36" = 41"
September 7, 2010 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Think men were free of "vanity sizing" because their clothes are standardized by inches? Think again. (Previously, sort of.)
posted by griphus (134 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've suspected this for a while, but it's sort of depressing to see the "actual" numbers.
posted by valkyryn at 9:40 AM on September 7, 2010


Does this FPP make me look fat?
posted by zarq at 9:40 AM on September 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


They need some vanity editing at Esquire:
...raise some serious questions about what I later leaned is called "vanity sizing."
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on September 7, 2010


LOL, so true. I bought some size 36 pants at H&M on the weekend without trying them on. I'm heading back to the gym today.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:41 AM on September 7, 2010


...raise some serious questions about what I later leaned is called "vanity sizing."

I believe that's called subsliminal editorializing.
posted by zarq at 9:42 AM on September 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Don't these people have tailors to have these kinds of discussions with?

(speeds away in limo, throwing fistfuls of diamonds out the window )
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 AM on September 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


This is why we can't have nice standards.
posted by DU at 9:43 AM on September 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, crap.
posted by Ratio at 9:43 AM on September 7, 2010


"I'm no cow either. (I'm happily a "Russell Crowe" body type.)"

This is the double-standard that Nia Vardalos once addressed when responding to press questions about her weight:

"Let’s face it, Russell Crowe is fat and no one ever talks about it. Alec Baldwin just orders his suits a size bigger and we continue to swoon... Meanwhile, I get hit with this awkward question about my weightloss daily and I have answered it in press interviews, at the grocery store, at the newspaper stand. Why?"
posted by hermitosis at 9:45 AM on September 7, 2010 [26 favorites]


Vanity sizing exists because it works (i.e. sells more pants)--at least in the women's market. Anecdata: my mother--over the age of 55--suddenly became obsessed with buying her jeans at the Gap once she figured out she was still a single-digit size there ("I'm still fitting into an 8!"). Around that time (somewhere in the early aughts), I had to start buying size 0's and 2's from the Gap...and in high school I was a size 6-8 there.
posted by availablelight at 9:46 AM on September 7, 2010


I for one can't wait to receive my government issue silver jumpsuit.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:47 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


only in the universe that considers Russel Crow to be fat.
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this also mean that I'm really 4′ 11″ and not 5′ 7″ ?
posted by Ratio at 9:47 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yup. At work, I size people in motorcycle apparel. I know better than to use "My Levi's are size 38" for anything other than a suggestion to get a tape measure. The US brands have mostly inflated along with jeans manufacturers, but the European brands require true measurements to fit properly.
posted by workerant at 9:47 AM on September 7, 2010


And here I thought I finally had the whole pants thing figured out.

For what it's worth, I hope he took different samples of the same pant in the same store. I bought a pair of jeans at Old Navy that were 32x32 (I'm usually 32x34) because they'd fit perfectly; a few weeks later I went back and bought several more pairs in that size without trying them on. Roughly half fit me as well as the first, but the remainder were too short and/or too narrow-waisted. It's bad enough that I suspect their quality control (perhaps just in the land of putting tags on pants) is lacking.
posted by davejay at 9:48 AM on September 7, 2010


Between this and a million non-standardized "fits" for an identical nominal waist size, men's waist sizes have become pretty much useless to me.

The quality control in so many mass-market clothing lines is now so bad, though, that I wonder how much of this is intentional; you never know if any two instances of the "same" piece of clothing with the same label come from the same outsourcer or not, and even items from the same factory seem to show more variation than they should. I bet if they'd purchased two pairs of the sames styles of pants from the various labels listed six months apart they'd see nearly as much variation within lines as between them.
posted by enn at 9:49 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hm. I was traumatized by a recent visit to Express (Men) -- here I thought maybe I was just not chic enough to fit into what I thought was my size. Time to break out the tape measure and start weeping, I guess.

TO THE TREADMILLS!
posted by cavalier at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


A recent report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that men with larger waists were twice at risk of death compared with their smaller-waist peers. Men whose waists measured 47 inches or larger were twice as likely to die.
That's pretty worrying.
posted by Mike1024 at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vanity sizing exists because it works (i.e. sells more pants)--at least in the women's market.

Right. But in the women's market, where the stated size of an article of clothing does not necessarily correspond to its objective measurement, it's simply a marketing tactic. Unless Old Navy has some weird-ass measuring tape, in the men's department it is straight-up false advertising.
posted by griphus at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think everything should just have a drawstring, then we can dispense with sizes altogether.
posted by emjaybee at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, that was not what I was expecting.

My go-to memory for sizing issues and men is an episode of What Not To Wear (yeah, yeah) where a guy laments... pleads, really, with Stacy London "But I'm not a small..." (the guy was drowning in larger sizes because he couldn't face wearing clothes with an "S" on them, effectively)

Have we really reached the point where more men are concerned about being too "large" (fat) rather than shrimps? I guess we have.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I came to this thread for the pants, but stayed for Nia Vardalos!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


They should do this for Uniqlo. Their pants sizes are pretty OK, and probably skew towards being accurate from my experience, but their shirt sizes are absurd. I'm 6 feet tall with broad shoulders and an average build, and I wear a "small" from there, sometimes XS.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:51 AM on September 7, 2010


Have we really reached the point where more men are concerned about being too "large" (fat) rather than shrimps? I guess we have.

