Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why clothing sizes make no sense

Julia Felsenthal writes in Slate Magazine on A Size 2 Is a Size 2 Is a Size 8.

The ASTM recommendations have evolved over time to accommodate a very real trend: vanity sizing. Women don’t want to know their real size, so manufacturers re-label bigger sizes with smaller numbers. In 1958, for example, a size 8 corresponded with a bust of 31 inches, a waist of 23.5 inches and a hip girth of 32.5 inches. In ASTM’s 2008 standards, a size 8 had increased by five to six inches in each of those three measurements, becoming the rough equivalent of a size 14 or 16 in 1958. We can see size inflation happening over shorter time spans as well; a size 2 in the 2011 ASTM standard falls between a 1995 standard size 4 and 6. (This may also explain why smaller sizes are constantly invented. The 1958 standard listed 8 as its smallest size. The 1995 ASTM standard listed a size 2. In 2011, ASTM lists a standard for size 00.)

[...] a private organization called the Textile Clothing Technology Corporation conducted the first widespread study of American women’s bodies since O’Brien and Shelton, called SizeUSA. They installed body scanners at 13 different locations across the country and, over the course of about a month, scanned the bodies of almost 11,000 people between the ages of 18 and 80. The main finding, says Boorady, who was involved with the study, is that people are bigger than ever. The study also distinguished five to seven distinct body shapes for women, as opposed to the single hourglass ideal that has long determined the proportions of clothing (and which only 8 percent of American women have). Boorady says the results mean “it would be extremely difficult to come up with a single sizing system.”

[...] in 1986, the Times reported on manufacturers’ resistance to the development of ASTM standards. “The Laura Ashley woman is different from the Liz Claiborne woman, who is different from the woman whom Calvin Klein envisions,” opined the article’s author, who then quoted a designer saying, “Fit is a type of identity.”
There is something to this. My sense of brand loyalty is as much about the way a designer’s clothes fit as how they look. I [Ms Felsenthal] do pretty well with J.Crew sweaters, Urban Outfitters jeans, and Frye boots—because those have become, after years of trial and error, my brands. If these companies suddenly changed their sizes to adhere to some synthetic average of the American female form, I’d feel annoyed—even indignant.

The article is an interesting introduction to an intriguing topic, one that combines design, statistics, economics, business, and psychology.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


The Oatmeal presents "How to make your shopping cart suck less" Vulgarly amusing advice on design.