The Bizarre History of Women’s Clothing Sizes

The Bizarre History of Women’s Clothing Sizes
Laura Stampler @LauraStampler Oct. 23, 2014

A look back at the start of arbitrary sizing

“True sizing standards didn’t develop until the 1940’s,” says Lynn Boorady, fashion and textile technology chair and associate professor at Buffalo State University. “Before then sizes for young ladies and children were all based on age — so a size 16 would be for a 16-year-old — and for women it was about bust measurement.”

And the measurements still primarily relied on bust size, assuming women had an hourglass figure.

As American girth increased, so did egos. And thus began the practice of vanity sizing. Over the decades, government size guidelines were heeded less and less, items of clothing began getting marked with lower numbers and eventually, in 1983, the Department of Commerce withdrew its commercial women’s clothing size standard altogether. A private organization called ASTM International began publishing its own sizing tables in 1995.

Now, stores often size based on their own preferences, which can make for frustrating online shopping experiences — modern-day catalog browsing — unless you already know your exact size.

Bizarre History of Women’s Clothing Sizes

So, read measurements in listings!
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