# What are the measurements of a size 10? pt.2

Apparently, an alternative title to follow up with yesterday’s entry is Size is a matter of opinion pt.2 (see part one if you missed it). Results of the survey (thank you!) showed pretty much what I expected. Namely that measurements are all over the map. Which begs the question: if consumers can’t agree on the measures that constitute a size 10 or 12, how can manufacturers be expected to size according to consumer expectations? I’m going to go out on a limb here and speak for the community by saying we’ll make you a deal. As soon as you all can come to agreement on measurements is when we’ll start sizing to meet your expectations. heh

Seriously, here’s a rundown of responses for size 10. The majority is in dark green; significant measures (over 10%) are in light green:

If majority rules, a size 10 has a 36″ bust, 28″ waist and a 40″ hip. She’s five foot five or six inches tall and weighs 140 pounds.  Hmmm.  In order to size to consumer expectations, one would need to cut a 10 to fit a range of five inches for the bust, seven inches for the waist and another five inches for the hip. The figure height varies three inches and her weight spread is 30 pounds. Also note we still have a rough hourglass proportion (slightly bottom heavy) at work. Consumers often claim that only X percentage is an hourglass but aggregating responses shows the clear pattern.

Yes, I realize that responses grouped by correspondent rather than aggregates will better illustrate shaping differences, maybe I’ll write more about that tomorrow.

Here’s a rundown of responses for size 12:

The results for the size 12 show the same pattern except we’re waffling on waist size, it’s 30″ to 31″. Our height range has increased an inch but the median is the same height as the 10. Weight is also a repeat, our average is still 140 but the weight span has increased to a 35 pound spread. The outliers (weight of 170 pounds!) is very telling.

Question: having this information, do you agree it is ideal that we use the majority opinion to determine sizes? If so, let’s filter this backwards using the example of the size 10 for the basis. Out of kindness we’ll disregard that the size 12 is jumping 2″ in bust and 2 to 3 inches in waist measurements over the ten because this weakens consumer arguments. This is how sizes play out, the proportion being Bust is 8″ larger than the waist, waist is zero and hip is 12″ larger than the waist (B:+8  W:0  H:+12):

• size 0: 31-23-35
• size 2: 32-24-36
• size 4: 33-25-37
• size 6: 34-26-38
• size 8: 35-27-39
• size 10: 36-28-40 (B:+8  W:0  H:+12)
• size 12: 38-30/31-41 (note: bust increases 2″, waist is 2″-3″ over size 10)

I can tell you right now that the hip of the size 0 is still too large. For the sake of argument, I’ll concede that a size zero -based on survey responses- is 35″ -and people wonder why we have minus sizes? It seems clear to me that we’re sizing to divergent expectations and have had to create new minus sizes for the tiny girls.

I’ll use myself as an example to explain how gaining weight changes the proportions of a body. When I’m perfectly height and weight proportionate, my bust is larger than my hips by nearly three inches, I’m the reverse of the survey proportions (B:+12  W:0  H:+9). I’ll bet you think that as I gain, I’d get heavier up top but nope. As I gain weight, I gain proportionately more on my hips. Being 10 or 15 pounds overweight, my bust and hips are equal now. You may be the opposite of me. When slender, your chest is smaller than your hip but you tend to gain weight in your trunk and over time, your chest measure is larger or equivalent to your hip. This is how “Apples” are shaped.

Let’s say that manufacturers had a magic wand and could size 10’s and 12’s to satisfy the proportions of survey respondents. This still wouldn’t make everyone happy because as you gain weight, the relationship between your relative proportions changes. Manufacturers can only hit the aggregates, the mean of the size spread. They have to devise a sizing scale based on averages. It would be impossible to calculate changing figure proportions of consumers singly.

This is why you may have to change brands as you gain or lose weight. If you can grab the next larger or smaller size of the same brand hanging on the rack as you gain or lose weight, this would be a happy coincidence but it is not a reasonable expectation because your proportions evolve as you gain and lose weight.

Just curious, how many others expected the same result and conclusions?

