Apparently, anyone who wears clothes is a sizing expert

I fail to understand how anyone — by virtue of wearing clothes or liking them — feels competent and qualified to discuss the complexities of our industry.

In the case of this pharmaceutical sales rep cum “journalist”, I like medicine but it doesn’t qualify me to remark on the pharmaceutical industry. I read newspapers but it doesn’t mean I’m competent to write a critique about journalism. So why does anyone who wears clothes consider themselves competent to discuss the complexities of clothing sizes? Lest you think I’m harsh, this is what Sara had to say:

Vanity sizing is the practice of using smaller numbered sizes on bigger clothing patterns… to make customers feel better about themselves and become more inclined to buy.

This is what consumers think but vanity sizing is a myth. We are simply too busy putting out product to even try to figure out how to manipulate consumers or massage their egos with everything we have going on. Minimally, if we were concerned with sizing to ego, there would be instruction and advice in the trade media — to include textbooks and even seminars — on how to do it. I’ll save you a search, there is none. Continue reading Apparently, anyone who wears clothes is a sizing expert

Why retailers changed clothing sizes pt.2

In response to my entry Why have retailers changed clothing sizes?, Alaina asks:

Can you explain why/how early misses sizes were described a “size 14 years?” surely that was not a coincidence with the sizing system you describe in paragraph 5 (which, I agree, sounds completely plausible)

In the absence of my familiarity with your source material, I would reason that this was the beginning of the push back; when retailers began to wrest control of sizing from manufacturing. That it coincides with the advent of children’s sizing at retail is significant.

Previously, the divisional drafting system (“scale”) adopted for pattern making for production was limited to adult clothing. It only worked for figures that were mature because the scale relies on divisions of 8. [As an aside, don’t ask me about the imperial measuring system, specifically the inch unless you want a lengthy discourse. I prefer metric but for clothing drafting, no measurement increment has proven of greater utility than the inch]. The key landmarks of infants and children’s figures do not divide evenly by 8. Infant figures are divisible by 4, children by 6 etc. Thus, the divisional scale drafting system couldn’t be used for physically immature bodies. Continue reading Why retailers changed clothing sizes pt.2

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. Continue reading One Size Fits Nobody: New York Times

The phlogistonists of vanity sizing

unicornI learned a new word today, Phlogiston [theory]. I’ll save you a click. In its strictest definition, it refers to

an obsolete scientific theory that postulated the existence of a fire-like element called “phlogiston”, which was contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion. The theory was an attempt to explain processes such as combustion and the rusting of metals…

And Phlogistonists are “scientists” and “researchers” who expend incalculable hours on pet theories for which there is no rational explanation. Consider within the context of my narrow domain, that of “vanity sizing”. One can find myriad mentions of it; researchers wax eloquent as to its ineffectiveness and detrimental effect yet where amid this bewildering compendium is quantitative research proving its existence?

Let us assume the phlogistonists academics are correct, there exists an unidentifiable ether with behaviors we cannot define or measure, we can only note its effects. Where is the body of scholarship within the needle trades itself to support this claim? We document everything. We write about mind boggling minutiae -on my site alone there are thousands of entries on arcane and possibly subjective matters as to the preferred sort of pencil to use when tracing patterns, does one cut a line away or leave it, whether one should use waxed vs colored paper to separate plies of a spread or the proper psi setting to adhere substrates -yet nowhere is any material, symposium, documentation, instruction, seminars, curriculum et cetera on the pivotal matter as to how to go about effectively “vanity sizing” one’s products to elicit greatest efficacy. Were the practice to exist as it is commonly believed, there would be volumes, millions of words on the practice. Yet, there are none. Where are the bodies? It must leave some evidence of its passage through the mores of our institutional landscape. Are we to suppose in these heady days of transparency, the inculcation and instruction of methods of vanity sizing remains an arcane blood secret amongst practitioners? Where exists the trade literature, the consultants, the mercenary service providers to instruct the proper ways to do this? They do not exist. Continue reading The phlogistonists of vanity sizing

Designer fashions are sized smaller than mass market clothes

Andy provides a delightful twist for today’s foray on my favorite subject. He wrote:

