Why Women's Clothing Sizes Will Never Make Any Damn Sense

Women’s clothing sizes vary over time, by manufacturer, and sometimes from one clothing design to another in the same store. Why is that? Was it ever different? Has anyone ever tried to impose order? Back in 1958, the National Bureau of Standards tried to apply standardized sizing to the pattern-making industry, and optionally to ready-to-wear clothing vendors as well, but the standards didn’t take. The very sizing system we grumble at today is based on these 1958 numbers. Loosely.

Blame the various shapes and sizes of women, and the ever-present menace of size inflation. Back then, sizes started with 8, not with 00. Slate explains how the government standards of 1958 evolved into the voluntary standards we know and hate today, published by private company ASTM International.

In 1958, for example, a size 8 corresponded with a bust of 31 inches, a waist of 23.5 inches and a hip girth of 32.5 inches. In ASTM’s 2008 standards, a size 8 had increased by five to six inches in each of those three measurements, becoming the rough equivalent of a size 14 or 16 in 1958. We can see size inflation happening over shorter time spans as well; a size 2 in the 2011 ASTM standard falls between a 1995 standard size 4 and 6.

A Size 2 Is a Size 2 Is a Size 8 [Slate] (Thanks, Rosa!)