What? Going on centuries. Now we're all about being super-muscled all the time.
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 AM on September 7, 2010


"That's right: we, the clothing manufacturers, want you to keep on thinking you're a fatass, because it keeps you thinking about clothes. The ever-present modern ennui surrounding clothing, the never-satisfied urge to negate one's very physical being as an badge and emblem of one's control over material reality, is quite handy to us, because it helps us sell product. We don't really care that it drives a whole generation into all-consuming loathing and wretchedness; that's all right so long as the dollars keep pouring in.

"Wait – what's that? You say this is too much? You say the weight of this constant and ever-present demolition of your selves and your sense of worth and humanity is more than you can bear? You say you spend every moment of every day concerned that you lack control – that we've succeeded in convincing you that you are nothing but a fatass with nothing to live for, and you've had enough of it and won't take it any more? That's terrible! We can't allow that to happen, can we?

"Here – try these pants on. Doesn't that feel better?"
posted by koeselitz at 9:53 AM on September 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Visiting Holland is kinda depressing cause while the clothes are GREAT and CHEAP I magically become a XXXL (I have wide shoulders mom! stop calling me!)
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 AM on September 7, 2010


I figured this out a while ago. I have a closet full of 32 by 30 dress slacks, and no two brands fit the same. The ones I wore last Friday were tight. The ones I've got on today would fall off without a belt. I doubt I lost a bunch of weight over the weekend.
posted by dortmunder at 9:54 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Unless Old Navy has some weird-ass measuring tape, in the men's department it is straight-up false advertising.

They use elastic rulers. It allows them to size for centimeters and inches with the same tape.
posted by ardgedee at 9:56 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I hope he took different samples of the same pant in the same store.

This. I've had pants from the same store that should have been exactly the same (same brand, size, and style) fit me completely differently. Cheap pants, especially those from Old Navy and the like, have huge variances in their manufacturing.

Not that they aren't also doing "vanity sizing" or whatever, but there are definitely some technical issues with how they make their pants.
posted by malthas at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2010


I wonder how this scales. I wear a "30," and there's definitely leeway, but not four inches from brand to brand... I don't think. Taking into account attitudes like that of the guy on What Not to Wear, maybe they'd tone it down (or even reverse the exaggerations) for the shrimpier sizes? I want a more exhaustive look at this.
posted by cmoj at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2010


Man, if the clothing makers can't even decide on what "36 inches" mean, how will they ever resolve what "Large" is?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2010


Cheap pants, especially those from Old Navy and the like, have huge variances in their manufacturing.

Old Navy-Gap-Banana Republic are notorious for this. The clothes are badly made, cheap as dirt, and fall apart in the wash.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the double-standard that Nia Vardalos once addressed when responding to press questions about her weight

Listen, Nia Vardalos: you're probably right, although as a point of order, Russell Crowe notably challenged a journalist to a bike race after she remarked on his less than svelt figure.

However, you did star in "MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING". If you haven't worked out that actors tend to get stereotyped you're either hopelessly naive or not paying attention.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:00 AM on September 7, 2010


> Uniqlo.... shirt sizes are absurd. I'm 6 feet tall with broad shoulders and an average build, and I wear a "small" from there, sometimes XS.

Really? I'm a size Large in polos and tees from Uniqlo, Gap, Eddie Bauer, and about a half-dozen other stores. If the major retailers are monkeying with fit in differing ways, their shirt size Larges couldn't be more reliably consistent if they were ISO standards.
posted by ardgedee at 10:00 AM on September 7, 2010


Shouldn't trousers advertised as having a size X waist be required by law to actually have a size X waist?
posted by pracowity at 10:01 AM on September 7, 2010


malthas: "This. I've had pants from the same store that should have been exactly the same (same brand, size, and style) fit me completely differently. Cheap pants, especially those from Old Navy and the like, have huge variances in their manufacturing."

I tried on a pair of jeans at Old Navy at the beginning of the summer, and they fit great. Since my old jeans were worn through, I also picked up a second pair; same size, same cut, same everything, except the second pair was a lighter wash. The second pair is large enough as to be nearly unwearable.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:02 AM on September 7, 2010


The quality control in so many mass-market clothing lines is now so bad, though, that I wonder how much of this is intentional; you never know if any two instances of the "same" piece of clothing with the same label come from the same outsourcer or not, and even items from the same factory seem to show more variation than they should.

I know, Jesus, are they being made by children or something?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:02 AM on September 7, 2010 [72 favorites]


It's an old advertising maxim: "Give him an inch and he'll think he's a ruler."
posted by chavenet at 10:03 AM on September 7, 2010


*drops pants in protest*
posted by jonmc at 10:03 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Female here, but I just want to say that I curse vanity sizing every time I go shopping. I'm tiny but not that skinny. Most of the 00s or XXS out there are still too big (in width... length I don't complain about). With sizes 15 years ago I would have been something like a size 2 or 4. Now I'm sized out of a lot of stores and 00s get snatched up really quickly by all the other women like me or are simply not stocked. I have to shop online and pay for shipping, and after all that a lot of items will not fit. Grrrrr.
posted by bread-eater at 10:03 AM on September 7, 2010


However, you did star in "MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING". If you haven't worked out that actors tend to get stereotyped you're either hopelessly naive or not paying attention.

