Tyranny of tiny sizes?

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Dec 29, 2005 at 11:20 am / Fit and Sizing / Trackback

In yet another twist to the “is there such a thing as vanity sizing” debate, Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution mentions that -in at least Argentina- vanity sizing is obviously not the case. Rather, it seems that clothing is too small.

Some government leaders in Argentina have an answer. They have passed a controversial law designed to break what they see as the tyranny of tiny sizes. Starting Dec.21, Buenos Aires province, which includes the capital’s glitzy suburbs but not the fashion-forward city itself, will require shops catering to adolescent girls to stock clothing in a minimum range of sizes roughly equivalent to sizes 6 to 16 in the U.S.

Provincial inspectors will scrutinize merchants’ clothing racks, “tape measure in hand,” says Ana Serrano, the province’s director of commerce and designated sizing sheriff. Shops that don’t have the prescribed sizes in stock will face fines of up to $170,000.

Tyler’s post is based on the Wall Street Journal article of November 26th which I can’t locate in their archives (I’ll update this post once I can find a link if one of you doesn’t beat me to it). He closes with the observation that it “would be [interesting] to outline the underlying (implicit) theory of market failure here”. You can read Tyler’s post here. Indirectly it would seem that vanity sizing is obviously not a problem -at least not in Argentina. Rather, it seems the reverse is more likely; sizes haven’t evolved to fit the average consumer of that marketplace. In a similar vein, I will include links to all of my prior protests on the vanity sizing debate at close.


Here is the comment I posted on his blog (you’ll have to read the post and the existing comments for context) in response:

Boy, I’m used to hearing from US women that clothing is oversized as in vanity sizing. While I don’t agree with that assertion (really long story, I write a lot about that) I find it rather arrogant that a government has decided apparel sizing is something to be determined by legislative process. Excuse me? Even if I decided to cut only size 0′s and 2′s, my business is not a democracy. If my clothes don’t fit, don’t buy them. I’ll go out of business soon enough without sufficient consumers “voting” for my product.

Some details don’t translate well into larger sizes. It’s hard enough to produce regular sizes well, without being compelled to cut for people who often do not have the discretionary income to buy my products anyway. So what’s next? Legislated price points? While I do agree there is some market failure here in that needs are obviously not being met, that doesn’t mean that I should be compelled to meet them. I’d reiterate what Maria said above, for many businesses, it doesn’t make sense to enter the large size market.

However, I’d disagree that the market failure can be reduced to the failure to charge different prices for clothing even in the average size range. The fixed costs of producing apparel don’t change enough between the usual scale of sizing (6-16) to warrant pricing differently for it. To whit, producing children’s clothing which uses a lot less fabric than adult’s, it is just as costly to make patterns, markers, cut, label, sort, sew, inspect, inventory and package -as it is for adult apparel. If you want the apparel equivalent of a “happy meal” or a child’s menu, you’ll have to consider the diminished quality and input trade-offs as well.

Amended:
Please refer to the other articles in this series which offer substantive supporting material. Add to the discussion rather than backtracking to topics discussed elsewhere. It is likely that the exceptions you’ve thought of have been dissected in depth. For your convenience, links open in a new window or tab.

The Myth of Vanity Sizing
Fit and Sizing Entropy
Push manufacturing; subverting the fit feedback loop
Sizing evolution
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

32 Responses to “Tyranny of tiny sizes?”

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Mike C
December 29th, 2005
1:37 PM

This is nothing more than the Full Employment and Bribery Encouragement Act for Provincial Inspectors.

Sophia
December 30th, 2005
12:21 AM

Hello I just found out about this website and I love it. I am a designer myself and I love making very detailed patterns and garments I worked for a custom corset company and we made sizes for everyone. I am beginning my own line of high end fashion clothing with a more extended size range. Why because I am “plus size” but I love designer clothing I also look better in them than most of the waifs being shown in them. I can make pretty much anything from Bras, corsets and elaborately cut and constructed garments. Because I like doing it. I also work for the best consignment shop around and see every kind of clothing from Old Navy to actual couture embroidered evening gowns. So I know very quickly how things change and how they sell, and which ones are made well.

I have to say some things about “vanity sizing” First I do know it exist, but not in the way being presented. Many “top” designers today have resized their clothing to an unreasonable fit. Yes, rich tend to be thinner (I see a lot of very wealthy slender women and the emaciated daughters) but they have been slowing going to an extreme. Many companies like Marc Jacobs, (whom I know to be a very good man, and have a very good company to work for) Chloe and Zac Posen, and young upstart that everyone has been clinging to his every move, have been three of the biggest protagonist. If you log on to http://www.neimanmacus.com and check out the new “modern sizing guild” and many of them only now go to a size 10. You will see that the sizing has been reduced to an extreme that is now having a huge back lash. Many of Marc’s and Chloe clothing never made it out of the store since it did not fit the majority of the women who can afford it. they made them so small that only the emaciated of VERY petite could wear them.

