I ranted two weeks ago about how clothes sizes are stupid, but the question remains…why? Why are you one size at American Eagle and another at H&M? Wouldn’t it be the clothing companies’ interest to have some standardization?
This recent NPR article suggests that companies like to keep their particular fit a secret:
“Every brand looks at their fit as something that’s proprietary, like their ‘secret sauce,’ and none is willing to share that info with anyone else,” Gribbin says…
…”fit is the No. 1 reason people buy it [or] return it, and it’s the No. 1 reason they go back to a particular brand.”
…And that’s why brands don’t share information on sizing and instead guard their “secret sauce” ferociously. Even if it means their size 4 is really a 6 or a 2 somewhere else.
So basically, companies deliberately have their own unique sizing; they’re hoping you’ll be comfortable with their particular fit and be frustrated when you shop elsewhere. I did not know that, folks. Doesn’t that kind off piss you off?
Gribbin is the founder of Alvanon, which is a company that uses body scans to produce mannequins for clothing companies. The idea is that the body scans will produce mannequins that are empirically closer to real-life women.
So body scans might be one wave of the future—one way to help with the sizes-are-stupid problem. Perhaps, eventually, we’ll all have body scans and use our individual “body form” to guide our purchases. Kind of like a version of that computer scanner Cher has in the opening scene of Clueless! (I guess that’s an app now, too).
During 1939 and 1940, about 15,000 American women participated in a national survey conducted by the National Bureau of Home Economics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture…A technician took 59 measurements of each volunteer, who was dressed only in underwear.Volunteers were paid a small fee for participating…The purpose of the survey was to discover key measurements of the female body…and then to propose a sizing system based on this discovery.
Essentially, this one group of women—who might have been underweight and were mostly young, fit, and Caucasian—determined our sizes. Not exactly a lot of variety in terms of age or race or body type. Clothing sizes are WAC, basically.
Those were sizes for a long time, through 40s, 50s, and 60s and kind of into the 1970s. They’re still dressmaker’s sizes now, but over the years sizes have grown smaller due to vanity sizing, so if you buy a pattern or go to a dressmaker, you’re going to be a much bigger size than you think you are.
Alright: sizes are stupid and vary between brands and even within brands and have changed over time. So what’s a solution? Well, one solution is measurements!
If you’re buying online and especially if you’re buying vintage clothing or thrifting, measurements are the way to go. Bad Cholla explains:
BC: In terms of vintage clothing, nearly any seller who knows what they’re doing will list things by measurements, so you just need to measure yourself and get used to going by measurements.
Get a tape measure, measure around your boobs, your waist, the largest part of your hips—which is different on different people. You also have to just learn in terms of vintage where your differences are. If you’re very long-waisted, you can also have a problem with vintage, because people tended to be shorter, so if you’re long-waisted or just tall often the waist will hit at a weird spot on you.
So it’s good to know your shoulder-to-waist measurement, actually. Measuring yourself is a little strange. It’s hard to get a good measure, so what you should do is, if you have a dress with a fitted waist that fits you well, measure from the shoulder seam to the waist on that and that’s your measurement. And a lot of sellers will include a shoulder-to-waist measurement or you can ask them for it.
So guys, we don’t have to wait for the National Bureau of Home Economics to come and measure a selection of us 59 times or rely on the “secret sizing” clothing brands have come up with using high-tech mannequins. It can be a little easier than that.