Personal Blog

Women's clothing sizes - Why do pants gap in the back?

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Sun, May 11, 2008 @ 21:05 PM

It's one of life's little mysteries. Why do all women's pants gap in the back? I've been thin and not thin, hourglass and not hourglass, but always, the pants gap in the back. I thought it was just me, but then I went shopping a slender size 0 woman the other day; she put on the snuggest pair of jeans -- snug leg, snug hips, snug zipper -- yet still, there was a gap in the back.

Google provides 150 items in response to a search for "gap in the back" and women's pants. A few are manufacturers who've claimed to solve the problem. Wrangler says the answer is to have a curved waistband. Lands End says the answer is "a trimmer waist."

Most of the items are consumer comments -- reviews, bulletin boards, and blogs. The consumer comments reveal that there might not be a single answer. Two of four comments about Cabela's Jeanos say they don't gap in the back, but the other two say they do. One person who had a poor fit said the problem applied to the long-waisted. But other blogs say it's caused by being an hourglass. It sounds like the problem is created when a particular pair of pants doesn't match a particular body shape.

I've written before about the fact that women's clothes aren't consistently sized, making online shopping particularly challenging. And, I've written about two services (MyShape and SizeMeUp) that try to help women address the problem. While researching the gap-in-the-back problem I fell upon another service -- zafu.

I hadn't heard of it before, but zafu looks like a great website that helps women find jeans, pants, and bras that fit. zafu takes an interesting and different approach from it's two competitors. Like its competitors, zafu  asks questions about measurements, but different from them, it also asks about your age, your style, and your shape.  It's suggestions should offer something that fits, is age appropriate and is consistent with your taste. The site is powered by the algorithms of a sister company, Archetype Solutions (which is designed to let people buy customized clothes).

Both the zafu and Archetype websites looked a little old ... blogs ending last fall; so I did a little more checking. zafu raised another round of funding last fall. And, Archetype is now powering a company called DNA Wear. There seems to be some activity going on behind the scenes (job postings, etc), so I think there will be some exciting enhancements coming soon.  Definitely keep an eye on this company.  They might yet solve the gap in the back problem!

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Topics: womens measurements, womens clothing sizes, technology b2c customer service, b2c customer service

New York Street Economics

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Sat, Jun 09, 2007 @ 15:06 PM
After many years away, I'm spending the summer in Manhattan.  I've pined for New York - the joys of so much intellect, art, cuisine, and money shoe-horned into every square inch of a walker's paradise.  And, I missed being amongst so many old friends, cronies who knew the more delinquent precursor to my responsible grown up self.  Until arriving, though, I'd forgotten all about another New York pleasure: what I've taken to calling "New York Street economics". 

One of the things that distinguishes a New Yorker from a tourist or casual visitor is the confident navigation of everyday financial transactions.  Everyone who reads a guidebook knows that there are bargains to be had on designer samples, luggage, or electronics.  A New Yorker knows there are price variations on every block. 

My benchmarks are the 20 ounce bottle of Poland Spring water, the soft pretzel, and the small Mr. Softee chocolate cone with sprinkles.  Charges for that Poland Spring bottle vary from $1.00 to $2.50.  On my own block, the bodega charges $1.25 and the sandwich shop directly across the street charges $1.50.  The "true" street value, from newsstands and food carts is $1.00.  A soft pretzel ranges between $1.50 and $2.00.  The ice cream cone is $2.00.

Stated prices vary depending upon location, overhead, and perceived market sophistication.  The cart at the corner of 79th and York is far from the tourists and has a regular clientele of hospital staffers: pretzel - $1.50.  Most corners around the city, pretzels are $2.00.  But, on the west corners of 50th and Fifth Avenue, where the tourist throngs are oogling Rockefeller Center: pretzel - $3.00. 

True New Yorkers navigate like Bedouins in the bazaar.  It took me a few days, but one incident returned me to my roots.  There I was at the Rockefeller Center corner, ordering a pretzel and then asking the price; when I heard "$3.00" I simply raised an eyebrow handed back the bag and walked away.  As his voice faded from my hearing, he was still calling me back and had reached the below-market price of $1.00.  Now, when I want to buy one of these items, I order it, and simply hand over the amount that seems appropriate; anyone asking for more gets the merchandise back in his hand.
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Topics: NY, Manhattan, b2c customer service

Fun with Numbers - Women's Clothing Sizes

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Sun, May 20, 2007 @ 22:05 PM
The last few years, there's been a lot of discussion about women's body image, how destructive it is to many young women's psyches to think they have to look like supermodels.  To counter that perception, in 2002 Jamie Lee Curtis famously allowed near-naked photos of her over-40 body to appear in More Magazine. A year or so ago, Dove soap began an ad series called Campaign for Real Beauty, featuring an array of beautiful but mixed size women.  This year, retired model and TV talk personality Tyra Banks admitted to a 30 pound weight gain and talked repeatedly about the need for acceptance of more realistic body images.