Actually the context for my quote was that she was being asked by journalists if it was plausible that her character in that movie would be able to date someone as attractive as John Corbett.
posted by hermitosis at 10:03 AM on September 7, 2010


*drops pants in protest*

Improv Everywhere FPP is thataway, buddy.
posted by griphus at 10:04 AM on September 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Actually the context for my quote was that she was being asked by journalists if it was plausible that her character in that movie would be able to date someone as attractive as John Corbett.

Isn't our culture just so fucking amazing it hurts?
posted by The Whelk at 10:05 AM on September 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


If the quality control is so bad, they ought to do like they do for resistors: make 'em, then measure 'em, then label 'em. Better yet, add a tolerance band: a size 32, +/-5%.
posted by phooky at 10:06 AM on September 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


I deal with sizing in a "make your own clothes" environment. (Knitting)

Drives me crazy to deal with the women who want to knit their husbands sweaters and all they can tell me about his size is "he wears a large."

Woman, I need to know how big around his chest is, at the barest minimum, if we are to have any hope of getting a garment to fall off your needles and fit him.

Say nothing of arm length, waist, and armcyse depth.

Thankfully, if you buy a pair of readymade pants or a sweater and it doesn't fit, you can return the item.

If it's been made for you and it doesn't fit....you've got any number of problems.
posted by bilabial at 10:07 AM on September 7, 2010


Does this mean I have to measure my Trojan Magnums???
posted by Kabanos at 10:07 AM on September 7, 2010


Men whose waists measured 47 inches or larger were twice as likely to die.

Early. Die early.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:08 AM on September 7, 2010 [23 favorites]


I've often suspected inverse vanity sizing in other types of menswear, for example, gloves. Have you ever seen men's gloves in a size "Small?" I see only "Medium," Large," and "Extra Large."
posted by applemeat at 10:09 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Geezus, I'm fucked, aren't I?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:09 AM on September 7, 2010


Actually the context for my quote was that she was being asked by journalists if it was plausible that her character in that movie would be able to date someone as attractive as John Corbett.

Christie Brinkley / Billy Joel Syndrome. Only in reverse.
posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on September 7, 2010


Try bicycling clothes. I have mediums I can barely get on, and mediums that I swim in.
Even the length of a jersey changes too dramatically. Some are so short I can barley reach the rear pockets without breaking my arm, some are so long I feel silly.

And it isn't by cost or quality. It seems totally random.

I'd be happy with actual, real numbers on everything.
posted by cccorlew at 10:14 AM on September 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is John Corbett's character in that movie really a Christie Brinkley?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:15 AM on September 7, 2010


Burly barbarian men of the world shake their beefy fists at H&M and their accurate sizes.
posted by The Straightener at 10:16 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is John Corbett's character in that movie really a Christie Brinkley?

Honestly, I don't even think Nia Vardalos' character was a Billy Joel.
posted by zarq at 10:18 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


See? This is why I don't wear pants.
posted by rocket88 at 10:19 AM on September 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Is John Corbett's character in that movie really a Christie Brinkley?

They're two just good-looking-in-an-everyday-sort-of-way people, but since one of them is a woman, the standards by which we judge their appearance are way different.
posted by hermitosis at 10:21 AM on September 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


However, you did star in "MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING". If you haven't worked out that actors tend to get stereotyped you're either hopelessly naive or not paying attention.
posted by MuffinMan


She also wrote it, so if she stereotyped herself.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:25 AM on September 7, 2010


I've often suspected inverse vanity sizing in other types of menswear, for example, gloves. Have you ever seen men's gloves in a size "Small?"

I was thinking about that last night when I was trying to buy socks online. (I buy men's socks because women's socks are generally too short in the shin for me; men's knee-high socks actually go up to my damned knee.) I found the socks I want, and I noticed that the sizing options start at medium. There is no small... perhaps because the seller cannot conceive of men who would admit, even to themselves, that they have small feet.
posted by Elsa at 10:26 AM on September 7, 2010


Old Navy-Gap-Banana Republic are notorious for this. The clothes are badly made, cheap as dirt, and fall apart in the wash.

I like the way their clothes look (well, Old Navy less so), and their inexpensive pricing helps. I would like to buy higher-quality clothing, but it's not always a good value proposition for me, because I am so likely to ruin clothing by staining it or something before it wears out naturally in the wash.