I have from experience seen the cut become so ridiculous that a grown woman in her early 20′s who has no children and has never seen fat much less eaten it, cannot fit them, not only have the bust and waist been reduced by a 1/2 inch but the hip and a whopping 1″ in some cases. The theory behind this is that more women are working out, if that is so why are they not fitting also in the torso, and across the back. If women are working out more to stay slim to fit into smaller clothes it really does not work. Your back gets wider, your waist becomes more solid and thicker, your hips may reduce, but you rear and thighs will increase as well. So their idea is not working and alienation the customers they wish to keep as well as gain. Also I read a report the head of the NPD, National Purchasing Dairy about Plus Sized clothing market.

The head of NPD said that during the huge dip in the fashion industry, I think it was a three year decrease in sales, the plus sized market has seeing a huge gain and the largest it had seen in decades. Plus Sizes were selling like hot cakes and the average purchase price was increasing. When the Head of NPD approached a very well known American designer (did not say which one) to ask him why do you not create an extended size range line you can make really good sales, It is a growing market. The designers response was that he could not, it would hurt his “image”

So actually the vanity was not that of the customer, but that of the image of the designer. Now I understand that designers have an image to up hold, but I guess making women look and feel beautiful in clothing is not one of them.

As for the Buenos Aires issue you do not have all the facts. I was appalled to read

“While I don’t agree with that assertion (really long story, I write a lot about that) I find it rather arrogant that a government has decided apparel sizing is something to be determined by legislative process. Excuse me? Even if I decided to cut only size 0′s and 2′s, my business is not a democracy. If my clothes don’t fit, don’t buy them. ”

First off this is an issue of not sizing, My god they only make ONE size, in fact they have young women standing at the door to send any one who will not fit in to the ONE size to away saying “don’t come we have nothing to fit you” How can someone be so… I won’t say! This is actually a good thing they are trying to stop a very hurtful form of social abuse of women and young girls. You have to remember South America is the capitol of plastic surgery, and working out, if you do not get your face done, and spend 4 hours a day at the gym, you are ugly. The Government see this as a way to encourage who their young women feel about them selves (they also have a high suicide rate) by making retailers cater to them as people.
It is not the fashion police, it has nothing to do with who can afford the clothes. They make only one size if you can’t fit you have nothing to wear, and this is not just one store, but most stores.

“Some details don’t translate well into larger sizes. It’s hard enough to produce regular sizes well, without being compelled to cut for people who often do not have the discretionary income to buy my products anyway. ”

First off if you cannot get your details to translate well into a large size you do not know what you are doing. I have made varying garments from corsets to full on historical costumes, to the most classic of suits. For 3 1/2 ‘ midget with one side 1′ higher than the other, to women who have a 60″ + waist, to men wanting to LOOK like women. and I can honestly say ALL but a VERY few details translated well on all sizes and shapes.

” While I do agree there is some market failure here in that needs are obviously not being met, that doesn’t mean that I should be compelled to meet them. I’d reiterate what Maria said above, for many businesses, it doesn’t make sense to enter the large size market. ”

If it doesn’t make sense for business to enter one of the fasted growing markets plus/extened size market then who will? Since the average woman is a size 16, why is not the average size, med a size 16? I know mine is. I am not talking about making patterns fro every kind of body, but you can use three body type and create a full extension of sizes and they will have a flattering fit. But I also make size 4 and up to size 26. If I can do it any strong pattern maker who cares to fit people not dress forms can as well.

I know mine is.

christy fisher
December 30th, 2005
8:32 AM

Amen.. and thank you! Well written and I totally agree. My median size is 12.
I have loathed the arrogance of designers whose maximum sizing is a 10.
It’s really stupid marketing on their part.

Kathleen
December 30th, 2005
8:48 AM

You say you “love” this website yet you go on to describe me as both incompetent and ignorant -so what’s to love?

Perhaps you missed this point I made:
sizes haven’t evolved to fit the average consumer of that marketplace.

Now, just because they are there, does this mean I should be compelled to meet the demands of the heavy women in the market? I’d think not. There, as here, those women should begin to produce clothing for themselves if they are dissatisfied with size selection and price. As it is, there are clothes to fit women in that market but the clothing is more expensive so I think the real debate here is whether I should be compelled to produce clothing at a price they’re willing to pay. As I said, what’s next -legislated price points?

Cutting apparel for larger sizes is more expensive and requires additional infrastructure such as fit models and the like. Compelling me to bear the additional costs of fitting this market simply raises the bar of admittance into the world of manufacturing. As it is, it’s costly enough to get into this business. According to your argument, I and others like me should be compelled to meet these additional costs before we can even consider becoming manufacturers. Now that definitely sounds like tyranny to me.

Lastly, I find it inappropriate to describe a woman who’s made a priority of staying in shape to be labeled as “anorexic”. I am not. I am offended that my commitments to self-discipline are reduced in such a simplistic fashion. “Beauty bashing” says more about the person doing it than the one it’s being used against.

