Sizing evolution

Judging from continuing comments and emails in reference to my fit and sizing postings here, here and here; I’d have to conclude that I have failed to explain the myth of vanity sizing adequately. This is another attempt.
I usually wear a size zero. The actual measure of my inches around is very close to what it was 20 years ago but back then, I was a size 4. However, I continue to insist that the difference in this accounting is not vanity sizing but sizing evolution. I am not stupid; I know that the relative dimensions of what is designated as a size 0 today is what constituted a size 4, twenty years ago but that doesn’t mean clothing is sized for vanity. People are missing my point which is: sizes evolve, just like people do. If sizes did not evolve -normalizing to the population- then we’d still be making clothes to fit people from the 1500’s. A friend puts it this way:

Let’s look at an extreme illustration: Think of what a size 0 or 2 looked like in the middle ages, and what an average (14?) woman looked like then. Now imagine if they still made clothing that size and using that scale: nobody would buy a size 0, and the *average* woman would fit into a size 40. So, yeah, they scaled a 0 up to fit a 0 woman, and the rest of the sizes scaled upwards as well. They didn’t do it to “make rich women feel good” or whatever the usual justification is, they did it to sell clothes profitably!

Just because you happen to notice the change within the span of your lifetime doesn’t mean clothing is vanity sized. Change these days is rapid, why would clothing be any different from computers? If you notice that the average person is larger, why would you ever be surprised that average sized clothing is larger too? If clothing sizes didn’t evolve, people younger and bigger than you would complain that clothing is too small. They are average for the era and they buy more clothes.

Where you buy your clothes matters. Are you shopping at a retailer or a push manufacturer cum retailer? Size comparisons between retailers is usually inappropriate because it’s unlikely you were shopping at the Gap twenty years ago so you can hardly claim a fair comparison. Retailers like Land’s End sells to baby-boomers with thickening waistlines and it’s highly unlikely you were attracted to those sorts of styles in your youth. Weight-wise, it may be that you haven’t kept up with the curve so you’re buying clothes a size or two smaller than you did twenty years ago and that’s great. My congratulations on maintaining your figure but the average person hasn’t.

No one denies that there is relative size inflation as sizes evolve to fit the population but it’s not vanity. It’s evolution. If you’ve kept your figure and are buying clothing that’s labeled 2 sizes smaller than twenty years ago. that is something to be proud of so enjoy it. Besides, this whole discussion is irrelevant. The real issue is why clothing fits so badly but everybody’s so busy talking about myths of vanity sizing that we’ll never get anywhere. If we can’t define our problems, we’re unlikely to solve them.

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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