What is it about Gap, Inc. clothing that makes them wear out so quickly, though? I bought some T-shirts from the Gap and Nordstrom at the same time and the Gap ones no longer fold straight because they have been warped, while the Nordstrom T-shirt still looks pretty good.
posted by grouse at 10:27 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vanity sizing and the varieties of "loose" "relaxed" "traditional" "whateverthefuck" styles of jeans means I can't buy them via mail-order. I actually have to go to a store and try things on. I hate that.
posted by rtha at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have this problem with J.Crew pants. I bought some dress pants from their online store when they were having a sale and I got stuck with three pairs of over-sized pants that I had to get tailored. The bastards.
posted by cazoo at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


But what I don't get is the skimping at the OTHER end of the spectrum. I'm a big guy, I wear a 48 in things like chinos from Ralph Lauren. They actually ARE 48" around (I've measured), give or take. So how come pants from other vendors that are marked 48 ARE TOO FREAKING TIGHT? Meh. Im gonna start wearing muu-muus and wearing big sunglasses; at least then, everyone will just assume I'm Liz Taylor.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2010


That's nothing. The shirt I bought at the gap is labeled:
         M
     and you have
      a large penis
posted by mazola at 10:33 AM on September 7, 2010 [14 favorites]


I'd settle 33-inch pants. In either measurement, preferably both.

I'm just odd.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:34 AM on September 7, 2010


What is it about Gap, Inc. clothing that makes them wear out so quickly, though?

A great, brand-loyalty-inspiring marketing team and the desire to make a lot more money than they would if people bought their goods less often. It's a really ballsy move, but it's working out for them.

I hate that.

I don't mind the different types of jeans, honestly. It's nice to know I have choices within the same brand rather than a leg width standard meant for Average Guy, who I do not (physically can not) resemble in the least.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on September 7, 2010


In other news, apparently square footage is no longer a standard unit of measurement for commercial real estate in NYC.

I haven't really bought into the prophesies of economic doom, but if there were anything that were going to do it for me, this kind of stuff would be it. There's something deeply corrupt at the heart of a system that can't even avoid fudging its yardsticks.
posted by weston at 10:35 AM on September 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sorry, vanity grammar.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:35 AM on September 7, 2010


I recently bought a regular shirt at Old Navy. I should be buying medium (size 6-8) by most anyone's standards -- I had to get an extra-small. It was obnoxious rather than flattering. I kept wondering what the huge range of women smaller than me would do.

Not shop at Old Navy, I guess.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:37 AM on September 7, 2010


When I was younger, I wore a medium. I'm maybe an inch or so shorter than the average for American men and a healthy weight, so you'd think that's about right.

As I've gotten older, my weight has stayed the same but I've become a small. Sometimes small is too big for me. So I've been aware of this vanity sizing for a while, but didn't realize it extended to actual numerical measurements in units maintained by NIST.

Obviously it's always been different for women. I remember going vintage shopping with my sister once, who is 5'6" and athletic. She tried on a dress from the 30s that fit her. It was a 14. In modern sizing, I think she wears a 2 or a 0. My wife? Forget it. Her sizing is in imaginary numbers.
posted by adamrice at 10:42 AM on September 7, 2010


I'm a size 36. I shop at Old Navy.

There is a huge variety in waist sizes of pants that claim to be 36's. And yes, I don't doubt there may be one or two 41" masquerading as 36". But not all of them are like that. I have a sneaky hunch that the author chose the pair of pants at each store that best made his point, rather than look at all of them to find the average waist discrepancy.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 10:49 AM on September 7, 2010


As someone who buys shrink-to fit jeans, I am apparently working in direct counter to this trend. My tagged 40" waist jeans are now really 38" after their first cold soak (dry selvage, FTW). Knowing that now my clothing is anti-vanity sized gives me a sort of quasi-radical feeling I didn't have before... I shall start a movement of the tired and girthful. Give me your oppressed by fashion, your ill-clothed, your fruitless of fit! Rise up my brothers, let's make all numbers meaningless! You have nothing to lose but your vanity!
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:51 AM on September 7, 2010


Lawsuit. Please. Somebody.

Aren't there, like, a billion unemployed lawyers? Surely a couple of them could get together and file a class-action lawsuit.

This bullshit has gone on far too long and it needs to end, now.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:57 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stop buying my used clothes, mazola
posted by jonmc at 11:00 AM on September 7, 2010


Why are girls afraid of math, again? Is it a measurement problem?
posted by emhutchinson at 11:00 AM on September 7, 2010


This drives me nuts - even in the same store, one manufacturer's size umpty-foo is different than another's size umpty-foo. Instead of marching in, buying one-pair-each Levis, dockers and dress slacks in the same size, and marching out again, I have to Try. On. Everything.

And I always step on a pin in the dressing room as soon as my shoes are off.

Shirt sizing, in terms of collar and sleeve length, is as bad, and big/regular/tall cannot be relied upon, either.

Oddly enough, short-sleeve/t-shirt sizing seems standard - 3X is 3X whether from Walmart or the nice clothier in the city, and can be reliably mail-ordered.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:02 AM on September 7, 2010


You should always try everything on, Slap*Happy. Except undies; don't try those on.
posted by Mister_A at 11:18 AM on September 7, 2010


There is no small... perhaps because the seller cannot conceive of men who would admit, even to themselves, that they have small feet.