Mike C
December 30th, 2005
10:23 AM

Cutting apparel for larger sizes is more expensive and requires additional infrastructure such as fit models and the like. Compelling me to bear the additional costs of fitting this market simply raises the bar of admittance into the world of manufacturing. As it is, it’s costly enough to get into this business. According to your argument, I and others like me should be compelled to meet these additional costs before we can even consider becoming manufacturers. Now that definitely sounds like tyranny to me.

Amen to that.

We actually spent a great deal of product development time trying to come up with a modest collection to serve the plus-size market.

The trouble was that even with similar body shape (e.g. “apple”) and bust/waist/hip measurements, we found that weight was distributed around the body in dramatically different ways. For example, some women had a lot of fat on their bicep/triceps while others were fairly lean there. There’s no way to construct a single garment that is going to fit both women correctly. One will be swimming in fabric or the other will be constricted.

To serve the plus size market with the same fit and flatter as we serve the standard market, we would have had to create a significantly larger line than we’d hoped. That took the cost (and more importantly, the risk) profile way out of what we were comfortable with.

When we’re larger and have more resources available, we may revisit the opportunity. In the meantime, its smarter for us to focus on our core competences and not risk the survival of the company on exploring new markets.

A government mandate could not change that simple economic reality. All it could do was increase the happiness and wealth of bureaucrats and activists at the cost of increasing the risk of our business failing while providing exactly nothing to customers.

Gigi
December 30th, 2005
11:15 AM

I personally would love to see an industry wide “size standard”. Sizes vary so greatly that they do not make sense anywhere. An 8 in Jones New York is like a 16 would be in Miss Sixty.
It’s goofy.

Sorry, I disagree. Each manufacturer is gearing their sizing towards their respective customers. You are comparing apples and oranges. The young Miss Sixty customer has a very different shape from the more mature Jones customer. Forcing them to conform to industry-wide sizing standards would put both companies in jeopardy.

Cinnamon
December 30th, 2005
1:25 PM

And this is why I make bags. At least partly.

But as a purchaser of clothing, I would love to have some consistency across lines of clothing. I don’t have the time to shop every store to find a store which fits my body-type and if I could do some research (online even) to find out that a line of clothing is only going to fit a slim-hipped juniors body-type it would save me time and frustration. My dream is to have someone manufacturer women’s pants with the waist, hips, and length measurement clearly displayed. I’d even be fine if the hems were unfinished so I could finish them (or pay to have it done).

Jinjer Markley
December 30th, 2005
4:01 PM

Cinnamon!
You are totally my ideal customer! Please read my post under “were I to Produce a Line” in the discussion forum. I really want your feedback…

Alison Cummins
December 31st, 2005
3:59 PM

This one is so complex we’d really need more information to comment on the particular situation.

I live in Montréal, and RTW in regular stores is either too small or fits me (sort of) in XL. When I go to Target in the US, my size becomes Medium or Large. Not because we have an epidemic of bulimia and anorexia, or because women of size are culturally oppressed, but for many complex reasons.

For one, most Montrealers are of French-Canadian stock and slightly-built. I was average height in my anglophone public schools but when I went to a 60% francophone university I suddenly became tall.

For another, Montreal is very urban (as opposed to suburban) with dense residential/commercial neighbourhoods that are terrific for walking around in. So people walk, and in the summer they bike. The suburban problem of not having anywhere to go that you don’t need a car to get to is not nearly the issue it is in many other cities.

For another, Montreal is a Canadian city. The gap between rich and poor is not as wide as it is in, for instance, Boston. We don’t have “no-go” neigbourhoods; fear of gangsters if you leave your apartment or let your kids play in the street is pretty much a non-issue here. So people don’t hide in their apartments – they get out and move around.

Yes, absolutely, there are large and heavy people in Montreal. But proportionately not that many. The range of sizes available in Montreal clothing stores is perfectly appropriate for the range of sizes of Montrealers. And I have no philosophical problem with an XL here being barely big enough for me – or too small – when an XL in a US Target is too big.

So what *is* the range of sizes of people in Argentina? Is it wider than in other cities? The law is calling for a range of six sizes in stores targeting adolescent girls: that’s quite wide. Is that a punitive bureaucracy at work or is that a realistic assesment of need? If it’s the latter, I can understand why clothing manufacturers are limiting themselves to three or four sizes and focussing on the bulk of the population. Meaning that the top two or three sizes are being neglected.

But the market’s supposed to be taking care of these girls, right? There are supposed to be lines springing up to serve the large market – whether these are fat girls or athletic girls with German bone structure. But there aren’t.

Rather, there are: but in upscale stores, where prices are high. The cheap stores, where the “cash-strapped middle class” (to quote one article I found) shop for disposable clothes for their teenaged daughters, are the ones with a limited size range.

My guess is that the market failure here is that high-priced clothes already exist in large sizes, reducing the incentive to create a line of large-sized clothes at (relatively) high prices.

