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Women's Clothing Sizes - How much do they vary?

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Wed, Dec 26, 2007 @ 14:12 PM

A few months ago, I wrote about how women's clothing sizes don't correllate to the sizes of actual women. The middle (medium) sizes of clothing are not the average sizes of women. Comparing a government study to manufacturers' sizing, average women need to buy clothes marked "large" or "extra large." Worse yet, the standards from the major manufacturers mostly seemed to make waistlines an inch too small for the rest of the body proportions.

I thought I'd go a step farther today and measure some clothes hanging in my closet. For the purpose of this experiment, I grabbed 7 shirts fom 4 manufacturers (Talbots, Brooks Brothers, Dana Buchman, and Ellen Tracy) all marked with the same size. The sleeves varied nearly three inches in length (23" to 25 5/8"). The collars ranged more than an inch and a half (15 3/8" to 17"). And, no surprise to any woman, the chest -- measured as the circumference below the underarm -- varied by 5 inches.

Then, I compared the clothing to their manufacturer's size charts. The two BB shirts had the same bust size (points for consistency!), but were 4 inches larger in the bust than advertised. The three Talbots shirts varied from 1 inch larger than the chart, to 2 and 6 inches larger than the chart. Dana Buchman and Ellen Tracy didn't have size charts posted anywhere easy to find.

Women's blouses, of course, come in a variety of bodice styles from contour-fitting to loose. Nonetheless, I can't help but compare this to men's clothes. My husband buys a shirt by the collar and sleeve length. I've never measured them, but as a general rule he can buy from any manufacturer and they fit. In fact, men of substantially different heights and weights can buy the same collar and sleeve size as my husband and the shirts fit those men as well. But my husband wouldn't buy a shirt that was randomly a 15, 16 or 17 inch collar or one that was randomly a 23 or 26 inch sleeve.

It leaves me wondering whether women really want all the variation in their day to day shopping or whether some significant number wouldn't happily buy clothes offered in the same way as they are offered to men?

Topics: womens measurements, womens clothing sizes, technology b2c