Look at this note. It’s from the Blue
Book Modeling Agency in 1945. It says Norma Jean, who you might also know as Marilyn Monroe, was in fact, a size 12. LYNN BOORADY: She was. but back in the 50s, a size 12 was very thin. That was a model. You know, a size 12 then would be about a size 6 now. Well, to be exact, she would be a size 8 at
Topshop, 6 at Zara, and 4 to 6 at American Apparel. ..to actually show you the inconsistencies,
I went shopping. I bought 3 jeans at 3 different stores, all
in the same size. We’re already off to a bad start. These all look different. This is not a 4. This one is the one in the middle. This one fits! Hold up. It won’t zip. I give up. Let’s wind back a little bit. It was the Napoleonic wars and later
the Civil War in the US that demanded a sizing system for the mass production of clothing for the first time. It was for men’s uniforms. After that, men’s suit sizes were based
on the chest measurement and the rest was calculated accordingly, assuming that their bodies were in proportion. The demands for mass production of uniforms escalated and ready-made clothing became really popular. By the end of the nineteenth century, most
people were wearing ready-made clothes. In 1939, the US government funded statisticians
to collect the weight and 58 measurements of 15,000 women. LYNN BOORADY: They only used white women, even
though they took measurements of women of color, they didn’t include them in the study
or the calculations. The women who would’ve turned out for these studies were the poor women because they would be paid. So the data set even back then was possibly malnourished women, certainly poor women, and not very diverse group of women… and that’s what
we started with. They were looking for key measurements that
could predict the sizes of other parts of the body, the way chest sizes had for men. But women’s bodies, with variable breast
and hip sizes, were much harder to summarize with a single number. So, the data was used to create a
system in 1958 with sizes from 8 to 42, an arbitrary number based on bust size, combined
with a letter for height and a plus or minus for hips. The sizing chart was really unpopular, so
they made some updates, but finally in 1983 it was completely withdrawn. In the 1970s and 80s, companies started labeling the sizes down, and adding lower numbers like
2, zero and now even double zero. So the waist measurement that used to be a
size 12 became an 8. LYNN BOORADY: Vanity sizing specifically, is when the size on the label is lowered artificially, in order to tempt to get somebody to buy
the garment. So you’re appealing to the person’s vanity. Sizing has become a marketing tool. LYNN BOORADY: I think it’s done because the women are getting bigger,
we’re just addressing that. When the first standardizing chart came out
in 1958 it was mostly built out of malnourished, white women. Now, that there’s such a wide group of people
to cover, the retailers are picking a certain group of people to sell to, honing in what
works with that group and what doesn’t. LYNN BOORADY: I think we’re more aiming for our own target markets. So, when Abercrombie & Fitch does their sizing,
they’re sizing to their target market not to me. We kept tweaking that information
until we sold more garments and could lower the return rate. That means, even brands owned by the same company will have inconsistent sizes. A size 8 at Banana Republic will have the
same hip size as a size 2 at the Gap. So if you get frustrated while shopping…. LYNN BOORADY: It’s not you, it’s the industry, it’s not women’s bodies, we’re fine the way we are. They are just random numbers, they don’t
mean anything. And if you don’t like your size just cut
it out of your clothes.