One Size Fits Nobody: New York Times

mermaidSignificant Other disparages I post so infrequently but it’s difficult for me to read my words through the spittle of an extended screed. Case in point, One Size Fits Nobody: Seeking a Steady 4 or a 10 courtesy of the New York Times which is but more pablum. I spent some time amusing myself, imagining how the conversation of assigning that story went down:

Editor: It’s been awhile since we’ve appeased the masses by skewering those stupid apparel industry people by writing about consumer’s favorite imaginary social ill -vanity sizing. Hey you, Stephanie, you could churn out an easy 1,000 words on it. You don’t have to do any heavy lifting, apparel people are stupid.

Stephanie: Sure thing. I have some great source material; like this chick who isn’t even in the industry but who looked at some Vogue magazines to develop an analysis of women’s sizing history to beef up my points. The apparel industry is so stupid that the circular logic and cursory “evidence” of her “research” that would get anyone in any other field of intellectual rigor laughed out of the room will fly right over their heads. Done well, I might be able to blame vanity sizing for everything from teenage pregnancy to the bombing of Dresden and on to the scourge of plastic cutlery! To be sure there is other research from someone with 30 years of experience making patterns and is an internationally renown authority on women’s clothing sizes who has been quoted by NPR, NY Times, WSJ, Forbes, Washington Post, Boston Globe, LA Times etc and whose site ranks much higher but her material is based on *math* -and of all things, she majored in economics- with a whole annoying slew of logic, charts and graphs that spans 16 entries and something on the order of 200,000 words! Sheesh, just her section on the history of women’s sizing is three separate entries and backed by data that I don’t want to read for a “business” cum fluff lifestyle piece like this.

Say, I could bring back that old stand by Cricket Lee. You know, the woman who ran through nearly five million in start up capital and then had the nerve to patent the shape of women’s bodies and try to license it? I wonder if I could work in a disparaging mention of how the industry ignored Cynthia Istook. She upped the ante to 11 body types but the industry was also too cheap to license her findings either. I mean, the industry in spite of spending millions of dollars on research and prototyping full time with formidable experts and resources at their disposal couldn’t possibly be aware of the problems discovered by an academic working on it part time, saddled with competing job duties of writing and teaching classes. Maybe I can shame them into it. We still have problems so the industry couldn’t possibly be doing anything or know more than the readily accessible experts who are fond of sending out press releases to support their financial agendas that we know of.

If I play it well, I could hint that manufacturers just don’t care about their customers -eek!- but then I couldn’t also say they vanity size because if they go to the effort of manipulating people, it would mean they do care meaning this is cognitive dissonance -holding two competing thoughts in mind at the same time. Hmm. Maybe I could mention manufacturers just like for people to look ridiculous and feel badly about themselves. No, scratch that, more cognitive dissonance, it would mean icky looking customers would devalue their brand. Hey, the whole money grubber thing plays well. Manufacturers just want to make money… but then, if they don’t hit sizing well, they don’t make money so that won’t be a logical argument either.

I know, I’ll side step all the logical arguments that invalidate my premise by getting consumers to clamor for the latest fit savior in a long line of saviors, one called My Best Fit. They only have one location in a mall but I can make it sound like they’re the greatest thing going. You know, help them find the backing to install those other 16 scanners the owner has all but said they have. No need to mention all of those other companies, even ones like Levi’s, who plowed millions into doing it and failed because the concept while interesting, is flawed because revenue can’t support the model.

Editor: Okay, it sounds great! We just want to be sure we don’t get any pesky fact checkers like they have in the NY Mag section because they might do something like question whether vanity sizing even exists! You know, like search google for vanitysizing.com or something like that. That would totally ruin pandering to the masses when we can continue to flog the stupid apparel producers for normalizing sizing to the mean or asking whether sizing problems are related to other things like natural changes, demography (and), epidemic obesity or a variety problem, responding to customer’s demands for still lower prices or dramatically inflating inventory beyond the financial means of producers -or even consumers.
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Like I said, imagining that conversation, it’s probably better that I pass on commenting entirely.

5 thoughts on “One Size Fits Nobody: New York Times”

  1. This whole article to me was so conflicting…and absurd. A 27″ wast being an 8-10 in Marc Jacobs and a triple ZERO @ chico’s??

    Why are they comparing those lines? Apples and oranges (or apples and pears and watermelons) as the case may be. They are completely different target markets! Companies design for a specific market. Why on earth, for example would I want to see a garment I make in my regular line sizes of 2-8 in a size 24? I work in leather and the designs will not and are not intended to translate up that way. & If I did grade up there’s a huge likely-hood the result would resemble a sofa more than a garment. When I am asked to make larger sizes it is strictly on a custom made basis. From design to finish. I don’t see any point in any company trying to be all things to all people or all companies trying to size to exact same specs. At that point we may as well all be wearing tyvek coveralls!

    Yes, within similar markets there is plenty of variation- perhaps too much, but the wide array of body sizes & types, especially now…makes it a sisyphean task. And still – no matter what, the Chico’s and MJ’s markets will never meet.

    I think it would be better to get people to pull out a measuring tape and become aware of their actual measurements and body type. Especially those who complain so much about sizing.

  2. Why are they comparing those lines? Apples and oranges (or apples and pears and watermelons) as the case may be. They are completely different target markets! Companies design for a specific market.

    Believe me Carla, I feel your pain. Consumers don’t get it. They think whatever should fit them even tho the product was not designed for them (they are not the target market) just because they have a hankering to acquire it. It’s why I’ve said that consumer credit (courtesy of the housing bubble and people using their homes like ATMs) has made sizing complaints worse in that people can “afford” to buy things that were never intended for them. Over-use of credit has led to confusion in the marketplace because manufacturers can’t guess who their customer is anymore.

    Clothes may be as ubiquitous as cars and computers but the latter two don’t need to be specialized to fit a consumer to the degree clothes do. Thousands of people can drive exactly the same car or use the same computer but they cannot each wear the same dress much less the same size so I cannot fathom why consumers have these expectations about clothes. They would never think of demanding the level of specialization in cars and computers that they do for clothes so I agree these expectations are not rational. And if we did size all the same (standardized sizing), there would be more complaints, not less.

  3. Interesting comments! I find that for the most part, garments I buy are for the rectangular woman ( standing up), When I was a young woman I looked like Twiggy so clothes were a problem then (no waist), Then after three kids my middle expanded, WOW then I hit fifty and my body shifted like a boat going down for the last time. Now I am seventy three and I have a middle, flat bum, boobs (came after fifty) and a healthy body BM26.
    I think unless you are obese body mass over 25, excercise and laughter are the best things in life.
    Just keep trying on the clothes until you like what you have on. I still don’t look great in too many frills and look best in classic clothes. I can find them anywhere depending on my budget at the time. I have gone from a 10 to a 12-14 in 50 years. Worry more about you friends and family, and just keep trying on clothes with a friend and laugh!

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