Shrink Ray Hits JCPenney Clothing Now, Too?

Kyle just wrote to us that the 36″ sleeve on a Large Tall sweatshirt from JCPenney has been reduced to 35″. It’s not just a manufacturing accident, because the new length is printed in the retailer’s sizing charts. But Kyle says for years he’s had no problem with JCPenney shirts, and that this all started happening within the past year or so.

Well, the Grocery Shrink Ray has turned its sights onto a target-rich environment: clothing. Recently I discovered JCPenney shrank one of the sizing standards in their Tall sizes.

Over the past year or so I’ve noticed the sleeves of some of my shirts and such were a little short, by an inch or so. I attributed it to being married to someone who’s 14″ shorter than me and who hasn’t ever had to be paranoid about sleeve shrinkage when doing laundry. But recently I ordered a Large Tall microfleece sweatshirt from, and tried it on right out of the shipping envelope—and the sleeves were at least an inch too short for my 36″ arms.

So for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, I looked up JCPenney’s sizing charts, and discovered Large Tall is a 35″ sleeve length. For as long as I have shopped JCPenney’s Tall sizes it has been 36″, and Large Tall is a 36″ sleeve at every other tall-size retailer I’ve checked (Land’s End, L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Rochester Big & Tall, Westport Big & Tall, Casual Male Big & Tall, Sears…). But sometime in the past year or two JCPenney changed the sizing standards and didn’t bother to tell their customers they were doing so.

Yes, yes: the Extra Large Tall has a 36″ sleeve, but then the body of the shirt or sweater or whatever would reach to the middle of my thighs— a bad enough look on teenage girls in the 1980s; a frightening look on a 45-year-old man today. I’m a proportionally-shaped 6′ 4″ man; I don’t need Big & Tall, I need Tall, and I need it realistically-sized, not built for someone who’s 300 pounds or with stunted arms or legs.

I wrote a letter to Steven Lawrence, Exec. VP of Men’s Clothing (among other titles) for JCPenney, asking for the company to change their sizing back to what it was and would be happy to share any reply I get with

Has anyone else noticed a measurable change in clothing sizing?


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    At this point, I’m surprised companies haven’t cropped shirt sleeves to be above the elbow, and just told customers to “think warm thoughts.”

    How much money and fabric does one inch really save?

    • Pax says:

      One inch per sleeve is probably … oh … an average of eight square inches of material, shall we say?

      Eight square inches per sleeve, times two sleeves per shirt, times five million shirts … is 80,000,000 square inches of material. Or, 555,555.56 square feet. Or, about 61,800 square yards.

      So, it DOES add up. Of course, shortening the sleeves probably doesn’t save ALL of that material – there’s waste in any process. But, 40,000 square yards is a believable amount. And a whole lot of savings.

      And who wants to bet they only make FIVE million shirts, anyway? :)

  2. SecretAgentWoman says:

    Welcome to my world. Women’s sizes have never been standardized as much as men’s and all my life I’ve had to roll up sleeves because every blouse that fits me in all other aspects is at least 2 inches too long on the sleeves. I look specifically for 3/4 sleeves when I can.

    • Griking says:

      Why is it that it seems that it’s perfectly normal for woman’s pant legs to end anywhere between the ankle and the knee nowadays.

    • Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

      I’m short but with really long arms. Every shirt I buy has sleeves just barely too short. I loved when sleeves that extended over the hand because the fashion, because it meant that I could buy shirts that fit me.

  3. TheWillow says:

    As a “shorty” I lost all sympathy for tall people a long time ago. And I continue to lose it every time one of them elbows me in the face on the subway and doesn’t even notice.

    (ok not really just cranky today)

    • qbubbles says:

      Preach it, sister.

      • TheWillow says:

        I wonder how much more per year I spend on clothes than someone who has (for example) an inseam somewhere between 33″ (avg. length for ‘long’) and 29″ (avg. length for ‘short’)

    • Al Tuna says:

      Oh, please. You have the option to tailor and hem your clothes, but I can’t add fabric. I have a 36″ inseam and long monkey arms– and wear womens’ sizes (I’m 6′ tall, with all my height in my legs). Seemingly every store has moved its talls to online only, so I have to order and pay for two or three pairs of pants (plus shipping!) in advance just to try them on and return at least one, two, or all pairs of pants (plus return shipping). All while there are tons of petites on the rack.

