On fixing the meaning of the sizing, I'm reminded of someone I knew who took a sewing class in highschool. They started with patterns from the 1950s, and despite the teacher warning the students how different the sizings would be, virtually nobody managed to make clothing that they could squeeze into.
Personally I think the best solution is to make it a matter of law that the sizing be accurate. Everyone would hear that the sizing changed dramatically, there would be a brief transition, and we'd soon get used to accurate sizes. Drawing it out gradually would force people to keep on relearning their size, and overall would be more disruptive.
And what if you're buying something with elastic, like leggings? Anyone can get a ruler and see they the waistband is 15 inches, but that information is completely useless if you're trying to decide which one to buy.
Sure, size inflation happens, but legislating that the dimensions of clothing be declared actually defeats the purpose of sizing, which is to tell you generally who should be wearing it.
This is not like the nutrition labels on food. You can't tell how many calories are in a food by looking at it. You CAN tell how large a waistband is with a ruler. Legislating on this would make things very difficult on both clothing manufacturers and clothing purchasers. And it's only misleading to people who don't own a ruler, which I think is a fair burden to place on the consumer.
>legislating that the dimensions of clothing be declared actually defeats the purpose of sizing
He said what you said he didn't but should have AFAICS.
He didn't say that you had to measure the circumference of the waistband in a pair of trousers just the size of a persons waist that the trousers were made for.
>And it's only misleading to people who don't own a ruler, which I think is a fair burden to place on the consumer.
You seem to be suggesting that when purchasing clothing online one should buy all the clothes, measure them yourself and then try on the ones that are the right size. Or that in a store one should measure the clothes on the rack to find the right size and then try that on. As the manufacturer produces the clothing to a specific size and has already designed the article to fit a particularly body size would it not be easier if they honestly labelled the size the clothing had been made for instead.
Do you really think that fraudulent retail should be allowed because people are able to test things for themselves.
Tins of tuna with dolphin meat in that was labelled "dolphin friendly" - are they OK? People can simply do a DNA test and determine the species of animal the flesh comes from, no?
As far as I'm aware, "dolphin un-friendly" fisheries never actually chop up dolphins and can them. It's just a matter of whether dolphins are accidentally killed during the fishery.
"Fixing" the standard size would be fraud, as they don't sell the actual product that they claim to sell.
You want to sell Venti pants - go ahead.
(Even minarchists usually find laws -- common-law or legislative -- against commercial fraud acceptable.)
Either that or someone will have to build a website or tool that aggregates the investigative work for us. I know I'd pay a small premium to eliminate the guesswork.
(EDIT: I wish there was a way to OpenID-ify personal body measurements for this purpose so every clothing site I visited could automatically select the best-fitting clothes for me. GAP small/medium t-shirts are wildly different from Threadless' small/medium American Apparel Ts)
My bane has always been t-shirts. I can take anywhere from a medium to x-large depending on the brand. After the first wash, the shirt will change size drastically or hardly at all. Buying t-shirts is a complete $20 gamble, I have no idea if ultimately the shirt will fit me or not. At least pants, dress shirts and shoes you can be reasonably confident they will fit you when you try them on at the store.
I've always yearned for some kind of solution to this, but admittedly have never really came up with a good one.
The interface is really, really well done, check out their sample page: http://shoefitr.com/mock_checkout.php and click 'let Shoefitr help you choose the right size.'
(http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm#_Toc535425250 cites some studies beginning with "Wearers of expensive running shoes that were promoted as correcting pronation or providing more cushioning experienced a greater prevalence of these running-related injuries than wearers of less expensive shoes [...]")
Oh, and if you actually want to try it on a real site with real shoes, RunningWarehouse.com has them up, like this, for example:
But it's one of the nicer 'live' (ajax) interfaces that I've seen.
> it physically takes time and effort to get the raw data.
I can see that... btw, the Reebok brand is one of the more popular ones and completely missing.
Again, kudos on the interface to your friend, I love it when people use new tech in non-fluffy ways (as in useful rather than eye candy). (and it looks great too!)
Soon I'll be more like 4 hours from the nearest retailer of any sort, so that may change. But I'm somewhat unique in that regard.
The basic technology product is software that, given information about your body shape, can produce a listing of clothing that will fit you. As far as we can tell this does not yet exist. When the customer can trust that the clothes will fit, then they can shop based on style, fashion, price, or any other number of more interesting criteria rather than worrying about getting the right size or cut.