So the legal intervention here *might* be a necessary way to play with the market forces by requiring all manufacturers of clothing for teenaged girls to produce extended size ranges. Everyone’s prices go up a little. Clothes go from cheap for small girls and expensive for large girls to a little less cheap for both small and large girls. Which *might* (depending on what’s going on in Argentina these days economically and culturally) be the only way most large girls can afford to get dressed at all, short of sewing their own jeans and T-shirts.

But this would only be the case if imports are prohibitively expensive – and I know nothing about that at all.

Susan
January 1st, 2006
10:48 AM

Why is it that it is feasible to sell men’s shirts sized by collar sleeve length in a wide variety of sizes and combinations And men’s pants by length and waist, but it is considered way too complicated to do that for females? Is the bell curve of body sizes/shapes so different for men than women? What? does the male curve look like a shoe box with all sizes evenly distributed and the female counterpart look like the Washington monument with only a limited few in general use and the reset of us are statistical flukes?

Ok, ok, there are the style issues and demands being different between the sexes, but really…

Alison Cummins
January 1st, 2006
11:48 AM

Women’s jeans *are* routinely sold by waist and inseam… then women shop around to find a brand/line/style of jeans that fits them in the hips when the waist and inseam are right.

Men don’t have breasts, so while their dress shirts are sold by neck/sleeve/chest measurements, women’s dress shirts would have to be sold by neck/sleeve/chest/cup size. But women don’t buy nearly as many dress shirts as men, making this a difficult market to serve this way.

I think this is related to the observation that while muscle is relatively evenly distributed, fat is not; and that people’s body shapes grow more divergent the more fat they carry. Women carry more fat then men to begin with, even when we aren’t talking “excess.” But one person carrying an “excess” 50 lbs might be carrying it primarily in the gut and upper arms, someone else might have it evenly distributed everywhere, and another person might have it in their hips. Men tend to carry fat in the gut, but women are not that homogenous.

Kate
January 31st, 2006
12:08 PM

You know, it’s a lot cheaper to build restaurants that only allow access to people who aren’t crippled too. Should we just let the market take care of the pain in the butt customers who are limited to wheelchairs?

deerskin
January 31st, 2006
2:07 PM

Note to Alison
Actually men do have breasts, and plenty of them have developed breasts enough that they could probably wear a bra–they just don’t get the individual treatment that women’s breast do.
Also even though men’s tailored shirts can be sized by neck and sleeve, neck size does not always correspond to chest size. I’ve had to alter plenty of too-large-in-the-chest shirts for relatively slim men with large necks. So the variation, albeit of a different kind, is there in men’s bodies as compared to men’s sizing.
Note to Kate
Generally people that use wheel chairs, for example, don’t like to be referred to as ‘crippled’ because it carries a lot of negative social connotations. Most accept ‘disabled’. Or some like be called wheelies. Although i think your point is a good one.

I just read an article in our local paper that about 30% of the population is overweight or plus sized. So that if you limit your sizes to below, let’s say size 14, then you are limited your market quite a bit. Especially since these larger sized people want to buy fashionable clothing that fits them.

I’ve fit a lot of different sized folks and i don’t find that people who are ‘fat’ or ‘fluffy’ have any greater variation in where they carry their weight than thinner folks. Some people have butts, some don’t, some hips, some none etc. This is whether they weigh 105 or 205. The challenge in fitting folks with more soft flesh is that you have to compensate in size for flesh being maluable. But some of my larger clients have been the easiest to fit, particularly in terms of valuing my work.
Oh, and although petite can mean size small, when applied to a sizing class it refers to women who are shorter than usually about 5’2″ not matter what height-weight proportion they are.

Fashion-Incubator
July 23rd, 2006
5:23 PM

Push manufacturing; subverting the fit feedback loop

“Push” manufacturing can be described as producing an entire line of products without pre-selling and taking orders for it. This means making up a bunch of stuff without knowing if anybody wants it beforehand. In my opinion, push manufacturing is…

Cecily
August 30th, 2007
8:01 PM

There is all of this hullabuloo about sizing, and I’m curious, do we really need sizes? I buy about three-quarters of my clothing at thrift stores, and I rarely look at the tags because the number varies so much based on brand and the year the piece was made. I just hold it up, and if it looks like it’ll fit, I try it on. Is this a reasonable way for everyone to shop, or do I just have more patience for shopping than most?

I realized that this might be a problem for mail-order clothing, but then realized that they could just list the measurements. It might make them more accurate, too. Once I wanted a pair of pants from Victoria’s Secret. I measured myself and ordered a size 8 because that’s what my measurements were with the tape measure held loosely around my waist and the widest part of my hips. The pants were enormous, so I sent them back and ordered a size 2, which fit perfectly.

criss
July 25th, 2008
7:59 PM

I think there’s something else going on here, namely that manufacturers are unwilling to dress larger women because they don’t want to be associated with larger women. They want their clothes to be “modeled” (worn out in the world) only by women whose bodies are “acceptable” and fat isn’t acceptable.

