We live in the times of disposable clothing, fast fashion, and sales sales sales. As a result many people end up wearing ill fitting clothing. Think about it. Everyone’s body is different, so how can there be a “one size fits all”? In fact, how ARE sizes determined? Well, it’s a little complex and a little bit of history is needed.
Mens’ clothing size was first standardized to facilitate the production of military uniforms and was based on chest size (sound familiar gentlemen? :)). It is assumed that all measurements are proportional (neck, waist, hips, and thighs) and that is the basis of mens’ commercial sizing today!
Women’s clothing sizes became “standard” much much later. With the industrial revolution and new technologies, “ready to wear” became more accessible and popular. But sizing was all of the place back then as well so the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a survey of women’s body measurements to create a sizing system. 15,000 women were surveyed between 1939 and 1940 and after mining the data, a size system was created.
The women’s system was based on bust measurement and sizes ranged from 8 to 38. The height of a woman was also taken into account (short, regular, and tall) and hip fullness (slender, average, and full).
So how is this relevant to sizing today? To be honest, it isn’t! First of all, the survey was skewed. Those who participated often needed the money from the survey, and those who needed money tended to be slim and at times malnourished. Data from factory workers who were more fit than the average woman at the time were also gathered. Measurements from non-whites were also discarded. In other words, the data from this survey was not really representative of the population at the time, let alone now! The modern women’s sizing system is still derived from this outdated survey*.
Why is it that different brands have different sizing?
Well, it’s about brand image really. A brand will cut its clothing based on the image it wishes to project and the brand’s target demographic. Therefore as a customer, choosing your clothes is a bit like choosing your identity. Which brand do you identify with? Which brand is representative of your lifestyle (or the lifestyle you aspire to have)? Etc. Get it? It all comes down to marketing. Sad, isn’t it?
So why don’t my clothes fit?
Because there is something wrong with you! Just kidding. Well, to put it simply, if you don’t have an average body type, things are tough. Most men are slim, with few curves. So if you are a man that works out and has significant muscles in certain areas, off the rack clothing will not fit right. Women that are not slim hourglasses and non-B-cups will also have problems finding properly fitting garments. The reality of “ready to wear” these days is that customers are simply buying clothes that fit “well enough.”
What the hell am I supposed to do then?
There isn’t an easy answer to this. Unfortunately most people will have to try to find “their brand,” by trial and error. Simply try different brands and see how they fit on your body. Sometimes off the rack clothing can fit great… and when it doesn’t… it may be time for some alterations at the tailor…
I hope this blog post wasn’t too dry… there is a point to it. It is setting up the knowledge base needed for my next post. Look forward to it guys! 🙂
* Note: There have been additional surveys, but the post was already getting a bit long and dry. If you wish to find out about, do a web search on: ASTM D-5586 Ellen Goldsberry, TC2 Size USA. 🙂