NASA’s sizing problem

It is more typical to hear of sizing dissatisfaction from people complaining there are insufficient larger sizes but as the average person has gotten larger -and manufacturers strive to hit the median size- it’s smaller sizes that are in short supply. What is not in dispute is that women and men in the US are getting larger and rather than it being larger people who bear the inconvenience, it may be smaller people -and maybe even US taxpayers- due to the most unlikely of reasons. Anecdotal evidence comes from a most unusual source -NASA. In that vein comes a story When It Comes to the Spacewalk, Size Matters via NPR regarding the problems of sizing space suits. Consider:

[] even though more than 150 male astronauts have spacewalked, only seven women have gone outside. Partly it’s because NASA didn’t send women into space until 1983. But veteran spacewalker Mike Fincke says there’s another reason. “Our spacesuits only come in medium, large and extra-large,” Fincke explains. “Anybody who is on the smaller side … they will not be able to have a chance to go outside.”

The limitation imposed by small spacesuits was confirmed by Steve Doering, manager of NASA’s spacewalking office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He says the agency last looked into the issue in 2003, and at that point, none of the male astronauts were limited by suit size. But about one-third of the women — eight out of 25 female astronauts — couldn’t fit into existing suits.

But why is NASA, a $16 billion-a-year agency, stuck with only medium, large and extra-large? First of all, a spacesuit is not like a sweatshirt for sale at the mall. A spacesuit costs millions of dollars to design and build. Lara Kearney, who develops suits for NASA, says a suit is like a tiny spaceship.


Apparently, it is not just the average clothing manufacturer bearing the costs of larger consumer sizes. However unpopular, as I’ve said before with regard to the costs of cutting for larger sizes and how this contributes to continual fitting entropy and increasing consumer dissatisfaction:

Consumers [are] guilty of gaining weight to the extent that humans are falling outside of their natural scale and shape; sizes are so large as to be untenable to manufacture comfortably. The entropy of fit can be attributed to body shapes that are too large to cut anatomically correctly on fabric spreads of currently manufactured widths. If this continues, the industry will need even wider tables, wider spreaders, more handling equipment, and inventory space. Weavers and spinners will need new looms to accommodate the wider fabrics …the list is endless as are the costs. Our tables and looms were designed to accommodate a healthy variation of something approaching the natural weight of what a human should weigh. Expectations of greater design integrity can’t be justified if the costs of product development and facility infrastructure -industry wide, both vertical and horizontal- are incalculable. It’s cheaper to cut boxes.

Mucking up matters further still is all the competing information about body sizing. While there is no doubt that it is small women who are the increasing minority with negative consequences, media happily reports the average American woman’s weight and height as 163 pounds and 5′ 3.8″ -citing results from the National Center for Health Statistics 2000 (I dispute this based on NHANES 2002 results). The Sizing USA study says the average woman is 149 lbs with a height of 63.75″.

Here’s a little background on why you can’t stick a person in too large a space suit.

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36 comments

  1. Jess says:

    This is something me and Josh predicted. The idea that the small sized clothing will become what the larger sized clothes are now.

  2. The first day of all my beginning pattern drafting/beginning sewing classes at school the teacher would ask us what our personal goals are related to apparel design. The most common answer was “I want to make clothes that fit REAL woman, not those skinny models”.
    This goal always seems high and mighty-the skinny fashion design student desiring to help out her fellow fluffy sisters. They know little of the issues listed above. It seems that the designer for fashionable large garments has many issues to conquer-both technical and social. It seems logical that a woman who does not like her body will not spend money on her body. The large and proud wih money to spend are few and far between.

    That being said, I have observed the opposite in men’s apperal. Knowing several men that weigh no more than 170 pounds I have learned that a smaller man struggles to find underwear in most stores, let alone shirts and jeans. Most of these men shop at very expensive boutiques or thrift stores that carry shirts and pants from the 70’s when the a tailored fit was more common. Another observation-I do not know a single woman who has to shop for clothes from a particular era to find a decent fitting garment. I know several men who do.

    I am wondering it would be more logical for designers of higher end clothes to start constructing garments that would be easier to alter and inform the customer on the garments limitations and flexabities. Woman I know with unique body shapes know their local alteration people well and know when they buy a garment what they can or can’t get fit to their bodies. Men who buy suits never expect to get it straight off the rack without some fitting. Most people have no idea what fit problems are fixable and what are not. Maybe the consumer demands too much in regards to perfect fit, expecting that a company can pull out a magic wand and make the perfect fitting for them and everyone else too. Maybe fit should become a dialog-a company generalizes a pattern and the consumer pays someone else to customize it for them.

  3. Miachelle says:

    I’m not surprised at the issue with NASA. It’s a predominantly male program. Making small uniforms for a very small group of potential candidates to go up is low on the budget totem pole.

