Even without our swings between binge eating and crash diets, the size of our clothing varies widely, thanks to designers who can't seem to agree on a standard.
"When you're looking for a certain size, it can be very frustrating," said shopper Brittany Eddy.
A pair of women’s pants in size 8 can vary six inches among brands. We measured a pair of new men’s 32-inch pants and found a 34-inch waist.
It turns out clothing tags are more of a rough guideline than anything else.
"Nothing is the same," said shopper Stephanie Turbiville.
Even the best-heeled among us have to fight the size war.
At Mosh Posh, the finest brands are up for sale on consignment.
Owner Lauren Basil explains that clothing sizes fluctuate here too. In fact, luxury jeans follow their own size scale. Basil pulls out a pair of obviously slender jeans and notes they're a size 26.
"Which is like a zero,” she said.
I shake my head. Basil laughs and says, “"I think it would be awesome to standardize.”
Well then, why not?
We turned to Kate Campbell, a former department store buyer who now teaches tomorrow’s fashion designers at the Art Institute of Tampa.
"We’re here to talk about sizing,” she says. She pauses. And lets out a frustration-laden “ugh."
Campbell explains that designers allow their factories some wiggle room for error. But, she said they also intentionally appeal to consumers’ sensitivities about size—either feeling too fat or wanting to feel skinnier—and manipulate their size charts accordingly.
That’s why one designer’s size eight might be another’s size six or even a ten.
A change to that system might alienate a brand’s most loyal customers.
Campbell sighs again.
"There's been many attempts to standardize it throughout the industry, but nobody really adopts it," Campbell said.
It’s been this way for decades. But will it remain this way?
Campbell says stores are exasperated, especially given the explosion in online buying. Consumers will buy almost anything online. But apparel has lagged, largely due to the fact that we can't trust what size we are.
"You lose sales,” she said. ”You lose sales, absolutely.”
Case in point: Tana McDaniel.
"It's annoying,” she said while browsing the mall. “I want to buy stuff online and I don't know what size to get."
Enter Jessica Murphy.
"Sizes are all over the map," she said. "Really, size doesn't mean anything."
Murphy’s company, True Fit, aims to change all that with “big data.”
True Fit is working with large department stores, such as Nordstrom, Macy's, Lord and Taylor, and Belk, to size up customers with an online scale that can universally tell them what will fit.
Murphy says the website widget asks a few questions about your weight, age, and body type. It then asks what brands already fit well. The computer crunches that info to tailor a measurement that will apply to everything in the catalog.
"In 60 seconds, they can know how everything at the site they're looking at will fit them and how it's going to flatter them," she said.
Murphy says True Fit works and it’s now pushing hard for wider adoption of its technology.
In the meantime, Campbell recommends only one old-fashioned way to guarantee a garment fits.
“Try it on,” she said. “If it fits, and it looks good, and you’re comfortable in it, don't worry about what size it says you are."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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