How many sizes do you have in your wardrobe?

Me? I reckon there are at least a dozen. I have everything from XS to XL. I have size 6s and size 16s. I have size 0 and size 4 (some shops go from 0 to 4, choosing to step out of the more traditional 8.10.12,14 system). Does it keep me awake at night? Not really. I've never been troubled by inconsistent sizing. I don't think I have a particularly strong link between the number in the back of my clothes to the feeling I carry about myself in my head. But I know many women do. Consumer magazine Choice released a report today along with this cute video (if you can't play a video at work, after the jump I've published the findings – a quick, easy read):

I was invited to be part of a round table discussion last week along with a bunch of other bloggers and fashion commentators, but couldn't make it. The Choice report says:

While there is an Australian standard for children’s clothes sizes,
there isn’t for adults. So in the absence of any definitive size guide,
designers and clothing manufacturers base their versions of sizes on
their sales history, marketing hunches and what they believe is their
ideal customer.

While this may suit the designers, who can
manipulate sizing to give an instant “feel good” factor, as well as
deter the “wrong” body shapes from fitting their clothes, consumers are
often left having to try on a range of sizes to find the right one.

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Last year the federal government conducted a review of the of the
Australian textiles, clothing and footwear industry. One of its key
recommendations was to allocate, “as a matter of urgency,” $5 million
from the 2009 budget to develop a national sizing standard.

While
direct funding hasn’t been allocated in this year’s budget, the
government will commission further advice on introducing a voluntary
national sizing standard and anthropometric database as part of an
overall funding package of $55 million for the textiles, clothing and
footwear industries.

Fashion industry experts CHOICE spoke to all agree that as part of
an Australian industry worth $2.8 billion, sizing irregularity is one
of the major issues.

The shape we're in

The most recent Australian clothing standard for adult men and women
was withdrawn in 2007 as it was considered no longer relevant.
Established in 1959, the standard was based on data from a 1926 study
of women conducted by underwear manufacturer Berlei and some US
Department of Commerce Standards. After 1970, several revisions were
made to the standard for women using data provided by the Australian
Women’s Weekly when 11,455 female readers measured themselves and
posted in the results, the last revision taking place in 1975.

Thirty-four years later, it’s not surprising to learn those
measurements are no longer considered relevant. It’s no secret that
Australians today are bigger than they used to be. And research from
the US reveals that the sedentary western body may be changing shape;
with waists getting thicker in both sexes and, thanks to
multiculturalism, there is a wider range of body shapes than back in
the 1920s. Despite these studies and abundant anecdotal evidence, there
is still no definitive data to show just what kind of shape we are in
today.

Overseas, large-scale body shape surveys have been conducted in the
UK, Spain, France, China, Japan, the US and Germany, usually funded by
government and sectors of the clothing industry. This data has been
used to assist clothing manufacturers improve fit as well as identify
sectors of the market that may not have been previously catered to at
all. The information has also been used to develop better-fitting
uniforms and safety wear, as well as assist with improving ergonomics
in products ranging from cars to seating on public transport.

Where to now?


While the experts CHOICE spoke to agree a mandatory sizing standard
isn’t the answer, better information about sizing is needed. The latest
ABS figures show 68% of adult men and 55% of adult women are overweight
or obese (using the body mass index), so it makes sense that a national
sizing survey would allow manufacturers to better understand the modern
body shapes of consumers.It could empower manufacturers to provide
better-fitting, flattering and more comfortable clothing – a win-win
situation for both the industry and consumer.

When I worked at Cosmo, I commissioned many stories about this and learnt a lot from them. There are so many reasons why different designers and manufacturers use different standards. Much of it depends on the demographic of their shopper (the body shape of your average Zimmerman shopper is very different to the average woman who shops at, say, Best & Less) and shouldn't they be allowed to reflect that in their sizing?

I've always found it easy to change my expectation as to what size I'm going to be depending on what store I'm in. Am I unusual in that way? I'm also prone to alter the size I buy according to the fit I want – I'll often buy something in a L because I prefer it to be looser or longer than the manufacturer intended.

What about you? Are you sick of being different sizes in a single day when you go into different shops? Or do you think we all need to stop being so hung up about a number on a label and just look for clothes that suit us, regardless of what size they are?

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