26 9 / 2013
What does size six mean?
by Veronica “Pixie” Mathy
When a man walks into a clothing store, he can quickly assess whether product on the shelf will fit him, and generally without having to try it on. If he measures his waist at 34 inches and his legs’ length at 30 inches, he can grab a pair of pants labeled 34x30 without much consideration. Moreover, men’s sizing is pretty consistent across the board, no matter where you shop - and yet, women’s sizing is much more difficult to navigate. Why?
While clothing has been around as long as we have, for most of human history it was sized directly for the person who was intended to wear it because clothing was made by hand. Mass manufactured clothing (and therefore, sizes) came about around 250 years ago during the Industrial Revolution, at which time it was primarily used for the manufacture of men’s clothing (particularly military uniforms). American sizes consisted simply of measurements (in inches) of the relevant body parts; mens’ clothing sizes today are still based on this heritage.
Women’s sizes as we know them today were developed in the 1940s and 1950s based on a US government survey of women’s measurements. Modern women’s sizes are an arbitrary standard using sizes such as “00” and “18,” where the numerical value of the size only serves as a name (hence the term “nominal sizing”), rather than a measurement.
Because women’s sizes are an arbitrary standard, rather than based on actual measurements, the measurements corresponding to particular sizes have changed over the years. This has happened for two reasons: one is simple chaos - how big exactly a “6” is in inches has no single, official definition; the other is a more deliberate system known as vanity sizing.
Vanity sizing is a phenomenon where clothing manufacturers deliberately sell larger clothes labeled as though they were smaller. When a shopper tries on clothes from a vanity-sized line, they are often pleased to discover they fit sizes labeled smaller than they expected. In a world where consumers are perpetually worried about their weight, a shopper is more likely to buy a pair of pants that allows them to believe they are a smaller size.
Nominal sizing isn’t everywhere; some retailers, like Lucky Brand jeans, use it alongside real waist and inseam measurements. Another store, Buckle, doesn’t use nominal sizing at all. Buckle uses measurements (similar to men’s pants sizes) where the consumer selects waist and length separately, and even offers the measurements of the model wearing the clothes in the picture (her height, bust, waist and hips along with the size she is pictured wearing).
It would be easier to pick apart the clothing industry if sizing standards were uniform; unfortunately (for women’s sizes, at least), they’re very inconsistent. Online women’s clothing retailer ModCloth.com, knowing this inconsistency, will hire a model to act as a “standard” to try on all the clothes they stock, then compare the fit on her body to the nominal size; in this way, they offer a “runs small/large, please size up/down” or “fits true to size” label on the item’s product description. In a perfect world, it would be possible to know your size and purchase clothes in that size from any store; that is not the world we live in today. There is a way it could be, though.
The most obvious way to fix this problem is simply for all retailers and manufacturers to sell clothing based on actual measurements - like men’s clothing; that’s not the ceiling for improvement, though. There exists a system in Europe - EN 13402 - that corresponds to very specific descriptions of the body part measurements relevant to the clothing item in question, including offering a pictogram on the sizing tags. This standard has been adopted to a varying degree among European countries, but it is a consistent system and one that American clothing retailers and manufacturers should adopt, especially in the current global economy. Businesses don’t even have to manufacture anything differently - just put correct labels on things. If adopted, shopping will be a much more inclusive and less confusing experience for everyone.
14 7 / 2013
Rogue Legacy, Galaxy S4, Much Ado About Nothing - July 10, 2013
28 6 / 2013
Remember Me - Episode 3
23 6 / 2013
Remember Me: Episode 2
"But you didn’t post the first episode on Tumblr!" I hear you say. Whatever, you’re a smart cookie. I have faith you can find it.
11 6 / 2013