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