Only on metafilter, I guess.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:20 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seriously, Civil_Disobedient? War, torture, government-sanctioned terrorism, corruption in government and big business, global pollution and climate change, the ocean is running out of fish...and pants sizes are what lawyers need to occupy themselves with?? I mean, I'm as annoyed as the next guy that the clothes-buying process isn't as simple and straightforward as I'd like, but to focus one's outrage on it seems a bit myopic. At the risk of making a pun, let's have some sense of proportion, shall we?
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:25 AM on September 7, 2010


Change the signs. Instead of 38", they should say 'Contains no less than 38" of material'.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:26 AM on September 7, 2010


I wear sizes from a 6 to an 8 in Euro sizing, 32 - 38 in waist size and M - XL in shirts.

Im 44/34 which is kind of an odd shape anyway, so depending on the designer and the factory, its really a crap shoot.
posted by subaruwrx at 11:39 AM on September 7, 2010


Old Navy-Gap-Banana Republic are notorious for this. The clothes are badly made, cheap as dirt, and fall apart in the wash.

Yeah, so any false inflation of slimness you get from the vanity-sized labels, you lose almost instantly the moment the seams on the seat split when you bend over.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:42 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


You ever try to buy a 33x34 pair of pants? This is why I wear two or three pairs of pants to work all year and yet another reason to hate shopping.
posted by kozad at 11:53 AM on September 7, 2010


> War, torture, government-sanctioned terrorism, corruption in government and big business, global pollution and climate change, the ocean is running out of fish...and pants sizes are what lawyers need to occupy themselves with??

Arguably we've got too many lawyers right now rather than too few; setting them to work rectifying this trousers crisis could be what we need to kickstart the economy.

Less snarkily, this might be a case where standards and enforcements could be a boon for vendors as well as consumers. Think how much more confident consumers would have in buying clothes online if they knew what they were getting, and think how much more money businesses could save by not having to process returns due to people buying three of every item to see which one will fit. How much faster stores could turn over customers when they don't have to monopolize the dressing rooms trying all sizes of every item? I don't see many downsides for either side, beyond losing the ability to flatter customers by lying about their sizes.

Somebody else can figure out exactly how one would go about devising useful standards.
posted by ardgedee at 11:53 AM on September 7, 2010


This is really irritating. See, I have a 35-inch waist. Men's pants go up in one-inch increments up to 34 inches; from there on they go by twos. Except that, well, no they don't. 36W and up, you're officially into Fat Guy territory, so everything is extra roomy to accommodate to the girthier individual. Consequently, absolutely nothing fits me now. I have to either squeeze into a 34, risking a popped top button and squished internal organs, or go swimming in a so-called 36W that has to be cinched in considerably, resulting in unsightly Power Crotch.

Also, I'm pretty sure 34W and below are generally accurately sized. They would pretty much have to be, after all. But above 34? Forget about it. On a few occasions I've bought two pairs of pants in the same size in the same style from the same store (in different colours), and they Do. Not. Match. Up. Even the length was once as much as FOUR INCHES too long on a pair of jeans -- and that's starting with a 34 inseam!

I have a sneaky hunch that the author chose the pair of pants at each store that best made his point, rather than look at all of them to find the average waist discrepancy.


Yes. This.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:53 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was at Dragon*Con this weekend and tried on a kilt. They pride themselves on accurate sizing so that a 36 means thirty-six damn imperial inches from end to end.

It's so strange to notice that this dishonesty is so widespread. It makes me feel better though about how much I hate shopping for pants because I have to try on every single damn pair, even identical ones.
posted by odinsdream at 11:56 AM on September 7, 2010


BREAK FREE OF THE PANTS THAT BIND YOU
posted by The Whelk at 11:58 AM on September 7, 2010


Oh, and another thing: Pants shrink when you wash them, so, um, yeah.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:58 AM on September 7, 2010


See, I have a 35-inch waist.

I'm pretty sure I've bought 35's before. Levi's come in 35 inch waists. Banana Republic pants come in 35. They're hard to find, but they do indeed exist.
posted by GuyZero at 12:03 PM on September 7, 2010


(speeds away in limo, throwing fistfuls of diamonds out the window )

I first read that as "speeds away in speedo" and thought, well, he's comfortable with himself.
posted by homunculus at 12:11 PM on September 7, 2010


I live a life without regrets.
posted by The Whelk at 12:20 PM on September 7, 2010


The clothes are badly made, cheap as dirt, and fall apart in the wash.

That's why I don't wash them!
posted by adamdschneider at 12:20 PM on September 7, 2010


has to be cinched in considerably, resulting in unsightly Power Crotch.

It's sad to see so many men buying into the beauty standards of Cosmo and Seventeen. Sys Rq, there's nothing unsightly about Power Crotch. Your Power Crotch is as God made it, and it is perfect. Ignore those models, with their photoshopped tinycrotches. You're a Real Man with Real Curves, and as such, yes, you have a Power Crotch. Your Power Crotch is nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:28 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


You should always try everything on, Slap*Happy.

Why? Suits and other formal attire get tailored, everything else will get grease and baby puke on them, so I can't be bothered to find the other half of the ass.