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1. Tufte fan says:

Can I pick nits? I think that my comment will only strengthen your point. The proportion of respondents who picked size 10 hip at 38″ was 19%, only 1% under the “winner” of 40″ which had 20%. That is only 1% less. If you chart this, it would have two peaks, one at 38 and another at 40 with a dip at 39. I don’t know what the margin of error in this survey is (and there’s no point in quibbling over it because it’s not random, it’s a self-selected group), but I would guess that 19% and 20% are essentially equal. That’s a bimodal distribution. Similar comments apply to the waist size spread, and to both of those in the size 12 range.

So I would argue that your color coding masks some of the disagreement; it is worse than you have represented.

2. All I can say is that I’m smiling smugly to myself. Everything has always been about proportion and shape to me.

Also (just because I want to argue the industry’s case a little more), two identical sets of measurements can often result in a completely different shape if you only compare say 5-6 measurements … yet we expect designers/patternmakers to select an average “size” and have it fit well for all people within that envelope of measurements. This is important as I believe is led to the expectation issue. I liked your survey because it made people think about more than the standard “Bust/Waist/Hips” … I’m not sure who or what is to blame, but when we think in terms of only 3 measurements we (possibly) reasonably expect if we meet that criteria then the garment should fit. I wonder how people would feel if there were no “size” number, but 6, 8 or even 10 measurements on the tag that said “you must fit within this envelope”. Of course that’d be unmanageable … but how do you educate the public to understand there’s more to sizing, or brand selection, than they realise. I can see what you’re doing here … but what about the rest of the world?

The issue today is that, given their lack of understanding, people have unrealistic expectations … it has to be close to perfect in size, colour, print etc. …. it has to be inexpensive … and it has to be NOW.

3. Kathleen says:

Hey Tufte fanboy, as you can see, I was all kinds of nice! I was trying to keep it clean and neat, just hitting the high points without going nutso so as to lose anyone. People already complain I get too technical. Btw, I love it when you talk like that -bimodal distribution just makes me shiver all over. Say, do you have a girlfriend? Want one?

Stuart: I’m with you and you know it. But why argue the finer points if we can’t even hit the high ones? Yes, it’s all about expectations, they’ve evolved from unreasonable to become out and out impossible. It was never like this. Even when I was younger -a presumed golden age of well fitted apparel- we never had the expectation that something would fit us off the rack. We assumed we’d have to alter it. But people don’t think like that anymore.

4. sdBev says:

I don’t care what the size is called or how it’s numbered. But I would like it to be consistent. I like to know that I can buy a womens size L anywhere and have reasonable expectations that it would fit as well as any other size L. I don’t mind extending that theory either. I’d love to be able to go everywhere and find a size 8M shoe that fit nearly the same. I do understand that certain design lines will affect how a clothing item feels. But I’d really like to have a realiable base-line.

5. kellyt says:

This post was very informative. The survey was a great idea. Thanks!

6. Laura says:

Why can’t sizing be by measurement? Women’s shirt sizing by bust size? Pants – waist, hip, inseam? Men size their clothes this way, why can’t women?

7. Allen says:

Laura,

Hi. I agree but as one comedian said “Women like to keep age, weight and cloths size a secret. Where as us guys have no problem walking around with tag on the back of their pants showing their waist is seven inches bigger than their inseam.” Eh, well that is true. Yes it makes like easy.
Also men are easier to cut for as there are fewer measurements.
IMO – there should not only be a bust size but where you whish teh bust to fall, er point out. An A cup rides much higher than a full B or C. A DD to F cup can ride much lower. (Ride, well they are heavy)
Also, guys do not care for tight fitting cloths. Our pockets are our purse. Keys, cell phone, pens, knife (which is a tool not a weapon), money, change (makes us sound like a cowboy when walking sometimes), wallet, etc (not going to say what else we carry). Shirts and pants are best worn baggy.
IMO – cloths make most women feel good. Guys can wear the same thing. To find something in a size 8 that fits nice when everything else in the closet is a size 12 – whoo hoo!!
Lastlly – should’t women be in a size 16 now? (ducking for cover) Both men and women have gotten larger since the 1930’s. /1950’s in part to nutrition, in part to more food, in part to less walking. Bust sizes have also gone up. Standard dress size of 1940’s would seem very small today. Dress sizes are either changing so an average woman is a “10” or a size 12 becomes “avg” this year and size 14 becomes “avg’ five years from now.

Sorry for the long post. Kathleen like you and Tufte Fan, I’m technical.