    I am very frustrated with the clothing industry. I am 37, and have gone from a 6 to a 4, and at times even wear a 2 depending on the manufacturer. It is rare to be able to find clothing that fits. I’ve gone into certain lower-priced clothing stores, looking for clothing, and have been told that even in size 6, only one or two size 6’s are brought in for each style, because the larger sizes are “more popular.” I’m not saying that everyone should be as petite as I am, but I also don’t think I should have to be larger to find clothing that fits me and is appropriate for my age.

  4. Robyn says:

    I have noticed this problem for some time. I am a smaller woman, and I am not too skinny. I have flabby thighs and a bubble butt like many of us, but even still, I have trouble finding clothes that are small enough. I have gone into stores where the size 0 is huge on me. So I can’t even imagine what it’s like for someone who is 5’0″ and 105 pounds. I have eliminated entire store lines from my shopping list because they have skewed their sizes so much. I guess they are trying to make larger women feel good — a size 14 fitting into a size 10 will boost her confidence. But then everyone size 0 and 2 slides right off the bottom.
    I can’t shop in regular department stores because the petites section makes small sizes but the clothes are too short for my height, and the regular misses sections don’t go below 6 or 4. The juniors stuff is too juvenile.

    So I’m not trying to have a whine fest that’s all about me, I’m just agreeing that not only are they making less clothes in smaller sizes, but they are skewing their sizes to make larger women fit into smaller sizes.

    I do find it sad that we are catering to unhealthiness. Just as we shouldn’t cater to anorexic looking body images, we shouldn’t promote obesity, either.

  5. Jessika says:

    For a long time now I’ve felt that smaller women are not catered for and over the years I’ve watched myself turn from a size 4 to a size 2, past being a size 0..and I’ve stayed the same – so what’s changing? It almost seems like the clothing availabe is an encouragement for people to carry on getting larger and larger, just as Robyn says above. I’m 5’5″ and 105 lbs. (This is my natural body weight. I don’t think I’m too thin – I eat well) I think it’s extremely important that the way women are portrayed in the media is addressed, but it seems like the knee-jerk reaction to an increasing awareness of aneorxia in our culture is to say it’s bad to be thin. From my perspective as a slimmer person, that is the message I see out there. Shame we can’t just strike a nice balance and encourage all sorts of (healthy) sizes!

  6. Josh says:

    As Jess said above we had foreseen the smaller size thing becoming an issue. Smaller men have a hard time finding clothes. We use to be very small ourselves and had to shop in the kids or sometimes women’s department for T shirts and having a hard time finding in style clothes that would fit us. I’ve just recently begun to get healthy and fit and am losing weight and will soon have the same problems. I feel as though in our own clothing company we have a social responsibility to not make anything larger than an XL because it’s pandering to unfit people. It’s unfit people that are overtaxing the medical care industry (not only because of their overabundance of health problems because of their weight but ask some nurses how pleasant it is to have to pick up a 400 pound person) and causing all sorts of problems trying to make everything so much larger to accommodate them. Instead of trying to accommodate them we need to start campaigning to stop this horrible epidemic. Maybe if people who are irresponsibly obese couldn’t find any clothes they would snap out of it. I say this as someone who was 50 pounds overweight just 3 years ago. I was out of control and I did it to myself. I have compassion but compassion isn’t enough.

  7. J C Sprowls says:

    Carly Jane said: constructing garments that would be easier to alter and inform the customer on the garments limitations and flexabities

    Carly, you’ve summed up 80% of my position on what I perceive to be value. I believe that high-end garment, especially, need to deliver value. The clothing I design for myself and my custom-make clients include room for future alteration – admittedly, not as much as the tailors of old; but, much more than we typically see in mid-range RTW.

    I’ve decided that I will begin using labels that comply with BS-EN 13402. These labels indicate key measurements (i.e. height, length, girth) and further define what a 40R from my company is. I don’t yet know how this will be received by a consumer. But, I think it is a good starting point, especially if my garments are sold in outfitter shops, where alterations tailors are on staff.

    Part of the issue is that consumers are accustomed to picking garments off the rack and maybe trying on. While they’re becoming more concerned with fit, we can’t see fitting problems from sales figures. As a result, the limited sales data leads us to drop sizes from the run simply because it doesn’t sell.

  8. joni says:

    No matter what, there will always be people of assorted sizes and proportions – very small to huge. That’s how specialty markets develop. Unfortunately for most, finding those special articles is difficult and often very costly. It reminds me of when I was employed to work around boat docks in the dead of winter – if you fell in, you had about a minute to get out or drown – I was a tiny female who couldn’t fit into the standard men’s survival suit – too bad for me – they were too expensive and I was expendable. I finally quit.

  9. Oxanna says:

    Interesting article. Who would’ve thought about sizing issues with space suits!

    The shift in sizing over the years is definitely of interest to me as I am a relatively thin person (healthily so!) and see a definite trend toward “big is beautiful”. I’ve dealt with discomfort when others are complaining about their weight and talking about how sizes need to be more “real”. And then I’ve gone into stores watched the smallest size hang off me and wondered what “real” meant, exactly! So all of this talk of the median size growing doesn’t sound exactly promising for us small folk.

