Fit used to be so much better?

Your input is needed. Here’s the context of a discussion I’m having:

I am most interested in the idea of fit, a quality that seems elusive and perhaps worth “investing” in. Also explaining to women what’s happened to clothes, why people say “fit used to be so much better.”

People say clothing fit used to be so much better. Is this true? False? I think we intuitively know this to be true. Maybe sort of kind of. I’ll leave my thoughts on the subject in comments rather than cluttering this up. Please tell us why/why not clothing fits worse/better -and why if you can. Give it your best shot and thanks.

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50 comments

  1. Kathleen says:

    I won’t go into all of these but playing devil’s advocate (because I do think fit is worse) consider:
    Proofs -or lack thereof
    Styling changes
    Democratization and expectations
    Lifestyle (aging) and consumer spending
    Textile technology
    Skill evolution (or devolution) in the needle trades

    Proofs: If you were asked whether clothing used to fit better than before, the vast majority would say yes. Springing immediately to mind would be an image of a painting of a dowager, empress or another personage from the annals of history. Is this some sort of proof? Of course not and for several reasons. First the image is an artist’s interpretation as opposed to a stark photo so we can’t know. Illustrations rather than photographs predominate in design related books; you can draw anything to fit and most artists do. Second, most of these garments were one-offs and should fit better. A one-off regardless of when it was made should fit better.

    Most reports are anecdotal or suspect in some way. If you say clothing did fit better, surely you have older clothing that makes for a worthy comparison. So drag that out and try it on, I’ll wait. Finished? Oh, you didn’t get it on? It doesn’t fit you say? Hmm. Well. The superior fit of that garment could not have changed but now you say it doesn’t fit well? In that case I suppose it’s true that clothing used to fit better but it seems more likely that the clothing you’re buying for your figure today does not fit your body as well as you would like as compared to clothing you used to buy a long time ago that you remember (photo?) fitting your figure then. One-off custom garments don’t qualify. In other words, how much of the gap in fitting problems is due to fit degradation vs the changing shape of our bodies and the lack of products in the marketplace to fit our spending, lifestyle and styling choices? Again, I do not doubt clothing fits worse but we have to itemize legitimate shortfalls with documentation if we hope to do anything about it.

    Styling: This is also all over the map, styling expectations evolve too. Ladies wore slipper-like straight flapper dresses in the 1920’s, who says those “fit”? Compare those to later styles from the 1950’s when many women wore girdles. I don’t doubt that 50’s women could say clothing from the 20’s fit worse (the opposite of what we say today) but it’s not a fair comparison due to silhouette changes [I aspire to being able to spell silhouette without spell checker one day]. We can’t rely on memory because hindsight is too selective. It is not likely our senses and aesthetics were on par with our senses today and sufficiently refined to make those judgments. The real truth is most of us were younger and thinner then; anything looked better on us then than it does now.

    Democratization and expectations: Face it, until recently, most photos and images were of the famous and wealthy, they had different lifestyle demands but how many people like us actually wore stuff like that? What did the average person wear and how did it fit? We don’t know; few were newsworthy. Using a photo of a painting of the Empress Eugenia as a baseline for fit standards didn’t apply in her day much less ours. Our expectations have evolved, now we think everyone should have well fitting clothes but this is a relatively new phenomenon.

    And what is fit anyway? It was typical that clothing was fit in such a way as to announce its wearer did not do manual labor (a man’s suit). Is that an appropriate yardstick? While I’m inclined to agree clothing fits worse, our expectations are also out of whack. Why do people expect a garment that was designed to fit someone who does no manual labor, supposed to fit the average person today with normal range of motion demands? It’s absurd.

    I’ll pass on skill evolution or devolution because I think I’ve written about that too much already.

  2. Sabine says:

    i think clothes fit worse these days…but then, i got a flubby mommy body now, lol.

    My main beef with with fit is:
    1. too tight in the shoulders, but then, that is nothing new, I always had wide shoulders and I daresay that ladies shirts and blouses are actually wider cut ontop the shoulder then they used to be, so this part improved a bit.

    2. jeans fit so lousy these days :)
    I got fat thighs and as my bf puts it: a very shapely formed gludios maximus (buttcheeks that sit high and round out a lot to the back). Jeans/pants are low rise these days…that’s fine, I like them. But, i got no room for my thighs unless i want to go buy granny jeans(with elastic waist band). Providing I can pull them up without them looking like a bag, most gape in the back about 3″, while cutting in on the side and stomach and making me a muffin top from the front. Despite my love of muffins-totally uncool.
    The funniest thing is, that despite them seeming really tight, i can pull them on and off fairly easily without opening the zipper, making me wonder…what is that zipper for? (and no, my waist is not bigger then my butt, so that’s not the reason)
    Maybe all of that is though that they used to sit higher on the waist and were looser cut around the bottom and the leg.
    I am working on figuring that out though.

  3. Celkalee says:

    Subject near and dear to my heart.
    Changing body shapes aside, fit issues are a result of mass produced shapeless clothing designed to fit as many people as possible. Design lines are limited and other than in very high-end clothing with little internal structure supporting the garment. Then again, our lifestyles have become increasingly casual from home to the work place and beyond. I am an opera fan. When I first started attending productions (saved my pennies mind you) I also enjoyed the formality of the event. Not ball gowns, but dressy clothes, men in suits, ladies in heels and dresses or suits. Just recently I attended a production of Carmen, one of my favorite operas, but was appalled at the casual/sloppy attire! I would estimate about 1/2 of the patrons looked as if they were on the way to pump their gas and stop at the grocery. This t-shirt and exercise pant wearing crowd were rather unkempt as well. Messy hair, shabby sandals. Now I probably sound like a snotty prude, but I assure you I am not. No sense of respect it seemed to me…for the artists or themselves. Is it just easier not to wear good fitting garments, is the slip on T and pull-up pant a sign of our times? True. these items are most likely more budget friendly than a nice suit or sport coat, or a ladies breezy summer dress with wrap, but with the opera tickets running $150 to $400 a pop maybe someone needs to go to the cheap seats and spring for real clothes!

  4. Kerryn says:

    You raise a good point Kathleen at the end there… WHAT is a good fit? a well fitted garment will hang nicely on the body, have good balance, function correctly for it’s intended use and flatter the wearer’s shape. While the silhouette is important, this is sometimes the easiest part of the problem…. creating a garment that functions and moves is a skill and takes years of learning.

