Fashion a tight fit for too many women

Ladies, we do “the shimmy,” “the snake” and “the bunny hop.” We hold our breath, lie on our beds and even try not to eat or drink before putting on a pair of pants. Desperate times call for desperate measures when it comes to surviving in the world of women’s clothing.

One day, you could be shopping at your favorite store in the mall where you know a size 6 always hugs your body in all the right places. But the next day, all of that can change and suddenly you no longer bask in the glory that is your size 6.

Instead, you are frantic and confused because a size 12 has become your new best friend.

Women’s clothing sizes are inconsistent. What used to be a love of shopping for women has become a love-hate relationship. The problem is that the proportions of the average American woman have changed.

In a study of 5,000 women conducted by fashion designer and researcher Daisy Veitch and Adelaide anatomist professor Maciej Henneburg, it showed that women are 3 centimeters taller and 20 percent heavier than they were 60 years ago.

Ten years ago, the American Society for Testing and Materials developed standard measurements for the clothing industry to use. Very few companies chose to adopt these standards. In a Nov. 3, 2002, article in the Knight Ridder Tribune, Chris Mordi, a spokesman for the clothing catalog Lands’ End, said, “The company starts with ASTM numbers, but then the sizes get tweaked, based on research about our customers.”

In addition, several companies get their sizing numbers from their “fit model.” A fit model is what designers believe is their perfect customer. It is this person’s measurements companies use to create the range of different sizes available in the clothing line they offer. In all fairness, no one is made the same – one designer’s perfect customer can be completely different from another’s.

If that isn’t bad enough, designers are also trying to prey on insecurities by creating “vanity sizes.” To sell more clothing, fashion companies slap a size six label on a size 12 to give customers the illusion they are smaller then they thought. This makes customers come back to the store in the future. Let’s face it – a size 6 is better than a size 12.

Even if women know in their hearts they are a certain size, to be one or two sizes smaller is pure heaven. Instantly, the store that houses your two-sizes-smaller pants becomes your favorite.

Size is so important to some women that the thought of having to go bigger is appalling. National clothing chain Talbots conducted a survey last spring that revealed 62 percent of women would only consider clothes in their size when shopping. Asked whether they’d go up from that size, 46 percent said they’d go one size larger – only 24 percent said they’d go up two sizes.

Why do women stress so much over a number that only they see? In a world that praises scarily thin celebrities and models, and ads on television that bombard women with every type of weight-loss method in the world, women are made to believe their bodies aren’t good enough. They are not taught to embrace their shapes, to love their differences and to realize that not everyone can fit into a size 2.

Maybe if clothing sizes were offered to women in measurements instead of some randomly picked number, problems could be solved. Men’s clothing sizes were standardized during the Civil War because the men needed to get into their uniforms as quickly as possible. Many have suggested doing the same for women, but designers and manufactures are convinced that women would not want to see their measurements on a tag when they go shopping.

Women see their measurements on tags all the time. Weight is on panty hose packages and bust sizes adorn bras – no one seems to have a problem with that. If standards were adopted, clothes would fit better and shopping would take less time. Instead of taking three or four different sizes to the dressing room, women could at least take the correct waist size and know the pants will button.

Women are fed up with clothing designers who refuse to design for “real” women. They are designing clothes for women who don’t exist, except maybe in Hollywood or after a tummy tuck and some liposuction. For me, shopping has become a lot like a lottery – occasionally I’ll hit the jackpot and find a pair of jeans that fit my proportions, but the odds are slim to none. Until the fashion industry wakes up and sees that real women have curves, the dance to get into pants won’t end.

Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in mass communications.