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One Size Does Not Fit All: Custom Fit With Kit

Business

Merin Guthrie is a girl's girl. Raised to be strong and independent, she grew up in a family filled with unapologetically opinionated, self-assured women, including three grandmothers and her mother. From age 12 she attended an all-female boarding school where she formed incredible relationships, and was never hindered by the world of “man.”


Upon entering the real world for college, Guthrie was wondering, “Why aren’t more people focused on women, and what women need, and empowering women?”

Having such an absence of men for the better part of her young life was incredibly influential for Guthrie. It's not that she thought of men as the bad guys, she just didn’t see herself in the context of a man at all. To illustrate her point, Guthrie brought up the point that Katie Ledecky in the 2016 Olympics was always referred to as the “female Michael Phelps,” but never as her own superior self as an athlete.

Merin Guthrie, Founder and CEO of Kit.

Photo Credit: Samira Bouaou

Along with this problem, Guthrie also became aware of how poorly women’s clothes are made these days. She started wearing her grandmothers’ old vintage dresses that still had amazing quality and fit her so much better than anything she could buy at a store. Guthrie’s own boss couldn’t see how well she performed at a meeting because she was so uncomfortable in her clothes and believed that everyone in the meeting was focused on how poorly they fit.

When it comes to women's clothing, fit is a huge problem. In fact, industry wide--60% of all women’s wear designers are men. How can they possibly be expected to know what will fit us?

Guthrie eventually moved to Texas with her husband where she had a lot of free time on her hands. She was asked to make bridesmaids dresses for an old friend who was getting married, and after working with each individual woman to make her bridesmaids dress what she wanted, Guthrie realized she wanted to try and solve this industry wide problem of fit.

One thing was for sure, Guthrie wanted to focus on women and women alone. She based her line on the needs of her female customer service manager, also is a mom with two kids under the age of three. While Guthrie is absolutely not opposed to men, she believes a woman in the customer service job is a much better fit than a man. To wit, a man can’t answer questions about what dress is right for breastfeeding, and how a bust size should fit. The customer service has to fit the demographics, which is what helps make this company so innovative and inspiring.

According to Guthrie, the reason women’s clothes don’t fit well is that patterns are made two-dimensionally, but women have three-dimensional bodies. To address this issue, Guthrie had a long conversation with a pattern maker who made clothes yet still couldn’t find anything that fits. They agreed that they had to throw out the idea of a one-size-fits-all sizing system; it just doesn’t work. Instead of sizing, the company gets information about people’s bodies to make the clothes specifically fit that person.

All Kit clothes are all made after the point of purchase, and because the manufacturing is in-house, the company's seamstresses work with customer service to make everything customizable. Customers who have dealt with one of the workers before will just email whoever they’ve worked with instead of going back to the website; there’s a relationship built there. Furthermore, the company welcomes and evolves with customer feedback.

The reason behind Kit's success, to be sure, is Guthrie's focus on her consumer, rather than on scaling quickly for a quick buck. Instead, she’s focused on keeping the customers happy and producing quality products.

Guthrie (left) and a friend.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kit

“We wanted customer service to be like having a really stylish good friend.”

By getting clothing through Kit, customers are guaranteed a one-of-a-kind service experience along with quality items that actually fit. Although Guthrie came from a background that didn’t include fashion, she was able to think outside the box, and inspire an entire industry by introducing a clothing line that women didn't even know they needed.

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Lifestyle

Going Makeupless To The Office May Be Costing You More Than Just Money

Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.


Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.

Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.

As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.

Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.

So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.

Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.

For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."