Ever wondered why women’s clothing sizes are so varying among brands? Where do S-M-L sizes even come from?
From what I remember in fashion school, until mass produced clothing became a “thing” in the 1940s and 50s, most dresses were custom made. They used direct measurements and didn’t need to have general sizes.
Sears Robuck was the first to start standardizing clothing by sizes. They made 8 the most common size, and a medium item would fit the size 8. But how did they pick was was a size 8?
They use the military! The military was the best public data set available. Every woman who was in the service, was measured for her uniform. From nurses to secretaries, anyone in a uniform there was measurements for.
Was this the most accurate measurement of women? Probably not. Women in the military are more likely younger than the general population, and in better health – otherwise they wouldn’t be able to enlist.
The size 8 was then graded up or down to meet a 2″ difference. And voila, the standard was born.
Then why aren’t all size 8s the same today?
Designers may start with an 8, but they often create a standard for a body type, and then use their personal size 8 to grade. This makes the patterns change quite a bit size-to-size and company to company.
So are sizes made up and do measurements matter?
Well, yes. There are no actual fashion police to enforce sizing, and everyone interprets the 8/M differently.
For more, here is a great article on the history of women’s clothing sizes from TIME Magazine