So yes, I think if necessary there should be legislation against that. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.

And I don’t get how you said there’s not much cost difference between making a 6 and a 16, then turned around and said it would raise the barrier to entry too high if manufacturers had to figure out how to make larger sizes? Maybe you haven’t noticed, but there is already an upcharge for plus sizes if a given garment comes in both regular and plus, and sometimes another upcharge between 2x-ish and 3x-ish sizes.

Kathleen
July 26th, 2008
8:30 AM

…manufacturers are unwilling to dress larger women because they don’t want to be associated with larger women. They want their clothes to be “modeled” (worn out in the world) only by women whose bodies are “acceptable” and fat isn’t acceptable.

Since I grew up morbidly obese at a time when kids didn’t and didn’t lose it until I was an adult, I am more than familiar with the inner memes of the fat acceptance movement. The reality is, the existence of the fat conspiracy meme is unknown to most manufacturers. It doesn’t enter their heads, so how can they care or not care? They want to make money. I can think of at least twenty good economic reasons they don’t want to make clothes for heavy women, “acceptable” having the least to do with it. What’s acceptable for them is making money. If they thought they could make money making clothes for you, they’d do it. It’s nothing personal. Why do people always think this is something personal? It’s not.

Another thing. You’re heavy, that’s what you think about. However, there’s plenty of tiny women out there who are saying the exact opposite, that there aren’t enough clothes to fit them and manufacturers are discriminating against them too. Either way, we’re guilty. The issue being, both really small and really large people are outside of the average of the sizing spectrum. That’s reality. Therefore, you’re better off shopping labels that specialize in the upper ranges and vice versa for little people.

So yes, I think if necessary there should be legislation against that. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.

Soo…if it isn’t illegal to discriminate against the obese in housing, education, jobs, etc, why would you propose going after clothing manufacturers for discrimination first? It doesn’t make sense. No manufacturer is required to make clothes to fit anyone be they Sumo wrestlers or ballerinas, in the size ranges, styles and colors they like and at the price they’re willing to pay. It’s an equal opportunity business, it’s not a democracy. Anyone can start their own line. That’s what this site is for.

And I don’t get how you said there’s not much cost difference between making a 6 and a 16, then turned around and said it would raise the barrier to entry too high if manufacturers had to figure out how to make larger sizes?

You’ve quoted me out of context. In just the most obvious example, how can you not see the difference in fabric use from large to small sizes and expect prices to remain static across the size range?

The issue is -read the other entries- is that one usually can only cut a set range of sizes economically, say five or maybe six sizes total. If the size range becomes too broad, it becomes unwieldy and expensive per additional size cut -even if that size is actually *smaller* than their usual size range. The issue is extending sizes outside their normal range; it has nothing to do with fat when it’s just as likely skinny/tiny. Iow, this isn’t about *you*. It’s nothing personal. Manufacturers would have to care in order for it to be personal and most just don’t.

criss
July 28th, 2008
4:51 PM

First of all, while you clearly know more about the apparel business than I ever will, I should say that I think, when it comes to larger corporations (ie, the stores you know you can find in any mall in the US), you may not understand their marketing people as well as you think. And I’m not even sure those marketing people are wrong–if the slim, image-obsessed fashionable people see me wearing something, they are going to run the other way, so if that’s their main market, a company would do well to avoid dressing me.

That said, I don’t believe we should condone size-ism any more than we should condone racism or sexism or able-ism or any other -ism. The fact that other forms of discrimination are out there and possibly are more hanrmful to people doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and agree not to worry about a particular instance of prejudice.

Women, and especially fat women, ARE in fact discriminated against, so I would say that anyone who wants to be in the business of dressing women should be encouraged to think about dressing a wider variety of women. Perhaps incentives to manufacturers who do have a wider range of sizes would be superior to any legislation requiring it?

As for the expense: You say it is as expensive to make smaller garments as to make larger ones once outside the “normal” range…but I have never, ever, not once, seen a size 0 sell for more than a size 8 in the same garment. I’ve also never seen a size 20 sell for the same price as an 8. Given that there are more fat people than thin people these days, as we all hear so often (the truth of that being entirely another matter I won’t derail your blog with), wouldn’t economies of scale make the 20 more financially prudent to produce?

Tell me you’ve seen an upcharge for extra-small sizes, and I may buy this whole line of reasoning.

Kathleen
July 28th, 2008
5:18 PM

No, they won’t charge more for zeros because maybe their size spread runs the other way, towards the smaller end of the spectrum. OR, it may be that the savings in fabric for the smaller sizes (assuming they broaden their size spread) make up for the deficit. But still, there’s other reasons that plus sizes cost more rather than the obvious fabric issue. It’s not that simplistic.

Larger sizes cost more for a myriad of reasons. One of them being the whole matter of the plus size market. It’s a different class of goods. Not every store carries them. If they do, it’s another buyer of another department. Zeros can be carried on the floor with more “normal” sizes, it’s not a separate buyer.