Enjoy today
Allen

8. Kathleen, I don’t understand your conclusions at all. Our expectations of a Size 10 are based on going out into the world and trying on clothes. How can manufacturers possibly come back to us and tell us that they are going to base their size 10 on our conclusions from trying on their clothes?

I have no issues with a Medium being the median for the target market. That makes perfect sense. But I know that I buy size 39 (sometimes 40) shoes in European sizes, size 9 (sometimes 9 1/2) shoes in US sizes, size 42 clothes (from my limited experience) in European sizes… and anywhere from size 8 to 16 clothes in US sizes. That *doesn’t* make sense to me. (Theoretically that should be 8 to 18 because sometimes the 16 is small and an 18 would fit better, but the 18 never exists. There’s sometimes an 18W which is always too big – a 14W or 16W would fit better, but it never exists either.)

Just because I get the best fit in these sizes doesn’t mean the shoes or clothes fit well. I totally get that too. Not all lasts and fit models are the same shape. I usually get the best fit in lines targeted to my age group, though I get great t-shirts from a local chain who makes them for the younger segment of their market. (The t-shirts are cut with a snug fit but are stretchy and very long, so can work for a variety of figure types.)

I want to know that a size 10 shirt is based on a bust measurement of ___ and a size 10 pant is based on a hip measurement of ___. I really don’t care whether ___ is 20 or 40 as long as it can help me pick clothes. When going into a new store I would like to think that if I see a number on something that it means something. I don’t want to have to try on everything. I want to try on the size 16 top and size 14 bottom. If they don’t suit or fit, then some other size shouldn’t fit better. Or rather, some *wildly different* size shouldn’t fit better. I shouldn’t be asking for a 16 and walking away with an 8. That’s just annoying and wastes everyone’s time.

9. Also, I know that what I want is complicated by grading. If the median of my target market is 14, there’s going to be a bigger difference between my 18 and 16 than between my 16 and 14. Even if my 14 is based on some “standard” 14 bust or hip, the other sizes will be approximations of the “standard” 16 and 18. But still, that shouldn’t result in the wildly different numbers I see on the clothes that fit me.

10. Doris W. says:

Interesting survey results. Based on it, I would be a size 10, especially the hips, but the RTW I can fit into calls it a 12. It truly helps me understand the sizing challenge that manufacturers face.

11. Thoughts: your discussion of the survey responses suggests that you are responding to several issues simultaneously. 1) Whether it’s reasonable for manufacturers to base their sizing on broad consumer polls. [Answer is No, but has anyone explicitly suggested that?] 2) Whether it’s possible to create standard sizes that would always fit everyone. [Answer is No, but we already knew that, or would if we thought about it.] 3) Whether the meaning of a size range is that the median fits you at your ideal weight and the other sizes fit you as you gain or lose weight. [Answer is No, the size range fits smaller to larger women with the same body type. Most people don’t know this or really think about it, just get frustrated when a different size doesn’t fit them as they hoped.] 4) I think a bunch of other questions tangled up in there. [Answers are also No.]

The answer to Question 1 was based on answers to your survey results, but who is asking it? Questions 2 to 4 are important and it’s great that you’re laying them out, but I don’t understand how they relate to the survey results.

12. Barb Taylorr says:

I agree with your conclusions, and I actually think the current system works as well as anything could. If all the manufactures agreed to an exact set of measurements for size ten, then a person without a fit model’s proportions would never have the option of finding a brand that was better tailored to her body. Yes, it makes the shopper work harder. If they don’t want to make the effort they can always have things altered or custom-made. Personally, I’d rather have to take more time shopping than see fewer options out there. Custom-made is not affordable for most people.

As long as the manufacturer remains consistent within the fit they have decided to offer I have no complaints if their ten is closer to another brand’s size 12. Yes, it would be nice if the window were a little tighter, but it’s really not that big of a deal to grab 2 sizes the first time I try on a new brand. I have discovered some great fitting brands for my “non-fit model proportioned” body by putting a little effort in to the search. I have also learned which ones are just not going to look good on me and I don’t try those on anymore. Maybe I’m a quick learner, but it just doesn’t seem that complicated.

Of course customers all wish that every garment would fit exactly how they personally think it should, but they also probably all wish they could win the lottery.

The main thing I get from the survey results is a reinforced belief that consistency is the most essential thing. Perhaps we might also benefit by including a general explanation on our tags or websites of how our brand is intended to fit. That might guide more potential customers in the right direction.

