Size is Just a (Shifty) Number

Have you ever wondered why there seem to be no standard sizes in fashion? A size 6 in one store will be a size 4 in another, and an 8 in another still. What gives? The problem has become so pronounced that malls are offering full body scans to let shoppers know what size they are by brand to ease shopping. As it turns out, there are standard sizes, but each size is affected by 1) the specific cut of the garment, for example how low or high the waist falls and the diameter of the blouse (some garments are made to be loose), 2) It’s country of origin (sizing in Europe has remained the same over the years, but changed in America), 3) Manufacturer’s fear of consumer’s weight insecurities which leads them to tamper with the numbers.

weight gain shoppingThe major thing that’s responsible for the shifty number you see on labels is the predominance of “vanity sizing” in North America, which only happens at the mid-to-low price range level. The idea is that when a woman comes into a store looking for something nice (but affordable) to wear, only to realize that she is not the size 6 she has believed all along, but actually a size 10. This realization will then shake her so much that she will run out of the store in tears without having made any purchases. So manufacturers tweak the numbers.

Between 1984 and 2012 there is a waist measurement variation of two inches for any one size. The size 8 of 1984 has a waist of 25.5 inches, while today the same size 8 has 27.5 inches. A woman with a 32 inch bust line would be a size 14 in the 30s, a size 8 in the 60s, and a size 2 today. Interesting this change doesn’t apply to Europe, and to high-end products which have kept the old “large” sizes. We’re not sure what the connection is between sizing fidelity and luxury brands, but there you have it. Perhaps as the marketing gods see it, rich women are simply less insecure about wearing a size 12. Or maybe when you have enough money you pay as little heed to the number of your dress size, as the number on the price tag. Something to think about…

Image by Rachell Smith featuring plus-size model Naomi Shimada

Natalia Borecka

Natalia is the editor in chief and publisher of Lone Wolf Magazine. She founded the publication in 2012.

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