Tyranny of tiny sizes?

In yet another twist to the “is there such a thing as vanity sizing” debate, Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution mentions that -in at least Argentina- vanity sizing is obviously not the case. Rather, it seems that clothing is too small.

Some government leaders in Argentina have an answer. They have passed a controversial law designed to break what they see as the tyranny of tiny sizes. Starting Dec.21, Buenos Aires province, which includes the capital’s glitzy suburbs but not the fashion-forward city itself, will require shops catering to adolescent girls to stock clothing in a minimum range of sizes roughly equivalent to sizes 6 to 16 in the U.S.

Provincial inspectors will scrutinize merchants’ clothing racks, “tape measure in hand,” says Ana Serrano, the province’s director of commerce and designated sizing sheriff. Shops that don’t have the prescribed sizes in stock will face fines of up to $170,000.

Tyler’s post is based on the Wall Street Journal article of November 26th which I can’t locate in their archives (I’ll update this post once I can find a link if one of you doesn’t beat me to it). He closes with the observation that it “would be [interesting] to outline the underlying (implicit) theory of market failure here”. You can read Tyler’s post here. Indirectly it would seem that vanity sizing is obviously not a problem -at least not in Argentina. Rather, it seems the reverse is more likely; sizes haven’t evolved to fit the average consumer of that marketplace. In a similar vein, I will include links to all of my prior protests on the vanity sizing debate at close.

Here is the comment I posted on his blog (you’ll have to read the post and the existing comments for context) in response:

Boy, I’m used to hearing from US women that clothing is oversized as in vanity sizing. While I don’t agree with that assertion (really long story, I write a lot about that) I find it rather arrogant that a government has decided apparel sizing is something to be determined by legislative process. Excuse me? Even if I decided to cut only size 0’s and 2’s, my business is not a democracy. If my clothes don’t fit, don’t buy them. I’ll go out of business soon enough without sufficient consumers “voting” for my product.

Some details don’t translate well into larger sizes. It’s hard enough to produce regular sizes well, without being compelled to cut for people who often do not have the discretionary income to buy my products anyway. So what’s next? Legislated price points? While I do agree there is some market failure here in that needs are obviously not being met, that doesn’t mean that I should be compelled to meet them. I’d reiterate what Maria said above, for many businesses, it doesn’t make sense to enter the large size market.

However, I’d disagree that the market failure can be reduced to the failure to charge different prices for clothing even in the average size range. The fixed costs of producing apparel don’t change enough between the usual scale of sizing (6-16) to warrant pricing differently for it. To whit, producing children’s clothing which uses a lot less fabric than adult’s, it is just as costly to make patterns, markers, cut, label, sort, sew, inspect, inventory and package -as it is for adult apparel. If you want the apparel equivalent of a “happy meal” or a child’s menu, you’ll have to consider the diminished quality and input trade-offs as well.

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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