Jeans are jeans, chinos are chinos, slacks are slacks. It looks and feels good and holds up to terrible abuse, or it doesn't. If I find a pair I like, I expect the manufacturer's stated size to be the same the next time I go back for another - I don't have the spare time or the spare cash to take every article of clothing to damn tailor's, and it's enraging to be forced to play dress-up every time I need another pair of jeans or a wrinkle-free oxford button-down.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:29 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


People getting this worked up about inconsistency in pants sizing among trendy brands makes me think the underdeveloped nations of the world are completely justified in deeply hating those of us in the "Spoiled Countries."
posted by aught at 12:34 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Regarding Old Navy sizing, no matter how egregious the discrepancy between the numbers on the label and the person's actual measurements, you should probably avoid mentioning it while shopping.

Mom: "Look, I'm a size 6 in jeans now!"
rachaelfaith: "Yeah, but Old Navy's sizing runs really lar... um.. yeah, you look great!"
Mom: /glare
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:43 PM on September 7, 2010


Also, I'm pretty sure 34W and below are generally accurately sized. They would pretty much have to be, after all. But above 34? Forget about it. On a few occasions I've bought two pairs of pants in the same size in the same style from the same store (in different colours), and they Do. Not. Match. Up. Even the length was once as much as FOUR INCHES too long on a pair of jeans -- and that's starting with a 34 inseam!
posted by Sys Rq

That's not my experience. My waist is usually 33 inches. A 33 inch size pant, short, or jean at almost any store in the mall is going to be around 36\7 inches for actual measurement. A 32 inch pant will be around 35\36.

The only clothing I've found that has accurate to measurement sizes is generally expensive hiking\climbing clothing.

5 years ago I realized that for t-shirts I had to stop just buying things off the rack in a size large because a large is now something more like a tent around my waist. Now I buy medium and have to put up with arms that are too tight.

As far as vanity sizing, I don't think it matters too much for most men. They seem content to continue buying the 38 inch waist pant no matter how large they become, belting it to their hips and then draping the gut over top the pants waist.
posted by zephyr_words at 12:48 PM on September 7, 2010


Jeans are jeans, chinos are chinos, slacks are slacks. It looks and feels good and holds up to terrible abuse, or it doesn't. If I find a pair I like, I expect the manufacturer's stated size to be the same the next time I go back for another - I don't have the spare time or the spare cash to take every article of clothing to damn tailor's,

How often are you buying clothes that this comes up? Not that I don't agree, jeans should be jeans and I expect stability across a line, but I show up at the tailors like 3 times a year.

(unless of course you hit a factory outlet in Maine and spend an afternoon getting a shiton of dress shirts fitted)
posted by The Whelk at 12:57 PM on September 7, 2010


Has anyone considered that the sizing number is supposed to describe your waist, whereas not all pants are intended to be worn on the waist? If I was making jeans meant to ride on the hips, should I size them by the literal circumference of the waistband, or by the normal waist size of the person I intended them to fit? Someone whose waist is 33 inches might well be 36 inches around the hips.

The article isn't especially clear about whether this might be a factor.
posted by rusty at 1:23 PM on September 7, 2010


I think a big part of this is that relatively recently the "fashion" is to wear your slacks fairly low around your hips not up at your waist. I have fashion in scare quotes because this was never in style for slacks or chinos but just something a lot of guys did and it's sort of casual and maybe sloppy.
posted by I Foody at 1:48 PM on September 7, 2010


Maybe these danged kids on my lawn with the baggy pants and the hiphops music are just standing up for standardized sizes.
posted by electroboy at 2:00 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's another damned problem: it is nearly impossible to get non-dress pants that are actually cut to be worn on the waist. They expect you to wear chinos on the hips, so instead of the waist-area being fairly straight, it flairs out, meaning that even if the pants are the right size for you, and you try them on and find a pair that is long enough and the correct width for your girth, if you wear them at your waist you need a belt to keep them there and the belt will create a fabric-pooch that makes it look like they don't fit anyway.

It's terrible, trying to buy pants without a great tailor near-by is a pure nightmare these days.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:03 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


And don't even get me started on what it's like trying to buy a suit or jacket when you are tall and skinny both at once, a number of large name places literally don't manufacture things in my size, and places that do don't stock them.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:05 PM on September 7, 2010


Used to work in men's suits.

Men's clothing and sizing works great if 1) you're reasonably well proportioned and 2) you're talking about dress shirts and suits. If either of those is not true, you need to try it on. If nothing works off the rack you need to either try a different brand or get it tailored.

The waist size bell curve (as measured by number of pairs shipped) used to be centered at 32-36, with a sharp drop off to 29, and a long, fat tail to the big sizes. With vanity sizing, that's probably right shifted everything to 34-38 or so.

Men aren't known for it, but I've seen plenty of bonkers behavior in response to being properly sized. Dudes near crying in fitting rooms when putting on a larger size, insisting on wearing the smaller size, just below their paunch, etc. Sometimes, I'd fit someone and just cut the size tags off after their purchase.

