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US Women's Clothing market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Women's Clothing market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?


This report will identify behaviors and preferences among female shoppers when shopping for clothing. For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

The Report focuses on purchases adult women 18+ (versus teens) make for themselves (versus as gifts).

While the Report primarily focuses on women, some discussion of purchases by men is included. Clothing in this Report covers the following categories: jeans, pants/slacks, T-shirts, blouses, sweaters, dresses, skirts, jackets/coats, blazers, shorts, workout clothes (tops and bottoms) and underwear.

Swimwear, sleepwear, hosiery, footwear, and accessories are excluded.

This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Women’s Clothing – US, May 2015 and Women’s Clothes Shopping – US, October 2013.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Diana Smith, a leading analyst in the Retail sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

While the US women’s clothing market is indeed large and growing, the growth is incredibly stifled. Sales should reach $170.6 billion this year, basically flat in comparison to 2016. This continued slow pace is expected for the foreseeable future. Younger generations, with their propensity to be more engaged and excited about clothes shopping, could revitalize the market as long as retailers offer apparel items they actually like and prices they are willing to pay. From a marketing standpoint, brands need to maintain a maniacal focus on online channels including mobile and social media to reach these young fashionistas. Diana Smith
Associate Director - Retail & Apparel

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • The issues
          • Market vitality is weak
            • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of women’s clothing, at current prices, 2012-22
          • The basics are broken
            • Figure 2: Attitudes toward price and quality of clothing, April 2017
          • Role of the physical store transforming
            • Figure 3: Retailers shopped, by generation, April 2017
            • Figure 4: Desired in-store improvements, by generation, April 2017
          • The opportunities
            • Address sizing concerns
              • Figure 5: Size-related attitudes and interests, by age, April 2017
            • Find the mobile touchpoints
              • Figure 6: Mobile attitudes and behaviors, by generation, April 2017
            • Capitalize on the social nature of shopping
              • Figure 7: Influence of social media, by age, and shopping mindset, April 2017
            • What it means
            • The Market – What You Need to Know

              • Large market, slow growth
                • Economic factors look positive, so why aren’t women spending more on clothes?
                  • Obesity remains a key issue
                    • Mobile device ownership means more mobile orders
                    • Market Size and Forecast

                      • Market remains soft
                        • Figure 8: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of women’s clothing, at current prices, 2012-22
                        • Figure 9: Total US retail sales and forecast of women's clothing, at current prices, 2012-22
                    • Market Breakdown

                      • Activewear a bright spot in this fragmented sector
                        • Figure 10: Total US retail sales of women's clothing, by segment, at current prices, 2012-17
                        • Figure 11: Total US retail sales of women's clothing, by segment, at current prices, 2015 and 2017
                      • Womenswear commands lion’s share, but menswear outpacing in growth
                      • Market Factors

                        • Female population growing, aging, and diversifying
                          • Figure 12: 18+ Female population by age, 2017-22
                          • Figure 13: 18+ Female population by generation, 2017
                          • Figure 14: Women by race and Hispanic origin, 2017-22
                        • Consumers maintaining balanced approach when it comes to finances
                          • Figure 15: Top ways extra money is spent, January 2017
                        • Obesity dilemma worsens, bringing more demand for plus-sized clothing
                          • Figure 16: Prevalence of obesity among US women aged 20 and over, by age, race and Hispanic origin, 2015
                        • Mobile device ownership reaches new heights
                          • More people working at home
                          • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                            • Pop-up retailing embraced by brands and shoppers
                              • Plus size market still underserved
                                • Is the pressure to differentiate impacting quality?
                                  • Will Amazon rule women’s apparel too?
                                    • The fine line between automation and hyper human service
                                    • What’s Working?

                                      • Fashion trends: what’s old is new again
                                        • In their words: current trends and cool brands
                                          • Athleisurewear remains a bright spot
                                            • Alternative retail shops emerge
                                              • Physical stores seek options for flexibility
                                                • Stores fold to focus online
                                                  • Pure-play expands to physical world
                                                  • What’s Struggling?

