Clothing Sizes Are Broken

Updated: Jan 25



No matter who you are. No matter where you shop. No matter your style. We all face the same unsolvable problem of clothing sizing. The problem is universal whether you are skinny, short, curvy, or muscular. Size numbers rarely reflect an accurate fit and more often seem to be arbitrary.

I can try a top, dress, and a sweater of the same size from the same brand, and each one will fit differently. How is this possible?

The standardized sizing does not fit all. We are all unique with different curves, proportions, and body types. It is simply impossible to fit into a size that guides a selection based only on three inputs: bust, waist, and hip sizes.


If You Are Struggling, You Are Not Alone


It all started with the 1941 study of women's sizes, bodies, and clothing. The study's goal was to create a universal size chart, but the study had a few significant flaws. The researchers focused on white women who, at the time, worn girdles under their clothes. Measurements taken during the study were based on hourglass shapes created by girdles.

At the time, the research could not have possibly accounted for the diverse population that the United States now has. Today's bodies, shapes, proportions, and types do not fit into the size chart created by the 1941 study.

"[J]ust 8 percent of women in the US have true hourglass shapes," Anyone with a body knows that clothing sizes are flawed. Could there be a fix? by Tracy Robey, Vox.


Promising Solutions


Vanity Sizing

Many brands decided to find a workaround for the problematic size chart. They created size charts specific to their targeted audience - vanity sizing. While it is an attractive solution, it is not THE solution.

The idea of vanity sizes has a few shortcomings:

  • A customer must be aware of a different sizing standard;

  • A customer must know his/her measurements or be able to measure himself/herself accurately;

  • Arbitrary numbers might not be to a customer's liking causing him/her not to shop with a brand.

If the size problem was not big enough, a design causes additional confusion. Clothes featuring loose, oversized, or tight design would fit differently even if you ordered your proper size. The body's curves and proportion will decide how material drapes, flows, and hugs one's curves.


High-Tech

The hope comes from the high-tech industry. The fashion industry is in dire need of high-tech disruptions, whether production, sourcing, manufacturing, or sizing.

One hope is a 3-D body scan. Body scan has a considerable potential to alter the fashion industry and make sure brands create more inclusive options. But it is not perfect. The 3-D technology faces some obstacles. The scanner technology does the job, but a customer might not love what he/she sees, refusing to believe the scan results.

Measuring one's body with 3-D technology is only a first step. Then there is a question of manufacturing. Creating clothes with specific measurements might not be as simple as it sounds. The style and design changes, and even if it fits, the garment does not look the same as advertised anymore.


A good example is a start-up, Zozo. The company hoped to break into custom-designed clothing with its fit suits that measured different points on one's body. But unfortunately, proper measurements were only a part of the puzzle.

"The problem came when doing more with those measurements other than wondering how you came to be so asymmetrical; customers said that the "custom" Zozo clothing didn't fit and took forever to ship ... Zozo pulled out of the US and Europe in April 2019." Anyone with a body knows that clothing sizes are flawed. Could there be a fix? by Tracy Robey, Vox.


What Can We Do Now?


There are few things that we as a consumer can do to mitigate the sizing problem.

  • Avoid fast fashion

Fast fashion brands are the worst when it comes to fit. The brands are in the mass market business, trying to appeal to the most significant customer base.

  • Know your heroes

Finding brands that work for your body will take time, trials, errors, but it will also bring you joy, satisfaction, satisfaction, and confidence. Once you zero in on a handful of brands that work for your body, you will be that much happier with your purchases.

  • Order multiple sizes

If you are trying out a new brand or unsure how a design will fit, order multiple sizes to find the best match. And yes, it sounds wasteful, but in return, you will find the best size match, and this brand just might become your new hero.

  • Consider design

When reviewing an item, pay close attention to the style. How does it fit, snug or loose? Does a material stretch? Often designs that are slim or tight offer little room to maneuver.

  • Ignore size labels

Although the sizing chart could be helpful, do not get hung up on the actual size numbers. These are arbitrary numbers created by a software algorithm or outdated studies. The sizing chart is a mere guide that offers a glimpse of light into a black hole.

The clothing size chart is outdated and the most frustrating. There is no quick solution, and, for now, we have to learn how to live with it—paying attention to one's body, knowing what designs work, and critically analyzing before purchasing is the best course of action.

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