I don't always do this myself, but should: buy better, and get it tailored.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:21 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


According to Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion-incubator.com: There is no such thing as vanity sizing. At the bottom of the post are about a dozen links to her posts about fit and sizing. I highly recommend her site to anyone who has an interest in clothing manufacturing (as a designer or hobbyist.)
posted by vespabelle at 2:36 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


As has been mentioned above, vanity sizing is rampant in women's clothing, except for wedding dresses, where you'd most expect it. I was flabbergasted to find out that my 5'0", 100 lb self wore a size 8 wedding dress. What the fuck.
posted by desjardins at 3:08 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I for one can't wait to receive my government issue silver jumpsuit.

Now wouldn't that be fucking awesome. (As long as it didn't come with a highway-trash-cleaning assignment.)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:09 PM on September 7, 2010


The biggest problem for me is that I have a regular/slender waist and large legs. Finding pants is extremely difficult. There's always a big gap at the waist. :|
posted by mrgrimm at 3:10 PM on September 7, 2010


Yup. At work, I size people in motorcycle apparel. I know better than to use "My Levi's are size 38" for anything other than a suggestion to get a tape measure.

I miss the days when Levi's were good quality jeans. They used to cost a little more but were worth it. I mostly buy Eddie Bauer now, because they are good quality and fit correctly according to size. But I have to wait for sales, otherwise it's about $50, which is too much for my budget ...
posted by krinklyfig at 3:30 PM on September 7, 2010


It's amazing that tall, short, fat, thin, big or small, everyone has the hardest time finding a good fit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:35 PM on September 7, 2010


Confirmation bias. I find it pretty easy, but I don't go around telling everyone about it.
posted by grouse at 3:48 PM on September 7, 2010


They probably measure them in PowerPoint inches.
posted by Bukvoed at 3:57 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn it. Now I understand why pants in Japan don't fit me. Well, one reason, obviously, would be that I'm fat. But to buy a pair of 36 (or, unfortunately in the last year, 38) pants/shorts/jeans in Hawaii or Guam, and find them to be roomy, then come back to Japan, see a pair of pants I like that measure 91cm, only to be emotionally destroyed in the fitting room, it's not the happiest feeling.

Of course, finding out that I'm in no way a 36, or even a 38, is god damn depressing. What a nice way to start the morning.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:27 PM on September 7, 2010


Apparently I'm the only person ever whose Old Navy clothes last 3+ years - including one pair of swim shorts that's going on six years old.

(Also, my underwear is over six years old, and my Ikea stuff never falls apart.)
posted by Evilspork at 4:52 PM on September 7, 2010


I'm hard on a cocktail dress.
posted by The Whelk at 5:06 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Old Navy-Gap-Banana Republic are notorious for this. The clothes are badly made, cheap as dirt, and fall apart in the wash.

I've bought lots of clothes from these stores over the years, and not once has anything ever fallen apart or warped on me. How roughly are you treating your garments?

I remember a tiny hole in one of my Old Navy shirts once, but this was 1998. I also had two Old Navy coats I wore for years each.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:18 PM on September 7, 2010


I dry everything with low heat and things start warping right away. Sometimes you can tell after the first wash.
posted by grouse at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2010


Men whose waists measured 47 inches or larger were twice as likely to die.

Sweet! I'm well under 47" (or am I?) so that means there's a pretty good chance I'm immortal!
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:34 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Put me down for the 'What are you doing to your t-shirt?' crowd. When I go back to the States to go shopping for me-sized clothes, I'm buying stuff that I know will last, because I'm not likely going to be able to pick any up in Japan. Things that seem to last: Old Navy, t-shirts and shorts especially, Eddie Bauer jeans, t-shirts, long-sleeve stuff. Things that don't: Gap t-shirts (seriously the neck dies by the third wash), and Gap and J.Crew dress socks. Holes in the toe on the first wearing.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:37 PM on September 7, 2010


This explains why condom sizes only come in Mammoth, Jumbo and Vente.

Or is that Starbucks Coffee?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:39 PM on September 7, 2010


I show up at the tailors like 3 times a year

I go once every other year for a suit and a nice blazer/slacks combo, and maybe pick up a cool guayabera while I'm there. Otherwise, I hit Penny's and Casual Male XL each once per year. Mail-order has been a headache and a crapshoot, so I don't do it anymore, especially with this guess-the-waist/inseam crap.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:25 PM on September 7, 2010


I have to say -- as a lone voice in the wilderness -- that I haven't had too much trouble with this. After rummaging through my closet with a measuring tape I have found that all my (size 32) jeans are, in fact, 32" +/- ½". These being things I got at the Gap, Eddie Bauer, and wherever.

The only time I've experienced this, oddly, is when I'm idly trying on pants that I could never afford: the $500 pairs of True Religion or whatever, wherein I am fabulously skinny. This fits, though, with the sycophantic levels of vanity-compliments from the workers I get when I shop in places way outside my budget.