    What would be fabulous for a clothing company to do is to support local charities and organizations that help encourage a healthy body image – and not just the ones that help anorexics, but also those that just plain encourage healthy eating habits and exercise. Both anorexia and obesity are huge problems in this country right now. Who better to help than those in the fashion industry?

  10. Katrin says:

    I had always assumed, considering the cost and specialization of space suits, that each one was custom-made to fit the wearer. I’m very surprised to learn they’re prefabricated in only three sizes.

  11. La BellaDonna says:

    Carly, I think it is entirely possible that you are travelling in rather rarified circles. (This is the edited version of my initial reaction.) Take a look at some of the posts on Dress A Day, if you think there are women who don’t have to wear clothes from a specific era in order to get garments that fit. I have known many, many women who have had to do that. It’s not surprising, either; when a specific body shape is in fashion, it becomes easier for the person with that body shape to find clothes. When that body shape goes out of fashion, the person whose body was fashionable – well, just because the fashion changes doesn’t mean one’s body does, whether one is male or female. And while I have known a couple of men who needed to shop era-specific in order to find clothes that fit, I have known many, many (many many many) more women who needed to shop era-specific in order to get clothes that fit. I suspect more women would do so, in fact, if they could a) specifically pin down what shape their bodies really are; and b) knew what eras, specifically, catered to those shapes.

    Robyn, I’ve eliminated entire stores as well. Not because I don’t love what they sell; I do, I do. And periodically I frustrate myself horribly by trying things on. I’m just a totally different shape from their fit models, which are junior-sized. Unfortunately, they’re labeled as if they were misses’ sizes, i.e., 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, instead of junior sizes 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 13, etc. Doesn’t matter if I go up a size, or down a size; the shape is just wrong.

    Katrin, I swear I remember reading articles (many years ago) that stated that the suits were custom-sized, and had accompanying photos of a woman stitching a suit; did the policy change? WUWT?

    Joni, you’re not the only person who’s written in here who has had problems with being too small, too busty, or otherwise “the wrong shape” for safety gear. It never ceases to horrify me that people in a line of work which demands a very specific set of skills are nonetheless considered “expendable” by their employers. It hasn’t escaped my notice that those people (who have written in, at least) are all female. :(

    JC, from what I have read of consumer complaints on other blogs, customers will be delighted to have actual measurements by which to assess whether or not a garment is likely to fit. I think it’s a good idea. Of course, it would be great if that kind of information was available on women’s clothes, but I don’t expect to see it happen in my lifetime.

  12. Vesta says:

    One thing I don’t see mentioned much, when talking about plus sizes and why they don’t sell much in the higher price ranges, is that people in plus sizes often fluctuate in weight quite a bit from month to month. So who wants to dump $200 on a pair of jeans, then size out of them (up or down) the next month? I see my mom dealing with this.

    Then there’s me, at 5’4″ and 100 lbs. I’m lucky if I fit into a size 0. I have my key measurements memorized. If clothing makers would just sell pants, e.g., by waist, inseam, “cut”, I’d be so happy. Blouses, dresses, skirts . . . ah, I dream.

  13. Big Irv says:

    JOSH STATES :

    I feel as though in our own clothing company we have a social responsibility to not make anything larger than an XL because it’s pandering to unfit people.

    ???

    Does this mean that anyone who wears anything larger than size XL is considered unfit in your opinion ?
    Have you had a look at some today’s teenagers, both male and female ? Aside from the obesity brought on by poor diet and lack of excercise, I think kids today are just a much much larger than they were a few decades ago.

    Sure some people need to purchase oversize clothing to accomadate burgeoning weight issues, but to classify or pinpoint anyone who wears anything over a size XL as perhaps unfit is ludicrous.

  14. Sherry says:

    A particular size (dimensions/proportions) does not equal obese, healthy or any other health assessment, assumption of lifestyle habit or value judgement.

    I think many people are missing the point — which is quite simply that their individual needs are not being met by the sizing non-standards (posing as “standards”). This applies to smaller AND larger sized people. Height, weight, shape, proportion are all different measurements that vary from individual to individual and across ranges.

    Much of the sizing data was, and continues to be, inaccurate. Averages and extrapolations do not address the needs of many people and when companies market their garments as having a “great fit” or “new and improved fit” it is even more frustrating for the consumer.

    Consumer education is helpful, but most companies prefer marketing “new and improved fit” which, to my mind, is a blatant acknowledgment that the old fit didn’t fit enough customers that they felt a need to improve it.

    The thing that is clear from individual comments from people of all sizes is that markets exist for DE’s to design successfully for particular ranges. The market “niches” are plentiful, and DE’s have the ability to do successfully what the larger companies simply cannot do because of their existing business models, size, marketing and sales methods.

    I think it’s more respectful to leave the declaration of personal eating habits and lifestyles out of the discussion. It’s not relevant to the fact that people exist, and have the right to exist with dignity, as we are and in the variations and combinations in which we come.