If you pair this technology with a customer-centered online retail environment then I think you can create a lot of value. Zappos has shown that you can make buying articles of clothing online work, with their famous customer support and return policies.
The concept of requiring a customer to consult a sizing translation table per label or even per garment just to find clothes that fit well flabbergasts me. But we haven't found any better solutions on offer.
This all fits in with Request For Startup 2: New Paths Through Product Space. http://ycombinator.com/rfs2.html Nobody is selling clothing based on what fits the individual shopper. We want to make an online storefront that only offers clothing that will fit you.
There are a lot of negative knock-on effects from the current way clothes shopping is done. People agonize over sizing and equate their waistband with their self-worth. That's ridiculous. Every person will look best and be most comfortable in clothing that matches their actual shape, regardless of what number is on the label. Especially if that number is a lie!
Clothes shopping changed drastically starting in about the mid 1800s through the 1920s with the advent of mass-produced garments. Before that each item was made individually. After that, confusing labels, garments designed to fit the "average" person to minimize the need for alterations, changing demographics, and vanity sizing turned the whole system into an incredible morass. It wasn't always this way, and it shouldn't have to be.
The article suggests that government regulation of sizing labels is the solution to the problem of ill-fitting clothing. What the author does not mention is that this was tried in the past! That system fell apart and you can read about its failure from the NIST: http://museum.nist.gov/exhibits/apparel/index.htm
I posit that smarter technology which can match the clothing to the person is a superior solution.
There's a lot of pain involved in clothes shopping today. We want to fix that.
If any hackers here, especially women, have some thoughts to share on this topic I dearly want to hear them, whether in a post here or in a private email. My address is in my profile.
We are seriously considering applying to YCombinator with this proposal.
1. For most women clothes shopping is a recreational activity, not a chore. While most men would be happy to minimize their shopping time, most women would be happy to extend it. Likewise, on the seller side, stores maximize women's departments for impulse buying, not efficiency. It's not rational or productive, but that's the way it is. I'd be wary of a software solution that solves a problem that both sellers and buyers should have but don't.
2. If you've ever made clothing patterns or have been custom fitted by a professionally-trained tailor, you would know that it takes about 3 fittings to get a piece right. This is after your personal measurements have been taken on the initial visit. To me, that signals "human problem" (a fuzzy intelligence task) rather than "computer problem" (a highly repetitive task with clearly defined parameters).
3. There are hundreds of fit variations, which combined with size variations and body types, produce a million different results. Natural-waist pants have a different waist size than low-waist pants. A jacket with a shrunken fit has higher armholes so the arm circumference and arm length would have to be adjusted. A woman with a long torso would probably pick natural-waist jeans and a shrunken-fit jacket if she wanted the low-waist jeans with a bolero jacket look. And so on, ad infinitum.
4. Manufacturers do not make different clothes to sell online vs. in-store, but rather they make clothes to sell in-store and then sell those online. The reality of in-store clothes is, it is made to look good on a hanger, not on a woman. Which is why models are as humanly close to a hanger as possible. The math is, a woman will grab 10 items that only look good on a hanger/model, and maybe buy 2 items after trying them on; conversely, a woman will grab 0 items that only look good on a real body, and buy 0 items as a result.
On a separate note, my husband works in the fashion industry, and a big part of his job is collaborating on the design and manufacturing process as far as fit etc. I'd be happy to pass on any questions you might have.
My wife is a doctor who needs to buy a fair amount of clothes and, I assure you, does not find shopping to be a recreational activity.
Also, may not online shopping be recreational activity?
I add these points merely to suggest that there may be enough market in 1) women who don't like shopping and 2) women who recreationally shop online.
Nobody "needs" a lot of clothes. The fact that both you and she think she does is just an artifact of internalizing the recreational drug that is acquisition of shiny things. So your wife's movie is that she that she needs to live up to the public image of a well-respected doctor, and my movie used to be that as a female techie, I need conservative, well-made things to tone down the sex appeal in order to be taken seriously at work. Name any profession, it's not hard to come up with plausible reasons to shop whereas in reality, apart from jobs in fashion, there is little correlation between career and clothes... and even there, you have your models' uniform of jeans with a white tanktop and everyone else in black.