  4. bhr says:

    I wonder..
    As a big&tall myself (though more on the big side for you fat bashers that love to chime in) I often find that the tall sizes fit better then the big sizes, except for sleeve length. Maybe its my build, but the extra length in the torso works better for me since most big sizes are all about width, leaving me with shirts that are either baggy at the bottom or too short (or both).

    I wonder if this resizing was part of an effort to capture part of that market?

    • cromartie says:

      I doubt it was, but I’m right there with you. Aside from the sleeves, I appreciate the length of a Tall size because the shirts stay tucked in.

      Still, bummer for this guy. JCPenney, unlike Kohls, goes out of their way to have a fairly robust big and tall section with quality merch in store (though strangely, that doesn’t translate to the shoe department).

  5. crb042 says:

    Is this really shrinkage, or is it just a change in style? For example, if this was a case of skirts being shorter than last season, would that be a nefarious plot, or just this year’s trend?

  6. knoxblox says:

    After giving it some thought, I think this is due to the increasing trend of wearing a hooded sweatshirts or even regular sweatshirts underneath a jacket or sport coat for a layered look. As jackets and sport coats have a shorter cuff length than a business suit, the sweatshirt cuff should, according to fashion, not extend much further than the jacket cuff.

    Either that, or JCPenney thinks the human race is evolving into a race of flipper people, and they’re getting a jump start on the competition by removing an inch of material every one hundred years or so.

  7. drax1983 says:

    I’m also 6′ 4″ and I have noticed sleeves on “tall” shirts getting shorter over the last couple of years.

    Kyle, you’re not alone! I’m very interested in JCPenny’s response. Perhaps they are “taking it very seriously”, haha.

  8. Silverhawk says:


    I now no longer wear Eddie Bauer shorts because of this. Only it’s not just lengths they’re shrinking, they’re shrinking widths, too. When I returned the last batch of shorts to Eddie Bauer last summer, I took one of my old ones purchased not quite a year earlier (same catalog #) and laid it on the counter, then laid the new ones on top of it to illustrate the marked difference. Both waist and inseam were smaller, like they had been hit by the shrink ray. The employees were shocked, and checked the labels as they thought I’d ordered the next size down and was just inattentive. I’ve worn the exact same size for years with Eddie Bauer until last summer, so *I* didn’t change sizes.

    I’ve also encountered this with Land’s End. I can’t comment about other brands/labels as I haven’t had long history with them.

  9. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    I’ve noticed the opposite with regards to jeans; I’ve been a 30″ inseam since I stopped getting taller about 20 years ago. Old Navy jeans fit me just fine until recently. Suddenly, 30″ is 2 inches longer than it used to be, and the tape measure confirms it. I’ve noticed this with other retailers as well. Has anyone else run into this problem?

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Yes I have. I’m 5’6″ and I often have to go to the “short” inseam or the “petite” version of the pants I’m looking to buy because pant legs are way too freaking long. Sometimes even altering them doesn’t work because the proportions still aren’t correct even after shortening the legs, i.e. the crotch and butt aren’t in the right spots either. I’m a full 2 inches taller than the tall range of “petite” so why I have to resort to buying petite pants I’ll never know.

  10. trentblase says:

    FINALLY! As someone with 35″ arms, I’ve always hated dress shirts where “35/36” really means “36 and screw you if your arms are actually 35.” Yeah, technically you can use the tighter cuff button, but then your cuff looks wrong and you have extra cloth hanging around your wrist.

  11. taun says:

    Shrinking? I hope this trend keeps going because everywhere else I’ve shopped, clothing seems to be a size larger than what’s labeled. For example, most shirts that are supposed to be size small fit much more like a medium. I blame it on the fattening of America and the manufacturers trying to make people feel good about the 60% obesity rate. Hell, at all my local Costco, they don’t sell anything smaller than a men’s medium in t-shirts.