  15. Alison Cummins says:

    One of the reasons people go into the fashion business is to ensure that clothes made for their particular body type exist, because they know how difficult it is to find clothes. Hence Kathleen’s athletic wear manufacturer who made pants for athletes with ginourmous bums – because the manufacturer was a man with a ginormous bum who couldn’t find athletic wear to fit him.

    The problem here is matching niche manufacturers to the niche market. There may be only one athletic wear manufacturer out there targeting your body type because it’s actually a little unusual… but the world’s a big place and the market exists even if it’s spread out. But how do I, the athlete with the ginormous bum, discover that there is a clothing manufacturer just for me? By systematically trying on the clothes by all the world’s clothing manufacturers one by one until I find what I’m looking for? And how would I go about that?

    Home-sewers shopping through the independent pattern makers often look at pictures of the designer to figure out what body type is going to be fit and flattered. (Nordic, long and lanky? Latin, curvy and compact?) But RTW shoppers don’t have even this indication.

    Niche marketing is what the Web is all about. As Kathleen keeps reiterating, we don’t need sizing standards because people are not standard sizes. But we do need a standard way of discovering whether something is likely to fit.

  16. Josh says:

    Consumers [are] guilty of gaining weight to the extent that humans are falling outside of their natural scale and shape; sizes are so large as to be untenable to manufacture comfortably. The entropy of fit can be attributed to body shapes that are too large to cut anatomically correctly on fabric spreads of currently manufactured widths. If this continues, the industry will need even wider tables, wider spreaders, more handling equipment, and inventory space. Weavers and spinners will need new looms to accommodate the wider fabrics …the list is endless as are the costs. Our tables and looms were designed to accommodate a healthy variation of something approaching the natural weight of what a human should weigh.

    I think that’s the meat of the post above. Seems like it’s the elephant in the room everyone here is ignoring. We can go on and on about niche marketing and how great it is for the person in the apparel industry. But in the mean time America’s waist lines are in the crapper and pretty soon the apparel business is going to be in total chaos, not to mention the medical care industry. The above is not a question of niche marketing or a question of one’s idea of what beauty is.

    Does this mean that anyone who wears anything larger than size XL is considered unfit in your opinion ?

    Yes I am saying anything above XL is unfit in the majority of cases. Although I would go further and say that you can be thin and unfit. Diet is playing a huge roll in this. You see so called “healthy” people drop dead of strokes, heart attacks etc all the time. They weren’t over weight. What gives? Well, my answer is they were probably eating a diet that consisted of more than 10 percent animal protein instead of vegetable of all calories consumed in a day. America has to wake up and realize that our diets are killing us and over taxing us in every way. Green =’s Lean.

  17. Kathleen says:

    The rub for me is that there seems to be a backlash against thin people in some quarters, particularly among apparel consumers (as a former large person, I’ve seen both sides of this issue so I think I’m qualified to say that). Anytime the weight debate comes up, women (and usually it is women) will expound upon the dangers of anorexia and hasten to caution against the dangers of anorexia; that their daughters should have a “healthy” body image. Iow, there almost seems to be a forgiveness for being overweight, that the only other alternative is anorexia. These are two ends of an extreme. While I would not diminish the dangers of anorexia, it is very rare. And it’s a long story but the core issue of anorexia isn’t weight although the condition is manifest, symptomatic, and demonstrable with low body weight in evidence. Anorexia is a “head” problem, not a weight issue. Anorexia is all about control. Self control, having dominion over the self, usually because one does not have control (or does not feel to have control) over other aspects of their lives. Obesity -an absence of control- is a far costlier and a more dangerous problem than anorexia, affecting far greater numbers of people. I feel that as a society, because so many of us are obese, there is a greater propensity to forgive and excuse the majority. Somehow tho, this forgiveness is not extended to smokers and yet smokers cost society far less. Out of every health care dollar, only 10 cents goes towards treating conditions related to smoking. On the other hand, treating the costs of obesity is 75 cents of every health care dollar. Why isn’t more made of that? I mean, if we’re going to talk costs, that should be brought up alongside the spectre of anorexia.

    In the meantime, if a manufacturer doesn’t want to produce apparel for large people, I don’t think they should be criticised for it. It’s hard and costly to make well fitting apparel for the obese. Personally, I object to criticisms from people who think a manufacturer should be compelled to make larger sizes. This is an equal opportunity business. If one is inordinately tall, inordinately petite, inordinately large, inordinately busty or whatever and they’re not finding clothing designed for their body type, then they should consider manufacturing clothes to fit their demography rather than complaining that others don’t. Specialty markets all claim that consumers will pay for these specialty products so if that’s the case, then they have their margins assured. They should get into producing specialty apparel themselves or backing others who would. For my part, I won’t be. Anytime I say that, I get criticism because others disagree with me when I say that the patterning details would be too tricky -more work and costs than I’m willing to assume. If it were as easy and profitable as some claim, then how come more people aren’t doing it? And on another level, I feel that to have integrity as a manufacturer, I would have to pay more than lip service to that market and I just don’t have the access to do that well. Above all, I won’t insult my customer. I will not insult a large size customer by assuming all it takes is grading it up some sizes. There’s more to it than that and if we don’t both know it, we should.