As far as online shopping, yes, it's a recreational activity well-known in the e-commerce world. Shopping sites like Saks and Neiman Marcus get huge traffic spikes on weekend nights, i.e. the time of recreation (just google "drunk online shopping"). However they are in the same boat as the physical stores. If they start optimizing for efficiency, they will lose the impulse buyer, a huge chunk of their sales.
All in all, my point was not that 100% of women are recreational shoppers, even though we overwhelmingly are. It was to bring to the OP's attention the reality of their market. I've wasted my time on a startup that was a time sink similar in the sense that it optimized a big ugly inefficiency that our market just didn't want optimized and my post was motivated by empathy rather than negativity. I still don't want to say categorically that there isn't an opportunity here but I think it's important to go in with a clear head so I wanted to put in my 2 cents, especailly since the OP asked for some female perspective.
That said, working in the hospital means often getting blood/spit/worse on your clothes and needing to buy more. It also means having to dress nicely due to being a professional. She'd rather always wear scrubs, but she can't, and the white coat doesn't always protect her from everything.
My point was that there may be more market than you're suggesting there is.
I didn't argue with you about the recreational thing, but don't you think it's possible to make a site like the OP suggested without making shopping unfun or not recreational? It seems to me you could actually enhance the appeal of recreational shopping if you really thought you could trust the fit of items you were purchasing.
My intent was not to accuse you of being shiny things gatherers, sorry if it was unclear. I was speaking in the context of the discussion which was, is fit software a good idea, and you countered with, my doctor wife buys lots of clothes so she'd be a customer (if I did understand your point). If she just needs throw-away clothes to be soiled on a daily basis, she for sure doesn't need software to make them fit perfectly, am I wrong?
Weird... your primary care physician wears scrubs? Pretty much only ER and Trauma docs wear scrubs here in Baltimore. (It was the same in New Haven).
Right now, she basically solves the clothing size problem with retailer loyalty: she knows what size Ann Taylor clothes fit her correctly. Perhaps if she was confident that she could figure out the correct size of items on the internet she'd feel comfortable shopping there.
It's not just a matter of vanity, it's a matter of extremely loose tolerances in manufacturing.
I've found that even within a single store, looking at the same model of Levi's jeans, I need to try each individual pair. I always wear the same thing: Levi's 505 34W 30L. But I find that individual specimens with this exact tag can be as much as an inch different in every dimension: waist diameter, inseam length, and even leg diameter at the hem.
This being the case, it's not possible to say that a given item is the right fit, without actually trying it.
Sorry to be so vulgar, but it's true. Tons of boutiques and higher-end clothing labels have almost ZERO variance in sizing. Some of them hand-make their clothing, sure, but most don't.
Regardless, though, you're right--there's too much variance in sizing for mainstream brands. This problem really hinders any type of "OpenID-for-clothing" startup.
I have no idea if that would be scalable, but it would certainly help with customer retention and goodwill.
It is a big tradeoff between accuracy and cost. If you want to have the measurements be hyper-accurate, be prepared to spend a ton.
Allow me to input something I know, e.g. I wear size 12 Adidas. Then tell me what size I need to buy of the shoes you're selling me, be they Nike, Reebok, or something new.
Shoes is one example, applies for many other types of clothing.
Some retailers already do this as a matter of course on their labeling in-store: Tags on H&M pants, for instance, are much better than average at providing detailed fit/cut info.
A potential sticking point that I can imagine is that some people will be reluctant to know their true measurements, and others might be wary of that information being stored online with their ID. (Imagine a famous actress struggling with her weight, only to have her hacked measurements exposed on some gossip blog.) Consider also, that many women are not going to want others to know their true measurements just from a glance at their laundry, so labels inside the garment should probably avoid using inches or centimeters, just as they do now for women's sizing in the US.
If any of that is hard for you to imagine, check to see if you are male. These are real issues. Females contend with a vast number of societal pressures concerning body image and beauty that men rarely need to consider for themselves.
If anyone wants to discuss this product in depth, drop me a line. This is a product space I have been eying for some time and have done considerable research and experimentation on the topic.
I am too tall for an average clothes shop, so is my dad, and we were discussing something similar recently: our experience of clothes shopping is very similar to what you describe - walk into a shop, ask or search primarily "what do they have which might fit".
