Why Are Clothing Sizes So Consistent?

Why are clothing sizes so inconsistent? Traditionally, retailers have catered to one type of consumer – the thin, white woman. But today’s shoppers are demanding that mass-market chains carry a wider range of sizes. Curvy women are also calling out high-fashion designers for failing to cater to their needs. It’s no surprise that more women are turning away from popular high-end brands like Victoria’s Secret.

In the postwar era, all women’s clothing sizes were based on the 1941 study. Since then, many other studies have been done and the data is continually massaged. However, the ‘hourglass’ shape remained the same. Until recently, mainstream women’s clothing was defined by a silhouette suited for young white women wearing girdles. Since then, sizing standards have been revised.

The issue is especially complicated for women. A woman may wear a size 2 in one brand of clothing while a size 12 in another. For example, one woman tweeted about how she couldn’t fit into size 16 jeans, despite wearing a size medium-sized shirt. A Vox reporter compared three pairs of jeans in the same size in different stores. Two pairs were too large, while two were too small. But there was one pair that fit her perfectly.

Even within the same brand, clothing sizes vary significantly. It’s impossible to guarantee a perfect fit – even with high-end brands. Cheap clothes also have wider margins of error before being rejected. Inconsistencies in sizing could include a stitch in the wrong spot, an inch too large, or a waistband that is one inch too wide. But the most common reason for inconsistencies is simply that different styles of the same item might fit wildly different.