RCL #8 – Paradigm Shift Essay Draft
Women’s clothing sizes are an aspect of culture that is often unacknowledged and its changes though time often go unnoticed. The truth behind this common practice can be found through its history, sizing methods, and mental effects it can have on women. Shopping for clothes can be a mentally and physically exhausting process. People can fall in love with one item that they believe is their size, only to leave with utter disappointment when it doesn’t fit. Feelings of self-doubt begin to stem from their height, weight, and overall body shape. Surprisingly, these internal signs of defeat are not always created by the person’s weight or size fluctuation. They may in fact be the product of a long history of inaccurate and inconsistent sizing scales for women that has shifted greatly through time.
Women’s clothing sizes were originally created with nonscientific and racist practices in the late 1950’s as a result of the changing culture. During this depression era, women were generally smaller in stature and weight due to malnourishment and various sources of stress. Due to some extreme measures during this time, a typical woman of this era would not be representative of the size of a woman in the 1980s. With this being said, the women’s clothing size scale was the same for both decades. Created in 1958, the National Bureau of Standards’ “Body Measurements for the Sizing of Women’s Patterns and Apparel” was used widely across women’s department stores and clothing manufacturers until 1983. To create the standard, 15,000 women were surveyed and measured to define the “Average American Woman”. While this may seem like a fair judgement, with this survey taking place in this era, most women measured were underweight and the entire survey population would have been white, given the present state of segregation. This categorized measurements on a scale from eight to 42 as the first modern women’s clothing sizes.
Although this primary scale was finally ditched in 1983, clothing sizes remained utterly confusing for decades longer. To compare our present day widely used sizing scale, today’s size eight would register as less than a size double-zero in 1958. To further analyze the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in women’s clothing sizes, the methods in which sizes are created must be investigated. In recent surveys, many people point the blame of changing clothing sizes to the physical size change of women, specifically in weight, through the past decades. While there is some merit behind this claim, it is not supported by substantial evidence as the largest factor involved with size changes. Due to the current sizing standard being a voluntary code, many manufacturers are non-compliant to follow the universal sizes.