The History of Sizing: From Simple Unified Measurement to 3D Customization
The earliest records resembling contemporary measurement standards can be dating back to the Middle Ages. However, the true sizing standard didn’t develop until the 1940s. Before then, size for young ladies and children were all based on age. In 1939, inspired by U.S. manufacturers’ guess that the cost of not having set sizes was $10 million a year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started to explore and make an effort to standardize women’s clothes. At that time, a project collected and analyzed the data in 59 different places of 15,000 women. While the project is impressive, it didn’t solve the problem since the survey was done on a volunteer basis and was primarily white women.
In the late 1940s, with the help of the National Bureau of Standard (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology), the Mail-Order Association of America created a 1958 standard. Sizes ranged from 8 to 38 with height indications of tall, regular, and short. Since then, government size guidelines were heeded less and less, and clothing items began getting marked with lower numbers. In 1983, the Department of Commerce completely withdrew the sizing system of the 1950s. The American Standard for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International published its own non-mandatory sizing standard in 1995. After decades, many stores now size based on their own preferences and standards. With the development of 3-D scanning and 3-D printers, new technologies will give people options for better fitting clothing.
Body-shaming and Racism are Not Fashionable at All
Clothing sizes sometimes may also be associated with body-shaming and aesthetics. Brandy Melville (BM) is one of the hottest teen clothing retailers in the U.S. The garments are designed for just one body type: thin. Nearly every single piece of clothing in the store is labeled either “small” or “one-size”. When you look at the brand’s website and Instagram account, you can easily find that a typical BM girl is young, white, skinny, and long-legged. Its “one-size-fits-most” policy, like an exclusivity ticket, has attracted girls to try to squeeze into the clothes to join the “BM girl” club. At the same time, people are calling for boycotts of the brand after a popular TikTok user, who said she used to work at the chain store, accused the store of racist and discriminatory hiring practices in a series of videos.
The TikTok user is called calliejeanxo. In one video, Callie said that the brand hires employees based on a certain look and race. In another video, she said that racist and fat-phobic remarks were made constantly in the store. Callie’s experience is not a single case. In 2012, YouTube star Trisha Paytas said she’d been shamed at a Brandy Melville store in California, alleging that a store employee wouldn’t even let her try on clothes because of her size. She also said that many of her viewers had similar experiences at Brandy Melville shops. Brandy Melville is always a center of controversy. On the one hand, it’s been criticized for the tightly conscribed size range and lack of diversity. On the other hand, its low-commitment, stylish, and “one-size” policy still captivates the millennials.
- Fashion: I never shopped at Brandy Melville. For me, there are a lot of substitutions for a vintage and simple look. And I just feel so embarrassed of its “one size” policy. Even though I usually wear an s size, I never thought it was something I should be proud of or be satisfied with. Imagine that you have a t-shirt in front of you, you may be attracted by its style, color, or fabric, but did you ever find a garment looks great only because it is a small size? If the answer is no, why we need a Brandy Melville?
- Insights: Though we criticize Brandy Melville, we should be aware of the dynamic between race and the aesthetics behind it. Because the western world and the whites are the dominant groups in many areas, being skilled in culture export, the whites dictate what is beautiful and exercise their preferences, especially those who have the privilege to speak. Maybe boycott the company that earns profits by amplifying a deformed and plain aesthetic is a good way to avoid being trapped.
The Bizarre History of Women’s Clothing Sizes https://time.com/3532014/women-clothing-sizes-history/
A Brief History of Sizing History: https://medium.com/sizolution/a-brief-history-of-sizing-systems-aee6bd066834
Brandy Melville Faces Allegations of Racism and Body-shaming by Former Employees https://www.today.com/style/brandy-melville-faces-allegations-racism-body-shaming-former-employees-t183363
Teens Love Brandy Melville, A Fashion Brand That Sells Only One Tiny Size https://www.huffpost.com/entry/brandy-melville_n_5978626
Brandy Melville: The Issue of Size Equality https://medium.com/the-cats-meow/brandy-melville-the-issue-of-size-equality-1a68452406ba