Monday, June 25, 2007


Dear Fashion Industry,

Stop treating me like an idiot. I am not an idiot. In fact, I graduated with honors from a prestigious and challenging university. Not only can I read and write, but I can also discern when someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes or, in this case, the ruched chemise. Do you think that I didn't notice that you've started vanity sizing? Do you think that I care about the number attached to the little tag at the back of my dress? What am I going to do? Flash that around to everyone?

Yes, there's a brief moment when I think to myself, "A size 2? I must have lost weight!" But you and I both know that my body size has barely altered since I hit college. I am not a size 2!

Nor does the reduction in the apparent size of the garment improve my ability to find and wear clothing that fits me. In fact, I find that I now need to bring a broader range of sizes into the dressing room (in a most recent trip, from a size 0 to a 6) in order to approximate what my size must be. Seriously, I have some bulging biceps from carrying around all the frickin' hangers!

Not a size 2

Seriously, I cannot fathom how stupid you must think I am to care more about a little number on a tag than about the logic of dressing myself. Who cares if I'm a 2, 8, or 16, so long as the clothing fits and makes me look good? It makes no sense! I'm an adult. I'm an adult with a functioning brain.

So stop treating me like an idiot, designers and sizers. I know that size doesn't matter. Damn. Sometimes, you're worse than Congress.

No longer yours,


Kathleen said...

Dear Consumer
I notice you went to the bother of linking to wiki's vanity sizing entry which is pov questionable, error-rife and mis-cites their own source material. It's a pity you didn't read all their references, particularly the **only one** written BY the "fashion industry" called, _The Myth of Vanity Sizing_. I mean, if you're going to say that people like me think you're stupid, you should at least hear what I have to say for myself. If you had read just one of the articles I've written on vanity sizing, you'd know I don't think you're stupid at all. What amazes me is that you think sizing is about *you* -consumers- your head games that we're trying to make you feel better about yourselves. I don't know who started that myth but it's not! It has nothing to do with *you*. Rather, it has everything to do with internal material utilization processes within the limitations of the manufacturing industry. Iow, what we call "allocation" based on the derivation of sizes with regard to our respective markets.

In fact, I'm glad you're an honors grad because this is very complicated to explain which is why "we" can't explain it readily or easily to the average consumer. I'm glad you're bright because you'll understand what "normalizing to the population" means because that's what we're doing. I'm glad you're an honors grad because I'm assuming you're not intellectually lazy and will follow up with this. By the way, I'm a pattern maker. Not only have I NEVER "vanity sized" anything in my 27 year career, I don't know another pattern maker who has either.

Now, if sizing didn't normalize to the population, we'd still be making clothes designed for people in the 1800's. If manufacturers didn't adjust the sizing of their products (to include buildings, furniture etc) you wouldn't be able to get in the door without ducking. So, with everybody from architects to industrial engineers "vanity sizing" ("normalizing") products in your environment, how come you're not complaining to them that the size of their products haven't remained static? Rather, it's the opposite usually; one specific example is the size of airplane seats, those aren't big enough but guess what, they won't be "normalizing" seat sizes because they have to redesign the entire PLANE! No, I don't think you're stupid or an idiot and as such, I know you'll understand "normalizing to the population" to say nothing of understanding the sizing structure of lines in a designer's stable (explained in my series). Not that you'd know off hand how it's done. Why would you? It's arcane, it's complicated, nobody wants to listen to how the system works, it's easier to kvetch and blame, no heavy lifting involved! Believe me, it is all very very logical. I'm glad you're smart! Most consumers won't bother to read, process or understand. Hey, you'll have a leg up on everyone! You'll know something they don't.

What's stupid is to make the same complaints year after year. I got tired of hearing about it which is why I wrote The myth of vanity sizing series (10) because among other things, sizing evolves, just like people do. Sizing is not a fixed mathematical construct, but a social one (it used to be mathematical but meaning was wrested from pattern engineers before my time) -so there's even a social history component. And an economical one, and a buyer one. Sizing is even dependent upon how a manufacturer organizes and employs their product development system in accordance with the dictates of their retail partners. But most of all, sizing is related to efficient material utilization, which doesn't mean cutting smaller to save fabric when we're obviously discussing the opposite. I'll explain.

Consider: most manufacturers cut a size range of 6-14, nearly all do, if not, 8-16. Now, sales wise, the vast majority of orders are in the center of the size spread. Now, as the average person gets heavier, over time, sales begin to weigh in (excuse the pun) on the upper end of the size range so the size spread is off kilter. Now why does this matter? It matters because of marker design and allocation (arcane as I said). To make an efficient marker (keep fabric waste to a minimum) you need balance. For every size 6, you need a size 14. For every size 8, you need a size 12. The 6/14 and 8/12 balance each other in a marker. So, if you have orders for too many of the larger sizes and not enough of the smaller sizes because people are getting fatter, you don't have balance because now you need 3 size 12's for every size 8 or 2 size 14s for every size 6. So, you change the sizing structure. This way it rebalances. Otherwise, if they didn't do this and the given measures that constitute a given size remained static, the smaller sizes would drop out of the size range altogether. A manufacturer would be cutting lots of 12's and 14's -with pressures on the upper end of the size range, in sizes they don't even offer! If they added those sizes (dropping the smaller sizes, the sales of which are too few to cut in production), they'd end up in plus sizes which means a whole new market, whole new stores, whole new sales reps and even assuming that not "normalizing" to the population would work (in theory) it is just too costly to contemplate if you have established distribution.

Also consider retail. If a manufacturer didn't normalize to the population, their sizes would -over time- "run small". Retailers won't like that, buyers would have to know the line intimately and they just don't. They'd be putting static size 10's on a rack that were in effect, two sizes smaller than the competitor's size 10s. That confuses customers too. For better or worse, they want size 10's across manufacturers to bear some resemblance of consistency. Two sizes smaller isn't.

I don't think you're stupid or intellectually lazy, some of the more salient entries in my sizing series are:
Actually, any of the entries have links at the bottom to the other entries. Don't miss the history of women's sizes entries either (3).

harley said...


Thank you for your extremely well-written and informative response. I should have also linked to The Washington Post and New York Times articles, but I was being a little link-lazy. I'm also pleased to know that I am actually a size 2. That may be the best news I've heard all day. But it is still early.