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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

Women's Clothing Sizes - inconsistent fit and the e-commerce sales challenge

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Sun, Mar 02, 2008 @ 00:03 AM

I've written before about the challenge to consistently and easily find women's clothing that fits.  Women's clothing has none of the standard sizing that makes shopping for a man relatively quick and painless.  My prior posts on this topic have gotten some attention, so I thought I'd point out two companies trying to address the problem. 

The good news for consumers is that manufacturers and retailers are beginning to think about transparency for sizing...letting you have some way to know what the actual dimensions of a piece of clothing are.  Now that clothing sales are moving to the internet, clothing has a 14% return rate, approximately double the return rate of other items.  This costs sellers money (postage, restocking, staleness) and they know if may affect repeat business.  Two relatively young companies are taking slightly different approaches to the problem. 

My Shape focuses on the idea that women fall into a small number of body shapes and recommends clothing based upon your shape and personal measurements that you submit to them online.  The shapes are their new names and descriptions for the old apple, pear, hourglass sorts of shapes.  The biggest drawbacks here seem to be getting people to get their measurements right and any privacy issues related to someone else holding your personal measurements.

Size Me Up asks people to submit brand, size, and measurements of favorite clothes in the closet and then plans to tell them which size will be right in something they're perusing online.  The drawback here, as well, is relying on the public to provide consistent measurements.

I have some doubts about any model that requires the customers to provide crucial data.  Both of these companies appear able to attract a loyal fan base, but I suspect that both may be overtaken by one that figures out how to address the problem without making the customers part of the labor force.

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Topics: womens measurements, womens clothing sizes, technology b2c

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?

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Topics: womens measurements, womens clothing sizes, technology b2c

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