The Fashion Industry Wants To Make Buying Ill-Fitting Clothes Easier

278997357_a4c17855fb_zWhen you order clothes online, do you order two different sizes, figuring that one will fit you and you can take the other back? Joke’s on you, over-ordering person! That consumer behavior is one of the reasons why women’s clothing manufacturers are switching clothes from numbered sizes to small, medium, and large.

Need to fit people outside of that size range? No problem; just slap on an X and sell extra-small. Switching to what people in the biz call “alpha sizing” saves manufacturers money and resources, making it easier to stock clothes when they arrive and to sell out of a given size once they hit the racks. The Wall Street Journal reports that some clothing companies are making this switch with some or all of their items.

Why is that? Each size in an alpha sizing system replaces two numbered sizes. Think of a typical size run of one item that you might see on a rack at a mall clothing store: you would find sizes 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16. Nine different sizes. Alpha sizing cuts that same size range down to five sizes: XS, S, M, L, and XL. (The Wall Street Journal ignored plus-sized clothing for the purposes of this story, maybe because most plus-sized clothes are already sold in a numeric extension of the alpha size scale: 1X, 2X, 3X and so on.) Stocking fewer sizes makes manufacturing the clothes and running a retail store easier.

It’s not easier on the end user, of course. Even a simplified sizing system isn’t consistent from one manufacturer to another, because that would be too easy. Alpha sizing does give consumers an additional nightmare: clothing specifically designed to fit a wider range of people. Wrap dresses, elastic and drawstring waists, stretchy blazers, and baggy tops are all designed to accommodate a wider range of people than one numeric size.

If you’ve been thinking about learning how to tailor your own ready-to-wear clothes, now may be the time to do it.

Shopping for Clothes? Forget a Size 4, You’ll Have to Try a Small [Wall Street Journal]