If you've felt like clothing choices have gotten much more alphabetic and much less numerical in recent years, you're not hallucinating. Purveyors of women's clothing are reverting from offering a dozen sizes represented by numbers into the more simple — and profitable — Small, Medium, and Large. Which, if you ask me, is just fucking lazy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, moving away from the old 2-4-6-8 system and into a S, M, L system is something consumers prefer, as evidenced by their purchasing patterns. Clothing labeled small is much more likely to sell out than clothing labeled with a size 4, or even a size 8. And clothing labeled Small or Medium means that women are less likely to be unable to fit into the size they usually wear and leave the store empty handed (according to the WSJ piece, consumer researchers have found that if female shoppers can't fit into their "normal" size, more than half of the time they'll leave the store without buying anything). Manufacturers enthusiastically endorse this profitable move, saying stretchy fabrics and roomier clothing designs mean that shoppers don't need exacting sizes.
I say that this is a kind of bullshit chicken-egg question. Who's to say that the current Spongebob Squarepants-fitting style of women's tops isn't the direct result of manufacturers simply realizing that it's more profitable to sell women clothing that isn't flattering or form-fitting? I've seen the havoc wrought by inexact sizing — dresses that rely on drawstrings, bunchy elastic embedded in the waist of rompers so that fewer sizes can accommodate a wider range of bodies. Shoddily constructed wraparounds that would give Diane von Furstenberg an allergic rash. Blazers with stretch. Profit-maximizing clothing labels are, I suspect, responsible for the proliferation of "layering," or, if we're not going to put frosting on bullshit, "making women's clothing so flimsy and impractical that it's designed to be worn on top of other garments when in the past a single layer provided adequate coverage against both sideboob and underboob."
But maybe this is the cost consumers pay in demanding fast, cheap fashion — you get what you pay for. And what consumers are willing to pay for is a drapey off-the-shoulder Medium sweatshirt with the neck cut off, then, well. That's what we're going to get.
I guess we could always learn how to sew again in all that free time that we don't have.
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