13. Clara Rico says:

What would be helpful, is a picture with girls/women in the size range wearing the clothes that fit them. Then customers could find which one resembles them and know what size is most likely to fit. It would also make clear: this style fits this shape. Men would actually be able to pick out clothes for their wives. Of course, the women might not want to admit what they actually look like. But, the reward for honesty in the dressing room would be well-fitting clothes that look good on your body type.

Unfortunately, it would probably be difficult and expensive to hire enough people for the photo shoot. And just because I like the idea, doesn’t mean it would go over well with customers used to buying clothes to look like to model in the advertising.

14. Kai Jones says:

I don’t care what they call the sizes. I care what the model they are designing for looks like. If you’ve got a line aimed at Apples, advertise it as such: “This line is designed to fit and flatter a woman whose hips are waist plus X and bust is waist plus y.” That’s not restrictive, I’ll still try things on from the line, but I’ll know what the designer is aiming for and adjust my expectations accordingly.

15. Teijo says:

Personal measurements change, and so do demographic averages. That’s why I personally prefer standard unit based sizing (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EN_13402.) If that is impossible, a detailed size chart (like this one by the catalogue company Cecile – http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cecile.co.jp%2FCustCenter%2FSizeGuide%2Fladies.html ) may be useful. It lets the customer know what to expect, and can minimise the number of returns.

16. kay says:

I don’t want “standard sizes”, but I do want basic target measurements on the tags. Size 10 doesn’t tell me much except that it ought to be bigger than an 8 and smaller than a 12 — it’s really only useful for sizing within a line, ime. It’s always irked me that guys can buy 16-33 shirts or 30-34 pants, and women have to play guessing games.

And then there’s wedding gown sizing, which is a real shocker for many brides.

Sizing expectations have been more stable in home sewing pattern lines (I believe sizing was last “improved” about 1976) but the (over)grading can be abysmal.

17. kay,
Home sewing patterns are just as bad — Vogue/ Butterick/ McCall anyway. They used to be able to claim their sizing was not evolving by saying that anyone who chose a size by their published measurements and then was horribly disappointed when the garment ended up *huge* had just not checked the ease. They used to cover themselves by sketching and photographing trim-fitting garments and putting “loose-fitting” in the garment description in small print on the back.

These days they’ve even given up (in many cases) the ease descriptions. It’s anyone’s guess how the size relates to published measurements.

18. Doris W. says:

What I don’t understand is a major catalog/online clothing company that posts a size chart for their clothing—and it’s ALL their own brand— yet pants come in with a waist band that is three inches larger than the waist in the size chart. Seems that a retailer like that should/would/could have more control over their own product.

19. Allen says:

Kai,
You have a good idea – apples, pears, strawberries and bananas.
That is a size 10 – good as a bse – could be a strawberry (busty) or pear (wide hips) or bananna – kind strait.
In this way there is a base consistent size plus that Barb Taylorr is looking for (and makes sense) plus an offset or modifier that makes more sense than what guys have – mearsurements. That is what is the outfit cut for.
Busty women often buy tops and bottoms seperatly, from what I’m told, to have an outfit match. This works – except for a dress.
Now if they could only design a dress where the zipper is moveable on one side. In this way they could buy a big dress and then modify where one side of the zipper is so the dress conforms to their body shape.
Doris – I hear you but as companies get large they loose control. Some different departments become different companies. “The left shipping hand does not know what the right hand is ordering.” I can reccomend the management book “Everything I needed to know I learned watching Star Trek” Yea it works. Boy Scouting works even better.
Allen
“Be excellent unto each other” – Bill and Teds Excellent adventure. (music plays)

20. JuliaC says:

Allen & Kai, I would agree about advertising for shapes. I am just not sure I would call my rectangular figure a banana as that just seems too thin for me. I am in the large end of waist & weight ranges. However, since the style now is for low waisted pants which generally are 1-2″ below the waist they work on me with my short rise (ie. they come up to or slightly above my waist.)

21. patsijean says:

Back in 1985, when I weighed 105-110 lbs, and my measurements were 32-24-34/35, I wore a size 7 dress and my Vogue Pattern size was size 8. My measurements are now 35-34.5-42. I am not a size 10! I am still 5’2″ short and not happy by my size increase, but I am not going to lie to myself about it. I maintain, no one can be a size 0 unless painfully anorexic. My best guess is that my dress size is about a 14 or 16 now.

