Two, Four, Six, Eight

One Stylish Shoe, Slightly Used

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” – Oscar Wilde

So, it’s reasonably well documented that color-scheme trends (you’ve noticed how they all seem to change, in all stores, to roughly the same chroma set at roughly the same time, no?) are an entirely manufactured process. Which is pretty sadmaking, but not in the least surprising; fashion as a whole has never been about beauty or individuality, of course, and always about affluent conformity.

But it seems like whenever I’m thinking that it’s a crock, I’m out shopping with my wife, and I’m reminded of how much better guys have it. At least men’s clothes are sized by a real unit of measurement; I have no idea how this came about or why it’s permitted to continue, but the sizing of women’s clothing is just about one hundred percent bullshit.

It’s not a huge deal to me, probably because I don’t have to put up with it; to me it’s just one small part of the constant background hum of things that are totally appalling but seemingly everywhere. But still, it makes no sense at all! So just to make sure I’m clear on what I’m seeing, let me review what I think are the basic facts of the matter:

  • Regardless of what you’re buying, sizes are only ever indicated with a single number.
  • They’re only ever even numbers: if you’re too big for a 4 and too small for a 6, you’re out of luck, because 5 doesn’t exist. 0, 00 and 000 seem to exist, though the people who fit them might not.
  • Those numbers don’t actually mean anything, and offer zero guarantee of a actual dimensions, even within stores or brand-identified clothing lines.

That last one is possibly the most crazymaking part of the whole thing. That men don’t know what to sizes to buy for women (“Do you think I should be this skinny? Do you really think I’m this fat?”) is a tired old joke, but as it stands, even if every single thing in some arbitrary woman’s closet says “6” on the label, guy-with-closet-access is still screwed. That size 6 thing the guy brings home might fit like a circus tent or a tourniquet, and there’s no way to know. Keep the receipt.

And that’s before we even start talking about manufacturers arbitrarily gaming that system with things like vanity sizing, so that women can tell themselves that they’re still a size 4 as long as they shop at this store and not that one, and often pay more for worse fabrics just so they can claim that number as their own. Which is particularly insidious, considering how this stuff all seems to be a complete fabrication in the first place – you might as well be saying you fit a size blue, for all the merit those numbers have. “Are you looking for a size green, or would you feel better in a tungsten?”

Are women’s suits any better? I suspect that that the answer is no, and that it’s judgmental, fraudulent numerology like turtles, all the way. I understand that this is not the Way It Is in much of the world, too, so presumably there’s a market for reality-based sizing out there.

What the hell, ladies?


  1. Posted November 15, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Chicks can’t do math, so more than one number would just confuse them.

  2. mhoye
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, the Teen Talk Barbie School Of Sociology appreciates your support.

  3. Maggie
    Posted November 15, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    We don’t like it any more than you do, I promise.

    Even bras, arguably a very important part of the wardrobe, are inconsistently sized. What fits perfectly from Fashion Bug is too loose at Torrid, too tight at Dillard’s, and non-existent at Victoria’s Secret.

    And don’t get me started about jeans. Jesus christ. There’s a reason I gave up on denim and went entirely to soft, pull on pants.

  4. Zeynep
    Posted November 16, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    What the hell, ladies?

    Damned if we know.

    At least, with suits—all my suits are/were bought in Turkey, which follows European measurements, which is (or was, I don’t know about now) less insane. I am a size 38, European. I don’t actually know where the number comes from, but I do know that size 40 skirts will sit on my hips rather than waist and size 36 pants may require not eating too much and since my shoulders aren’t very wide, I can make do in all three sizes of jackets, but 38 would be best.

    In jeans, I love Levi’s—they measure in actual inches. They also have fitting problems—what fits my waist often won’t fit my legs, or vice versa—but there will always be a few cuts that will be OK.

    Anything other than those two areas—European-bought, or jeans—it is just as crazy-making as you have described, and I have long since given up. Eyeballing and trying works. As you said, keep your receipt.

  5. Bella AM
    Posted November 16, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink




    I have often and loudly complained about the lack of standards in sizing.
    NOw i have a new complaint: dear clothing manufacturers and designers: WOMEN HAVE BREASTS, SOMETIMES QUITE LARGE ONES, AND STILL HAVE A THINNER WAIST.

    Also, women who command a DD or bigger cup size don’t necessarily have a pornography starlet income to match. PLease make bras that are pretty and reasonably priced available, plzkthnxbai

    Oh hooray!! Boob job boob job!!!!

  6. Kaitlin
    Posted November 17, 2008 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    To me, it’s not a question of women’s ability to do math–females do not make up the majority of clothing designers/manufacturers. But I’m not going to play the sex card.

    What really irks me, isn’t that every size is different, but rather that all sizes, except for what is usually a 2 or 4 “sizing model” are based upon that initial 2 or 4, the so called “average”.

    This means, that often times manufacturers don’t account for changes in proportion. Just as women may have larger breasts and skinnier waists, they also might have smaller thighs and a larger midriff.

    What’s more is, I’m not sure about men’s clothing, but I can tell you, no two pairs of denim fit the same. There’s is always a half inch here or there that differs between two pairs of a size 12 (or size 0 for that matter). That some jeans (Levi’s, Silver, Mavi) measure in inches doesn’t seem to make a difference, because a) they still seem to differ and b) the point on the body at which the measurement is taken seems to vary (levi’s higher, mavi’s lower) and therefore you’re just as well off as the arbitrary number 8.

    p.s. i know a girl who is a 00. she is also 5’9. it’s kind of like if barbie actually exsisted. she also has as much (if not more) trouble finding clothes as i do, or as the next girl does.

  7. Posted November 18, 2008 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Kaitlin: Ignore Kozlowski’s comments about girls and math. He knows better, but he loves to be contradictory for its own sake. Don’t hold it against him though, he’s actually a decent guy.