If you have a plus line, you need sales reps with established relationships with doors and buyers who only deal with plus sizes. The buyer buying the regular sized clothes, is not the plus sized buyer. Also, you need a separate booth in the plus size section at market. Then, there’s marketing in the trade, specific to that market to catch the attention of plus size buyers. It IS like having TWO lines, not one. That’s where the costs come in. Smaller sizes, altho they may be outside of the usual size spread, don’t incur these internal infrastructure costs.

And just because I mention that it’s not illegal to discriminate against fat (or any) women, doesn’t mean no one suggests fat women aren’t discriminated against or that they should be. I still say tho that the proper protests for such problems should be in housing, jobs, education etc because you can’t lobby a manufacturer to make clothes for you. There are tons of people dissatisfied with fit for other valid reasons. I mean, why is it that others must be proactive in addressing discrimination against themselves (petites, tall women, large busted, short men etc) and make clothes for their demography but fat women are passive? Others aren’t passive; taking that stance is akin to entitlement. No one is obligated to make clothes for you. I mean, if you won’t make clothes for you, why should someone else be obligated to do something you won’t do? That’s why I say you should do it yourself. Born of passion, these lines do really well. I’ve got one DE with a plus sized line who’s just launching; she’s a real firecracker. She’s going to knock ‘em dead.

Sanne
February 20th, 2009
4:28 PM

I have found this site a while back, and I think it is really interesting! Most of the time, I understand you and agree with you, but I think the sizing in Argentina is of a whole different level than just vanity sizing. Anorexia is a HUGE problem in Argentina, it’s not the way it is in the US. There are statistically a lot of girls killing themselves over anorexia. I think it is, in fact, good that the Government is going to check on stores that only sell one (teeny tiny) size. These stores will be exactly the stores where every young girl wants to buy her clothes, as it is somewhat exclusive. This will most probably also be the kind of store that only sells very small sizes.

Cat
March 28th, 2009
8:31 AM

Interesting to learn more about clothing manufacturing. However, I believe this size discussion is disingenuous. The clothing makers take their cues from the fashion industry. The fashion industry has been overtaken by what I call the “pedophile priest” brigade. That is, people who think that the apex of feminine beauty is someone who looks like a tall pubescent boy, down to the hairless pubic region. Like the Catholic preisthood, they despise grown, powerful, sexually mature women.

Let’s say you win the genetic lottery for our present era, and are born a tall ectomorph with a beautiful face. Well, that’s still not good enough; now you must subsist on carrots and mineral water, or take cocaine, or stick your finger down your throat after any meal containing more than 300 calories, to meet their standards of “beauty.” And that is still not good enough – don’t forget the airbrushing of the photos to reach “perfection.”

That may be your definition of beauty, Katherine, but it’s not mine. It’s a form of gender oppression no different than expecting women to hide their bodies behind burkkas, possibly worse. At least those women are allowed to eat normal meals, and their society understands the allure of the female form. Under the fashion industry’s tyranny, most women are simply not allowed to be WOMEN, at all.
Very few women are tall ectomorphs. You say it yourself, even the short, naturally thin woman has a hard time finding clothes that fit properly. Let us say you are mesomorphic, big boned, muscled and atheletic… forget it. You can’t starve yourself enough to meet those standards. And those of us whose grandmothers were endomorphs – naturally plump people, with full breasts, round bellies, wide hips and big thighs – again, we would literally have to spend hours a day at the gym and pretty much stop eating to get there. Fine if you’re wealthy enough and don’t have real life demands like jobs, homes, husbands, children, friends, other interests. Fine if you don’t want your brain to work, which requires ingesting things like carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

Congratulations on your commitment to physical fitness and self-discipline. But honey, I have news for you: I eat good food, stay active, have low cholesterol, low blood pressure, and a healthy heart. However, by the standards of clothing manufacturers, I’m frankly fat, aka, not “beautiful.” And it’s MY fault, my laziness, that I can’t find reasonably priced clothing that fits?

Get me to a sewing machine? No – I think manufacturers should throw off the shackles of the pedophile priest brigade and make clothing that fits real women. There are a whopping three body types. Is it really that hard to design for them?

Fine, you don’t want my money. That’s ok because I don’t want to give it to someone who accepts the depression, the self-loathing, the anorexia and bulimia, and the suicides of girls and women caused by these standards, or calls those who’ve had enough “beauty bashers.” The real question is, who gets to decide what’s beautiful?

Roseanne Barr had it right. If you get the chance to meet one of this misogynist designers, kick ‘em right in the man junk…

Lola
October 15th, 2009
7:51 PM

Cat – this may be a bit off topic from the point of your comment (as I do agree that clothing should be made in a wider range of sizes) but I just wanted to point out that your idea that tall ectomorphic women are not ‘grown, powerful, sexually mature women’ is a bit offensive. Women come, naturally, without starvation, in a wide range of sizes from tall and skinny to plus size, to athletic and stocky, to very short and curvy, and so on and on. However, ALL of these women can be grown powerful and sexually mature. Just because you don’t have large breasts or wide hips does not make you the equivalent of a prepubescent boy. While I’m very glad you understand that people can be both fat and healthy, I think you need to take into account that this can happen on the opposite side of the spectrum as well. Not all skinny people are anorexic, just like not all fat people sit around eating hamburgers all day. You can be healthy, happy, powerful and sexually mature and be any size and shape.