  12. qbubbles says:

    Old Navy seems to have a problem with consistency. I fit one pair of jeans great, I get the same style, same size a few months later, and my ass is all over the place. Wtf?

  13. veritybrown says:

    If you can afford it, or if you have a family member who can sew well, custom-made clothing is a good alternative for those who don’t match up with the size charts. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of luck to find an article of clothing that fits you properly. This is one reason I like yard sales and thrift stores–stuff that doesn’t quite fit a “standard-size” person may end up in these places, just waiting for someone who needs the non-standard fit.

  14. NarcolepticGirl says:

    okay. I’ve noticed this for the last 15 years.

    I have had several clothing items of the same kind – and notice they vary if I buy them next year or the year after.

    Example – Glo Jeans. I bought a pair 5 years ago with regular length. then, 3 years later, I bought a pair and they were like an inch shorter. I put them on top of each other and yes, one is an inch longer than the other. Same brand, type, size.

    This also happened to me with a couple of pairs of Rocket Dog shoes that were exactly the same size/type only bought a year away from each other. One was size 9. I bought another pair a year later (sisters dog tore into them) and the size 9 was too big. I settled with a size 8.5

    • JrnymnJ says:

      Maybe they are overusing the template patterns? Or maybe they are cutting too thick stacks of fabrics resulting in a shear offset from top to bottom—similar to trying to cut too many sheets of paper in a ‘long-arm’ paper cutting board?

  15. Nick says:

    Also like the OP, I’ve been noticing it getting harder and harder to find clothes for just “tall” and not “big and tall” people. When I’m in shape (which is not right now), I’m a medium tall–a very difficult size to find. I’m not “skinny” by any means, so I can’t help but wonder what average-build tall people do.

    • regenerator says:

      My husband also needs medium tall shirts if he wants to wear long sleeves, and yes, they’re very difficult to find. Banana Republic, Gap, and LL Bean seem to be the only mainstream stores to find them, and even then he has to buy online (which is fine mostly, but not helpful for any last-minute purchases).
      I know it’s crazy, but some people are tall *and* thin!

    • Invalid_User_Name says:

      “..which is not right now”

      LOL! That’s great.

  16. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    I find it nearly impossible to get anything with long enough arms and legs without getting a supersized waist or shirt/sweatshirt length. All four of us in the family are tall and lean. The store clerks think I’m asking for alien duds when I ask for 30/34 jeans for my boys. 36″ sleeves are a must for my husband and to get that I need to hem and take in his shirts and sweatshirts. Same with my clothes, thank goodness I know how to sew.

  17. Tim in Wyoming says:

    Weird… I thought I was the only 6′ 4″ tall guy. I usually have to go down to Fort Collins or Denver to find clothing to fit me, and even then it’s difficult. Everything is made for tall and fat or short and fat, nothing for the guy that is actually normal weight.

  18. COBBCITY says:

    The whole “buying clothes at JCPenney” thing gave me the shakes and I couldn’t read further. You must be joking? JCPenney? Clothing? Worn out in public? My word, my stylist would throw a fit. I could never be photographed.

  19. Beeker26 says:

    I have very wide shoulders and usually wear an XL t-shirt. But I’ve been noticing the last year or so that they are no longer widening the shoulders as you go up in size. The width of the shirt gets larger around the middle, but the shoulders are nearly the same size. I couldn’t understand why it felt like my shoulders and upper arms were getting fat. It wasn’t till I compared the new shirts to some old ones the I saw the difference, that shoulder width was the same on L and XL tees. And I even went shopping around to a few different stores and most of them were exactly the same.

    Kinda stupid, cause it’s not like my shoulders are fat. Nothing I can do is going to make them smaller. And buying an XXL t-shirt means I look like I’m wearing a muumuu.

  20. redskull says:

    Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it. At the rate the economy’s going, in a couple more years we’ll all be wearing animals skins and gunny sacks anyway.

  21. quirkyrachel says:

    No, but I used to love their Worthington women’s slacks. They fit beautifully, but they no longer carry them in different lengths. I emailed them and just got the usual “that’s how it is but we value your loyalty, blah blah blah blah.” I know for sure that they carried their slacks in different lengths because I still have a pair that is labeled as ‘short’.

