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Let's Talk Inclusive Sizing

I got an email from a customer the other day asking why I don't provide more sizing options.

The super short answer - I simply can't afford to yet.

It seems like a huge cop-out, but trust me when I say emerging brands like mine KNOW there is a demand for more sizing, and we're working on it, I promise we are. But extra sizes mean more samples, more fit tests, more patterns, higher minimums and more product that potentially doesn't sell. The fashion industry for startups is, at best, a gigantic financial risk. At worst, bankrupting. Even when producing small runs.

Typically, when brands are starting out, they will pick a size run that they believes works best for their target market. It doesn't mean they want to exclude people, it just means they have weighed their options and decided that these particular sizes are the LEAST risky to produce right out of the gate. No product can be perfect for *every* person, and this is especially true for clothing. Especially when there is little to no universal sizing method, and each brand is left to their own devices regarding sizing for their particular customer.

But WTF is that all about?  Why does Large sometimes mean an 8, and other times barely a 14? Why do I, a consistent size 10, have to  s t r u g g l e  to get into a XXL at H&M, and fit a medium in other brands? Where does sizing even come from? 

A friend told me a few months ago about the history of sizing - and IT. IS. FASCINATING.  I've been meaning to write about it, and I'm feeling like now is the perfect time. 


Once upon a time, in the 1940's to be exact, standardized sizing first came into effect.

Before then, sizing, believe it or not, was determined by a womans age, (14 y/o fit size 14 etc.) and even then, pretty much only by bust size.  Nowadays, this sounds completely ridiculous, but back then, the consideration was that most women knew how to sew and could perform their own alterations on any garment that didn't fit perfectly, or just, like, whip up a new one. Okayyy...fine. 

In 1939, the American Department of Agriculture attempted to standardize sizing across the industry, by performing a "study" in which 15,000 women across all age ranges and sizes (but white only, obviously - this is 1940's America after all) would be measured in "59 different places".  Unfortunately, the study was flawed in many ways, and didn't provide a well rounded sample of women for a number of reasons. But one really glaring reason stands out:  The study was voluntary, but it was also paid. Because of this, most of the women who signed up to be measured were quite poor and desperately needed the money, resulting in measurements that spiked heavily towards under-nourished. 


OK, so sizing started out tiny, but that doesn't explain why or how our sizing has become SO skewed nowadays - I mean, the 40's were a long time ago, our national size average has changed drastically - shouldn't we have figured it out by now?

Well, today in the fashion industry, we have this amazingly egotistical concept of "vanity sizing". Which assumes that women* are too fragile to see a double digit number on their tags, and need to be tricked into buying a garment that fit's them properly. Awesome. This is where we get the famous 000 sizing that you sometimes see on garments, and really only stands to add to the confusion around sizing and the patronizing of women across the board.

*pretty much primarily women - we are starting to see a bit of vanity sizing in men's fashion too now though. 

There is also a concept of sizing for "junior", which, unfortunately, is what we see more often and has become the norm for most large brands today (unless they specifically cater to a mature or plus size client), and why my size 10 curves can barely squeeze into size 14 or XXL in stores like H&M. Teenage, prepubescent girls drive the fashion industry, and this of course has a trickle-down effect to mid-size brands and even emerging brands.

So there you have it, folks. Clothing sizing in a very teeny, tiny nutshell. 

Now, I will say that there are entirely too FEW brands catering to plus size, curvy - oh let's just say AVERAGE North American sized - women. I know of many, MANY fashion startups and sadly, only a handful started out with the intention of catering to larger sizes. There is a HUGE gap in the market, and it desperately deserves to be filled. As a brand that doesn't yet provide inclusive sizing, I own that responsibility too. I've been called out, and I am so happy that someone has pulled me into this conversation.

As brands, its our responsibility to see where we are falling short, and do our best to fix it. So, this is me, committing to work my tail off towards a more inclusive industry. I can't promise immediate results, but I can tell you that it's at the very top of my priorities list now.

AND BIG THANK YOU to everyone who is using their time and energy to call out brands when we're doing uncool things - we need the honest feedback (as long as it's not rude please! We're still real people 😊)  and we need to be pulled into these conversations. It's the only way we can build a more inclusive, responsible and sustainable fashion industry. Keep up the good work, team!


xx Kait

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