Why the size of your clothing says little about your size was the topic on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, July 30, 2014. The show began with this information:

The news that apparel company J Crew is now making a size 000 (that’s two sizes smaller than a 0!) created a stir among some feminists who say the new size idealizes the desire to be too thin. While the company says it is trying to appeal to a petite Asian market, critics say that the move is just another example of the “vanity sizing” trend in fashion – downsizing label sizing so customers, both women and men, feel better about the clothes they try on and buy.

Today on Radio Times we’ll talk about how size influences shoppers, how manufacturers make sizing decisions and why the size you wear doesn’t say much about the size you are.

I am addressing some of these women’s fit issues in this post


But first – Some comments about scanning to fit

During the show one of the guests speculated that in time we may be able to scan our bodies at home, and then from the scanning know what brand and size we should buy, a complicated, currently expensive procedure that seems a long walk around the barn.

There is an easier device that can quickly determine one’s correct size. It’s called a tape measure. It is inexpensive, easy to use, and so small it is easily carried in one’s pocket. It is already in most homes. It has been used for centuries to determine sizing. It gives measurements in both metric and inches.  Comparing its results with a company’s measuring chart makes determining one’s size quite easy.

The tape measure has been used for centuries
to determine body measurements and
to produce clothing that fits. It works.

Why so much controversy about women’s sizing? One never hears about problems with men’s sizing


Men’s clothing is labeled with real measurements, as shown in this shirt tag, sewn on the inside of the collar stand. The shelves in the stores are also labeled with the measurements, enabling men to find clothing with minimal effort that fits them.
Shopping for men is simple. If one knows the pant length and waist width, then one finds pants with those measurements – which are not only on the clothing labels, but also on the shelves where the pants are kept in the stores. The same is true for shirts, although unfortunately many companies are now going to small, medium, large, and extra large, even for men.

How to use the tape measure to determine a woman’s best size

Even though women’s clothing is not marked in inches, you can still use the tape measure to determine a woman’s best size in a particular brand:

First a little information about how sizing is developed: 

Companies first make a garment style in the sample size. Then, when the garment has sold and has been approved for mass-production, its pattern is graded in smaller and larger sizes that are proportionate to the sample size. The name of a size, such as S6 is jargon for the set of measurements the company uses to grade that size. A grade rule that is a comprehensives set of measurements for all the sizes in that size range. Grade rules are so essential to a company’s ability to fit its customers, they are copy-righted.

How to determine what size fits

First go on the company’s website and search for its size chart.  If the company hasn’t posted its sizing chart online call the company and ask why. 

I chose to go on Landsend’s website. First I put in sizing chart
Then I hit women to access the company’s sizing chart for women.
And there were the measurements. The measurements that are listed in a sizing chart are just some of the many measurements that comprise company’s grade rule for that size range. But they are the essential measurements needed to determine the size that will fit the best.

Now all I needed to do was measure the person for whom I was buying the clothing, then compare her measurements with Landsend’s sizing chart to know what size she should buy.

About custom/mass-production

For a long time I have heard about the possibility of mass-production someday being able to produce custom fit clothing.  While mass-production has made it possible to almost everyone to buy ready-made clothing that more or less fits, custom/mass-production is to my mind an oxymoron.

Mass-production is only profitable if a company can manufacture 1000 garments a cut.  A cut usually includes five or six sizes, tagged so as to make sure those garments cut from the top of the spread fabric are sewn together and those cut from the bottom of the spread are sewn together so as not to have differences in the color shading. The cut pieces must also be bundled and overseen so as not to mix any of the sizes as the garments are being sewn. Imagine keeping track of 1000 separate garments, each garment, each cut to a slightly different body fit. It would require cutting each ply separately before we talk about any of the other problems. In my mind this scenario presents far too many problems for it to be in any way profitable. 

Industrial couture

High-end, expensive clothing is made for preferred customers in some manufacturers’ high-end designing departments. Various department stores who cater to preferred customers buy the exclusive rights to individual, semi-custom high-end garment styles. Samples of the garment styles are put on the floor, the customer decides which she wishes to buy, her measurements are sent to the manufacturer, and the garments are cut and sewn in the manufacturer’s designing department by the best hands in the manufacturer’s designing department.



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