Clothing sizes getting bigger: Why our sizing system makes no sense

“Women don’t want to know their real size, so manufacturers re-label bigger sizes with smaller numbers. In 1958, for example, a size 8 corresponded with a bust of 31 inches, a waist of 23.5 inches and a hip girth of 32.5 inches. In ASTM’s 2008 standards, a size 8 had increased by five to six inches in each of those three measurements, becoming the rough equivalent of a size 14 or 16 in 1958. We can see size inflation happening over shorter time spans as well; a size 2 in the 2011 ASTM standard falls between a 1995 standard size 4 and 6.”

via Clothing sizes getting bigger: Why our sizing system makes no sense. – Slate Magazine.

I have to say, it’s not just women’s sizes doing this.  An XL mens size at a department store?  At LL Bean, you can get a large and it will fit!  Guys will pay extra to not have to get up into the X’s.   Mens’ pants numerical sizes apparently no longer correspond to the number of inches around one’s waist, in my own case.

The good news  here is that at the small end of the size scale, the sizes are likely to stay more uniform over time.

Why?  We’re getting larger around, and we don’t want our clothing sizes to be a stark reminder of that.   So we use what the industry calls “vanity sizing” — keeping the size at something that sounds pretty good, while making it larger.   There are even vanity store names.  This is the same reason the “Big and Tall Store” in my neighborhood has been renamed “XL Men” … everybody saw through the Tall part of Big and Tall and realized it was the Big store.  And of course, Lane Bryant instead of Big Womens Clothes.

What to do?  If you’re actively losing weight, first (1) acquire only a limited amount of clothes in your new size as you progress downward, and (2) donate the too-large clothing.  Why?  We’re trying to not let you get enough clothes to tempt you to stay at some intermediate weight, and we’re trying to not let you accumulate, for example, blue jeans in every size from mens 28 to mens 48. There needs to be a financial and practical hardship penalty for regain.  Burn the ships.

If on the other hand you’re GAINING weight, listen, do not buy the next size up.  Suffer.  Be constantly concerned you may burst your britches.  It will help you get control over the weight.


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