22. lynne williams says:

Being a dressmaker and instructor, my observations about sizing relate mostly to the big four pattern companies as well as clothing alteration. When teaching pattern alteration I have noticed that although the body measurements reflect the typical ratio, the ease within their patterns suggests that they are not actually using those measurements. For instance we are always looking to determing ease amounts prior to altering for personal fit. The ease amount at bust and hip can be 1.5″ to 2″ on something stated as “fitted” but 5-8″ at the waist. I am constantly telling people to ignore the ease at the waist and determine their personal preferences instead, a difficult concept for the beginner who wants/needs a simple formula to understand. McCall’s currently has a size 10 listed as Bust-32.5, waist-25, hip-34.5. New sewers are always shocked to discover that they need to purchase their pattern size considerably larger then their rtw size. My other observation is that womans bust size is certainly on the increase even the young girls who are a “b” wear padding to create a “c” Companies could certainly reflect this trend. In general when students and clients complain to me about fitting within rtw, I go through a lengthy explanation of what average means, they don’t like it…..but really.

23. KEP says:

This may sound very naiive, but why can’t the fashion industry as a whole decide on a standard set of sizing measurements, then allow individual manufacturers to have a maximum amount of leeway in those measurements, say plus or minus two inches (for a four-inch range)? That way, assuming a simple two-inch grade, if the standard says size 8 measurements should be 34-25-36 and size 10 should be 36-27-38, Company A might use 38-26-40 as its basis for size 10, and Company B might assign 34-27-37 to a 10, while at the same time Company C could manufacture a size 8 using 35-26-36. There’s would never be more than a three-size guessing range with any combination. Manufacturers could still maintain a signature fit, and consumers would find it much easier to home in on the right size in any store. The addition of a shape designation (triangles, strawberries, etc.) to hang tags would also streamline the process for consumers. Of course, this is all predicated on the notion that manufacturers would agree to cooperate with each other for the benefit of consumers. I get so disgusted when shopping in the mall stores and end up having to try on six different sizes of everything because each brand’s sizing is so wildly varied from every other brand’s. Until there’s some kind of consistency in sizing (and I don’t care if the numbers are large or small), consumers will remain frustrated in the dressing room.

24. Allen says:

JuliaC,

I hear you. Kiwi sounded nice but did not sound good.
One persons is starting her Haloween costume. One needs more material for size, not just waste.
As for bra size – well 34B has grown to over a C (source: http://www.tomima.com/2010/03/23/a-new-average-bra-size-in-the-usa/ ) Sadly wikipedia has nothing ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassiere )

As body weight increases, does the variation in body shape increase as well?

Lynne,
Do not forget that as periods begin at an earlier and earlier age, so does breast development and, possibly, the maturity of their cloths. Sad, for tis not happening in other parts of the world as much as in the U.S. (sorry no source I can quote)

25. Cheryl Designs says:

The entire ‘sizing’ issue will never be decided upon by EVERYONE. That is a GIVEN. Manufacturers and pattern companies will ALWAYS disagree. I believe every woman needs to know HERSELF and her measurements. YES…MANY women do not want to KNOW these facts about themselves :( I am a professional seamstress. I do alterations and custom sewing. I love my customers but MANY of them REFUSE to accept their SIZE… We just need to work with what we HAVE—-OUR BODIES… Personally, I am 5’7″ tall, 130 lbs. I am busty with narrow hips…Measurements are 40-29-34.(34 DD bra)…I am also 53 yrs old, child-free. My breasts have dropped a bit but not ALOT. I have a terrible time finding blouses that fit since I am small boned except for my breasts (real…not implants) . I ALWAYS have to alter my blouses and tops… I need to buy larger sizes to accomodate my breasts. I also have long arms :) I am not complaining, just making a point. EVERY body is different. We are all individual BODIES. Accept and ALTER and move along in your life :) PS.NO I don’t take the HOURS of time to make my own clothing….MUCH CHEAPER to purchase and alter tops…I tend to be a solid size 3 or 5 Junior pant so those aren’t a problem :)

