The Fashion-Hungry Mom: Capturing A Missed Opportunity

There’s a noticeable lack of fashion designers and retailers specifically targeting moms and working women who are in the peak of their wage-earning years. These are women whose multi-faceted lifestyles require broader wardrobes and whose bodies may be changing, but still want to look sexy. 

By not addressing the needs of this profitable audience, marketers should heed what Julia Roberts told the store associate who had ignored her in “Pretty Woman,” “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” 

The big disconnect — she has the money, but she’s not spending it on clothes.

Women 45+ who are in the top 30% of U.S. household incomes, spend a whopping $35 billion a year on apparel, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey. But Goldman Sachs reports that women’s clothing spending peaks at age 44 and then slowly declines. Clearly, she has the resources, but not the reason to buy. We wanted to understand why. 



What women really want 

To get insight into the unconscious, emotional barriers that might be impacting mom’s shopping habits, marketers need to talk with them. When we did, we got a lot of “good reasons” – the top-of-mind, rational explanations (too busy, don’t like shopping, etc.), but we were in the hunt for their real reasons.

1. Watch out for the “A” word

It’s not about age. It’s about lifestyle. When targeting moms, marketing content needs to show representative women; however, being too explicit about what ages you serve can be a major turn off. 

Who wants to associate with a brand that shouts: “I’m for older women!” Take the example of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans rebranding in 2013 as NYDJ to embrace an ageless brand positioning. 

Here’s what one of the respondents in research shared of her dilemma:

“There is a line between not dressing old and not dressing young. It’s about trying to find the right combination of things that is in the middle of all that. Maturity, youthfulness, playfulness. It’s not easy finding that.”

2. Comfort is a state of mind

Mom enjoys the current athleisure trend but when she says she’s seeking comfort, it means that she wants clothes that fit well, accentuate what she feels great about and help control what she doesn’t feel great about — comfortably. 

The temptation might be to think she’s “giving up” and settling for frumpy yoga pants, but she sees it differently. For her, comfort equals confidence. 

“I have to feel comfortable no matter what size I am; it has to fit right. Especially for a big occasion when I want to look good.”

3. Time to break some rules 

Moms grew up following fashion rules, but increasingly, they’re ready to leave them behind. Their sense of individuality and self-worth have overtaken their need to conform.

One of the worst offenders is the “age appropriate” rule. More than ever before, moms are working out to maintain their health and their looks. Having put all that effort into fitness, they’re not about to hide it. 

People may feel like I’m too old, but I don’t feel like I’m too old. I’m not too old to wear a really tight short dress, but I’m also not trying to be something I’m not. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we found that’s driving – or not driving – middle-aged women when it comes to shopping for clothes. There is a big, affluent, underserved audience just waiting for someone to recognize their needs. Huge.

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