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 â€¦ 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.