Karin
October 20th, 2009
5:57 AM

I agree with Lola, it’s very unnecessary to insult women who happen to be thin and small with small breasts (a very natural and normal size/body type for many adult – and sexy – women) just because you want to promote acceptance of larger women (as Cat did). Both thin and not thin women can be both very sexy and beautiful, and there’s no such thing as a “real women”, all women are real women.

I wanted to add to the discussion that it’s not only large women who struggle to find clothes that fit, I’m small (actually, not THAT small, I’m just below average height) and it’s hard for me too to find my size in the shops. Most designer brands do make clothes that fit me, but in confection I do better shopping in shops catering for teenagers. Fun, eh?

It’s strange how the whole discussion about the sizes of clothes seems to have been kidnapped by women trying to make being overweight the norm (ok, sorry, that was a bit harsh, but I do sometimes get that impression from american forums).

Btw, this is a great website, and an interesting article. I would not welcome any restrictions on the range of sizes, that must be up to the designer/fashion companies. Although I too wish some (more!) shops ran my size.

Seth Meyerink-Griffin
December 26th, 2010
9:24 PM

@Kathleen: My wife is 5’2″, currently weighs 105# (she varies between about 100 and 120 over the year; she weighs more in the summer when she’s biking to work more often), eats a huge amount of junk food (yes, I’m jealous), and I can’t remember her specific measurements off the top of my head. What I *do* know is that she has a hard time finding non-stretch clothing that actually fits her correctly. Despite her height/weight, she has curves; wider hips, small waist, somewhat full bust. (Note: according to BMI charts, which aren’t really reliable, she varies between underweight and the middle range of healthy.)

All I’m saying is that if people want to complain about stuff not being made for people above the top end of a given grading spectrum, they should consider that people below a given grading spectrum have the same problem. And really, if you don’t like your options, well, aren’t you here because you are interested in the business and practical aspects of fashion design? If you only care about clothes that fit right and suit your aesthetics (rather than being the ‘right’ brand), go make your own! Start a company that caters specifically to people with your specific body shape! In other words, do something instead of complaining!

Jen
October 27th, 2011
5:52 PM

I was trying to do some online shopping, then I was looking up how to measure myself for sizes, then one thing led to another, I found this article. Nice website. This is a very interesting topic.

Quite interesting side discussion too. I am thin, but I’ve never said anything nasty to big ladies in my whole entire life, but am often insulted by what they’d say to me. Reading some of the comments above really got me worked up. Just want to add that thin does not necessary mean small breasts. Am 105lb, cup D here, never any eating disorder, very healthy and I am 100% natural thank you very much, and I too have a nice face, everyone is different, seriously, no such thing as a right way to look, the only thing that matters is how healthy you are (physically and mentally). I think Karin’s “there’s no such thing as a “real women”, all women are real women.” is otherwise very well put. I don’t understand the link between what is offered in store having anything to do with the standard of beauty though.

Quote Cat: “However, by the standards of clothing manufacturers, I’m frankly fat, aka, not “beautiful.” And it’s MY fault, my laziness, that I can’t find reasonably priced clothing that fits?”

I buy size 0s and 00s, but I have problem finding clothes too. I’ve always thought if the clothes in a store doesn’t fit right on me, it is because it is not well made or not well marketed. For example, I have a short torso but long legs, and my body is narrow, so the sweaters are almost always too wide, the sleeveless arm holes is always hang too low, the pants too wide, or too short at the petite section. I thought I was unique at the most, in a nice way, never thought about any possible hidden “the standard of beauty” message. Anyhow, when I was younger and 95 pounds, I too was cursing at the fashion industry for marketing to bigger people. I remember having to buy things at full marked up price, base on fit rather than styles I like and imagining that heavy people can wear whatever they want and buy stuff on deep discount. Well I was wrong…

It all comes down to supply and demand. I am sure we will see more and more plus sizes stores in the US. There is so much I don’t know about the fashion industry. I recently picked up sewing, have been making things for myself. Making clothes harder than it looks. As such, I found a whole new level of appreciation for what I own in my closet.

P.S. If you want something to fit right, have it custom made or altered. I wish we have better and more alternation service providers in the United Sates.

Chiqs
January 29th, 2012
9:30 AM

I am between a size 6-10 depending on the brand, but for the most part I don’t have a hard time buying clothes for my size. I sometimes have to alter some of the clothes, not everything is perfect. With regards to the size issues, I find it offensive and most often radical when plus size women say they are the real women. What constitute a real woman anyway? Is it the size? I mean come on! Just because you can’t find the clothing size you are looking for means the company is discriminating you. I also agree that you can’t force any company to make clothes for you. There are lots of companies who make plus size clothing. To name a few, The Gap Inc, All three of their name brands make sizes higher than 10. Also, Lane Bryant caters to that market.