    Today there is less emphasis in fashion school on technical training, there is less specialization at college and after and people move about within the industry rarely staying with one company or one job for very long. I can’t really say that fit was better before with any authority but I definitely noticed a big jump in the quality of clothing from working at an established company with a long history of making the same type of product and long-serving employees with specialist knowledge to a young company trying to create a myriad of products in hundreds of fabrics and with many different end uses……

  5. I doubt that those people who complain about the bad fit nowadays are old enough to remember times when fit was better…

    When my grandmother was a kid all clothes were made to measure, because RTW did not exist. (Not on rural Bavaria. She and her sister had expensive RTW coats when they wwere 9 and 11 years old. Her father had been working in a big city and invested in those rather eccentric clothes for his daughters because he thought coats to be usefull in winter. Girls would only wrap in big shawls in that region.) So at least if the tailer was good clothes would have fitted. But that was nearly 100 years ago.

    For my personal experience I can say that RTW never fit me well. Okay, in the 80th it was easy because everything was wide and most skirts had elasticised waists.
    But apart from that… if pants would fit my hips I needed something to cinch at waist. Jackets I could close over my hips would have shoulders hanging on my upper arms. No wonder, 36 hips, 32 waist (a size that didn’t exist then) and 36 bust/shoulder. (In German sizes)

    Still most clothes I wore did fit well, because my grandma would tailor them for me.

    If I look today nothing has changed. I make my clothes myself so they (mostly) fit. If I have to buy RTW it is still the same. Only now hips are size 48, waist 46, shoulders 44 and bust 46 (front only, back more 44). So I gained a lot of weight since I was 16, but the proportions haven’t changed to much. Neither have RTW garments.

    Maybe in the US everything is different, but in Germany… nothing really changed since the 80th or 90th.

  6. WendyB says:

    I can’t add anything to your excellent comment except that I buy a lot of vintage and I alter it to fit better just as often as I do present-day clothes. The vintage isn’t necessarily made better than today’s clothes either. Some of it is worse.

  7. andrea says:

    I think the addition of spandex to many clothes has made clothing fit both better AND worse. On one hand things like tight jeans with a little spandex in the denim conform to the body and won’t bind behind the knees. If the pattern is right for your body the fit is definitely improved. BUT — I also see many, many women (and some men) who have the mistaken belief that just because a spandex garment CAN stretch that far to cover them, that this is proof that the item fits ! I think when people stopped having a competent family member or tailor or dressmaker make their clothes, and started buying a stretchy thing off the rack is when fit slid downhill(mid 1970’s ?) for most of the western world ! Does anyone remember the empress styled women’s blouses/tops that were everywhere a couple of years ago ? The basic style seemed to be based on a common 1940’s dress/lingerie detail that had soft gathers under the bust, with a band that went around the midriff. Over and over I saw women wearing incompetently cut blouses in this style where the band that was supposed to fall under the bust crossed over the underside of the bust, and the gathers were not full enough to accommodate the breast projection. This was so common that it was rare to see a blouse styled like this that actually fit the wearer. It was like the people who were behind the production no longer had any idea how things were supposed to properly fit. So bad fit became the norm. I think the consumers are also at fault when we would rather have a closet full of very cheaply made items instead of some well made clothes that will last for years. I just saw an ad for a trench styled coat from H&M and I think this item was $ 29.99 CAN. This price is so unrealistically low. We are at fault when we buy a trendy item that is so cheap that it is disposable — and “make do” with the fit for as long as the item is fashionable.

  8. Tasia says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter here :)
    One thing I just thought of is that fits and silhouettes used to be more standard. What I mean is, when you think of the 50’s you think fitted waists, full skirts. If you went shopping in the fifties you would expect everything to fit like that. Same thing in the twenties, there was a specific silhouette in fashion and clothing was designed to fit according to the look of the period.

    Now, there are so many variations on fit, it’s hard to tell whether poor fit is due to sloppiness, or if the designer intended it to fit a certain way. There’s no specific silhouette of the year 2010. Think of pants, for example. You can choose from skinny jeans and leggings and wide-leg jeans and elastic waist pants and yoga pants. High waist, low waist, straight fit, curvy fit, tapered legs, boot cut. And each of these styles will fit completely differently, which you may chalk up to poor fit but it could also be your interpretation of how it’s meant to fit. (Consider the dropped-crotch look that’s in fashion! Poor fit, or design feature? Someone who doesn’t understand the trend might consider it ill-fitting.)
    Interesting question!

  9. Victoria says:

    My opinion: Fit was better in the last century, especially the first 60 years.
    One of my reasons:
    Patternmaking for clothing was considered more 3-dimensionally (the different views related to each other, front-side-back) and practically (movement of the body). The blend of these considerations created artistic clothing which was functional. Computer programs seem to foster a “flatness” in garment design ; the movement is not explored. When you are drawing arcs, your reference is to other lines. It is easy to make those arcs generalized, which does not particularly fit a moving body.

  10. Victoria says:

    I went back and read the comments, and Kathleen touches on another aspect I think is important in perceiving fit. For most of the first half of the last century, women were “properly corseted”, except for periodic loose-fit fashion. (But even the flapper girls had a corseted bust ). That smooth and firm corseting was important in maintaining the good fit of the garments, and pattern makers expected that foundation to be in place when most (fitting) clothing was worn.

  11. kay says:

    When I was a kid, (50’s/60’s) clothes used to be expected fit better because a lot of the “better” stores had alterationists onsite, who would fit you, alter the garment, and then send it out for home delivery. At least that’s what I remember from my family. (I grew up in home sewn clothes because I have scoliosis.) I also remember better tagging… clothes were sized and often the body types were described — ISTR juniors, misses, women’s and “stout”, as well as tall, regular and petite being available in the big stores. Dresses had back shoulder darts and/or neck darts; sleeves had elbow darts, armscyes were fairly high for good mobility. I don’t think I saw small/medium/large designators outside of pajamas, nightgowns and sweaters until I was in high school (class of ’71, fwiw.)

    If you look at photos from that era, the shapes of people tended to be more uniform, which also made us collectively easier to fit. When you gain a lot of excess weight, it tends to pile up in odd areas — we become top heavy, or bottom heavy or with large upper arms, or large thighs… all of which require different patterns. And now we’re also dealing with a population that has a massive number of baby boomers (with the usual post menopausal bodies), and another big bulge in the population profile in about the 20s, with entirely differently shaped bodies. Drop down to “population pyramids” for US census data by decade, graphically displayed:
    http://www.ageworks.com/course_demo/200/module2/module2b.htm#us1900 Even if you maintain your same weight all your adult life, your shape inevitably changes.

