How big (or small) is large?

It's no secret that clothing sizes are somewhat random. Although I do mostly wear one size (let's say X), I do own several pairs of pants in size Y, and several in size W. Furthermore, even in the same brand, all pairs of size X pants are not the same size. Finding clothes is pretty much a crap shoot- and I'm lucky. I wear "standard" size clothing- I don't have to try and find the one "plus-size" item crumpled at the back of the rack, nor am I exceptionally tall or exceptionally curvy.

Turns out people with eating disorders aren't the only ways getting annoyed and frustrated at this. A new survey of people from Norway, Sweden, and Finland shows dissatisfaction with the non-standardized clothing sizes.

The report shows that the sizing systems used today are perceived as confusing and varied by consumers. The results of the measurements of the trousers support this as they show enormous variations between and within clothing sizes. Trousers labeled as size L can in some cases even be smaller than trousers labeled as size S. The variations are greater for women's trousers than for men's trousers, especially women's trousers in big sizes. Despite this, the report shows that there are few systematic variations between sizes and size labeling that can be referred to the country of origin of the clothing make, the producing country, or general differences between the Nordic countries. The exception is shops aimed at young women, in which the trousers were slightly smaller than they were in shops for adult customers...

...Improved knowledge about the link between the body, clothes and size labeling will make it easier for consumers to find clothes that fit and thereby also reduce the number of incorrect purchases. This knowledge is also important in relation to current discussions on body weight and body ideals.

Which poses the exact question I had when I initially started reading the press release: how would you standardize clothing sizes? And how would our culture's fear of obesity and love of thinness play into this? What about vanity sizing?

Any thoughts?

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Sarah said...

I rarely leave comments as I never feel like I have anything worthwhile to say but I have talked about this subject with quite a few of my friends!

I think there should be an internationally equal sizing for ALL clothes: metric measurements.

Yes, this would mean Americans would have to learn their metric measurements, but we could make things SO much easier for ourselves if we just standardized everything!

I, too, am of "average" size and can buy mostly X's (but have some W's and some Y's) but even my X's from the same brand don't all fit the same! (Actually, my fat pants and my perfect pants are the same size AND same brand! How dumb is that?)

Maybe we'll eventually get our wishes and buying clothes will become easier. Or maybe we'll wake up and have to have five different sizes in our closets forever!

Tiptoe said...

I thought a lot of places already do vanity sizing? I don't know if it makes me feel any better, though of course that is the purpose!

As for standardizing, there would have to be a standard unit of measurement which might be difficult since the makers of clothing all have a different opinions on what sizes should be. I could see a big debate about what is considered "normal."

Off topic, but In general, there are so many areas of life where standardization would be important. One that comes to mind off the top of of my head are labs!

Libby said...

I'm not sure that my brain would feel good about it no matter what! You'd think that it'd be a lot easier if things were labeled like men's clothing with the actual measurements... but I know from shopping with my guy that that's not even a complete solution. Shirts are pretty reliable, but he can be either +1 or -1 in pants, depending on the style. And I think I'd freak out at having to know my exact measurements... Though knowing an approximate size shouldn't be that much different, huh?

I think ultimately, some kind of measurement system across designers would be helpful. Numbers that were less arbitrary would make shopping simpler. I think that's a separate issue, though, from feeling good or bad about shopping. At least in my brain, the judgment on shopping is going to have to stem from improved body image, I think.

Anonymous said...

I hate vanity sizing ... I'm still struggling with anorexia, and it is more and more difficult to find adult clothing that is small enough. All the former "small" sizes are now equivalent to two or three or even more sizes larger. Whenever I hear a Biggest Loser participant talk about wearing a size x right now ... and knowing their weight (since it is broadcast to the world), I think there is either no way that she wears a size x ... or size x has "grown" a lot.

It leaves me looking in the junior or childrens' department, and the styles aren't appropriate ... nor does it underscore recovery-oriented living to be shopping there (as an adult far past the junior years).

Furthermore, vanity-sizing just feeds my disordered thinking and anxiety/obsessionality, because I can no longer count on clothing being a reassuring measure of stability, OK'ness ... just another thing to freak out about. And, I tend to think, even if I'm buying minus-x sizes, I "reason" that I'm not really that small or underweight because everyone knows the sizes are inflated and not accurate. Leaving me thinking it's either OK or not so bad if I lose weight ... or even a trigger to do so. Just to make sure. Just like stepping on a scale. Not that it should be that way, but ... nonetheless ... my experience/two-cents' worth.

Kim said...

Oh, how I hate clothes/shopping/sizing! It messes with the head. Doesn't help that I'm very tall (almost 6 feet). NOTHING fits.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I guess I'm odd but I can't get worked up over this. I just pick something up off a rack and look at it, and if it looks as though it will fit, I try it on. I know sizes vary, and I have about 4 of them in my wardrobe, but so what?


Carrie Arnold said...

I've found a way around the problem by sticking to a few brands that I know fit me well. I'm average height (a schooch under 5'5"), but I have super short legs, so I have to shop in the petite's department.

It's not the number per se that irritates me- I'd just like to be able to reliably find stuff that has a chance of fitting. It's a pain to have to grab a bazillion different sizes when I go shopping.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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