Friday, February 22, 2008

The insanity of clothing sizes

Explain this to me.

I bought some women's t-shirts from the Gap about 15 years ago, size medium. They've been downgraded to pajama drawer status, but they're loose and comfy, and the cotton's nice and soft.

In the interim, breast augmentation surgery has made a few million American women's boobs bigger, and WonderBras and their rivals added padding to women who have eschewed implants. And the population has also grown increasingly obese over the years.

So how come now, an American Apparel women's tee in size extra-large barely stretches over my torso? I have a "normal" body mass index, so it's not as if I'm freakishly outsized. I know the snug fit has become more popular in the last five or ten years, but really: an XL is too small for me? WTF? I don't get what's happening here.


Jay said...

I wonder how a Gap tee would fit you these days. I don't think American Apparel and Gap cut their shirts the same way.

It looks to me as if women's clothes aren't really supposed to fit; they're supposed to look too small. So many women I see are dressed in clothes that just don't quite meet each other, and I am starting to think that's a feature, not a bug.

E. said...

Yeah, I think American Apparel stuff runs small. My old man gets a Large in t-shirts usually, but the American Apparel Large is like a baby tee on him.

I'm just glad someone up on Mount Fashion Olympus has finally decided to resume making shirts that go down past the top snap of my pants. When I'm teaching, I like to be able to lift my arm without flashing my students my naked belly.

Narya said...

That's truly demented. Having actually seen you IRL, I cannot fathom how an XL would be small on you--I cannot even fathom how a L would be small on you! Lordy. I've never bought anything from American Apparel, so I don't really know what their deal is.

I find that, for as many bits of clothing as possible, I am better off buying men's clothing. I have very broad shoulders and small breasts, plus long-ish arms, so a woman's large size fits my shoulders but swims on the rest of me, and a medium only fits in some spots. This is especially true for coats; I don't even try buying women's coats any more.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like some sort of reverse vanity sizing episode.I know I read somewhere that clothiers are calling things smaller sizes than years before. My mom, who worked in retail clothes stores in San Francisco in 40s (and people were much less curvy on average) assures me there was no such thing as sizes 0 or 00 and a size 2 was extremely rare. So that when we see the factioid that "Marilyn Monroe wore a size 14" we are not told that equates to a size 10 in today's stores. Of course a size 10 is considered plus size in the modeling industry but what ever.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced EXACTLY the same phenomenon! I had the problem ordering a coat from LL Bean. I have ordered things from them in the past (say years ago) with no problems, but their large was too small - I mean WAY too small (and I also have a normal frame) and their XL was still too small in the arms. I mentioned this to one of their customer service reps on the phone and she said that she had to replace her 10-yr-old parka this year, and she had to go up 3 sizes from a M (10 yrs ago) to an XL this year.

I think seriously clothes are supposed to look too small. Now, why, I cannot tell you :)

Orange said...

Yeah, I think the problem is that the fit is now expected to be "stretched to the breaking point" rather than "skimming the body." I was at a bar last night, and there were a few women wearing tops that were ridiculous tight and small on them. So what if you're a size 8 to 18 and blobby? Skin-tight is in! Buy tops as snug as your own epidermis!

Which is not to say that there's any shame in feeling good about yourself in body-conscious clothing, but some of us would prefer a more generous fit and wish to expose our muffin tops more judiciously.

Orange said...

And Jay, I haven't been buying tops at the Gap for years, other than the GapBody stretchy thin tees that I use as a layer under a sweater. They're so long, they stay tucked in. They're too thin to wear alone, which is good because they're too form-fitting to wear alone!

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. As a plus-sized gal who has been working hard to lose weight (twice now, since I lost 60 lbs then got preggers and had to do it all over again), I find it really frustrating when my size 20s get too big, but when I go into the store, I am still having to buy size 20s. I don't know how that's possible without reverse bizarro vanity sizing. Because it's not like I lost 60 pounds over the past two years solely off my hair, fingernails, and feet. Grr.

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