The problem with Sizes

So you couldn't find any sizes on our products?

Right, this is a little unusual... Of course, we want to make it as pleasant as possible for you to browse our shop and to show you what great things there already are in the world. Each time when we try to label the sizes, we are faced with the same problem. The sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL, what do they stand for? Small, Medium, Large - compared to whom or to what actually? Is there a standard? Does it mean it is small compared to a “standard” or is Small a standard?

After reading about how a standard came about and how it is being used, we did not get any clarity, and further down you will see why.

So we made a decision, because it seemed the only logical thing to do:

NO sizes.

They are misleading, inconclusive, and unhelpful.

Yes, it helps to get a quick overview of the garment, but the measurements which we provide are far more helpful. We are aware that it makes things more complicated, as you have to go back to your own piece of clothes and measure it out. It takes time and effort, but we don’t want to encourage impulsive buying, we are happy when our customers are really convinced about a piece and therefore want to buy it. We want you to fall in love with it and wear it for a very long time.

As mentioned above, we researched the issue about sizing and this is what led us to make our decision. To make it a little clearer, we want to tell you what we learned: 

The need for standardisation of sizing arose when mass production of clothes became possible. Before that, everything was made to measure. Whether it was the designers specifically making clothes for the Elite, or the working class sewing the dresses themselves, every piece was custom made. To get a clear overview of all the sizes, Poland studied 180 thousand people between 1921 and 1977. The Czech Republic studied 400 thousand people. Also, the UK and the Netherlands undertook research on a slightly smaller scale. Finally, in 1990, the European Union has produced a standard EN 13402 “Size designation of clothes” to unify all the labelling. “It is based on body-dimensions, the metric system, data from new anthropometric studies of the European population performed in the late 1990s and similar existing international standards”, (M. Baczek, 2011). 

So here we go, we now have a system, but these standards are more than 30 years old. Since then changes in shapes and proportions of modern people were documented, but the sizing charts were hardly updated. The modern human body is now on average 3 kg heavier, and 10-20cm taller. The feet are about 20mm longer. While men’s buttocks became smaller, their bellies grew more round. Women’s breasts became bigger and moved lower. Their legs grew longer and their waist became thinner, while the hips are more round now. All this happened due to technological progress, lifestyle changes, and improvements.

It seems one of the ways to solve the problem is to update the sizes, for them to be coherent with the evolved human proportions. The new technology would help to do it quicker and more precisely than in the last century. The evolution of the bodies is only a physical issue, there is far more behind it.

And this is where vanity sizing comes into the picture. Vanity sizes are sizes that are not true to the usual dimensions of size. Mostly the size shows one value, but the actual measurement is bigger. Because marketers have recognised that customers that feel smaller than what they expected are happier to buy more clothes. Vanity sizes are seen more frequently in women's apparel than in men's and mainly this happens with smaller, cheaper brands. This leads to a vicious circle, as clients are misled on their size and can no longer rely on the system. It can be an emotional turmoil, as it works both ways. Not only can a client be positively surprised when trying a garment on, but also negatively, triggering psychological issues. 

Leaving the size confusion for a moment, we want to highlight the lack of production of garments for bigger bodies. Studies show that even though the average woman in the UK would be size 16 (EUR 44), many brands don’t produce any sizes beyond size 12 (EUR 40), according to whowhatwear. There are brands that systematically ignore women of bigger sizes, brands that in fact want to avoid seeing these women wearing the designs of that brand altogether. By doing so they marginalise them, making it almost impossible for larger women to be as fashionable as the slimmer ones. The whole fashion industry is trained to make bigger women invisible, with photographers only photographing slim tall women for street style. And of course, there is a problem with sample sizes. Samples are clothes from brands that only come in one size, usually, 34, to be photographed and featured for different media outlets. While there is some improvement happening, the average size woman is nowhere near the “luxury” of having the same choice in clothes as the women in size 34. 

There are many excuses for this coming from big brands, and it seems that smaller brands with much less budget are more willing to take the financial risks of producing more sizes than larger brands. There are more and more upcoming brands that try to solve exactly this problem, however, the path is still a long one.

With vintage and second-hand fashion, we face the same problem: there just aren’t enough clothes in bigger sizes that were produced in the first place to be reused now. Additionally, vintage clothes are older, and as research shows people used to be smaller, so the selection for vintage sizes is very limited. We sincerely believe that the aim to accommodate women and men of all sizes with fashionable and sustainable clothes should be a common goal. As our dear friend and artist Sabine Reiter says: Everybody is beautiful, and everybody has the right to feel beautiful! And we totally agree!

Back to blog