Yesterday, while web-surfing for something else, I came across some interesting and related information.  Who knew that the Department of Commerce's National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the guys who test things like the accuracy of fingerprint matching technology, are also interested in women's clothing?  They explain that standardized sizes are a relatively recent phenomenon, since people used to make their own clothes.  When the issue of standardizing ready-to-wear clothes arose in the late 1940's, NIST (then NBS) actually appointed an Acting-Secretary of the Sub-Committee on Body Measurements for Wearing Apparel Sizes and Measurements. The resulting standard remains in place today.  Since people have changed over the last 60 years, a new measurement study was begun in the 1990's.

In 2004, a company called TCSquared, published preliminary data after measuring more than 6,000 women in the US.  Although they subdivided the women into groups, I've averaged the results below:

                                         Bust        Waist        Hips

Women 18-35                        40.2        33.5        42.5
Women 36-65                        42.7        36.3        44.6

Women's clothing used to come in sizes 6-16 and, now, come in sizes 0-22.  Either way, the sizes in the middle, the ones you'd expect to fit the average person are 10-12.  But, here's a comparison to the size 12's of some of today's most successful manufacturer's of women's clothes:

                                          Bust         Waist       Hips

Women 18-35                        40.2         33.5         42.5
Women 36-65                        42.7         36.3         44.6
Talbots                                   38            30            40
Gap                                        38.5         31.5         40.75
Ann Taylor Loft                      38.5         31.0         41.0
Lauren (Ralph Lauren)            39.5         31.5         42.5

The dimensions are similar for JCrew, Brooks Brothers, Liz Claiborne, etc.  And, what size would you have to buy if you were the average-sized 18 to 35 year-old?  For these brands, either a 14 (L) or 16 (XL).  And, if you're an average-sized 36 to 65 year-old?  For these brands, either an 18 (XL) or a 20 (XXL). 

No wonder women have body issues.  The major manufacturers just keep telling average sized women that they're Large or Extra Large.

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Topics: womens measurements, womens clothing sizes, b2c customer service

MIT - December - Fall Semester Ends

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Mon, Jan 23, 2006 @ 15:01 PM
December brought the end of fall term and the first Boston snowstorm.

My team for New Enterprises Class produced a business plan for a dynamic location matching platform.  Imagine that your mobile phone knows when my mobile phone is nearby.  This technology can be used, for example, by dating services to make introductions, but is also useful for businesses wanting to send discount coupons to people who are nearby.

I read CK Prahalad's Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid for Global Markets class.  For an American, this was an eye opening discussion of the 4 to 5 billion people in the world with the limited purchasing power of the equivalent of $1,500US per year.  The author presents a compelling case for recognizing these potential businesspersons and consumers as having the same integrity, drive, and desires as everyone else and provides a series of real-world examples of reaching and exanding those emerging markets.  And, for the inventors/thinkers/entrepreneurs, the book sparks idea after idea.  For example, while many are focused on how to deliver clean water to these markets, the book got me thinking about how to produce the individual use containers that would keep it clean (e.g., is it possible to produce an anti-bacterial bottle or a single-use, fast-degrading bottle).

Just before the semester ended, I took a weekend trip home to Tucson to support one of my favorite charities.  Angel Charity for Children had its annual ball on December 10th.  This all-volunteer charity raises the better part of a million dollars every year for a different children's organization. 

Then, the class took its first trip.  We spent several days in New York city.  The meetings are confidential and off-the-record, so I can't list the people we met.  I can say that we met some of the most well-known leaders of industry, arts, and public policy.  And, I was delighted with how seriously most of our speakers took the off-the-record nature of the meetings and the utmost candor of their comments and answers to our questions. 

While in New York, we did get to enjoy some social activities.  My favorite was a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibit explaining the artistic influences on Van Gogh.  I was completely surprised by the discussion of the influence of Utagawa Hiroshige.  I've always admired Hiroshige's work and, after seeing this exhibit, the parallels are obvious.  This was confirmed by a letter he wrote to his brother in the fall of 1888 (part of the exhibit):

"I envy the Japanese for the enormous clarity that pervades their work.  It is never dull and never seems to have been made in haste.  Their work is as simple as breathing and they draw a figure with a few well-chosen lines with the same ease..."

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Topics: technology innovation, MIT - Sloan Fellows, VanGogh, b2c customer service