26. Allen says:

KEP,
One more answer – perhpas cynical – where is the payback? Can one generate customer loyalty because they know this size 8 is their size 8?
Why spend the money standardizing and not get any thing more in return?
I go back to guy clothing – waist, inseam, shirt size all in inches. Granted the XY pair does not have as much genetic material as the XX gene but its not rocket science.
Cherly, Hi. Sigh, Buying a larger top to fit, alterations, etc. You are not alone. I suspect you are also part of a growing market. There is a group called HiddenFeet you might find interesting.
Know yourself. I know several hunters who can call a deer’s weight to within five pounds but are clueless about their wife’s weight or size. Some have to check the tag to know their pant size. Any thing about age, weight, size, “does this make my butt look big” is best avoided. There is no right answer. A dress size may be no different.
As for sollutions – why not simple inches and cm markings ? its not like US and UK sizes are the same now.
In mfg. defense – how much variatioin do they have to support? How does one make “one size fits all” thing? (Joke) Why is my nine yards of Unobtanium fabric, cobolt blue, that grows and srhinks to fit me still on back order?
Basicaly even if they said “This is a size 10 +/- two m.m.” there is still a great deal of variation in body shape to account for.

27. KEP says:

Allen, you’re right, it’s not rocket science. I know there are many body shapes out there within each size range. I was hoping to suggest a way that could work for manufacturers, marketers, retailers, and consumers alike. Simple inches or centimeter markings could certainly help! It’s clearly not only the manufacturer’s fault, but also marketing exploitation. There’s no reasonable explanation why I should be a size 0 in one store, a 4 in another, and an 8 in yet a third. And when I sew my own clothes, I use a size 12 pattern!
I’m not in the fashion industry, but I suspect each retail marketer will do anything to make their own product look better than the (virtually identical) one being sold down the street, including deflating tag sizes to fool the public. Perhaps this is so they won’t have to lower their prices. Sizes used to be fairly standardized, then someone decided there would be enough payback to make it worth de-standardizing. No doubt some RTW consumers buy into the vanity sizing silliness, but the majority these days are probably more concerned with the price tag than the size tag. Let’s face it, you’re really not getting a higher quality product just because the price is high and the size appears small. It’s almost always coming from the same place. Retailers could buy an awful lot of customer loyalty with a lower price tag, whereas inconsistent sizing buys nothing. Cheryl Designs, people do need to learn to accept their actual sizes.
As for the guy afraid of choosing the wrong size for his wife, buy small and include a gift receipt. Or give a gift card. By the way, when you do find that unobtainium fabric, I’ll take a few yards!

28. Kathleen says:

I’m not in the fashion industry, but I suspect each retail marketer will do anything to make their own product look better than the (virtually identical) one being sold down the street, including deflating tag sizes to fool the public… No doubt some RTW consumers buy into the vanity sizing silliness, but the majority these days are probably more concerned with the price tag than the size tag. Let’s face it, you’re really not getting a higher quality product just because the price is high and the size appears small.

There is no such thing as vanity sizing. It is better described as sizing evolution. I’ve written about 20 separate entries on this outlining the whole sordid mess. I disagree you don’t get a higher quality product with a higher price tag. Not always of course but usually. As for sizing related to price points and how it impacts “vanity sizing”, see this. Moreover, it is more expensive product lines that have smaller sizing, exactly the opposite of what people think. Product lines are sized according to their average customer. Wealthy people are thinner. A size 6 at Wal-mart is considerably roomier than a size 6 at Neiman’s.

Sizes used to be fairly standardized, then someone decided there would be enough payback to make it worth de-standardizing.

Yes and no. Before, people presumed they’d have to alter clothing they bought at the store. I was trained to cut patterns 30 years ago to facilitate this. Clothing sizes may have been more uniform because consumers were too. Because consumers were closer to being height and weight proportionate, clothes were more readily sized to suit. However, we have two changes now. One we can’t size to them as readily because a huge percentage are fat and it is close to impossible to predict body shape with weight gain (another point I made in this entry). Two, consumers today have the expectation they should be able to buy whatever off the rack without altering it. That’s a big change.

I could not be more opposed to standardized sizes. If we do that, huge swathes of the market won’t have clothes to fit them –that is the whole purpose of this entry. Arguably, with greater sizing variety, there is greater likelihood you’ll find something to fit where as in the past you did not. Sure, you could say you didn’t have that problem 30 years ago but you were probably closer to being height and weight proportionate. If you were today, I guarantee it would be easier to find clothes to fit you. The reason that sizing is all over the map is because obesity is a real crisis. People are fatter than ever.

