Thursday, December 22, 2011

Size charts, what are they good for?

I've been asking myself this for a LONG TIME.  The measurements in size charts don't match up to the measurements of women using the clothes.  The most common explanations I've heard are:

  1. Some women prefer tighter/looser clothes so the way a woman buys her clothes might not match up to the fit model that the manufacturer had in mind.
  2. Stretch/Spandex in clothes allow them to find a wider range of body types and allows women to fit into smaller/larger sizes than they'd normally be able to wear.
  3. Most women aren't going to fit into the store measurements perfectly due to variance in body types so no matter what you can't follow the size chart 100%.
  4. Mass manufacturing of clothes involves laying many layers of fabric on top of each other and cutting them all at once.  Inevitably this can cause a 1-2" variation in the outfit.  

 Let's go through those points one by one.

1. The fit of the clothes.  Now, I agree to some extent with this.  Because of my shape it's really easy to dwarf my waist if I wear baggy clothes.  I have at least a 10" difference between my waist and underbust  and a 8" difference between my hips and waist so clothes that fit straight up and down can really make me look bigger.  For example, let's take this T-shirt from Old Navy.
Old Navy size Medium- look for an upcoming blog where I make some alterations on this shirt. :)
It's a size medium which is supposed to fit:

someone with a
Bust: 36-37"
Waist: 28-29"
Ok, now my bust is 40" on a skinny day (and can be up to 42" other days) and my waist is 31".  However, you can see pretty easily that this shirt is really big on me!  I have it in a few colors and they all fit the same, which calls into doubt #4 too.  I also happen to have a size Small

and you can see that it's a much better fit.  I really doubt that it would work well on a woman with a
Bust: 34-35"
Waist: 26-27"

Seriously how can the size chart be up to 8" off????  As is the mediums are indecent because the neckline is too low (hard to see in the picture but I'm constantly having to adjust this shirt during the day not to show my straps/top of my bra) so I can only wear them at home, how in the world could I fit into a Large, which is what I'm supposed to wear according ot the size chart?  What's crazy too is it clearly has nothing to do with body type because the measurements for a size 14 should be spot on for me (albeit my waist is 31" vs. 32" but that one inch shouldn't make a huge difference. 

2. Extra stretch in clothes.  Again, there's some truth to this as well but it doesn't tell the whole story.  Stretch will let you put on clothes in a smaller size but if it's too tight, it's too tight and very few women I know would knowingly buy something that looks horrible on them. Yes it happens but it's normally that a woman has boughten something in a smaller size and is still wearing it while she gains (guilty as charged here, I refused to go up to 18's at my highest weight even though I probably needed them).

That being said, you can tell pretty easily from the cut of the clothes what size woman they are made for.  I know that a easy sign for me that a shirt is too big is that the neckline is too low, the shoulder seems don't hit correctly, I have what looks like wings because underneath the armpits are too big, and the back is really baggy. A shirt that's too small is pretty easy to tell too because it'll cling to my waistline, is hard to put on, buttons gap, gives me the monoboob look, and if a bra doesn't fit 100% correctly is emphasizes that like crazy!  No matter how much stretch you build into a shirt (or pants for that matter) these tell-tail signs show up pretty quickly.  With pants I can think of pockets that don't lay flat, being unable to button the pants, large muffin top, pants sitting too low as some examples for two small pants whereas too big pants gap in the back, are baggy in the butt/thighs and slide down (and actually actually give me a worse muffin top because I have a built-in one... ) etc.

Moral of the story, if the cut isn't made for your size you can tell. Just look at this dress that I can put on but is clearly unflattering at this point because it's too small. 
Size 9/10 (but from the late 1990's)- clings in all the wrong places and gaps at the top above my chest, doesn't fit!

You can see I get the monoboob look and it clings poorly to my waist.  With further weight loss it might look great but at the moment not so much.  If I were in the store I wouldn't buy it just because I can put it on (it's my only outfit from high school that I still have).