  18. Mike C says:

    If it were as easy and profitable as some claim, then how come more people aren’t doing it? And on another level, I feel that to have integrity as a manufacturer, I would have to pay more than lip service to that market and I just don’t have the access to do that well. Above all, I won’t insult my customer. I will not insult a large size customer by assuming all it takes is grading it up some sizes. There’s more to it than that and if we don’t both know it, we should.

    Well said.

    We’ve looked at the plus-size market a couple of times and both times came to the conclusion that it was just way too much of a challenge to serve with our current size and focus. We may go back to it someday, but there is most definitely a lot more to correct sizing than just grading up smaller sizes. For our pieces, we were going to need a combination of size + body type at the very least and that was going to cost more than we could afford.

    We’d rather not serve a market than serve it poorly.

  19. La BellaDonna says:

    Josh, take your “anything above XL is unfit in the majority of cases” and stick it in your ear. I know a LOT of women who will buy an XL garment in order to get a large bust, or a large backside, into it, and tailor down to fit. There are a lot of hourglass figures that buy XLs because they need the room, not because they’re fat, but because off-the-rack clothes allow for a 6″, or at most, 8″ bust-waist-hip difference. Once your bust passes the 40″ mark, you’re usually looking at an XL or bigger in a shirt or a sweater. My back measurement, from scye to scye, is just under 13″. However, to fit the front 17 1/2″ from scye to scye, I need an XL or bigger. It’s aggravating enough trying to find clothes that fit; finding out that they come with a value judgment attached just sucks. I work out, hard, between 5 and 7 days a week; I don’t need to read that. It’s tough enough for most women to see that size tag without reading that self-righteous “explanation.” You don’t want to make anything larger? Fine. Keep it to yourself, so you don’t make someone else’s day worse.

  20. Josh says:

    I work out, hard, between 5 and 7 days a week

    I use to do the same thing when I was 200 pounds. I was still out of control with my diet. I was consuming too many calories. What’s your diet like? Do you know what your fat ratio is? I guarentee you if you really looked into what was going on we could find out why you weren’t able to fit into anything less than a 2X and work on improving it. Exercise is not enough. It has to be a balance of good diet and exercise. I’m sorry you feel that my explination is self-righteous. I’ve been unfit too, I use to blame the drier for shrinking my clothes up. It wasn’t something I was doing. So I’ve been where you are. And ok so you might be a woman who will never fit into an XL or less. But for the most part as a WHOLE, America can’t use that excuse. For the most part it’s our diet and exercise habits. It’s a hard thing to hear but it has to be said and I won’t keep quiet about it. If it makes a few people feel bad so be it. It doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be said. Silence =’s Death.

  21. La BellaDonna says:

    Why don’t you back up and take another look at the measurements I posted, Josh? And although I do indeed have some garments that are 2X, I also have garments that are 14 – and 12, and 10, and 8, and 6, that I can wear. It has to do with distribution, shape, and proportion. I didn’t say anything about the dryer shrinking my clothes. I’m not unfit. And I don’t think you’ve ever been where I am, because I have never assumed it was my duty to “punish” people – I’m sorry, “motivate” them – by my behaviour. I’ve made clothes for people who were large and people who were small. You have every right to make clothes in whatever size you want – it’s a free country, and I’m glad for that. But don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re doing it for anybody’s good. I think of all the folks I know who didn’t put on weight until they had medical problems – PCOS, thyroid problems, MS, lupus, wheelchairbound, antidepressants – and who now are larger than an XL. If all manufacturers used your reasoning, they’d have to carry a lot of bags, because they’d have no pockets because they’d be naked. Yeah, you do sound sanctimonious. And you’re not sorry if you make people feel bad – you feel smug and self-righteous, because you think you’re doing them some kind of favour. You’re not. Make your clothes in the range that makes you happy, but until you struggle with PCOS , don’t assume you know all the excuses.

    And no, I don’t suffer from it – but I know plenty of people who do.

  22. carlyjayne says:

    XL is such a random size and can fit any variation of people. To me, XL mearly means that you have hit the largest of sizes for that style. Sizes are so inexact, I think of them more like reference point, start by trying on size 7, of that is too big try lower, too small go bigger. I know a small brand (that has cute designs but might not last too long for the following reason) whose XL will not fit a size 12 dress form. Then again, the label might be for the asian market whose large is terribly small.

    Using size labels that reflect actual body measurements seems like a good option, I always thought the way men’s shirts and jeans where labeled made a lot of sense. However, even these sizes are skewed by wearing ease and sillhouette. The shirt size 16 34 produced today fits different than the same size produced 30 years ago. And the fit varies widely from company to company even if the size seems very factual.