Since everyone is complaining about sizing, I'll throw in sweater sizing as my one big giant beef: I usually wear a size M, since that is the smallest size for which the sleeves are long enough, even though around the chest I am generally an S or XS. This means that most of my regular everyday sweaters are stupidly baggy.
posted by selenized at 7:57 PM on September 7, 2010


TMI, The Whelk.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:37 PM on September 7, 2010


Vanity sizing

What?! I *already* had problems finding 30" waist pants and then I went down 2 belt notches this summer due to stress. They've even upped the prices on smaller waist sizes because there's so much competition. I'm gonna have to fight even harder against stupid pre-adolescents for pants that fit, at the beginning of fashion seasons (because they're all gone a week, two days, afterwards).

Darn you big people who made manufacturers shift the peak of their bellcurve up so much.
posted by porpoise at 10:39 PM on September 7, 2010


selenized: Since everyone is complaining about sizing, I'll throw in sweater sizing as my one big giant beef: I usually wear a size M, since that is the smallest size for which the sleeves are long enough, even though around the chest I am generally an S or XS. This means that most of my regular everyday sweaters are stupidly baggy.

I'm with you there; because of this I own a decent number of sweater vests.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:07 PM on September 7, 2010


Just putting this out there: A Medium Tall should not be the same as an Extra Large. And yet...
posted by Sys Rq at 11:37 PM on September 7, 2010


I'm shocked everyone doesn't already know this... Never actually measured your waist?

I'm especially annoyed about the whole thing at the moment because this year I've dropped from 33" to about 31" unfortunately in the chain where I've been buying my clothes this means I've dropped from a rather loose '32L' to a '30L' which is a size that doesn't exist in their stores in my city! So now I need to find somewhere else to buy jeans. Sigh.
posted by dickasso at 1:49 AM on September 8, 2010


I think there is an interesting socio-economic dimension to this, too. I would like to see the price of pants compared to the degree to which the size is fudged. If obesity is on the rise most prevalently among the poorest Americans, it would seem logical that those brands targeting this group would be most accommodating. as it were.
posted by jefficator at 7:38 AM on September 8, 2010


With respect to women's clothes, I agree with jefficator. I find that in more expensive stores, say Ann Taylor, I fit into smaller sizes (size 2 petite for shirts, for example). A "petite small" in a store like Kohl's is like wearing a tent. Paris (the city in France) was a freakin' wonderland for finding clothes that fit, but as you can imagine, they weren't cheap.

I don't know about men's pants, as my husband only wears the One True Brand (Dockers), but men's shirts are definitely more... fitted... as the price goes up. Apparently you shouldn't bother spending $80 on a dress shirt unless you have wide shoulders and tight abs.

I'm shocked everyone doesn't already know this... Never actually measured your waist?

Common sense would dictate that a pair of pants designated as 32" is actually 32", so if the pants fit, your waist measures 32" by definition. Obviously a lot of people did not have any reason to suspect the clothing companies were lying.
posted by desjardins at 8:19 AM on September 8, 2010


According to Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion-incubator.com: There is no such thing as vanity sizing.

It seems to me this kind of misunderstands what "vanity sizing" is shorthand for. She admits that sizing itself no longer has any meaning objectively, even thought it once did, and says that all it is for is providing a range that makes the customers comfortable by putting the average size of an average customer in the middle... So I guess if the sizes are meant to go 0 to 16, then the average customer just "is" a size 8, whatever the average customer is - even if s/he isn't the median customer...

To me, that seems like vanity sizing. What would make sense, and what people often imagine, is that the sizes refer to something specific - in this case, the inches of the waistband. There's no need for it to be relative to the expected buyers unless the store believes the customers will not want to buy large sizes - will have their egos hurt and so not feel like splurging on something that makes them feel bad. Otherwise, you just stock more of the sizes of the average customers, but use a standard size.
posted by mdn at 9:14 AM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


If obesity is on the rise most prevalently among the poorest Americans, it would seem logical that those brands targeting this group would be most accommodating. as it were.

This seems to be the case at Wal-Mart. Every couple of years I find myself trying on a pair of jeans there, because, hey, cheap jeans. I have never bought any jeans at Wal-Mart because they are apparently all equipped with patented Front-Butt™ technology for Mr. Peanut types.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:47 AM on September 8, 2010


This seems like a problem that's easily solved by trying on clothes before you buy them.
posted by electroboy at 10:23 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This seems like a problem that's easily solved by trying on clothes before you buy them.

Maybe it's a ploy by brick-and-mortar retailers to discourage internet shoppers by making everyone think you can't get clothes that fit without trying them on.
posted by Mike1024 at 10:34 AM on September 8, 2010


Never actually measured your waist?
I have! (I'm also a woman, though.) I've also measured my hips, underbust and bust and still have no idea what size I wear in women's clothing. Every now and then I haul out a sizing chart and discover that each of the three "core" measurements puts me in a different size (and not even adjacent sizes!). Clothes shopping makes me all kinds of twitchy.

I remember when I thought the tape measure would make things easier...
posted by Karmakaze at 10:51 AM on September 8, 2010


I wear a large overcoat to conceal that I am, in fact, a gelatinous cube. Don't get me wrong. Perfect dimensions would make shopping a breeze if it weren't for eager, 1st-ed-overschooled retail clerks itching to dig a wand of fireballs out of me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older MapReduce Leap   |   What's My Line? A Who's Who of US Entertainers... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments