Several years ago, I was chatting with two other colleagues, both pattern makers like me. As usual, we were talking shop and snipe about our respective current and past employers. One girl said to the other in passing “your company vanity sizes.” In the conspiratorial and congenial atmosphere such as it was — telling all, the dirtiest of dirt, such as whose employer liked to get spanked (mine) — there was no reason to deny if one’s employer vanity sized yet my colleague did just that. She also said “you’re one to talk, your company does it too” which was likewise denied and so it went. My firm was next accused of the same nefarious practice. None of us worked for vanity sizing employers yet we each initially believed the other did. We were collectively mollified with the respective explanation of “we size to our customer.” Ah so. Yes of course.
Mention vanity sizing amid a crowd of garmentos and the inevitable reaction is a collective sigh and rolling of eyes because even most garmentos believe it exists. I did too. But one on one, you’ll get a different reaction. Ask any garmento if he or she vanity sizes and they will deny it — genuinely, not defensively. They can give you demographic and regional data along with rational explanations of how they size to their customer. We each have different customers, they are not the same. A clear example is uniforms production. If one manufacturer makes gymnast uniforms, they will be sized smaller comparatively than uniforms for high school football players. Each manufacturer makes a garment that fits the average of their respective customer. Now, the average gymnast might try on the average football uniform and claim it is vanity sized but this is wholly inappropriate and the wrong context. Just because the gymnast has the money and desire to buy product that was not intended or designed for them does not mean it is valid to pronounce the football uniform to be vanity sized.
This is why you will hear, see or read interviews from designers and practitioners in the trade who will agree the practice exists yet when it is suggested they do it themselves, will deny it. They emphatically deny it because they are being absolutely truthful. We each size to our customer. The size of our customer varies according to interests, economics, lifestyle etc. No two customer profiles are the same. A customer is free to decide at the point of sale whether they will be our customer but we decided and designed for a customer well before then and the two may not be one and the same.
Anyway, this is when I began to suspect that vanity sizing as a concept did not exist. Collectively we assert its truth. Individually we deny it. It is not what we do. On this site I will explain why vanity sizing does not exist — which does not mean something really screwy is not going on with sizing because it is — but we can’t fix the problems if we can’t agree what the problems really are.
I have a google alert set for vanity sizing to keep abreast of all the abject silliness entries posted across the web. When I find something particularly egregious, I leave a rebuttal. It has become increasingly difficult to monitor responses and sometimes my comments are deleted because they don’t conform to the blogger’s preconceived notions and confirmation bias. So, I’ve decided to post those here and leave a link to given sites in question.
I plan to post entries detailing all of the considerable research I’ve done on this topic as time permits. Most of that can be found here.
I am a pattern maker and have worked in the trade for three decades. A pattern maker is an archaic job description for a hybrid engineer; encompassing product, materials and industrial engineering. We aren’t as famous as designers, but after management decisions have been made, we have the most pivotal role in the factory (WSJ, Sept 13, I’ll dig out the citation later). We also earn at least twice what designers do. Our work is highly technical, not fashion-y at all. There is no other person — including designers — who is more authoritative on the subject of sizing than a pattern maker. It is quite odd then that journalists and academics rarely consult with them.
Lastly, I majored in economics, not fashion. Suffice to say, I can hold my own when it comes to intellectual rigor. I’m author of a book and have another site that is the most popular in the garment industry and lauded for its technical detail and acumen. I’ve been mentioned in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Washington Post, Boston Globe, LA Times, you name it. I’ve done a great deal of research, analysis and writing on the subject of vanity sizing. Most of that can be found here but will include direct links at the bottom of this page.
I live on a few acres in the hinterlands of New Mexico with my family and a few animals. I really love it here. By the way, if you’re really good at what you do, you don’t have to live in NY or LA because people will come to you. I’m available for consultation and services.
Apparel Technical Services
PO Box 12323
Albuquerque NM 87195-2323
505-877-1713 MST (-7 GMT)
The Myth of Vanity Sizing
Fit and Sizing Entropy
Push manufacturing; subverting the fit feedback loop
Shrinkage and fit
Alternatives in Women’s sizing
Tyranny of tiny sizes?
The history of women’s sizing pt 1
The history of women’s sizing pt 2
The history of women’s sizing pt 3
Sizing is a variety problem
The birth of size 10?
Vanity sizing shoes
Tyranny of tiny sizes pt.2
Vanity sizing: generational edition
Vanity sizing: generational edition pt.2
Vanity sizing: the consumer spending edition