If you could do "only show me things which fit" from multiple shops in one place, that would be great, but fit is more than just leg length, waist size and brand, and a) I don't know what else matters so I couldn't give you said information about me, and b) even recently when I went to a shop and found trousers to fit, they did technically fit but they weren't comfortable and I wouldn't wear them.
Are you going to be able to do "things which will fit" instead of "things which might fit"? I find the latter is often barely different from "things which wont fit".
Incidentally, http://www.leftfootcompany.com/ has shops around where you get your feet scanned, then you leave and order on the internet, and they mechanically manufacture shoes to fit. Although they couldn't make shoes to fit me at the time I tried, which was unhelpful.
For women it's also confusing because it's often not clear if something is in juniors, misses, or women's sizes. But the size chart usually makes it clear.
One thing I found interesting in this vein was that there are only a handful of measurements that specify a pair of glasses (like pupil distance) and once you know yours, you can just buy glasses for $8, but very very few people know they can just ask for them so they buy $200 glasses from their optometrist.
I don't think many brands would want to do this, but it would help if they had a chart showing how their fit compares to other brands. E.g. "much looser than Dolce & Gabbana, looser than Calvin Klein, tighter than Gap".
I have neither a tiny nor a particularly big frame, but I feel tiny when I get the shirt I ordered online.
You rate the fit on several sliding scales (too long/too short etc) then buyers can estimate = I should buy brand X a size larger/smaller.
The good news is, since few people wear their pants at their waists anymore (even "conservative" non-saggy styles usually put the waistband halfway between true waist and hip), the size of a waistband really should be a couple inches larger than your actual waist measurement. Just not six inches. (At least, not on most men. Women on average have much more differential between their waist and hip measurement, but the popular fit is also all different, so I'm going to sidestep that for now.)
Protip #1: try clothes in store, buy online via Gilt or one of those discount shopping websites. When they have something you want, the discounts are often amazing, though you have to make quick decisions because small sizes often sell out fast. Most of these sites are very good on reporting the sizes correctly or helping you convert US-EU.
Protip #2: you can't wear jeans and a nice-fitting black top your whole life unless you're Steve Jobs. And designer menswear can get very pricey...but a good tailor can make an something with an average fit look absolutely perfect. Buy sizes that fit comfortably where you're largest (eg my neck wants a 38 shirt even though my shoulders and chest aren't) and then pay a few $ extra to have the garment altered. This might add $30 or $40 to the price of a shirt, but suddenly you'll have access to a world of things that don't exist in your size, and it will actually be worth looking at what's on sale.
the discounts will easily pay for the alterations, and after a while you have a bunch of stuff in your closet that fits well, whether casual or business. Dressing actually becomes enjoyable instead of a chore.
I'm sure you must mean buy online from an internet cafe with free WiFi without buying anything from the cafe.
You're absolutely right about not actually wearing them at your waist — most of my good pants measure 2" bigger than the nominal size and are worn 2" lower.
I'm usually lucky if I can get a 28x34, and that's generally only from high-end fashion places that sell only one length and expect almost all of their customers to to hem them (sometimes they come unhemmed and 35-37" long). The recent trend for rolled cuffs has been kind to me.
There is another option though: wear lower-rise women's pants as capris or hemmed way back into shorts. The sizing goes all over the place though, I have some from Size 1 to Size 5 that all fit nearly the same, even from the same brand.
Living in Spain, I could walk into a store and buy a suit off the rack. That's physically impossible for a tall man in America, where Large means Fat. There are no fat people in Spain, so Large means "long arms".
I have a shirt labeled XL that doesn't look like you draped a sheet over my head. I defy you to find an XL shirt in the states that puts the buttons within 12 inches of your torso.
It's all good here. Book a flight!
Dress shirts are even worse, sized from the neck of all things, and even the smallest ones are maternity-sized tents. "Slim fit" is generally only enough to make it possible to tuck in to my pants without giving me a diaper made of shirttails.
I've had some success importing stuff from South Korea from fashion sellers I found via eBay. Since they're aping the high end (often in unfortunate polyester), even the tiniest pants usually come with 34" or 35" inseams. Sleeves are still a problem though.
It's so exasperating trying to find a properly fitted shirt that I taught myself how to do some basic machine sewing. Highly recommended if you're tired of feeling like you're wearing a tent.