  12. Kathleen, I am not sure whether German clothing is better… it just isn’t worse than what it was 20 years ago. :)

    (Plus we pay more… a Levis my size did cost me around $50 in the US in 2003, while it would have been around €120-150 in Germany. So we should get better quality. Still I doubt that…. )

  13. Celkalee says:

    What a great thought provoking conversation. After reading the additional posts I agree that this is not an easy question to answer. All of these issues are true and valid. I always made most of my clothes because I could not afford to buy ready-made. I was quite thin then and very easy to fit, now , not so much! I also remember a fitting seamstress in most clothing shops. I also agree that undergarments played a large role in fitting. I don’t want to go back to the girdle, long-line bra days but I do occasionally dig out the spanx. I have never worked in garment manufacture or production but certainly enjoy seeing this world from the perspective of those who do. If I may ask, where are the German clothes made? Are they imports? Are they local manufactures? Are they brands we would recognize in the US? Thanks in advance.

  14. dosfashionistas says:

    In at least one catagory, plus sizes, I think fit has improved over what it was in the 60’s and 70’s. The people who cater to that size range have figured out that the upper arms do get bigger and that the cross shoulders (being tied to bone structure) don’t. Some of them have even learned to make a pant rise that is wide rather than high. All commen problems 30 years ago, and some persist today. I have at least one pair of pants in my closet with a waistband that comes way up in front; I could practically tuck it under my bra. I know I could alter it, but my alteration pile is soooo big already.

    I have several words I aspire to spell correctly. Fuchsia is one such, also luscious.

  15. Irene says:

    I can remember when I was a young girl in my 20’s, all my clothes use to fit to the T. As I started to get older and my body started changing, I found myself going from 1 piece outfits to 2 pieces simply because I no longer was porportioned like when I was younger. Well I’m in to my 50’s now and yet again my body has changed and I find that clothes does not fit like I want it to. So is this because clothes is made different or because my body has grown in different directions clueless that there is a standard way it should be? Which ever it is I can say that there are more choices now where you can have skinny jeans, boot cut, low rise, baggy, straight leg and so on ranging from 0 to what have you sizes. The good thing, there is elastic waistbands and spandex blends. That’s the ticket!

  16. Lara says:

    Andrea’s comment about the lingerie-inspired tops really hit home for me and now I have a question.

    Remember when Oprah did that properly sized bra show and tons of women found out they were wearing the wrong size (correct size was usually MUCH larger)? I was one of those women. I was cramming myself into a 36C then found out I’m a 34DD. Is anyone taking note of this? Have the average chest sizes of women suddenly moved up on the scale?

    When you’re in a correctly sized bra, everything sits up more prominently and your chest measurement becomes larger.

    I have a terrible time finding clothes (especially dresses) that fit my large chest, small back, and small waist. When I was smooshed into a smaller cup size, I could fit into more things but it wasn’t always flattering. Now I have to be careful about everything – fabric, cut, seams, placement of gathers, stretch. It’s pretty ridiculous.

  17. My thoughts are that as manufacturers are trying to sell to the largest and easiest section of the market, they still think that is the 16-35 age group (even though the 36-55 is group is far larger).

    That young group has a specific size range and shape, but since most of us having this discussion will be 35+, our figures have changed and that fashion range fits badly.

    Perhaps in the 1950s we women solved that problem by corseting ourselves into a 25-yr-old’s shape, rather than expecting them to design for a curvier figure. If there’s anyone in the UK with thoughts on designing for the older woman, would they contact me?

  18. Irene Vlachou says:

    I don’t know if RTW fit better way back when but I have noticed that clothes are made to fit a particular body shape, with increments up or down but still corresponding to the same basic shape. For example, my size, which fluctuates from an Australian size 8-10 (smaller in US sizing – you even go down to zero!) assumes you have a certain width in the back, no bust, are straight up and down (no waist, no hips) and have long, skinny legs. In other words, a model. So while that’s my size, these are not my proportions. I won’t go into detail but my proportions are about the opposite of all of the above. Ergo, RTW doesn’t fit anywhere properly. Jeans are the worst. If I can get them past my generous thighs the waist is so huge I could fit a sumo wrestler inside and still have room to dance. So I would think that clothes do fit people with the proportions adopted as the manufacturing norm in any given epoch. The problem is that there is no variation that takes body shape into account. It would be too expensive and companies would go bust. And this problem isn’t confined to larger sizing. Smaller sizing can be equally ill fitting – for that individual. This refers to most clothes and not those strange feats of engineering that are just so wacky in their construction that one couldn’t imagine them fitting an earthling of any description.

  19. Rachel says:

    I agree with the prior commenters on several points: the current lack of understructures like corsets and girdles helping with fit perception, the style of low-rise trousers (short crotch-depths are hard to fit well in general on non-teen bodies i feel), and the rise in the population of plus-size consumers.

    One other thing i think of as a very specific issue is the relative disappearance of interesting bias-cut production lines. I have some vintage 1930s dresses of this sort, and a couple of modern reproductions of Vionnet dresses that J. Peterman put out, and bias dresses when done well really do have a more flattering and superior fit.

    Part of me thinks that the perception is that bias is not “worth” working with because of cutting and yardage quantity requirements, but it seems like good marker-making software would minimize waste with it just like with any straight of grain garment.

    Part of me wonders whether designers these days just don’t know enough about working with bias to design for it well and creatively, or if they are leery of the need in production for the “hanging out” stage before hemming to avoid bias growth…? Don’t know. Nearly all the bias garments i see on the market are fairly boring–skirts with plain style lines, dresses in which bias skirts are hung off of straight-of-grain bodices or bust cups, etc.

  20. Liz says:

    My definition of good fit is when the design lines of a style are supposed to conform to the body underneath, and they do so. So a well-fitting shirt with standard sleeves should have the top of the armscye at the shoulder.

    I can only speak from personal experience, but I don’t think clothing fits me any better now. I have changed shape, but I was hard to fit when I weighed 45 pounds less than I do now. I never had an easy time finding clothing that fit, back in the late 1970s or now.

    I do notice more clothing is made in S M L sizes rather than numeric sizes, which will affect fit. And some brands that fit me halfway decently in the past (Lands End pants) have gotten much worse, though other brands (J Jill tops) that fit me well have come along.

    I also notice that workmanship and design detailing have gone down, and this can affect fit.