    In terms of people who buy vintage to find decent fit, i realize I made a generalization that might not be true. I was refering to the observation that i find woman appreciate the sillhouette, styles and quality of past garments, where some men i know have to purchase a 20 year old shirt because it actually fits nicely and doesn’t balloon around their arms. They would prefer a newer shirt, just none of them fit right. It has nothing to do with body types (pear vs apple) or sillhouette (new look vs flapper)-just for some reason a 16″ neck 15-30 years ago wasn’t as big as a 16″ neck today even though 16″ is 16″ (at least in america, europe is a different story). Yes, I know many woman who love vintage dresses, but they also have a closet full of new clothes as well. They also fail to wear the correct underpinnings to make vintage wear fit correctly. Reproduction wear is almost always resized to allow for fiqures no longer tucked in or pushed out.

    My point is that it seems that more emphasis is placed on fitting the complicated female fiqure while men who have simpler bodies seem to be ignored. And as a result men that would love shopping (they exist) are so discouraged they grow to hate it.

    I am finding “what is good fit” akin to the question “what is art”, a common question with no perfect answer. It might as well be a Zen Koan. Imagine a room of design students donning their first muslin shells standing like dolls as we try to figure it all out. Some student’s liked their shells tight, others loose and no ones idea of fit was the same, but everyone wanted to know what was right. I think that designers will design for the fiqure that they find the most appealing. I never plan to design for super fluffy people. Not because I do not love my obese friends or don’t care about body issues or have some sort of moral agenda, it’s because I don’t have the eye or heart for it. I can’t imagine what sorts of garments I would like to wear as a larger person. If I weighed 300 pounds I don’t think I would like what some 125 pound girl designed for me. It’s hard enough designing for someone only 25 pounds heavier than myself because they put on the garment I spent 40 hours on and carefully fit and suddenly its all about their fat, their stomach, their butt…no matter how nice the garment or how much sleep I lost that week. I have sincerely considered gaining 30 pounds so clients would stop saying “oh, if only I where skinny like you…”

  23. Josh says:

    Ok La BellaDonna, let’s assume you’re right about everything you say. Are you denying that America’s waistlines are getting larger and larger as a whole? Can we at least agree on that? And if that’s true what should be done about it? Should anything be done about it? Or should we stick our heads in the sand and say “Oh well, we were born that way.” When the ever mounting evidence shows that it’s our diet and exercise that is making us this way.

    I’m not saying no one should ever make 2X clothes ever. I’ll admit it was a dramatic statement and I’m sorry for offending anyone who may have been offended. We will never all be a perfect medium and I don’t want to live in a world where we are all perfect mediums. But isn’t there a line we need to draw that classifies us as fit or unfit? And if the answer is yes, than what is that line? Don’t we need a classification of what fit is? I’m still waiting for your fat ratio count by the way.

    Oprah’s Dr. Oz classifies fit and unfit (increased risk of heart disease and cancer) by waist size. He says that a man’s waist should measure no more than 35 inches and a women’s no more than 32. He doesn’t say, BUT in certain cases you’re allowed to have a larger waist. This calculation is for everyone.

    My Mom use to be a size 2X and had a 29 inch waist. So Dr. Oz’s calculations would not work with her. She has been a 2X most of her life and now suffers from heart disease, high blood pressure and had a mini stroke 2 years ago and is on all sorts of medications. She always thought herself to be fit yet she rarely exercises and eats poorly. Her fat ratio is 40% these days, use to be 50%. Clearly over the top for someone to be declared “fit”. She had no medical condition that raised her fat ratio, it was from not exercising and poor eating habits. And you should hear the two of us arguing back and forth about this very topic. lol She’s as stubborn as they come.

  24. Miracle says:

    Are you denying that America’s waistlines are getting larger and larger as a whole? Can we at least agree on that? And if that’s true what should be done about it? Should anything be done about it?

    What should be done about it is not a social task that should even be spearheaded by clothing designers. IMO, that’s like asking automobile makers to design a car that prohibits drunk drivers from killing people. It’s not targeting the root of the problem.

  25. Kathleen says:

    Miracle, it’s funny you mention the car/drunk driver thing but they are doing that. Or trying to legislate it with post market parts anyway. Here in NM, they’re trying to have people who come in from out of state with prior DUI convictions to have breathilyzers installed in order to register their cars here and imo, this is BEYOND stupid. I mean, you have to know something about NM and drunk driving to know why it’s stupid. NM is literally the worst in the US, more drunk drivers than anywhere else. Drunks are not moving into the state and driving; the state isn’t a magnet for drunks, rather the problem originates here. We probably export more drunk drivers than we import any given year. There is a trend down the path of holding manufacturers liable. I can’t see that happening with clothes but it is definitely an issue with guns (for example).

  26. J C Sprowls says:

    CarlyJane said: The shirt size 16 34 produced today fits different than the same size produced 30 years ago. And the fit varies widely from company to company even if the size seems very factual.

