Saturday, November 17, 2007

Some Things You Ought to Know

Have you ever wondered why you can go into Banana Rebuplic and you fit their size 4, but then go to, I don't know some other mall store, and you fit their size 2?

Well here is the reason:
Each clothing brand has its own "fit model" which is a certain size that they base all their patterns on. This fit model is usually based on their "target customer" (the ideal customer that they are trying to sell to) One brand might be designing for basketball players, or for older women, or for dancers, so within each of these groups there might be similiar body types, but between them there aren't many. Thus, there must be different sizing variations for each group or brand

And that's not all, sizing has also changed as time has. For example, you can buy a vintage dress or pattern and the size you might normally wear is usually smaller than the size on the vintage item or pattern.

While this may get annoying for the individual buyer, it is actually better for the whole industry of ready-to-wear clothing. It is a lot more difficult, however, to buy your typical size while shopping online. Which is why on a lot of vintage sites they will size their clothes according to actual measurements (i.e. 34" bust, 26" waist, 36" hips.) Some sites also provide a measuring chart which is the same thing, they just give the actual measurements a size (i.e. 2, 4, 6; sm, md, lg)

So, it is very important to know your measurements, and how to take them properly. Especially the three main ones: bust, waist, and hips. I will be posting a tutorial with photos on how to do so very soon.

1 comment:

Kathleen Fasanella said...

Each company has its own "fit model" which is a certain size that they base all their patterns on. For example, some mall store will have their "size 4" an arbitrary nubmer that means: 34" bust, 24" waist, 35" hips. Then all of their patterns are graded (sized up or down) from those measurements. Meanwhile the other store's "size 4" is 33" bust, 25" waist, and 35" hips. The combinations are endless.

Each company has its own fit model who is the ideal amalgamation of their ideal customer. Actually, it's that each BRAND within a stable of labels owned by a company, will have a fit model based on the demography of the customer who buys it. Ralph Lauren's couture line size 4 runs "truer to size" because this demography is thinner than the customer buying RL Sport (resort gift shops, outlet malls, heavier customers shopping for the RL label but can't afford the core product with cache). If RL didn't size their couture line smaller (as compared to the less expensive broad consumer line), RL's core customer could not wear their clothes.

Product lines are highly targeted to given demographies; I think much of this nuance is lost on consumers today in the advent of mass marketing and a shot gun approach to hitting one's retail stride. If you research niche product lines, it'll be more obvious. To whit, the sizes 2, 4, 6, etc for ballerinas are much smaller than the sizes 2, 4, 6 etc for western wear barrel racers. The sizes for ballerinas are attenuated to that specific market. The same applies to the equestrian market. Both are valid. The smallest ballerinas can find what they need and vice versa.

And that's not all. . . Because women always want to be thinner they have come up with "vanity sizing." Which means changing that arbitrary size 10 to an arbitrary size 8, or 6.

Brace yourself, but vanity sizing is an urban myth. It's a cognitive strategy to simplistically explain the convoluted practices behind the curtain. Rather, sizing is evolutionary. It's a social construct that "grows" along with us. The evidence is also apparent in furniture and building design. For example, Doorways are higher and wider than they were in the middle ages and chairs are wider too.

So if you have ever bought a vintage dress, or pattern the sizes (that is to say the little number given to the size of the garment) you will notice it is often times 1 or 2 sizes bigger than your size.

Actually, this proves sizing evolution. We are sizing to an ever increasing median. Also, sizing numbers did not used to be arbitrary. Prior to the advent of commercial patterns (pre WW2), and the increasing clout of retail catering to the masses, sizing numbers meant something. The numbers indicated an archaic heuristic devised by pattern makers, it was simply called "scale". Sizes correlated to scale on the back of an L-Square. I'm sure you have one, haven't you ever been curious what those were for? It's an historical artifact. I don't know anyone today who still knows how to use those. You can still see evidence of drafting to "scale" in vintage drafting books by Rohr. A size 14 was quite small, but you'd draft a size 14 by aligning the measures (a scale of aliquot parts) of the scale 14. This meant nothing to consumers. You couldn't double 14 to get 28 and expect that to equivocate to a bust measure, thus meaning of the numbers was wrested from those who drafted and designed, into the hands of retailers. If the numbers are now arbitrary, you can't blame pattern makers.

There's also the pressure of the "norm". Retailers want all of the size 10's they carry from various manufacturers to be roughly equivalent. I call this "size inflation". A manufacturer can stubbornly resist upgrading their sizing scale but consumers tire of it; they expect all the size tens to be roughly equivalent. Therefore, a manufacturer may be forced to increase their sizing rather than risk reduced sales. Sure, one can be stubborn and hold out, but after a period of time, the line will be described as "running small" and surely, their former size ten becomes an eight. Unfortunately, the situation is one of entropy. Things progressively get worse rather than improve. As consumers become increasingly obese, sizing inflation will increase rather than decrease. If people started losing weight overnight, you'd see the reverse. Part of this is due to marker making. Marker making is too complex to describe here but if you're interested in the business, you may want to read some of the (ten separate) entries on "vanity sizing" on my blog at .