Every woman knows that there really are no standard sizes when it comes to clothing. As we found earlier, most of us have around three or four different sizes in our closet. There are new efforts to fix the problem, not by making retailers size their clothing accurately, but by helping customers unravel the code behind each store's size system.
As the New York Times notes, while men's sizes are usually labeled in inches, thanks to "vanity sizing" women can't match their measurements to a consistant dress size:
Take a woman with a 27-inch waist. In Marc Jacobs's high-end line, she is between an 8 and a 10. At Chico's, she is a triple 0. And that does not consider whether the garment fits in the hips and bust. (Let's not get into length; there is a reason most neighborhood dry cleaners also offer tailoring.)
Comparing Chico's to Marc Jacob's is misleading, since (as a saleswoman will eagerly explain if you ever set foot in the store) they have a totally unique sizing system. While most stores use even numbers from 0 to 14 and (occasionally) up, Chico's renamed the sizes on that spectrum 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Still, this does illustrate how arbitrary clothing labels are today.
That's why Tanya Shaw is trying to implement a fitting system to give shoppers an idea of what size they should try on first in various stores. Her company MyBestFit is setting up airport-like body scanning kiosks in malls that measure people with radio waves and record about 200,000 body measurements. The system matches these numbers to clothes in its database and gives customers a list of items that should fit. Currently there's only one kiosk in a Pennsylvania mall, but there are plans to expand to 13 more locations on the East Coast and in California by the end of the year.
Another labeling system called Fitlogic categorizes women's bodies into three shapes, straight, hourglass, or bottom-heavy, and lists this shape along with a size on the label. Inventor Cricket Lee has had troubling selling the system to retailers, and it wouldn't necessarily solve the problem since many women don't fit neatly into these descriptions (Plus, seeing the term "bottom-heavy" in every label isn't really going to make shopping less demoralizing.)
Marie-Eve Faust, the program director of fashion merchandising at Philadelphia University, said Levi's introduction of the cuts slight, demi, and curve to accommodate different butt shapes is a "good start," but adds,
"The next step is to have the major players sit together, manufacturers, retailers, brands, and say ‘This type of label should be appropriate for all of us. Let's standardize.'"
Having numbers actually mean something as you move from store to store sounds like a logical first step, but it seems most clothing stores aren't quite there yet.