3.  Differences in body types.  Again, there's some grain of truth.  Let's take two hypothetical women:
Woman A: 40" hips and a 35" waist
Woman B:  40" hips and a 28" waist
Clearly, they're going to have very different needs when it comes to clothes. Most likely the Woman A will have to size up to accommodate her waist so she'd have problems with baggy butt/thighs whereas Woman B would size down and have to deal with a tight butt/thighs with her pants.  In both cases the size chart that ususally puts 40" with about a 32" waist would be wrong for them.  However, if you look at that lovely Old Navy size chart above that's not the case at all for me!  I should very comfortably wear a L/14 that might need just a 1" alteration in the waist.  However, that's simply not the case considering that a small seems to be the right fit for me.

Also, even brands that specifically make clothes for curvy women.  Just check out my experience with Levi's Curve ID jeans.  I found that you have to size down about 3 sizes from your supposed waist size (at the time my waist measured at 32" and I needed a size 29).  It clearly wasn't related to have a large butt being that I was wearing the Supreme Curve Jeans in that post.

4. Mass Manufacturing.  I've heard of women going into stores, trying on the exact same pair of pants, exact same size but in two different colors and they need to size up or down in one color vs. another.  I know I've also experienced this to some effect.  I once had two pairs of size 16 pants from Lane Bryant that were identical except for the color and one pair was always tighter than the other.  However, not to the extent that I would have to size up or down. 

I actually have 3 pairs of identical Stretch Calvin Klein pants in size 6 at the moment (two the of the colors are shown below).
While I can wear all three the black ones are the tightest in both the waist and thighs. The waist measures about 0.5" different (or 1" total difference between them).  So I believe it happens but considering that according to the Calvin Klein size chart

I should be wearing a size 12 I have a hard time believing this is a good explanation either!  My waist is 5" larger than a size 6 and my hips are 2.5" bigger than a size 6, which is a pretty big gap to explain...

If you look at the actual waist measurement:

It comes to about 16.5" flat or 33" total, so umm... way bigger than the 27" listed above!! Granted, these pants are not meant to sit at your natural waist.  On me they sit just below my belly button but still.  My natural waist measures at 31" and at my belly button measures 33", so a 2" difference.  Taking that same assumption for a 27" waist then the pants should measure at 29", which means they are still 4" off from the size chart!!!

If you try to compare between brands all is loss. Check out my Calvin Klein 6's compared to a pair of Gap 6's:

There's about 1.5" difference laying flat, so a total of a 3" difference.  It looks like the Gap pair is at least closer to the size chart (the waist would be 30" and since they are low rise that seems like  a decent assumption for a 27" waist) whereas the Calvin Klein pants deviate from their own size chart!

So what is the reason?  

Seriously asking here...  I'd guess that it's either because:

  1. Manufacturers are too lazy to update their size charts with their latest fit models. 
  2. They purposely mismatch the measurements so women feel better about themselves. 
  3. They aren't putting enough time/effort into their size control departments.
I honestly think that all of them are pretty stupid reasons, though, because online shopping has become so much more popular in recent years AND some sizes you can only buy online!  So that means that companies are shooting themselves in their foot with bad size charts.  They're probably spending a lot of money on returns (especially large companies that offer free shipping and free returns) and it's also a huge hindrance to many  when it comes to buying online.  On the other hand, it does tend to lead to brand loyalty because if you're able to figure out your size in a certain brand then you can always buy that size online.  That being said it makes a new customer much less likely to try the brand AND it discourages people (like me) who have weight fluctuations and don't know what their current size is.

What can be done? 

Buy clothes that fit, send back ones that don't and complain when they don't!  I really don't have a problem with size evolution (i.e. manufacturers readjusting size to match their average customer's size) but I DO have a problem with them giving the false measurements that don't go along with that!  If you want to change the corresponding measurements for a size medium, FINE, but please tell the customers what those measurements are!!!!!

I have to give serious props to companies like Pin-up Girl Clothing  and Trashy Diva because they list measurements for each individual item (AND pin-up girl even lists the measurements of the models too, which really helps to get an idea of how they fit on a certain body type!).  I also love the idea behind bust friendly companies like Biubiu, AJ Rumina, and Pepperberry (although I've heard some sizing complaints about Pepperberry too but I don't have direct experience yet).  As much as possible I've been trying to support them with my pocketbook.  I've already reviewed AJ Rumina and next on my list is Biubiu.  I can't wait to try Pin-up Girl and Trashy Diva, but only once I hit goal because of the costs.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote this: as a follow up. I found some answers to my questions about pants sizing.