfortable wearing. Fit and fabric are going to make a woman feel confident in her clothing, and by providing styles that are specific to women, you are satisfying that need.”
Another thing to communicate to clients? Women’s apparel is typically a bit more expensive than men’s styles. This can make it harder to sell, but Oleksik said explaining the reasoning behind the higher price points should help forward-thinking clients understand why the extra cost is worth it.
“Changing the old mentality of buying one style for all and price point are the major challenges,” she said. “Education and exposure is the only way we will be able to change the old mentality. Price points on ladies’ apparel are generally a bit higher, but that is because there is more that goes into creating a great fitting ladies’ garment. The two go hand-in-hand, and once the buyer is educated on the need for a ladies’ specific style, they will understand that women are also more willing to pay more for a garment that fits well and that they are excited to wear.”