Pop Quiz #468 pt.2

As of this morning, there were a total of 144 votes, 19.4% of whom said I’d be giddy with glee that the navy and black pant lengths were disparate. This is correct. I was quite pleased the black pants were longer and a tad roomier.

Let’s review, hasn’t a pattern emerged yet with regard to the pop quizzes? Without exception, the correct response has always been the counterintuitive one. This is not accidental. A primary tactic of retention in instruction is to shock the student, surprise them and this is the deliberate strategy I employ. I had been hoping that more people would have noticed this pattern and so, logically select the counterintuitive response and then ponder to themselves, how this response might be true over the other obvious one. One person did that, maybe others did but they did not so indicate.

Second, let’s again review Occam’s Razor:

The principle states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory…This is often paraphrased as “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.” In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities.

In other words, in my selection of questions for pop quizzes, I am also selecting questions to illustrate core concepts, with parsimony and paucity of detail rather than trick questions subject to aberrant or unusual circumstances.

Todd correctly stated:

You would be giddy to find the black a different length. You’ve said this before that different colorways, especially black, shrink differently. Therefore each colorway would be graded for shrinkage differently. After washing, both colors should shrink to the same size. This difference in length tells me that the manufacturer did testing on each colorway (or at least black versus other colors) before making the markers. If this was a pre-washed garment, such as jeans, and the colors turned out to be different lengths off the rack, I might say that the manufacturer did not test for different shrinkages before making the marker.

Consumer PSA: If you plan to buy more than one color way of a style, you must unfortunately try them all. While it is true that some manufacturers produce identical styles across various contractors using separate patterns, the safest assumption to make is that the snuggest fitting colorway is how the other styles will fit after you’ve washed and dried them several times. In fact, if a style fits identically across colorways, don’t buy any of them. This most often means the manufacturer has not cut the styles according to shrinkage. In the latter case, assuming you love the style and must have one of them and they already fit snugly, avoid the black one. It will shrink the most.

Next I’ll post a guest entry from Maria Santiago who shares her experiences calculating shrinkage for denim. This method is different from the methods that most use; I found it very educational and hope you will too.

Class dismissed.

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  1. This brings up a question I’ve been pondering lately.

    Currently, I’m a one-person operation, and I know my fabrics shrink, so I wash/dry before using. Now I’m expanding. I hate selling something that says “wash and shrink it before you wear it so you get the true fit.” Or something like that. I want it to fit correctly when it’s bought–in other words, pre-wash.

    Question: How is this handled besides what I’m doing now which is washing in my home machine? Do I occupy a laundry at the wee hours when no one else wants a machine and enter with bolts of fabric? That doesn’t sound appealing!

    I’ve found a manufacturer that will make me 100 pairs of pants. I’ll have 17 bolts of fabric to wash.


  2. Clarisse says:

    Kathleen, thank you for your consumer PSA. I could never articulate my love/hate attitude toward Gap jeans (buy the same size all the time, never fits the same), but now I know. Can’t wait to find more answers in your upcoming denim shrinkage (guest) post!

  3. christy says:

    Marguerite, I think you can contact dye houses to have them wash/dry and then re-roll the fabric. I haven’t ever done this myself, however.

    I want to know why black shrinks the most! I voted correctly but *only* because, as you mentioned, it seemed like the counterintuitive answer and therefore the right one.

  4. Thanks, Christy, for the tip. I called a dye house and they don’t do it. Then, in a moment of inspiration that now seems like “why didn’t I think of this earlier”, I called the local dry cleaners. They do bulk washing for $1.38/lb. Wash/dry/fold. Perfect. Although, it will add nearly $1/yd. to my fabric cost.

    Of course, I probably add that much by washing/drying it myself!


  5. Big Irv says:


    You need to stay away from local dry cleaning services to wash fabric and locate a proper wash/dyehouse.

    Material needs to be washed in specific ways and properly dried and rerolled.

    You needn’t have to pay more than 40-50 cents per yd, often less if you do larger volumes.

  6. ShannonG says:

    I, too, am pleased that the manufacturer has taken the time and effort to make this difference based on the fabric properties. However, I have a concern. The average consumer will look at this in disgust, and proceed to purchase those garments which fit off the hangar. Then, when the first cleaning takes place and the garment no longer fits in the same manner, the manufacturer will be blamed for using sub-standard materials, and the consumer will limit or eliminate their future purchases from this manufacturer.

    Was there a hang-tag on the pants that explained the shrinkage? Is there any viable way to educate consumers about the properties of fabrics without sounding too clinical?

  7. Kathleen says:

    Shannon, there was no tag explaining shrinkage. This used to be more common twenty years ago. I agree that consumers who don’t know will chalk it up to manufacturer malfeasance which is why it’s ironic that in spite of exercising greater integrity in product development, consumers get the opposite impression. It’s not as it once was, consumers assumed products *would* shrink. It’s odd to find consumers don’t realize this in my lifetime.

    Shrinkage is one reason I’ve long recommended DEs resurrect the practice of noting shrinkage on their hang tags. Truthfully tho, there is a barrier to doing so, namely costs. Unless one has the capacity to print their own hang tags to match shrinkage of specific fabrics used, it’s not likely to change.

    [edited: Rather than adding another comment, I’m amending this comment to respond to Laura’s below]

    If I compared two pairs of slacks, same style, same *color way* and they were two different lengths… well…that’d definitely be shoddy quality control. Levis had this problem a lot! I’ve stopped buying them in the last ten years because their 501’s varied so much. The only way you could compare their apples to apples was to sort through the piles, checking the tags for country of origin and *hope* it was the same contractor to make a useful comparison.

    Like I said before, becoming a huge brand with contractors in many different locations creates problems. How is a consumer to know anymore or have any confidence? One used to be able to compare lot numbers. Any variations between units of the same lot number indicated poor sewing controls.

  8. Laura says:

    As a consumer, I would have thought “crappy quality control” and not bought the pants, although as a home sewer I know perfectly well that different fabrics shrink at different rates. Unless they have a particularly knowledgeable clientele, I think manufacturers are shooting themselves in the foot doing this (although I don’t know what the alternative is either).

  9. Andrea Baker says:

    This was “d’oh” moment. I knew it (because you posted on it before) but wasn’t critically thinking. Great post! Thanks.

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