Now purchasing an amazing swimsuit at 70% off at the Marc Jacobs store at the very tip end of the season in Provincetown (as in January 1, which honestly I don’t think counts as late summer in anyone’s book), assuming of course that you are vacationing in the actual winter months of January through June in the northern hemisphere, means that you are indeed a la mode. In fact, Marc Jacob’s habit of “manity sizing”, the opposite of “vanity sizing” where a designer makes a garment larger than the actual size so you think you are smaller than you are, makes all those squats seem to have paid off when you can barely squeeze your thigh through the leg openings which were obviously fit on Kate Moss on a coke binge.

He’s packed so many delectable topics into one small paragraph that I don’t know where to start. I feel like I’m first in line at the world’s largest chocolate and fudge buffet with a TV tray on wheels. Gathering my wits, here are the concepts specific to this purchase as it relates to our hero’s dissatisfaction:

  1. (the presumption of) end of season goods
  2. purchased in a resort town
  3. Marc Jacobs swimsuit at 70%
  4. the suit is “too small” for the designated size

Here’s my summary conclusion: Yes Andy, high end designers (not just Marc Jacobs) do the opposite of “vanity sizing” in that their garments are sized smaller than average mass market goods of the “same” size. I’m so glad you noticed. Now I’ll dissect it for anyone who wants to read it all (apparel producers are advised to).
Continue reading Designer fashions are sized smaller than mass market clothes

Interview: Why have retailers changed clothing sizes?

What follows is a portion of an email conversation I’m having with a reporter from a national radio program who is interviewing me for a story about the issues of clothing size changes in the US. I have only selected tiny portions of her emails because I don’t have permission. What I’ve copied/pasted won’t do her any injury.
National Radio Program Reporter (hereafter NRP) wrote:

Why have retailers changed the actual sizes?

First, technically speaking, retailers don’t change sizes. I realize consumers often use retailer and manufacturer interchangeably and it didn’t use to be a problem because it was easy to sort the functions of each. However, now there is a lot of blurring between the two so it is not so simple. These days retailers also manufacture (or private label or push manufacture like GAP etc) and some manufacturers have gone into retailing. Point is, retail isn’t technically “the boss” of sizing changes but they have sufficient influence to persuade their supplier manufacturers to do it. The buck stops with the manufacturer. So, in a simpler age, the better question may have been, “why have manufacturers changed the actual sizes”. And I’ll answer that, promise. Continue reading Interview: Why have retailers changed clothing sizes?

Mikaela Pronk: Vanity Sizing

Courtesy of Mikaela Pronk’s post detailing her research on the subject of vanity sizing comes these clarifications.

I spent all the weeks of the project researching and making graphs

The practice of culling Google for anecdotal reports from individuals and journalists, the gathering of selective excerpts taken out of context to conform to one’s preconceived ideas is better known as confirmation bias. Qualified research is another animal entirely. Mikaela is not to take offense at my observation. Students such as she are led in practice and performance by their instructors -and academics on this subject can be the most felonious contributors of all.

60 years ago the American government created guidelines for women’s clothing sizes. The measurements were taken from women in the military during World War II. The women were fit military women, which is one reason why the average women of today seem so much larger or more overweight than the measurements of the women back then.

Not exactly. An anthropometric survey was initiated by Sheldon in the mid to late 1930’s and subsequently facilitated by the US Dept of Agriculture. The so called Sheldon study aka PS 42-70 of women’s body sizes in the 1940’s did not create guidelines for clothing sizes although this was the intended and arguably cursory result of the survey. Also, the participants were civilians, mostly white unmarried women who lived in or near land grant universities with agricultural extension offices. But yes, women from predominately rural areas were more fit than urban women then as it is likewise true today.

However, the only branch of the US government to create guidelines for women’s clothing sizes is the US Navy but this wasn’t done until the early 90’s. While this data set is limited to admittedly fitter women, it is the only taxpayer funded survey conducted by qualified anthropometrists. It is a nice data set, very high quality and available for purchase ($23). Continue reading Mikaela Pronk: Vanity Sizing