    I think men’s sizing is (typically) smart. Though, problems have obviously crept in. As an example, the last pair of 38″ waist trousers I bought actually measured 41″ on my tape measure. That is not due to variations in sewing quality – the pattern or garment was clearly mislabelled.

    I never could understand why women’s garments were sized in scale (i.e. 2, 4, 6, 8…). I think that system demands too much of the consumer. Who can remember if a 23″ waist is a 4 or a 6? Or, maybe ABC Company interprets size 4 as a 23″ waist; while XYZ, Inc interprets it as a 6? Frankly, it’s too bothersome!

    The BS-EN 13402 initiative is redefining (and, standardizing) the size tables from a retail (i.e. consumer) perspective. Adoption of this system is slow. Why? It’s just a farkin hangtag?! In my opinion, this system is tremendously better than the US scale systems – most of the quality specs appear on the hangtag.

    Someone raised the suggestion there is an inherent problem with the BS-EN 13402 system in that “wearing ease” is a nefarious variable that isn’t accounted for. If a shirt is labelled to fit a chest between 37″ and 39″, a waist between 30″ and 33″ with a 15″ neck and a total sleeve length of 31-32″, there shouldn’t be a need for the consumer to interpret this information – that is a disservice and should reflect poorly on the maker.

    [soapbox /ON]
    On the point of healthy v. non-healthy body shapes… we, as designers and/or manufacturers, should have no professional opinion on this subject. Bodies morph in shape as the size grows. That should be the end of our professional opinion. We should only concern ourselves with the appropriate grading scales for our respective target market(s).
    [soapbox /OFF]

    Kathleen stated that targeting big & tall, or big & beautiful is a difficult business proposition. I can get behind this – it’s a solid, factual business statement. The big & tall market has many variations in shape that prevents the designer from performing with any amount of alacrity. Imagine: 11 male body shapes, 4 looks each season, that’s 44-50 styles X 4 seasons. That’s: 176-200 styles each year! Now, compound that with colorways and purchasing minimums, etc…

    This market is certainly worthy of time and investment; however, as entrepreneurs, we have to make hard business decisions that are pragmatic and give us the best return on investment. Personally, I am interested in the big & tall and big & beautiful markets. I have a lot to contribute on that front. There’s a tremendous amount of work that can (and, should) be done in this sector, e.g. classifying body shapes, establishing grading/morphing rules, etc. However, as a businessman, I have limited time and resources to launch my line. I need to use 100% of my time to fit 80% of my target market rather than 5% of the remaining 20%. Otherwise, I will not be in business, tomorrow.

    [sopabox /ON]
    As for the slight sidebar of manufacturers being held accountable for consumer’s decisions… I’m displeased with the state of affairs. By allowing this, are we not reinforcing that it is OK to be victimized? I disagree most strongly with legislating etiquette, common sense, and compassion. Clearly, the majority of our society disagrees with my opinion as it keeps letting these types of laws creep onto our books. I think it’s sad that we sell our human rights for a handful of magic beans every chance we have. Are we truly so afraid of conflict and joy that we need to protect ourselves to our own detriment?
    [soapbox /OFF]

  27. Josh says:

    What should be done about it is not a social task that should even be spearheaded by clothing designers. IMO, that’s like asking automobile makers to design a car that prohibits drunk drivers from killing people. It’s not targeting the root of the problem.

    It seems like a lot of people want to hold the apparel industry liable for anorexia. For instance the industry is policing itself and setting a marker for what is too thin on the runway now. They are deciding to not condone underweight girls. Seems like a lot of fat “fit” people are happy about this and have lots to say about it (mostly good).

    I think a better example would be if a car company decided to put small wine cellars in the dashboards of every car. It’s not causing the problem but it’s condoning it and encouraging the behavior. What I’m suggesting is when you make clothes size 4X you are in a sense condoning that weight. You are saying, sit back, relax, eat up and don’t worry, we will worry about making clothes that fit you. Keep expanding, it’s our pleasure to serve you at the determent of turning our entire business into utter chaos. I realize I’m stretching things here for a dramatic point. But seems like the apparel industry should be concerned because after all it’s their business that’s going to be affected.

    If we don’t have a responsibility to do something about the expanding waistlines then why should we worry about the environment either? Why make eco friendly clothes? Why should apparel companies feel compelled to save the environment? The obvious answer is it’s in our best interest to worry about all these things.

  28. La BellaDonna says:

    Josh, you don’t have to worry, because you’re not making anything bigger than an XL, remember? Let me assure you, however, that your “concern” for the health of those large-size strangers is going to have no effect, I repeat, no effect, on what they eat, or how much they weigh, or whether or not they work out. Fortunately, it is a free country, and other manufacturers can make other choices, and a good thing, too, otherwise there’d be a lot of nekkid size 4Xs running around, and how would you like that? I know women’s clothing goes up in sizes in the 1X, 2X, 3X, etc. sizes; I don’t know if men’s clothes get sized like that, too. If it doesn’t, though, it sounds as if you’re mostly concerned with the size of female waists, and boy, is that sexist.

