Butterfly Cauldron

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Size only matters when you're talking about dress sizes

The subject of this article had such promise. What the hell is wrong with the way women's clothing is sized? It's insane. I never know what size I'm going to wear when I go to try on clothing. I have one store that I know I can go into to buy a bra off the rack and it will fit. I have an other store I go to if I want a good pair of blue jeans, because I have one brand that I can count on for size. If I want dress clothing or shirts? Another store or two. And what makes me crazy is that my pants size is TWO sizes smaller than my shirt size, even though I'm pretty evenly made all over. I've got a figure-eight figure -- like an hourglass, only more ample ;) And yet....I wear different sizes in different stores in different brands because there's no standard sizing in women's sizes. So, you know, good topic for an article.

But, of course, it soon devolves into "everyone wants to be skinny!!"

Ugh. Seriously. Ugh.

I don't want to be skinny. I don't even care what size the tag says. I just want to be able to go into a store, pull something off the shelf in that size and have it fit! Everywhere I go. At every damned store. I hate this guesswork!


As any woman who tries on clothes frequently can attest, a 6 in one place can indeed be a 14 somewhere else — or an 8, a 10, or a 2. Which makes you wonder: Is there any logic to sizes, or are they just a random jumble of numbers?
The question might not matter, if the whole issue of size didn’t matter. But as the fashion industry has long known, a woman’s size certainly does matter — to her. Call it the psychology of size: We care deeply about the number on that tag, even though it’s likely no one else will see it, save the person manning the cash register. Perhaps no one else will know, but WE know, and that’s enough.
Just ask another Andy — Andy Steiner, a mother of two in St. Paul, Minn.
“I hate to admit it,” says Steiner, 38, “’cause I know size is just a number and I like to think I’m too smart — and feminist — to fall for that. But I certainly have a size I consider myself. Of course, I’ll buy smaller — and maybe one size bigger. But I’d never buy two sizes bigger. Way too depressing!”
Steiner recalls a particularly rash fashion decision three years ago, when she bought a pricey, too-short designer dress in hot pink, a color she dislikes. But it was a size 2, and she was literally flattered into buying it.
Not just the everyday shopper gets fooled. Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive editor-at-large for Glamour magazine, loves walking into a store and finding she’s a size lower. “It can make you feel fantastic,” she says. “It’s like stepping on a scale. It can make your day. Or, it can ruin your day.”
And that feeling, of course, will directly impact whether you make the purchase.

Okay, has anyone actually ever done that? Bought something they didn't like just because it was a smaller size than they usually get? Seriously?

“Designers know that nobody wants to be a big size,” says maternity designer Liz Lange. “Nobody wants to be more than a size 8 or a 10.” And she includes herself. “I can’t do it,” she says of buying a larger size. “I don’t want that thing in my closet!”
And yet vanity sizing doesn’t explain most of the disparity. The larger picture is that every designer uses their own silhouette, or “fit model,” based on their target audience, says Dan Butler of the National Retail Federation. There were once government guidelines for sizing, he says, but they were abandoned decades ago, and were never mandatory. Maybe that’s a good thing, says Yalof Schwartz: “Everyone would be depressed. I’d rather feel skinnier.”

Woooh. Hold back that disgust will ya? Shit, an 8 or a 10 is considered too big? What the hell? I haven't been a size 10 since I was 10! (No kidding that, I started developing waaay early. The smallest I remember being was a size 13....when I was 13. Oh, the joy of my "fat" childhood. I also happened to be getting close to 6 foot at the time, but somehow no one thought to tell me that my body was working out quite nicely and proportional. Nope, I was just the fat kid.)

Not every woman cares about size. Some are more like, well, men, who tend to be more pragmatic. “I think many men do care about what size their waist is,” says New Yorker James Cribbs. “However, I can’t imagine any of them would buy something they don’t like just because it fits. Why not move on until you find something that fits AND that you like?”
Sounds so sensible. It certainly would avoid tales like that of Steiner’s hot pink, “it-was-the-size-2-talking” purchase.
She wore the dress once, to a wedding, where she covered it with a shawl. “I wanted to pull out the size label and show people why I bought it,” she laughs. She ended up lending it to a friend, who also wore it once.
So did the friend like it?
“She was happy to be a size 2.”

Oh, of course. Why can't a woman be more like a man? Uh, because the idiot designers can't standardize their sizes and fucking society is telling us that a size 10 is obese? Maybe? You think? Goddamn, I hate this shit. Grrr.

(And a size 2? I realize there are people naturally that small, but come on! The only thing I think when I see someone that thin is how I desperately want to take her home and let my mother feed her!)

(Oh, btw, that gorgeous dress up there? (That I want, want want!) Can be found here at Zaftique. I adore their clothing and they all fit me! Whoohoo.)

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posted by Zan at 6:30 PM


I am shaped like a Spanish guitar. I'm happy to wear size 18 bottoms. My tops, however, are 22/24, and I'm trying to figure out my bra size. My true cup size is probably an I or J.

Even dumber than sizes is that the charts often put me one or two sizes larger than the clothes that fit me.

I haven't gone to a store in years. I don't know where to go, other than Lane Bryant. The closest Old Navy with Women's Plus is in the next state. Both of those stores now make T-shirts with wider front hems, so they hang in the air in front of me and flap around. I will shop LB online, but I can only count on jeans and underwear, which are sized the same. They're obsessed with babydolls, which they think I can not just wear, but wear to work.

They have size 00 now. Until I read Heather Corinna's "Body Image," it didn't occur to me it's unnatural to wear sizes that would have fit you in childhood.

9:36 PM  

Zan, I want to be comfortable. I like pretty colors and a nice flow, but mostly I want to be comfortable. I don't care if they are a size 70, if I can just know what size to look for.

Since I live in Alaska, and they don't have many clothing stores here at all talk about that carry my size, I do a lot of catalog shopping. I have found that if I can identify a brand and cut from a given catalog, whatever size it is will usually work on other things that brand and cut, 'cause Macarena is right -- the charts are no help at all! If I buy from the chart, it is as likely to fall off as to not be able to get on.

1:11 PM  

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