I have seen high end brands like All Saints Spitafield, Reiss, Adam, etc have sizes over 10. The statements that some of the people make here are somewhat diluted. Don’t go to Marc Jacobs or Chloe. More to add, These designers are far from our budget anyway! If you think you have the money and you want these designers to make clothes for you then call them and have them custom fit you.

A column to read too is Marie Claire’s ‘Big Girl in a Skinny World’ by Nicolette Mason.

Brina
January 30th, 2012
10:23 AM

Chiqs
I think you are confusing larger sizes with Plus sizes. A size over 10 is not a plus size. Regular sizes can go up to size 16 or 18. So stores like The Gap carry the low end of the Plus sizes with their XXL.

Chiqui Johnston
January 30th, 2012
10:40 AM

BR goes up to XXL or more from what I have seen in other store locations. Do you mean to say Gap quality for different sizes varies? Thats very interesting because I have a lot of friends who have who are plus size and doesnt see it that way. I have seen plus size clothing at J Crew. Jcrew goes up to XXXL, but it might cost a little bit more.

Brina
January 30th, 2012
3:25 PM

I didn’t mean quality by saying low end–but I understand the confusion– By low end–I meant bottom end–the smallest PLUS sizes, if that makes sense. I probably should not have added that part concerning the GAP. I really don’t know much about them and I don’t shop there.

Perhaps this is clearer. I meant sizes 10-18 are not considered PLUS Sizes, generally. Even if the person who buys and wears them is ‘fat’. So a zoftig woman can wear a size 12, but that does not make a size 12 a plus size. I have a close relative who is obese–for her size–but she wears size 12 because the clothes fit her. However a person who is not ‘fat’ per se can fit into a 12 also.

Liyana
May 31st, 2012
10:09 AM

One misconception about Plus size is that it is simply the same garment cut larger. that is actually extended size. Plus garments are cut to a different figure model standard. I do agree that most regular clothing manufacturers should extend their sizes outward on both ends for the smaller and larger. that would simply cover a larger spectrum without redoing cuts or changing the line in any way.

Ideally should they also have plus and petite and other irregular sizing? Sure. I’m pretty irregular and have to buy everything in stretch fabrics because I’m tall and Scandinavian and busty but not hippy. So I’m 3 different ‘standard’ sizes from hip to waist to bust. And it’s just genetically how it is.

BUT while I think it’s fairly reasonable, most seeming excuses to the contrary aside, for most manufacturers to extend their regular fit sizes, I understand that actually re-drawing patterns and re-cutting for plus figure and petite height and tall height etc. is an infrastructure change. Extended sizing, however, is not. Extended should not be a problem. if the larger sized need too much extra material to make up for what you don’t use in the smalls, charge an extra dollar or 2 or 3. But please, let them exist.

Alison Cummins
June 3rd, 2012
11:48 AM

Liyana,

When you say that a for-profit enterprise “should” do something, do you mean that this is a market opportunity they are unaware of, have never thought of, and that will make them more money?

I understand what you mean by “extended sizing,” but I think it’s impractical for several reasons. One is that if you’ve read the entries on grading, you’re aware that extended sizing causes fit issues. You can start with an eight, grade up and down two sizes to get a range of 4-12 and be fine. If you grade up and down three sizes, the two and the fourteen are likely to demonstrate poor fit. Another is that a style that looks cute on a size two isn’t necessarily the most flattering for a size fourteen – and vice-versa – even if both are height-weight proportionate.

I understand the issue personally because I am somewhere between the top end of standard sizing
(typically too small for me) and the low end of plus sizing (typically too big for me). However, if I go to a store like Target that serves a broad size range of customers I can always find a line/style/size of t-shirt that fits. For other clothes I go to stores that target my market specifically. They do exist.

Gisele
September 29th, 2013
10:00 AM

Numbered sizing could be standardized without standardizing S/M/L sizing. Numbered sizing could be standardized from infancy up. Manufacturers could deviate from the standard sizing as much as they wanted, but they would have to indicate it.

Concerning forced manufacturing of sizes, I think guidelines could be designed to cover only mass production items. I am not in the business but it seems to me there are clear jumps in production from home sewing, to small local designers, to medium and then a clear jump to mass production of stuff for Target, Walmart, and boutiques that are in every mall in North America. It’s the mass production stuff, like American Apparel, that may need to be forced to serve the entire market rather than using size as a snob factor.

People who buy designer clothing, tutus and cowboy jackets are not the ones having trouble finding clothing. For mass production consider it like developers who are forced to include social housing or X percentage of green space. The percentage of the largest sizes might be much more limited to guarantee the producer won’t be left with overstock. There has to be some way that regulations could be designed to exclude small run or specialty garments. Regulations could allow for higher pricing based on some formula.

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