    Another reason why your proposal appalls me, is who gets to decide what size an XL really is? I’ve been in stores where a size 12 was an XL; I’ve been in stores where a size 10 was an XL. And I bought sale stock from a store in bankruptcy where size 8 was an XL. Suppose the Size Fairy waves a wand, and this nation of fatties all – all of them! drop weight so that the largest of them is now an XL. What then? Do you plan to stop making XLs, “for their own good”? In any group of people, unless they all weigh the same, are the same height, have the same bone structure and the same weight distribution, someone is always going to be the thinnest in the room, and someone is always going to be the fattest – even in a room full of models. Even in a room full of fat people. Keep your nannying attitude to yourself. You are perfectly free to make clothes in the size you choose. You remember that concept of freedom? It extends to other people living their lives as they choose, within the parameters of the law. Your attitude is less that of an environmentalist than that of a fervent religious convert, and you know what? People are still free to worship as they choose, despite the harassment of proselytizers. And before you get into a total panic over how people’s waistlines have expanded over the last 30 years, keep in mind that people really do tend to gain weight as they get older – and the baby boomers, the largest section of the population in this country, have spent the last 30 years doing just that – getting older. Cheer up! The problem will soon resolve itself! Because you know what happens after they get older? They die! Then you won’t have to worry about making anything for them at all. And spare me the “well, they wouldn’t die if they’d just get thinner!” because that’s just nonsense – you get old enough, you die. That’s part of the natural cycle, and there is no diet, I repeat, no diet, that will keep people alive forever.

  29. Glen says:

    Considering that there really isn’t much regulation in the size industry in the US. What is an XL in one store may be a medium in another. I didn’t really follow the NASA angle as related to the clothing industry but that’s just me, but I did find it interesting that the allusion was made to it being the consumers fault for being fat.

    Sure the industry makes garments based on a what the majority wears but it doesn’t take a multi-million dollar study to tell that the world is getting bigger and that making modern garments on cutting tables that are set on measurements from 50 years ago will create a problem sooner or later.

  30. Josh says:

    If it doesn’t, though, it sounds as if you’re mostly concerned with the size of female waists, and boy, is that sexist.

    lol As a very effeminate gay male I find that comment beyond ridiculous. I’m planning to launch a men’s clothing line. And when I was referring to 2X it was with men’s measurement’s in mind.

    The not making anything over XL comment was stupid and I retract it. Although for real I won’t be making anything over XL but it’s just because I don’t have the desire to. And I know realistically it wouldn’t stop people from becoming obese. It still doesn’t make the fact that their is a health / obesity problem in America that’s growing (pun intended) go away. That still has to be dealt with one way or the other whether we want to admit that or not. You can call it nannying or whatever. I’m just saying it’s something that needs thinking about and discussing. Even if not as apparel makers but as human beings. And it seems like no one wants to discuss it for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. And this problem is and will continue to effect the apparel business in a negative way.

    And for god sakes I have nothing against fat/big people or women. How could I when I was a fat faggot myself a few years ago.

  31. Kathleen says:

    Okay everybody, I think that’s enough flogging for this topic.

    One of my greatest joys is the genuine respect that people typically show toward each other on this site. I’ve learned a lot from all of you about managing my “emotional incontinence” (as Alison describes it) and I’d like to see us move forward lovingly and compassionately. If any of you would like for me to remove any of your comments, just let me know. Thanks.

  32. Miracle says:

    I think a better example would be if a car company decided to put small wine cellars in the dashboards of every car. It’s not causing the problem but it’s condoning it and encouraging the behavior. What I’m suggesting is when you make clothes size 4X you are in a sense condoning that weight. You are saying, sit back, relax, eat up and don’t worry, we will worry about making clothes that fit you.

    No. Putting a method of distributing alcholic beverages in a car is a direct correlation to drinking and driving.

    Making a large clothing size is not a direct correlation to eating/exercising and weight gain.

    I doubt that when people overeat and don’t exercise, that a large component of that is the idea that they will be able to find clothing that fits. OOOWEEE, look, they make XXXXL, now i can eat that cheesecake. Come on.

    The reason we ARE environmentally sentitive is because producing the crops to make some of the textiles DOES have a direct effect on the environment.

    I just don’t believe that making/not making clothing for overweight/obese people will change the habits of eating/exercise that causes the problem.

    It’s more of a slap in the face “punishment” for behavior that you don’t like.

  33. Josh says:

    If any of you would like for me to remove any of your comments, just let me know.

    lol I get tickeld at my own self. Reading back through those comments makes me realize what a retard I am. But it’s quite entertaining in a Borat-esque sort of way. If we start removing comments then other comments become out of context. I’d just leave it all.

  34. I was ready for BS-EN13401 20 years before the standard was drafted, when my body measurements went metric. I would have no problem being a size 105. The thought of needing a 3-digit number may cause some people to panic. People accustomed to inches will be disoriented at the huge numbers.

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