                                                    • Fit to be tried
                                                      • Sizing tools
                                                        • Plus and petite sizes
                                                          • Department stores consider their options
                                                            • Missing the mark on quality
                                                              • Affordable luxury is the new upscale
                                                                • In their words: Outdated trends and brands
                                                                • What’s Next?

                                                                  • Technology changing how women shop
                                                                    • Figure 17: Interest in technology, by age, April 2017
                                                                  • Service models changing how women engage
                                                                    • Retail automation
                                                                      • In their words: robots versus humans
                                                                        • Clienteling
                                                                          • The Amazon effect
                                                                            • Clothing gets smarter
                                                                            • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                              • For most, clothes shopping is an occasional leisure time activity
                                                                                • Men are in the category too
                                                                                  • Department stores most shopped channel
                                                                                    • Mobile at the core of online shopping
                                                                                      • Women generally optimistic about shopping
                                                                                      • Shopping Frequency and Seasonality

                                                                                          • Half of women shop only occasionally
                                                                                            • Figure 18: Shopping frequency, April 2017
                                                                                          • Women under 35 shop the most often
                                                                                            • Figure 19: Shopping frequency, by age, April 2017
                                                                                          • Lack of seasonal variation
                                                                                            • Figure 20: Seasonality, April 2017
                                                                                          • In their words: impulse versus planned
                                                                                          • Items Purchased

                                                                                            • “The basics” are still popular
                                                                                              • Figure 21: Items purchased, January 2016 – March 2017
                                                                                            • Casual clothing prioritized over more formal pieces
                                                                                              • Figure 22: Select items purchased, January 2016 – March 2017
                                                                                            • Men play an important role in gifting
                                                                                              • Figure 23: Women’s clothing items purchased by men, January 2016 – March 2017
                                                                                          • Spending Patterns

                                                                                              • Spending remains status quo for most
                                                                                                • Figure 24: Spending, April 2017
                                                                                              • In their words: spending more, less or the same?
                                                                                                • More
                                                                                                  • Less
                                                                                                    • About the same
                                                                                                      • Majority of past three-month spending falls below $300
                                                                                                        • Figure 25: Amount spent on women’s apparel in past three months, by gender, January 2016 - March 2017
                                                                                                      • In their words: clothes or experiences?
                                                                                                      • Shopping Mindset

                                                                                                          • Give me the basics
                                                                                                            • Figure 26: Shopping mindset, April 2017
                                                                                                          • Being practical becomes more important as women age
                                                                                                            • Figure 27: Shopping mindset, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                          • Most women see clothes shopping as fun, social and a chance to try new styles…as long as the price is right
                                                                                                              • Figure 28: Retail shopping segmentation, percentage by segment, January 2016 - March 2017
                                                                                                              • Figure 29: Retail shopping segmentation, by age, January 2016 - March 2017
                                                                                                              • Figure 30: Attitudes about fashion and shopping, by select segments, January 2016 – March 2017
                                                                                                            • In their words: women describe their personal style
                                                                                                            • Retailers Shopped

                                                                                                                • Department stores hang on, but for how long?
                                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Retailers shopped, April 2017
                                                                                                                • Age factors into retailer choice
                                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Top retailers shopped, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                                • In-store environment affects shopping process
                                                                                                                  • In their words: how environment makes a difference
                                                                                                                    • Experiential retailing takes shopping beyond mere transactions
                                                                                                                    • Alternative Shopping Options

                                                                                                                        • Subscription services
                                                                                                                          • In their words
                                                                                                                              • Figure 33: Stitch Fix television ad, June 2017
                                                                                                                              • Figure 34: Stitch Fix E-mail advertisement, April 2017
                                                                                                                              • Figure 35: Fabletics television ad, May 2017
                                                                                                                            • Rental services
                                                                                                                              • In their words
                                                                                                                                • Preowned marketplace
                                                                                                                                  • In their words
                                                                                                                                  • Online Shopping Process

