Clothes sizes 13.08.15

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Why do we have a system that puts women into supposedly standard categories without providing measurements? It’s time to “unsize”, says Open NY

When buying clothes, men have it pretty easy. For instance, the size of a pair of trousers (or pants, as we say in New York) is usually defined by two measurements: the waist and inseam. Looking for a dress shirt? Remember your collar and sleeve measurement, and you’re set. And buying a suit starts with knowing your chest measurement.

It’s different for women. A dress might be a size 6, which not too many years ago was a 2, but in another country is called a 10. That size 6 might be a “petite” or a “plus” or something else entirely. And that number 6 represents a certain set of measurements that the dress’s manufacturer has determined upon, but won’t reveal to you.

Back in the day, sizes weren’t necessary. Most people didn’t own all that many clothes, and they were custom-made. The current system of sizes puts people into supposedly standard categories as a way to streamline the manufacturing process. We’d like to remove those categories and empower people instead.

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Websites can do away with size guides

“Unsizing” provides the details you need to make informed decisions. People often buy clothing for the fit. What better way to know what you’re getting than exact measurements? Unsizing shows the flat dimensions of a garment, putting the focus on the object rather than on the subject. How you choose to wear it is up to you. 

Stores could sell the same sizes and cuts, unsized to reveal their flat measurements. So instead of a 6 (or a 10), that dress would be labelled as 18” 14” 19”. But it might also be available in 19” 14” 19” or 18” 14” 20”, since stores wouldn’t be limited to the old categories. Custom-made clothes could be made in any measurements.

Unsizing is a simple way for everybody to have and share the information they need. By transcending categories and revealing facts, we can all speak the same language, no matter where we are. Now if we can just get the United States to go metric, we’d really be getting somewhere.


Words and imaged

Open NY


Above: Unsized garments can have up to three flat measurements – bust, waist and hips

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The current system of sizes puts people into supposedly standard categories as a way to streamline the manufacturing process

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No more surprises when it comes to size – price is a different story ...

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You only need to know three numbers to shop (at least if you know inches)


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