On Sizing


I want to dedicate a post to sizing. I’ve noticed a lot of debate about items being “true to size” and I thought the best way to understand these discrepancies (and to explain my method for sizing) would be to first give a quick history on standardize sizing. Standardized clothing sizing wasn’t established until the early 1940s. Before then commercial items were sized based on a woman’s bust size (most clothing was also homemade or at least altered/tailored). In 1939 the US Department of Agriculture conducted a survey of over 15,000 women in an attempt to devise a guide for sizes. The survey was flawed as it was comprised of primarily white women, and it too focused on the bust measurement and the assumption that most women were hour-glass shaped. Then in the late 1940s the Mail-Order Association of America enlisted the help of the National Bureau of Standards to re-analyze the sizing. This resulted in the 1958 standard with sizes ranging from 8 to 38 with height indications: T (tall), R (regular), S (short), and a plus or minus sign when referring to girth. *(There was no size 4, 2 or 0, let alone the 00 that are sometimes used now)* As American girth grew, the practice of vanity sizing became more prevalent, and thus in 1983 the Department of Commerce withdrew its commercial women’s clothing size standard completely. Today, most clothing manufactures use their own sizing standards which are tailored to their own specific consumers, which is why there is such a large size discrepancy between different brands. What all this means is that there is no “standard” for sizing, and thus no such thing as something being “true to size”. As a small designer, this makes pattern making difficult and frustrating. When I first began CAIT SHEA, I spent a long time debating how I wanted to do sizing for my brand. Personally I detest the number system, as it leads to the fixation of being a number on a scale. The most frustrating part about sizing is that it is inherently flawed; the human body is not standardized, we come in all sorts of shapes and sizes that are impossible to categorize into sizes. #sizedoesntmatter

Cait Clark