Revelle Blog


Where Do Brands Get Their Size Charts In The First Place?

September 1, 2019

JoAnna Hartzmark
JoAnna Hartzmark

Show of hands: how many of you have taken some sort of online quiz, or even just read an article, trying to find out what your *actual* body shape is? Hourglass, apple, pear, diamond?? (Side note: who thinks of these ridiculous labels anyway?)

Did you ever stop to wonder why we’re supposed to care? Why we’re doing this in the first place?

I didn’t really question it myself until quite recently, when I started thinking about all of the absurd expectations set on

women when trying to perform what should be the simplest task of our day: dressing ourselves.

Why are we the ones who have to figure all of this out for ourselves? Shouldn’t the people actually making the clothing take some sort of responsibility for creating garments that fit? But no, the onus is entirely on us, and that realization infuriated me.

So I did what any industrious Millennial woman would do in this situation. I fell into a black hole of internet research.

“I started thinking about all of the absurd expectations set on women when trying to perform what should be the simplest task of our day: dressing ourselves.”

First I started out by taking all the quizzes I could find that would ‘identify’ my body shape, body type, silhouette, or any other variation just to see if there was any rhyme, reason, or consistency to be had. Spoiler alert, there was not.

Not only did each site have a completely different set of body shapes they were trying to fit women into, but a large number of them also required me to measure myself and do some ridiculous math to figure out which of the dreaded figures I fit into (are my hips 5% smaller than my shoulders or bust? Is my waist 25% smaller than my hips?! I have no idea. Thanks for asking.)

female-outline-pixabay
Foto – Pixabay
Foto – Pexels

But why am I having to take these measurements and do all these calculations? Ok, I know I have a calculator on my phone, but it still feels like a pretty big burden to be placing on women everywhere. I mean, aren’t retail brands the one with complicated measurements and size charts, haven’t they figured out what the relative differences are between women’s bodies so that they can actually make clothes properly? Oh wait, they haven’t, and that’s why we’re all here today.

This was where I really got to thinking — where do the brands get their size charts in the first place? Who was it that decided that a linear progression of numbers that has no relation to the actual measurements of any part of a woman’s body was the best solution here? Even men’s sizes come in actual inches of measurements most of the time, so why do we have to decide what being an 8 means, as if we can just sense it by looking at the arbitrary label?  

And here is where my internet research spiral really got out of control. It turns out that the origin of the female size chart is neither straightforward nor logical (color me shocked…), and that’s why we’re living in a veritable wild wild west of clothing sizing today. It seems that a few organizations attempted studies in the past to create some sort of standardization of clothing sizing, but the studies were either flawed or abandoned when the creators realized the complexity of the problem they were trying to address.

Because it’s true. Women’s bodies are incredibly complex and varied. And that’s what makes us all so uniquely beautiful. But instead of saying to themselves, “gee, this is a difficult problem to solve, maybe if we brought in more women to help us figure this out, or dedicated more resources to the study, we could actually figure this out and solve a massive problem that plagues every woman pretty much every day of their lives.” — what did they do? They gave up.

Now this could lead me into an entirely different black hole of why women’s issues are so often overlooked, under-funded, and generally ignored, but let’s stick to the topic at hand. And the truth is all that my preliminary research showed me is that everyone has accepted that the problem of women’s clothing sizing is just that — a problem — and has been for literally decades (probably longer, but even the internet has its limitations). But instead of stepping up and trying to solve a daunting problem, the powers that be decided that women can just figure it out for themselves, because women have such a long and storied history of having problems dropped on their doorsteps and simply shrugging, picking them up, and going about their days.

But I’m not giving up here. Not this time. While in general I’m a proponent of looking forward and not back, I’m going to dig a little deeper on this topic to see if I can figure out how we actually ended up in this mess, in the hopes that it will help us all find a better solution to get out of it together. So you can expect a later post with more intel on the origin of the dreaded size chart. To be continued…

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Greetings from Revelle

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