I am so pissed off at clothing sizes – I used to be Size 8 but now depending on where I shop I’m either Size 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12. What gives?
– Fed Up
This whole business of standardized clothing sizes began during the Civil War when the government needed to get men into uniforms. And we all know how particular those Civil War soldiers were about good fit.
Women’s sizes weren’t standardized until the 1940s when ready to wear clothes and mail order shopping became popular.
In order to accomplish this feat of nationalized sizes, the Bureau of Home Economics summoned 15,000 women and measured each volunteer in 59 places.
Of course the National Bureau of Home Economics went the way of the double-breasted shirtwaist dress and the Hoover automatic clothes washer.
And it should come as no surprise that a few problems developed with this initial sizing standardization. First of all, the average woman has grown larger since the 1940s. Back then the average woman was 5′ 2″ and weighed 129 pounds. Today she is 5′ 4″ and weighs 144 lbs.
Also the 1940s study didn’t really take into account that although the ideal woman’s body shape is an hourglass:
Most women are actually shaped like this:
Add to this confusion the development of “Missy” sizes which used to designate age and not measurements but now designate the number of mandatory days the purchaser must spend at an Eating Disorder clinic.
We are a vain society – so is it any wonder the concept of Vanity Sizing was adopted by most clothing manufacturers? Who wants to purchase size 10 Cargo Pants when you can shimmy down the clothes rack and pick up a size 6? But there are problems with this shift toward lower sizing.
Hello! I am a pair of Abercrombie capris and I am a size 00!
Excuse me, what? If you’re a size 0, doesn’t that mean you died? And a size 00 – wouldn’t that look more like this:
While we all eat chocolate sundaes and wait for the more civilized European labeling standard (EN 13402) to cross the ocean in a pedal boat, there is something you can do to inform yourself about the various manufacturers and their sizing.
First find out your true measurements. Grab a cloth tape measure and use the following guidelines. Remember to pull the tape measure snug but not until you’ve lost all feeling in your lower extremities:
- Waist – measure between the top of the hipbone and the lower ribs.
- Chest & Bust – measure all the way around the shoulder blades, over the fullest part of the bust, and under the armpits.
- Hip – measure around the butt at the maximum circumference. So why don’t they call this an ass measurement?
- Inside leg length – measure the distance between the crotch and the soles of the feet.
- Arm length – measure from the shoulder line to the end of the wrist bone.
- Hands – measure the distance from your extended metacarpals to the nearest bottle of tequila that will – please god – help you forget your true measurements.
Next go to Fitme.com – a website where you enter your measurements and Fitme’s “Size Genie” will determine what size you are in 400 different clothing brands! No hassle, right? Wrong. The problem is the sign up. The website requires a Fitme I.D. and password – warning their site visitors to “choose something that you can remember but others cannot guess.” And just when you realize you are in fact on an FBI site, they ask you to come up with a secret question in case you forget your password.
See to what length we are willing to go to protect our actual size from becoming public knowledge?
But at least next time you’re in Banana Republic you’ll be informed that the cute black stretch pants with the size 0 tag actually have a 27.5″ waist, 9” rise, and a 31.5” inseam. Unless you’re like me and not only forgot your Fitme I.D. and password, but forgot your secret question too.