  21. Kiya says:

    As more women entered the work force, I think the style of clothing has changed. When women mainly worked at home home, I don’t imagine everyone wearing well fitted clothes, but more universally fitting styles–shapeless gowns, elastic waists, roomy skirts. (no data behind this. I just know what I wear around my house…oversized mismatch sweats and slippers). The few that did work outside the home or special occasion wear was probably custom made, or altered to fit. Now that women are a powerful population in the workforce, RTW has had to try to mass produce those “work-force” appropriate styles, by trying to fit the most people at once. And it probably corresponds to our country’s growing waistlines, hence the importance of spandex. Spandex has also allowed designers to attempt more silhouettes since it allows mass porduced styles to fit more people. Enter the more casual attire that replaces the “business suit or dress”. So I think fit has gotten better for the population as a whole, but at the same time less people realize and utilize the concept of tailored clothing or alterations. It has allowed our generation to forget what “good fit” is.

  22. Barb Taylorr says:

    There are so many great points above that inspire branching thoughts. This is what makes this such a wonderful website. Here are the shoots they have sprouted in my mind:

    1. Is fit worse or are we, this group of readers, more critical? I know that the more experience I get working in this field the harder it is for me to find clothes with acceptable fit. Looking back in my closet I find that items I adored when I bought them 20 years ago have some glaring fit issues I never noticed at the time of purchase. I have a much more critical eye now, I need to study hard data to be truely objective unless. My gut though, does agree that some degeneration may be happening.

    2. I think Andrea’s point about spandex would have to be a huge factor. When garments were made from non-stretch wovens one HAD to spend time working at the fit or no one would be able to wear it. The stretch incorporated in most fabric now, allows manufacturers to cut back on the cost & time involved in developing a great fit. It has also made it less obvious to the buyer when something is not cut right, so keeping the cost down becomes a higher priority. Today’s average customer would value low cost more I think.
    3. On the flip side there are some excellent fitting garments out there for those who want to pay for it. In the high-end athletic market I have not doubt fit is greatly improved these days, even from just 10 years ago. As this is my field I have studied that a lot.

    4. I also agree with Tasia that the variety of style out there today is also a contributer. Not only does it make it hard for the customer to know how a style should fit, but I’ll bet in the past that less skilled pattern-makers could copy the fit of their competitors more successfully since everyone was aiming for the same sillouette.

    5. Most of all I wonder if designers were taught about pattern-making more in the past? I certainly was required to study that for my design degree. However many of the young ones I work with now, not only did not take those classes, but I am told that one large US design school actually looks down on designers learning patterning. I’m told they believe that it would limit their creativity. Those designers often do not partner well with fit techs, and insist on impractical seam placement, fabric choices etc. that significantly limit the fit that can be acheived.

  23. tizia says:

    Garments today do not fit as well as in the day when pattern development took place closer to the market that was being served. I have worked in product development for garment manufacturers and now importers for over 30 years. All patterns at one time were developed here in America or Canada. Today we often just send specs as to how we want a garment to fit.
    However the people that are developing the patterns often have little if any training or cannot visualize the porportions of our North American bodies.
    I had a situation where I was having difficulty communicating the fit problems with an entire line of womans shirts and dresses. To illustrate where the pattern was drafted pooply, I did everything from drafting a mock pattern, to altering the sample so to illustrated how more lift had to be incorporated into the sleeve. Finally after a face to face meeting in Hong Kong was not getting anywhere I threw on one of the garments in question. All of a sudden the people involved in making the patterns and determining the fit, got it. At the time I was an American sz 10 and I was easily twice the size of any of the people in our meeting. They admitted that since they only had a dressform to work with, the change I was asking for could not be visualized.
    The other issue that came up in further conversations with agents from Asia was the lack of trained patternmakers and fit specilaist in the fast growing manufacturing sector.

  24. There are so many qualifiers required here.

    Used to be? When, 10,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago, 100 years ago, 10 years ago?

    Whose clothes? The very wealthy, the middle class, the working class or the very marginal?

    Clothes from where? Custom made, off the rack or altered?

    Clothes for what purpose? Heavy labour, pregnancy and nursing, office work, entertaining, public display?

    Class distribution has changed over time. While almost every North American today believes themselves to be middle class, that has not always been the case.

    People paid much more for clothes in the past and the non-wealthy had much fewer of them. Rather than having a lot of sloppy clothes that could be tossed in the wash, women might have one or two dresses that they wore every day and protected with an apron. Mondays they washed the entire family’s laundry by hand, perhaps sending the sheets and diapers out to a washerwoman.

    (Proofs: small rooms and lack of closet space in houses and apartments built before, say, 1970. Our own memories of how our mothers and grandmothers got the laundry done, if and when a washing machine was acquired and how big a deal it was.)

    When you only have a few items of clothing and they are very expensive, you may have different expectations of how they should fit.

    (Proofs that clothing was very expensive: See change in real GDP per capita in the US since 1930: http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2009/07/spending-on-food-at-all-time-historical.html . See change in proportion of spending dedicated to clothing since 1935 in the US: http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/1999/Sept/wk1/art02.htm . People just plain had less money and they spent a higher proportion of it on clothes.)

    It used to be very common to save money by making your own clothes, though I think this stopped making sense around the late seventies. This could have different outcomes. If you were good at it, you and your family would be beautifully dressed for all to see. If you weren’t, everyone could see your crooked, ill-fitting clothes and would cluck-cluck over your poor family. I read a story set sometime in the 1920s about an adopted war orphan. She was having trouble settling in and feeling truly adopted, so her grandmother told her that just as buying ready-made clothes was so much better than making your own because you knew ahead of time that they fit and you could check the workmanship, adoption was better too because you could choose a family that fit – a ready-made family. This made obvious sense to our heroine.

    I suspect (no proofs) that the range of fit was more variable in the past. Just as home-made clothes could fit well or poorly, off-the-rack clothes for the working class might fit well or poorly. Stories set any time before 1960(?) make frequent reference to men in ill-fitting suits. Having a properly made suit that you bought new in your own size, and being able to buy a new suit when your size or shape changed, was a powerful indicator of class. This at a time when all men were expected to wear suits. On the other hand, I love the way pants fit working-class men in 1960s movies. (No titles come to mind, just impressions, and even then these wouldn’t be off-the rack pants, so no proof of good fit here either. Maybe it’s just that they were thin.)

    More on class: Inequality of wealth in 20th century USA was at its lowest in 1976: table 3 in http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html . This would be a time when clothing prices had come down and non-wealthy people had more money. The middle class would have been able to buy nicer clothes in 1976 than before or since. (Yes, clothing prices have dropped since 1976 but by “clothes” we are more likely to mean “sweatpants and a t-shirt.”)

    All that said, these days I expect that if you are willing to spend 10% of your income on clothes as Americans did from 1935 to 1961 (today Americans spend about 5% of their incomes on clothes) and only buy, say, 1/3 the number of garments you buy today, that you will be able to buy clothes that fit quite well. If you are thin and toned or girdled, even better.

  25. Oh, and what I mean by good fit: a high armhole, a front button that doesn’t gape, and sleeves the right length. This is possible when clothing is offered in a range of sizes but women’s shape is not that variable. Many of us have really big tits these days! “They” say that a C-cup was large and a D-cup nonexistent in the 1930s when women started buying bras.

    Skirts are easy to fit but pants are a whole nother story. I’ve only been truly happy with pants fit in the 1980s when I could get tight flat-front, full-thighed pants with a good wedgie. Not everyone considers a wedgie to be a sign of good fit. Marlene Dietrich had great-fitting pants a lot earlier and in a very different style. If you’re looking for a constant over time, I’m not sure it’s ever been much easier or harder to find mom-jeans than it is today. You might not like mom-jeans but if you find the right ones they do fit.

  26. BSC says:

    I think that fit of clothing today is going to be considered great compared to what we will see ten or twenty years down the road. Fast Fashion is a huge part of the fit problem. Retailers such as forever 21, H&M, Zara, etc.. have set the bar very high for all manufacturers. They opt to sacrifice fit for trends and they can have a look off the runway reproduced in a very short time span. Other retailers, who do not produce for themselves, look to their suppliers to have just as fast of a turn-around so they can compete. As part of the manufacturing process we are always struggling with deliveries and trying to get the fit perfect in a very small time frame. It is all about instant gratification where fit is just considered a minor part in the game of how to profit. I think that fit of clothing today is going to be considered great compared to what we will see ten or twenty years down the road.

  27. TheresaG says:

    Well I’m definitely in the minority here, but I find fit to more inconsistent but not necessarily worse. Maybe my expectations are low. I am short and when I was in my early 20s I was very slim, gradually became very overweight by age 45, lost the most of the weight and stayed slightly above normal for the past 10 years, but am showing the effects of gravity and age. At any size I had to spend an afternoon trying on clothes to find one or two things that fit. I expect to leave a pile of clothes in the dressing room. I just wish that when I do find something that fits I could go back next season and buy the same size from the same brand and have it fit the same way instead of starting over every time.

    The exception is jeans. I have old jeans that fit my hips, thighs and waiste without lycra. New jeans that are tight enough to stay up cause muffin top or a wide squished monobutt . Looser jeans creep down during the day. Jeans have also begun to feature a strange amount of extra vertical length in the front crotch, a bulge or even a fold or flap of extra fabric in the lower front just above the legs. This is not just on me, I see it on other women and sometimes in online shopping pictures.

  28. @ Celkalee: There are some companies that still produce clothes in Germany, but few and I think most of them do menswear.

    Normally (but that is just my personal impression, no statistics about it) they come from Asia (China, India, Malaysia, Phillipines,…), from Eastern Europe (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey) and maybe some from Portugal or Spain.
    Depending on the price point…

    But I don’t think the country makes the difference, it is more about where the fitting and the patterns are made and HOW they are made. And if the brand checks what they get from the contractor.
    The more expensive brands still do at least a part of developement of lines and patterns in Germany, but I cannot say how much of the market that would be.

    As far as brands sold here… I am not so good with remembering irrelevant things (I never care for the name of brands, sorry) but I’ll try to name a few.
    On the cheapest end would be kik, they sell super cheap, super flimsy and I once entered a shop just to see why many people were so excited about it. I had haedache after five minutes and felt like vomiting after ten. Nice smell of chemistry everywhere.

    Young people will like to shop at H&M (swedish?) or Zara (spanish?), affordable yet not to flimsy quality makes C&A (dutch?) very popular over the whole country. All of them carry their own “brands” which only they sell themselves.

    Other brands would be Esprit or Benetton for younger people. And then… there are so many lables from middle to high price point. You get Jeans from Levis, Lee, Wrangler or G-Star. You get Monsoon, Jill Sander, Escada, Prada, Hugo Boss, GerryWeber, Daniel Hechter (higher price point),…Diesel, Chiemsee, adidas (sportswear), Ed Hardy got very popular and Desigual is on it’s way (still to expensive for everyone, but in the German sewing forum people start to ask for “how to make this style myself?”, that is usually a good indicator) difficult to say, which are the most popular ones.

    From what I read in the comments I get the impression that most brands and retailers still prefer “normal” sizes to “S,M,L,…”. Those would still be mostly for sportswear, not so fitted garments as parkas or sweaters or the extremely cheap crap.
    Even a not very pricey reailer like C&A maintains the “normal” sizes. (Which now go up to German size 48 (ca 22) for three or four years now. before 44 was the limit, the rest would be plus size. It is not that all companies do ignore where there customers are…)

  29. Celkalee says:

    thank you so much Nowaks for such a great informative response. I agree that the quality of the garment is usually generated by price point. While there are exceptions to that, those designers that design and make (or at least work with the pattern makers) do most certainly affect the finished product. Someone mentioned recently that fabrics made with stretch fibers also affect fit. All of these spot-on points have helped define this issue for me. I have several fitting problems that frustrate me beyond belief when sewing. Purchased garments usually have problems as well. I have a middle-aged body with small shoulders and back measurements and a larger bust. I make most of my garments using a high bust measurement on commercial patterns but still need to tweak the fit. One of these days I’ll be proficient!!!!

  30. JuliaC says:

    I think a lot of the fit issues are also due to a lack of quality control in the cutting and production stage. My husband is medium size with skinny hips & wears jeans under his belly. He wore Levis 501s for 30+ years in a 33 waist. He would go in,buy his size, wash & wear. The last time he bought jeans, he called them “clown pants” they were so big. I could wear them & I would wear a 36 or so in mens pants.
    I have routinely bought Lee jeans & Lee Casual pants for years as they have fairly consistently fit. The fabrics & the quality of the fabric has varied greatly however.

  31. dosfashionistas says:

    We seem to be running two parallel lines of comments here. One about our individual fitting problems and the other about what exactly comprises best practices as far as fitting a garment for manufacture.

    I think there are definite best practices, starting with having a good idea of the customer you are trying to fit (age, figure type, fitness level, etc). One thing I am finding, somewhat late in life, is that in any business model there are best practices. And if you will only define and follow them, success will follow almost like day follows night. I think a good question would be, “What are the best practices that will result in my line of manufactured garments having a superior fit?”

    Also, I have just thought of someone else we can blame. A great deal of retailing is now done through huge companies that purchase from many manufacturers. These retailers have fit standards, and employ many many people to see that their fit standards are carried out. (Do you see where I am headed?) These people, rather than the person making the pattern, have the authority over fit, and tell the patternmaker to take it in here or let it out there. It would be unusual if there were not a breakdown in communication with this scenario. Fit must suffer. And incidentally, the people doing this are usually patternmakers, because I have had friends that have gone this route. I am not blaming either the person fitting the clothes or the person making the pattern. I am blaming the disconnect.

  32. Rose Mildenhall says:

    I think it is false to think off-the-peg clothing used to fit better. They ended up well fitting because people altered them, or paid to have them altered. It was worth the time and money when, as Alison points out, few sets of clothing were owned and they were worn over and over again. Vintage clothing frequently has wider seam allowances in crucial places and the seams of many items show signs of having been taken in or let out more than once – perhaps as the owner changed shape over time or as the garment passed through different owners as a hand-me-down.

    Photos of people from many years ago, seen in archived newspapers and collections (not fashion mags), show many people in garments that look ill fitting and sometimes actually uncomfortable, so I don’t think it is a modern problem.

    Today clothing is frequently so cheap it makes little sense to have something altered, as it could double the cost of the item in the first place. As other people have mentioned, I think the addition of stretch textiles has made a big difference. Too-tight clothing used to cruelly squash your flesh (yes – I was a teenager in the 1980s so I know) but today you can still breathe and bend your arms and legs in tight gear (ahem – that’s from observation not experience).

  33. Dia says:

    We could argue forever on whether fit is better or worse. The fit is definitely different. Part is style and part is materials available. Add in changes in expectations and the list goes endless.

    A huge factor now is production costs. The trend to less detailed fitting is also related to reducing production costs. Every seam costs X to sew and every piece of the garment has costs related to cutting and sewing it. Adding darts costs, cutting a sleave into two pieces to get a closer, better fit ups the costs. Reducing the number of pieces in a suit jacket from 20 to 10 (or less) cuts production costs hugely. The cost of the fabric is trivial compared to those factors. Spandex solves some of these problems but definitely not all.

    Spandex changes how things fit a lot. That can also be a love/hate thing. Jeans that fit perfectly sag two hours later when they loosen up. I buy all my jeans used now because I’m so frustrated with that. Yet there is no denying how much easier it makes fitting things.

    I’d say fitting has changed so much that this is a case of trying to compare things that are nearly impossible to compare. This doesn’t come close to covering all the changed fit factors but my point is a lot has changed.

    By the way, I agree with Kathleen about German clothes. I had friends who used to mail order them and those clothes were made for women with a real figure and they lasted. You paid for the quality but quality that good has always been hard to find at any price.

  34. Kathleen says:

    Good points everyone. It seems one tangent of our conversation is evolving to the point we recognize that the definition of fit is ALSO a social construct and subject to tastes and fads. For example, urban styled hip hop jeans are definitely a bad fit but most definitely a style choice. Ditto for mono-butt; lucky thing that since you almost can’t get anything else now outside of used clothing stores. And this is nothing new; what era was it when it was fashionable for a woman’s boobs to be squished horribly flat in hard bodice busks? Definitely bad fit but definitely fashionable.

  35. Victoria says:

    “..definition of fit is also a social construct”….Here is a little story showing the development of that!

    In the 90’s, my daughter played tennis competitively. Every weekend we were at tournaments. In those years the girls wore skirts and coordinated knit tops. I drafted three styles of tennis dresses for my daughter. ( I sewed ten of each style, all different. That part was so fun..she had a closet full of theme dresses; cheetah print, a velvet plaid , a chiffon number, a dice theme, a bowling theme, etc. The other girls started calling her Rainbow Brite, because she always showed up in yet another dress.)

    Anyway it took me a long time to get the fit right. The dress was short, and had to stay put during all kinds of motion. It had to cover everything, be comfortable for all day wear, and look good with a minimum of care. The arm/shoulder area was especially important, and it took many samples to get it right. The high armhole was one necessary feature there.

    After a few months, we arrived at a certain tournament and signed in for the day. The tournament director was very excited that we should admire her daughter’s new tennis dress. This was a new thing in the ready-to-wear tennis world, since dresses had gone out of fashion many years earlier. The director had her daughter turn around and show us all sides. She gave a running commentary the whole time, pointing out the great features of what was essentially a long tank top: “…..and see, it has nice deep armholes so it is cool, and there is freedom of movement!” It was actually revealing the young girl’s bra band!
    That part was evidently not a problem.

    In the years following, I saw many ready to wear tennis dresses with large armholes. The girls started wearing colored sports bras to compensate for the exposure. And that remained a fashion until armholes finally started getting up a little closer to the arm.

  36. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    “…what era was it when it was fashionable for a woman’s boobs to be squished horribly flat in hard bodice busks?”

    Well, THAT started in the 1500s, really noticeable at the end of the reign of Henry VIII and continued till around the end of Elizabeth I’s life. There was a lull in the 1600s until the very end of that century and continued for most of the 1700s with a break around the French Revolution. Up to this point the corsets were mostly cylindrical. A woman added pads or panniers around her waist and a hoopskirt (depending on the era) to make it look like she had a waist. Then the corsets in the 19th Century started being really shaped with a lot of pieces, getting more complex and contorting a woman’s body more and more to the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th C. (Edwardian S-curves). They were all boned and the pre-1800s/Victorian ones had stiff busks at center front as well. Some re-enactors have said that the Elizabethan style ones are pretty comfortable if they fit right and support both bust and back (despite being cloth-covered steel and wood).

  37. To reinforce that “fit” is a concept that is not strictly related to body type or style, but that stands on its own (to a point):

    My sister and I went shopping together on Saturday. She said she wanted a suit, so we went to my suit boutique where they sell their own line. She immediately saw something she loved and tried it on. It fit and flattered. Their stuff fits and flatters me too, which is why it’s my suit boutique.

    My sister works out and has a plump, compact, short-waisted West African figure. I have a lumpy, long-waisted European figure, am about 6″ taller than she is and do not work out. Yet we both are impressed by the fit of the suit jackets at this boutique.

    The prices are not outrageous. The jacket my sister was looking at was priced at CAD$285; it will be marked down to $170 in December (when it should still be in stock); any remaining jackets will be on sale at $85 in February.

