Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Body check

Size 6 here, size 10 there; standardized sizing in women's clothing seems to be a pipe dream

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WHEN you normally wear a size 10 and are able to slip into a pair of size 6 pants at the department store, do you feel a thrill, even if you know that you're the exact same weight as usual? If so, you're not alone -- in fact, according to a top magazine editor, even celebs care about wearing smaller sizes. More's Lesley Jane Seymour confessed that when her mag does cover shoots, the fashion team cuts the tags out of the clothing ahead of time so the starlet won't see that they're being dressed in a 10 when they claim they're really an 8 or a 6.


The involuntary -- and let's admit it, totally irrational -- glee shoppers feel over sliding into a teenier-than-expected size is also the reason many brands take part in a little fashion magic called "vanity sizing." This is when they cut their clothing more generously so that customers will be oh-so-happy when they pull on a size 0 skirt and it fits (even if at another store across the street the same woman would wear a size 4). Ego boost aside, it can be incredibly frustrating not to know what size we're going to wear from one store to the next -- shopping takes longer and ordering online can be a nail-biting experience.

No wonder a recent article in The New York Times about businesses working on solutions to the problem of incongruent sizing was so popular with readers. MyBestFit, one of the services profiled, sounds pretty cool to us. It places kiosks in malls, where women can step inside and get a free full-body scan. Once it's completed, the computer has their exact body measurements and can match it to the sizing specifications of a variety of apparel brands. Now the shopper won't have to bring in a size 10, 12 and 14 into the fitting room at every store she hits.

Smart, right? But why can't designers standardize women's fashion the way they have men's clothing, solving this problem once and for all? Your dad, brother or husband knows he wears a 34-inch pants whether he's at Old Navy or Armani, which makes his shopping trip a billion times easier than yours.

To find out what's up, we turned to George Simonton. He's spent 46 years as a Seventh Avenue designer as well as the past 25 as a tenured professor of fashion design at the famed Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Bad news: Simonton told us there's no way women can ever expect to get standard sizes across the board.

"Every designer wants to have their own stamp on fit," Simonton says. "Like, 'This is a Donna Karan fit' or 'This is an Oscar fit.' Every company thinks of themselves as having their own unique look," he adds, "and if they are successful with their fit, they don't want to change it (even if having standard sizes would make customers' lives easier)."

Another issue is that European and Japanese designers have a different fit than American ones, so yeah, good luck with that.

Our expert personally believes that jeans shopping is the worst of all. "Women go crazy looking to find the right jeans, the ones to get their booty looking good. But you will never get a standard in the jeans."

Yes, that's right, Simonton said never. Sigh.

The only area where women may have any luck knowing exactly what size they wear is at a major mass-market retailer like Sears; they're big enough, Simonton explains, that anyone wanting to have their clothing carried there has to adhere to the stores' specs.

"But at the designer level, you will not get all designers to agree." So until services like MyBestFit or others take hold, expect to be stuck struggling to know your correct size from one store to the next.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2011 E1

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