We live in a very strange world.
Put another way, I don't think men would be likely to go on diets if you immediately renumbered pants sizes, as long as they were still in the same place relative to other men.
A couple of months ago, for instance, I bought two pairs of trousers on one day - one pair from a department store where I could use the changing rooms provided to ascertain that I needed a 34", and one from a more "discount warehouse" type place that was having a rather cracking sale. Having tried the first pair on in the department store, I was chuffed - "Great, I'm in a 34!" - and so automatically bought the same size in a pair of jeans from the second place (with no changing rooms), because the price was right. They were at least two inches too big. I'd just bought two pairs of bottoms, in identical sizes, that had clearly been designed with two totally different ideas of how tape-measures actually work.
I learned my lesson and swore never to pay for anything I haven't tried.
I also bought a tape measure of my own - and learned how to bloody well use it!
So this isn't just vanity. It's also a question of horribly loose tolerances in manufacturing.
And it wasn't a cheapo store either. But I had to mindful that there was a reason I was able to find decent work slacks for $20.
Pant sizes should really just be "guidelines" unless you are getting something custom tailored.
The Ministry sampled several thousand of women
( http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article12... ) as an effort to find some average body shape and standardize clothing sizes.
I don't know is that affected the spread of eating disorders in the country somehow. I don't live in Spain any longer and this is nothing I usually talk about with my friends from the other side of the Atlantic. I know that Americans are usually opposed to government intervention, but I consider that a central 'authority' has some value in setting standards in measuring units. (A mile is a mile, in California, Colorado, Liberia or Burma)
I see what you did there.
I can't for the life of me figure out why a US customer would want to pretend they're shorter than they really are.
(Mostly I'm annoyed because getting them fixed at home adds 50% to the price, negating the entire reason for purchasing them in the first place. And yes, two of the three were bought at Old Navy.)
I think the problem is that pants are being labelled as a 36x36 when they're actually more a 40" waste, causing the inseam to be made closer to a 40" too.
What's happening is this:
Consumers have an expectation of being able to buy the same size forever, and buy clothes accordingly. Size 34 waist 10 years ago? Just grab size 34 from the rack. Of course, people gain weight and should go for a larger size. But they don't - they still see themselves as a size 34 and keep buying it. And complaining or moving on to the competitor when it doesn't fit. The problem is even worse for women's clothing for reasons too lengthy to go into here.
The only reliable solution is a system similar to the European standard, EN 13402. With this system, the fit tolerance (range of body dimensions it is designed for) for the item is listed on its hang tag. This gets away from issues like styles that are designed to have very large amounts of ease, or elastic fabrics.
For those that are thinking of building a product in this space, another thing to keep in mind is that most customers just don't care that much about good fit. Sad, but true.
I've thought many a time of starting a clothing company for 'me'. 6 billion people in the world, there must be a market of me-shaped people somewhere?
I think what the author dismisses as an impossible solution, however, is exactly the right solution: a government mandate.
But then just like Pizza went from SML -> L/XL/XXL without physically changing then clothes will do the opposite.
S/M/L will become "Normal/Small/Thin" -> "Thin/looking good/petite" -> "Petite/elfin/starving" .....
Keep up your visual scanning.
With all this jamming, they'll
be on top of you before your
scope can pick them up. 
 Star Wars IV script "leader telling squad to ignore the scopes & use your eyes instead" ~ http://corky.net/scripts/StarWars.html
Last time I was measured for a suit I came out at almost exactly 34", but then the fitting for suit trousers is much more snug than those for jeans. I wear a belt with my jeans whereas I'd expect trousers to hold themselves up.
So on that basis, I'm not too surprised that jeans made to fit a 34" waist are an inch or two larger, but more than that seems a little crazy.
I'll forgive the gaudiness, but it's important to note the human tendency to compare ratios of sizes and so to always include 0 in bar graphs.
Now there's a hacker's challenge. Finally get the US (and whoever) to get with the 21st century. Yes I know this comment is sort of off-topic, well ... kinda - the article is about measurement. But honestly this thought wanders through my mind like a lonely guy at a single's bar whenever I spy "old-style" units. I'm going to be provocative here, but I think all the excuses all bull (they're more natural, yada yada yada) - basically the US (and whoever) think they are Numero Uno and the rest of the world be damned.