    It’s possible that we are too accustomed to poor fit and that we could have gotten better fit at a lower price point at some other time in history and that we are just poor deluded souls who are settling because we don’t know any better. It’s also possible that if you know how and where to look, fit is just fine.

  38. S.Miller says:

    I had the same issue that JuliaC describes with Levis. I bought a pair with a little elastic in the denim two to three years ago, and I tried on a pair with the same number (having forgotten the specifics of the cut and not having that noted in the garment anywhere.) I tried about six pairs of jeans with the same number but with different cuts. I did not notice much difference in these cuts other than whether they were tighter or looser near the ankles, but they all fit poorly and unlike the pair I had at home.

    The poor fit had to do with the waist being too loose and the thighs being too tight such that bending over to pick up anything in these pants would reveal a little too much. I was a typical size 6 or 8 and tried things in both of these sizes. I had the same issue with all of them.

  39. Carol Thurston says:

    No proof from me either, but a general observation/or question.

    I am almost 54. I remember when I was young, “nice” women still wore girdles. I vaguely remember learning to read, and reading a letter to Ann Landers. A woman was outraged that one of her colleagues didn’t wear one, and “jiggled around the office.” I think my best buddy’s older sister wore a girdle.

    Could it be that up until the mid-sixties, women were expected to corset their bodies into the correct shape, responsible for making their bodies fit the clothing, rather than the other way around?

  40. Kathleen says:

    S.Miller wrote:

    The poor fit had to do with the waist being too loose and the thighs being too tight such that bending over to pick up anything in these pants would reveal a little too much. I was a typical size 6 or 8 and tried things in both of these sizes. I had the same issue with all of them.

    Have you seen the entries I wrote about camel toe, wad and bad pant fit? Look at the marker in this entry. It’s why there’s gobs of fabric at center front. I really do believe this was a cost saving measure that became a style and everybody gravitated to it. I’m increasingly annoyed by it. If I find jeans with a snug thigh measure (comfortably snug), the waist is entirely too big especially right over the belly which is precisely where I don’t need extra fabric making me look heavier. I want it to pull me in and compress (I have a pair of NYDJ “tummy tuck jeans” with a five or six inch overlap of excess fabric at the waist, making me look like I have a kangaroo pouch and a small joey. I can only wear these jeans with very loose hip length tops or I look pregnant). I’m having to wear belts now, something I never had to do. I do have the traditional hourglass figure but most jeans aren’t being cut for that shape contrary to what everyone says. My waist is not unusually small and my thighs aren’t proportionally too big. In fact, in older pants, if something fits me in the waist, the hip and thighs are too roomy because my waist has gotten thicker with age. And I live with it because well, it’s only to be expected.

    We’ve got the polar opposite now, pants are designed to fit ice-cream cone shaped people with too large girth at the waist. Again, see that entry I linked to that shows how this rampant pattern change is happening. To improve fabric yields, inches are subtracted from the side seam and added to the center front. You can’t take an inch out of the side seam, add it to center front and expect to get the same result as before. It could work in a skirt but not pants.

  41. Ruth says:

    I think it’s nonsense that fit was better in the past. I think it is all about population movement and mass production. If you had a typical Germanic build and lived in a Northern European country or the North of the US fifty years ago, production would have been local and you would have been likely to find something to fit without too much trawling. But now, the clothes you buy may have been made in China, where people are generally much smaller and pattern cutters just don’t QUITE get what you need. Likewise, you may be a pattern cutter working for a company whose product retails in Texas. How varied is Texas in body type?

    What is a small in Turkey (where a small woman may be 4’6”) is not the same as small in the US. And XL as in the US just doesn’t exist here. I am 5’5”, 36 bust, 28 waist and 38 hips and I sometimes cannot get into the XL in Turkey. XL in the US generally drowns me.

    Globalization and population movement – that’s what did it! But hey, there’s no point in going “home” now! Or it’s not possible.

    We need to go back to paying more for our clothes and buying fewer of them, maybe? Then the manufacturers might be able to provide more variety and better sizing?

  42. Oh dear don’t get me started. As a patternmaker I have only one thing I say to people who want a better fit than they can buy off the shelf … get it custom made. Now don’t think I’m being harsh.

    I’d point out the whole concept of speed/lag times, cost effectiveness decisions and a rapidly changing population.

    Many of my clients use demographic data (size analysis) that’s so old it doesn’t remotely represent their idea of who their market is. Is insane and very poor business I agree. I highlight this for one very important reason … how often is it viable to put in the time and money to redraft your basic block/sloper models assuming you’ve found a discrepancy in the first place? Do companies attribute lower sales to the poor economic climate, for example, or poor perception of fit? Does a company need to stick to a particular size proportion to retain existing clients (repeat market)? These are often conflicting issues for management and the management types rarely seem to understand the implications of fit as well as they might have when the boss was a fashion designer and not a bean counter. Eventually they work it out or go broke … there’s a lag time for most companies I’ve worked with and I find it disheartening.

    But what am I saying? This all depends on the population changing shape doesn’t it. I mean if the Bell curve is the same as it was 100 years ago then so what? Trouble is, the Bell curve is changing all over the place. Let’s consider this. The average American is significantly larger than the average white European (trust me on that I have the data to prove it), but not only that, the center of the curve is displaced toward the heavy end and is much flatter. The average Japanese person is significantly smaller than the overall average with a very narrow peak (but smaller people generally tend to have the same overall shape). When you start to mix up a whole stack of different cultures (multiculturalism wasn’t so prevalent in the past few decades) you start getting some very strange sizing distributions that change/evolve in a short period of time. Now this certainly doesnt account for all the bad fit out there but may well contribute to the issue.

    My biggest blame for poor fit today (irrespective of the past) is poorly trained pattern makers(not entirely their fault) with little help to keep up with rapidly changing textile technology … hey guys you can’t expect the fabric to do everything that you can’t no matter how advanced it is!

    Oh yeah … you shouldn’t be allowed to design clothes until you have a grown ups body :-)

    PS: Kathleen you really need to stop asking these great questions that force me to say stuff I know I’ll regret :-)

  43. Xochil says:

    I think due to the change in clothing styles, like some others have mentioned before me, have changed overall impressions of what good fit is. I do tailoring part time still even as a pattern maker, and very often run into women who don’t understand how to find garments for their body type and don’t recognize how garments are supposed to fit. Recently I had a client tell me she had “no waist” because she thought her waist was where her high-hip was because that’s where the “waist” of low-rise pants hits. In fact, she had a very tiny waist, but is pear-shaped with a high waist.