Lastly, it is misplaced to assign all the blame and responsibility to retailers just because they handled the transaction for you. They’re mostly middlemen.

29. KEP says:

Kathleen, thank you for the links to your other discussions! I’ve read several of them already. Sizing evolution of course makes total sense, as the human race race has genetically grown and become healthier over the last millennium. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the need to occasionally shift the scale upward. But (agreeing with you here as well) obesity in our society has stretched the scale to the ridiculous, and is the main issue to address. Whatever a store calls “Medium” should fit the average of that store’s clientèle.

I understand designers’ couture garments are cut for their wealthy customers and will have different sizing. But why does RTW have to fit within a framework of 0-22? Is it heresy to suggest that the numbers for the heavier portion of the population should be increased (i.e., sell 0-22 at Ann Taylor and 10-32 at Walmart)? Maybe this would bring about a lightbulb moment, where heavy consumers would realize it’s time to cut back. Companies purchasing new equipment to handle larger (size) runs will have to pass the cost increases on, perhaps further encouraging weight cutback.

“consumers today have the expectation they should be able to buy whatever off the rack without altering it”

I agree with you here as well. I’m not obese, have maintained the same or less weight since high school, have had 4 kids, can buy clothes almost anywhere (even if it is frustrating), but I have to alter absolutely everything I buy to fit my body shape. It doesn’t matter if I buy “straight” or “curvy” fit items. I’m sure I’m not alone. Thank God I learned how to sew 40 years ago. Perhaps this is a sign that more and better education should be provided within our public school systems again for the purpose of enabling consumers to alter their clothes. Then maybe sizes could start stabilizing. Maybe the fashion industry could encourage this somehow.

30. Xochil says:

This is a big problem. I think once more people accept the fact that alterations are necessary for a PERFECT fit, then they won’t feel as though their expectations are not being met by apparel manufacturers.

A generation (or two) ago, more people knew how to sew and alter their own clothing, so they probably didn’t go to a tailor. The excuse “my mother’s clothes fit better, she never went to a tailor”, probably came from the fact that their mother altered her own clothing. With less people learning how to sew these days, not even knowing how to sew on a button(!), they assume and expect that their clothes fit perfectly off the rack. Even my dad can mend his own clothing and hems his own jeans. He learned how to do that in the Air Force in the 70s.

31. Lisa Bloodgood says:

One or more of the big 4 pattern companies has little shapes by each pattern that mean this particular garment will look ok on this particular body type. At least it’s somewhat helpful in choosing a garment.

I know for a fact that Walmart did change their sizing, at least the number on the tag. I have been a size 8 for a long time, even with their stuff, then suddenly all their 8’s were too big. I have to get a 6 or a small.

32. PeterAA says:

I think the size variance is industry-driven, not customer-driven. Customer expectations vary because most no longer no what to expect, given the industry’s penchant for trying to flatter their customers that they fit in a size smaller than they thought.

33. given the industry’s penchant for trying to flatter their customers that they fit in a size smaller than they thought

That’s your opinion. Some people are of the opinion that the planet traverses the heavens on the back of a turtle. Are both opinions equally valid? Valid… not likely in that neither withstand the rigor of science so it follows that neither are well founded either.

I’ve written no fewer than 16 entries on why vanity sizing doesn’t exist and even started a whole other website on the subject. I suggest reading some of it to gain an understanding of the complexities of sizing to a diverse populace.

34. Angela S says:

Hello All,
I am a Patternmaker and am of course finding this blog very interesting (a few years down the track!) It is very tricky not only covering different body types but sizing for different countries also. I admit I lean towards allowing just a little more room in the hip (and rib cage) depending on the style of garment and the amount of give in the fabric/lining. If it is a style more suited to a pear shape I will keep this in mind when patternmaking (particularly linings). Body con dresses with sleeves in non stretch wovens are the stuff of nightmares when it comes to fitting on more than one person and covering all the ladies who believe they are a 10. (sweat, sweat).

35. KAtrina says:

Totally get what you were trying to say here, and it is hard. I have patterned some very oddly shaped people. I have measured remeasured, and draped some weird shapes, to have it come out perfect for the person. I wish I lived in the Bespoke age, but I don’t so.. here is my bitch and rant!

