Vanity sizing: generational edition
And now, an occasional update to my perseveration with what many consumers describe as “vanity sizing” this being the generational edition. For those new to these parts, you may be unaware that I think “vanity sizing” is either non-existent or attributable to myriad causes (links to arguments at close). I’ll briefly summarize my objections as size increases are closer to sizing evolution; a rational response to a given manufacturer’s target customer that has nothing to do with vanity. My favorite and most simplistic example being that of ballerina dancers versus western wear consumers. A ballerina shopping at Shepler’s would be erroneous in believing western apparel is vanity sized if it’s larger than the average dancer’s leotard because he/she is not the profile customer. Et Cetera.
An idea that occurred to me after looking over the Japanese sizing surveys is that if vanity sizing existed, then older Japanese could likewise claim that apparel today is vanity sized -owing to their frame of reference. However, this would be untrue because (as I’ve said before), sizing is designed for the median consumer buying clothes. Here in the U.S. as in Japan, that’s mostly younger people; older people spend less on clothes. As the average person has gotten larger, as will the measures that constitute the sizes across the size spread. Therefore, as younger people in the US are heavier than we were twenty or thirty years ago when we were their age, it only stands to reason that the measures than constitute median sizes will increase. That’s why if your weight has remained static and you’re in your forties, you’ll wear a size or two smaller than you did twenty years ago. And it’s only going to get worse (hence the creation of size 0); obesity in the young is at an all time high. As sizes reflect the median of the average clothes purchaser, it only makes sense that size dimensions will continue to evolve.
These generational differences are illustrated in the extreme in Japan. Older people alive today, endured severe food shortages during World War 2, the nutritional deficiencies stunting their growth. The average heights of men aged 65-79 is 5’4.5″ – 5’3.75″. For women aged 65-79, their heights are 4’10″ to just under 5′. However, owing to improved nutrition in the post war era, average Japanese height increased by three inches. Note that is “average” height increase. Average includes the height measures of older people too, dragging down the dramatic height gains among the young. Examining the data of only young people under the age of eighteen, height increases are closer to 5″, not the “average” 3″. Japan is also interesting for examination because it is a homogeneous society. We’re comparing apples to apples rather than the apples to oranges of a population characterized by immigration.
So, I don’t have the opportunity to interview an older Japanese woman but I wonder, would she -pondering it thoughtfully- say that current clothing sizes are a matter of vanity or evolution? Think about it. A rational grandma wouldn’t expect clothing sizes to remain static from when she was buying a lot of clothes. Here in the U.S., if grandma wants clothing sizes to remain static, her efforts might be better spent getting her grandkids to go on a diet because it is their increasing body sizes that are upping the median sizes for everyone else. Either that or she should buy expensive designer clothing which, as wealthier people are thinner, these lines run “truer” to size. Exactly the opposite of what everyone thinks. It’s inexpensive commodity items with the highest rate of size inflation.
Likewise, as I’ve also mentioned with regard to infrastructure changes required by sizing evolution, fixtures in Japanese homes have also evolved. I don’t see how one could call counter tops evidence of vanity sizing; sounds more like sizing to the market to me.
If changes in lifestyle and housing have contributed to improvement of physique, there are also examples of the opposite effect: better physiques changing the design of Japanese houses. For example, most Japanese cooking stoves of 20 years ago were 80 centimeters high apparently the ideal countertop height for a person who is 150 centimeters tall, but now their standard height is 85 centimeters. Door height too has risen from 182 centimeters in the 1980s to two meters now, and bathtubs are about 50 centimeters longer than they used to be.
One odd blip though. The Japanese are getting thinner while they’re getting taller. Actually, Japanese women are. Japanese men are gaining weight.
The survey showed that for women in their 40s, the average weight had declined to 52.8 kilograms, down 1.3 kg from the previous survey covering fiscal 1992-1994, while the average height had increased by 2.6 centimeters to 157.1 cm.
For men in their 40s, the average weight had increased to 69.8 kg, up 4.0 kg, while the average height had increased by 2.8 cm to 170.1 cm. Following the trend, there was a decrease in average weight and an increase in average height for women in their 20s, 30s and 50s.
A slide show feature from this morning’s NYT says the Japanese Health Ministry is so concerned with the nation’s increasing girth, they’ve instituted a nation-wide campaign to combat it. Apparently, there as here, there’s concern over increasing obesity in the young. I suppose it won’t be long before the Japanese also start complaining about “vanity sizing”.
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
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