  22. TouchMyMonkey says:

    This is because of the plus-sizing of America. Shorter sleeves allow a fattie to wear larger sizes without having to put up with sleeves that go past the wrist like Dad’s shirts on a little kid.

  23. Sparty999 says:

    I’m tall… and a little big… (6’5 240)… oh yeah, and I wear size 15 shoes!! Finding anything longer than 35 inch sleeves, 32 inch inseam, or size 13 shoe is tough…

    How bout “normal and tall” stores??? You go into a big and tall store, and your big to tall ratio isn’t right, you have as little selection as you do in normal stores. Thank God for suit stores, they actually measure you and you get something that usually fits!!

    Ask a regular shoe store “what do you have in size 15?” usually they are rude, or make a joke like “uh… a box?”

    At least short people can buy kids clothes…


    • TheWillow says:

      I recommend you say that to my mother and her size 4.5 feet while she’s shopping for heels. I will be behind protective glass

    • TheWillow says:

      Can I watch you say that to my mother while she’s trying to find size 4.5 shoes with arch supports?

    • TheWillow says:

      stupid multiple posts posting while I’m trying to edit.

  24. Yorick says:

    I’ve noticed waist sizing changing over the last year. Pants I bought this year, I had to go one size up to get a pair that fit, even tho the pants from last year still fit perfectly. I can’t imagine they stretched that much.

  25. IMakeMine@home says:

    I have noticed the same thing– I have been buying mens Stafford dress shirts 17.5 neck and 34-35 sleeve (regular size) for years. Early last winter, I noticed 34-35 sleeves were suddenly too short and that I needed a 36-37 sleeve size. They are the same price, so where is JCPenney saving money by shortening the sleeves?

  26. Invalid_User_Name says:

    Oh yes, I have found the same thing with women’s clothing lately.

    The same manufacturer and style — the size is smaller a year later. I’ve done the same as the OP — held them up against each other and found this year’s model is 1.5″ smaller than last year’s.

    I don’t think it’s just men’s clothing.

    This is why we’re all getting fat ;-)

  27. EcPercy says:

    Yes I have noticed a change in the size of Arizona Jeans (now that JC Penny owns them) I wear a 30-34 in Jeans and usually go with the carpenter style Jeans. They used to fit great loose in the crotch area and good durability.

    I have gotten a little bigger in the thigh and waist area (from working out) and went to a 31-34 sized carpenter Jean only to find out when the new Jeans came in they were smaller in the waist and tighter in the crotch than the old ones. I put a review up on the JC Penny site stating this fact about the Jeans, but it was promptly deleted. I am guessing that means they won’t be going back to the old style of carpenter jeans. Too bad JC Penny… you guys can’t delete posts on the Consumerist.

    Last thought. It seems like a lot of Jean companies are moving to this style where everything is tight. Tight on the legs and tight in the crotch. Not all of us out there want this. I need room to breathe. I will gladly pay good money for Jeans that fit my waist correctly and are extremely loose in the crotch with the deep pockets that the carpenter style jeans have. Any suggestions?

  28. A Bay Horse says:

    Sizes have been changing for years as the “average” person changes. I’ve been noticing it for a long time in “misses” clothes. While cleaning house, I found a pair of 20 year old jeans, labeled 6 sizes larger than I wear now. Still fit perfectly.

  29. DanGarion says:

    Where do I begin? It all started for me when these clothing companies starting making “athletic” fit and “classic” fit shirts. That was just an excuse to make smaller shirts and charge more for XXL. And who the heck is a XXL that really should be wearing an “athletic” shirt? Come on.

    I wrote a huge rant about sizes years ago on my old journal, I’m sure it’s pretty much the same thing I would say today.

  30. raz-0 says:

    It’s trickle down. JC Penney’s big and tall has been getting worse for years. At 6’7″, It used to be I’d buy most of my casual clothes form their B&T catalog. When the waists go up to 50″, but the inseams only go up to 34″, that’s not tall, that’s fat. Lately, it seems they have even left the fat people hanging as most of the catalog is maybe 2 inches more in any given direction than their normal inventory. Maybe.