                                                                                                                                      • Online shopping spans generations
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 36: Retailers shopped online, by generation, April 2017
                                                                                                                                      • Path to purchase reaffirms mobile’s role
                                                                                                                                        • Computers versus mobile devices
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 37: Preferred devices for online shopping, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                                                        • Retailers’ sites versus brand/manufacturers’ sites
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 38: Preference for retailers’ vs. brands’ sites, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                                                        • Mobile shopping behaviors
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 39: Mobile shopping behaviors, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                                                          • Opportunities to engage at the store post-purchase
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 40: In-store pickup and return preferences, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                                                        • Attitudes toward Clothes Shopping

                                                                                                                                            • Clothes shopping is a passion area for many
                                                                                                                                              • Figure 41: Percentage who enjoy clothes shopping, by key demographics, April 2017
                                                                                                                                              • Figure 42: Spending, by attitudes toward clothes shopping – Any agree, April 2017
                                                                                                                                            • Attitudes related to cost
                                                                                                                                              • Shoppers have been trained not to pay full price
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 43: Cost-related attitudes, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                • Attitudes related to customer service
                                                                                                                                                  • Nearly half of Millennials would consult their phone before a salesperson
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 44: Customer-service related attitudes, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                  • In their words
                                                                                                                                                    • Marketing opportunities
                                                                                                                                                      • Shoppers seeking transparency and improved quality
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 45: Attitudes related to marketing and clothing quality, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 46: Attitude regarding use of real women versus models in advertising, by key demographics, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                      • Influencers

                                                                                                                                                          • Media carries huge influence
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 47: Influencers, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                            • Social media is number one influencer among 18-24s
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 48: Top media influencers, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 49: Social media websites visited, by age, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                            • Shoppable imagery moves online shoppers along the path to purchase
                                                                                                                                                            • Desired Retail Improvements

                                                                                                                                                                • Sizing improvements top the list
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 50: Desired retail improvements, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                                • High-value customers reinforce importance of proper fit, quality merchandise, and in-store experience
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 51: Spending more, by select desired retail improvements, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                                • TURF analysis provides quantitative support for maximizing reach
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 52: TURF Analysis – Desired retail improvements, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                                                                                                • Data sources
                                                                                                                                                                  • Sales data
                                                                                                                                                                    • Fan chart forecast
                                                                                                                                                                      • Consumer survey data
                                                                                                                                                                        • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                                                                                                          • Direct marketing creative
                                                                                                                                                                            • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                                                                                                              • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                • Terms
                                                                                                                                                                                • Appendix – Market

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 53: Total US retail sales and forecast of women's clothing, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2012-22
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 54: GDP change from previous period, Q1 2007-Q1 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 55: Consumer confidence and unemployment, 2000-May 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 56: Disposable Personal Income change from previous period, January 2007-May 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 57: US gasoline and diesel retail prices, January 2007-June 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                • Appendix – Consumer

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 59: Table - TURF Analysis – Desired retail improvements, April 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 60: US retail sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores, 2015 - May 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 61: Purchase incidence of women’s clothing, by gender, January 2012 – March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 62: Women’s clothing items purchased, January 2012 – March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 63: Amount spent by women on women’s apparel in past three months, by age, race and Hispanic origin, January 2016 - March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 64: Women’s lingerie items purchased, January 2016-March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 65: Bra brands purchased, January 2016-March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 66: Retail shopping segmentation, by household income, January 2016-March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 67: Attitudes/opinions about apparel, by segment - part one, January 2016-March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 68: Attitudes/opinions about apparel, by segment - part two, January 2016-March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 69: Attitudes/opinions about shopping, by segment - part one, January 2016-March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 70: Attitudes/opinions about shopping, by segment - part two, January 2016-March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Additional qualitative information
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Spending amounts
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Spending priorities
                                                                                                                                                                                        • In-store environment
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Subscription services
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Customer service
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Current trends and brands