I am a pattern maker and custom designer of clothing. I am, to be frank, wildly frustrated at women’s clothing in stores. Why? I don’t fit, I am 5’9″ 200 lbs. with a slightly bottom heavy figure, but only by 1.5″, and a “perfect” waist proportion, 43-34-44.5 or 9-0-10.5, my torso being taller is longer, my arms being taller are longer, my boobs sit rather high, even though they are not the “agreed” to standards. I *KNOW* I fit somewhere between a 14-16-18, depending on the store and the brands. Most of which don’t carry that “next size up” in store, and when they do, I end up making a choked back scream gurgling noise in the dressing room, because what I needed was an inch or two more just ended up being a 6 inch inclusion, or the exact needed measurement but now proportioned for the center front, (apple) and sits funnily and weirdly on my hips. One piece shaped sheath dress? Waist in wrong place, hips to high! Cocktail dresses, my lady bits don’t need to be aired in public, thank-you very much!

My GF and I have the EXACT SAME four top measurements shoulders, above the bust, arms, and bust. My rib cage is tiny and hers is not, and her hips are super narrow and mine are not. She is an apple and I am a “skinny” pear. We can wear the same t-shirts and casual shirts, and fit and flare dresses, and socks. She’s 5’6 and I am 5’9. Her smallest size remembered is a size 2. Mine is a size 10. My weight at that time 150 pounds, her weight at that time 145. PROPORTION AND ACTUAL MEASUREMENTS mean EVERYTHING, and that is why I can’t stand sizing in stores.

In my closet, sits brand *new* size 16 suit (Talbots), a size 14 suit (LOFT), a size 16-18 suit (JC PENNEY), and ZERO women’s dress shirts, because I can’t get a single one to “fit” either in length or my waist. Oh, I have tried, tuck and sit and retuck. Get it fitted? sent three in, got 0 back that fit correctly because they fit it to what they thought it should have been.. the pins couldn’t have been right! I worked in these shops, it isn’t just one tailor. Many of them, occasionally even I, look at unrealistic measurements, and go, am I sure?

Seriously, I am with the boys, stop selling me a “size #” sell me a “size” and it’s “type”. “Slim Fit” and a tag that says “Waist and length”. A chart available online, that tells me what you CUT it too fit, will tell me what *I* should fit, or if I will at all! Also, this let’s me figure out if I could down size or upsize between the types and then get it taken in. Or even ponder spanx, girtle, or corset, if I love it enough.

Don’t even get me started on intimates, if one more vanity secret gal tries to tell me I am a 36DD, I am going to suffocate her with my boobs. They are currently housed in a 36G and happily so, and perkier too!

36. Charity Noblitt says:

I tried on 4 different sizes by the same brand. Only the smallest size fit right. All the “larger” sizes were too tight. I don’t understand how we can’t have the measurement sizes versus “graded sizes”. I don’t change weight that drastically during any given month, series of months that one day I can wear one size and the next need 2 sizes bigger or stretchy leggings.

37. QAngel says:

This is why as a teen and young child I learned to sew. I knew it was coming, at least I know what to cut out of my diet now and how much I am actually over eating. But people grow and hold weight about 28/29 if your a woman about 32/33 if your most men. But sizes are the last thing to worry about. I love fashion, but I just learned to sew because we need things fixed or hemmed.

38. Alex H says:

I think honestly the concept of sizes is out of touch with reality. The variance from one woman to another in sizes means that most girls never actually get clothes that fit. Too often, you see women in clothes that are too tight in some places, and way loose in others. Girls with bigger upper measurements tend to either bust out of everything (literally) or end up wearing tents that don’t fit the rest of their bodies. It’s almost like you need more like mens, where you measure the chest and then fit the rest as a narrow, wide, etc.

39. Mariele says:

This actually sounds about right, but a bit large. What’s strange to me is that I’m 38-28-27 and 5’6″ but I’m 163 lbs! Flaw in the data or do I just put weight on a bit differently?

It would be fabulous if we had standard sizes. I can fit into sizes 6-14, depending on the manufacturer (CK goes crazy on the vanity sizing)… nuts! The UK doesn’t have this problem, right? :P Stop the vanity sizing!

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