History of women’s sizing pt.3

If you’d thought I’d finished the history of women’s sizing series, no such luck (see pt.1 and pt.2). Really, this is when things really start to get interesting. Consider the last two sets of hard data, ASTM 5585 and 5586 as plotted below:

Frankly, considering the “average” consumer, both of these data sets miss the mark. The “mark” being the “average” woman as designated by the pink square. If you recall, 5585 is the set of measurements that some manufacturers are using as a baseline to develop their sizing systems. As should be expected, mileage will vary based on the specific requirements of a manufacturer’s profile customer. The 5586 is the data set indicating the measures of women over age 55 (yellow line; I corrected two data points). Now, what I find interesting to look at is the data set from the 70’s thrown into the mix, specifically PS 42-70. Perhaps you’re thinking a thirty year old data set is immaterial but hold on…just who’s sizes do you think are included here? Theoretically, we have the same group of women, measured at two points in time. Yes, theoretically, PS42-70 and 5586 are the same group of women, charted 30 years apart! Below you’ll see the size migration.

I don’t think you could find clearer evidence of size evolution than this. Of course, this harkens back to my whole discussion regarding the myth of vanity sizing. Well, months later, here are the proofs.

Now, amongst these plotted sizes, just how do we determine is a size 10? As you can see, sizes fall on the vertical lines. With just these three data sets plotted here, you can see that the different sizes reflect areas on the chart but do not specifically refer to an exact 36-26-36 (for example) nor should they. This is why everyone’s sizes are different. And should be! Says Phil at Millionaire Socialite

Women may whine and carry on about how the high-end designer markets ignore “real women” but, ladies, be careful what you wish for – once the fashion market is dictated by averages and quantitative reasoning things become much worse.

In other words, a woman from the over 55 grouping can still be a size two even tho her measures differ from the size two of the 5585. Is any of this making sense to you? You should also note that there’s a lot of room within the different sizing categories; the variation being two inches (within the same data set) to say nothing of how it varies from one data set to another. In other words, just because a size 10 in the over age 55 measures larger than the size 10 of the 5585, doesn’t mean she’s not a size 10. She is a size 10 in her market. Perhaps now you’ll see why I adamantly oppose any efforts to introduce strict limits on sizing.

Still, we all know there is a problem with communicating sizing differences to consumers. I think the biggest issue is transparency. I think manufacturers could go a long way to reducing sizing confusion if they’d include a size hangtag like this:

…to include the dimensions of the target consumer for whom they are designing and producing apparel. If you want to start a clothing line, I’d consider hang tags like the one above to be very useful information.

Please refer to the other articles in this series which offer substantive supporting material. Add to the discussion rather than backtracking to topics discussed elsewhere. It is likely that the exceptions you’ve thought of have been dissected in depth. For your convenience, links open in a new window or tab.

The Myth of Vanity Sizing
Fit and Sizing Entropy
Push manufacturing; subverting the fit feedback loop
Sizing evolution
Shrinkage and fit
Alternatives in Women’s sizing
Tyranny of tiny sizes?
The history of women’s sizing pt 1
The history of women’s sizing pt 2
The history of women’s sizing pt 3
Sizing is a variety problem
The birth of size 10?
Vanity sizing shoes
Tyranny of tiny sizes pt.2
Vanity sizing: generational edition
Vanity sizing: generational edition pt.2
Vanity sizing: the consumer spending edition

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