    I think there is a combination of factors contributing to the fit issues, some have to do with the grade between sizes being more spread out to accommodate the making of larger sizes, some has to do with the designer’s interpretation of fit, and some has to do with the people who determine fit not understanding it properly. I know in design school we had limited opportunity to fit garments on real people, and when we did, they were tall, skinny models. Combine that with the fact that most people in fashion design school (in my case this was about 5 years ago) were interested in becoming designers and had little interest in actually sewing or designing patterns, and there is a gap in the number of pattern makers learning the ropes from more experienced counterparts. Even though most designers don’t sew everything, understanding the fit and construction to achieve that fit will make a difference in how the line ends up.

  44. Katherine says:

    I can’t really comment on whether clothes fit better now or not. My mother sewed all my clothes when I was younger and now I sew all my clothes.

    However, I am hugely appreciative of the improvement in fabric quality that allows for less exacting fit. I’m not just referring to spandex. Different fibres and blends, different drape in the fabric, even different prints. Beautiful fabrics mean that you can get away with much simpler styles.

    Whilst it is very easy to say that pattern-making is not taught as well, every now and then I see a style line that I think cleverly address a fit problem. One example was a (designer, yes) t-shirt with a yoke across the top of the shoulder. Most people would not even notice it, I guess. I think that by eliminating a seam line across the top of the shoulder, you remove the signs of forward-shoulder fitting issues.

    There is clever design out there, you just have to keep a look out for it!

  45. Sally says:

    I’ve always been hard to fit — at 5’3″ with a 29.5″ inseam, I am often too tall for petite, but too short for average. I have broad shoulders but but my arms are short; I’m busty but slender (32DD), have a small waist and relatively full hips and years of mountain biking have given me massive quadriceps and muscular calves. Everything is too long or too short; shoulder straps are always too long and necklines too low; button-fronts gap in the front and are too large through the back; if my jeans fit through the hips/thighs the waist is enormous and gappy; boots are too tight for my muscular calves but “extended calf” sizes are apparently made for people with thick ankles and chubbier feet than I have.

    So…in many ways, I think clothing fits *better* today than 20 or 30 years ago. Levi’s makes Curvy Cut jeans in multiple lengths and the Petite Medium is perfect for me. Several clothing companies are offering swimsuits and camisoles in bra sizes; there is an English company that even makes button-down shirts in D and DD cup sizes. The addition of Lycra makes clothing more forgiving and there are more options as far as styles are concerned. For example, you can buy jeans that are low-rise, mid-rise, or even hi-rise, in flare, boot-cut, straight leg or skinny — vs. back in 1986 when pretty much ALL jeans were high-waisted and tapered-leg. (Being a short-waisted person, I always loathed high-waisted pants and I used to buy boys’ jeans solely for the lower rise).

    So a lot of progress has been made in making better-fitting clothing. Alas, the majority of people are still walking around in ill-fitting and unflattering apparel for other reasons.

    First of all, people are a lot fatter today then they were 20 or 30 years ago. When I was a teenager, I weighed 103 lbs and had measurements of 33-23-33 — and I was not especially small. Most of my friends were around the same size – we all wore size 3 or 5 (and that’s a 1980s size 3 which is like a size 0 now!) Size 9/10 was what a “fat” girl would wear. We were definitely not anorexic or anything; there just was not the constant snacking and constant drinking of sugary “energy” drinks that goes on nowadays.

    Secondly, today’s fashions include, rather ironically, some of the least-flattering silhouettes in the history of clothing, at a time when there are probably more heavyset people than ever before in history. For example, the current look of a skimpy tank top and ultra-low-rise skinny jeans is something only about 1% of the population has any business trying to wear. For the rest of humankind — even people of normal weight and decent fitness levels — this is the sort of look that is designed to spotlight areas that are just not attractive on most people. I can’t pull that look off — and I’m a size 4/6! Yet I see chunky teenagers spilling out of their camisoles and ginormous muffin-tops pouring out of their tight jeans — and I think how much better they would have looked back in, say, 1986 — in a long sweater, stirrup pants and ankle boots, with some big hair to balance out their hips…

    I participated in a historical re-creation event once, and I was surprised to discover that my eighteenth-century period costume was not only quite comfortable once I got used to it — it was really a universally flattering silhouette. There is a reason that the fitted bodice/full skirt look was popular for several hundred years — almost every woman looks decent in it. It cleverly showcases areas that are attractive on most people; while concealing troublesome sports like poochy bellies, wide derrieres, and jiggly thighs. I realized then why you see so many plus-sized ladies drawn to things like Renaissance fairs — the clothing is so much more flattering than current fashions.

    So in short my answer is that many things actually do fit much better, but some of the the styles themselves are just really hard to wear.

  46. Amy says:

    I just geeked out on this entry (and the one that follows it) and all the comments–what a good discussion.

    Just an informal observation, but I liked Stuart’s comment about the “Bell curve changing all over the place”. Style is so much more globally uniform than it used to be; I travel a lot and common street style has really changed since the 90s. No longer place-specific, Europeans wear the same styles Americans do and vice versa, especially with regard to high-street/street fashion. There are many specific cultures of street fashion that are emulated/imitated globally, down to the minutest details. It makes sense that this would contribute to some of the strange sizing and fit evolutions.

    And then I’m fascinated with ‘fit as social construct’. I have a few blazers from recent high-end designers, and one of the persistent trends for the last decade has been rather “masculine” armholes and shoulders that fit tightly. The whole front chest area is tight, the sleeves tight. It’s almost as if the “poor fit” is really about a style idea–which is looking as if one is squeezing into boyish clothes.

    A similar trend was going on for men, like this jacket with purposefully short sleeves and a weird baggy back. Appalling fit to some, but others would pay $3000 for this.

    Not to use luxury fashion as the definition, but these styles are often what Topshop, etc. knock-offs imitate, and so eventually the “poor fit” reiterates until it becomes the standard. Fit itself seems less of a concern for younger people. I wasn’t really concerned with it in my 20s (the 90s), nor were any of my peers. I’d venture to say that’s still true. Are people having longer education and entering “professional” work environments later? Is it possible that there are more leisurely professions than ever, more non-uniformed professions in which people can express themselves and wear whatever they want? (I live in Austin, TX, which has an abundance of design, tech and internet business–even businessmen wear t-shirts.)

    Someone needs to write a book on all these things–a fascinating subject! And I am not in the business, but I am interested in body perceptions and how human ideals of shape and form keep evolving.

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