My recent post on vanity sizing generated a lot of discussion. I talked about the popular interpretation of this trend, which is that the industry is pandering to our egos as we get larger as a population, but Kathleen from Fashion Incubator offered a different perspective. It is worth bringing this out of the comments and into the main page because Kathleen is a pattern maker and has a true insider’s viewpoint on production as it happens in factories today.

Kathleen’s main point is that, far from being about our egos, the evolution of the sizing curve is driven by efficient material utilization

“Consider: most manufacturers cut a size range of 6-14, nearly all do, if not, 8-16. Now, sales wise, the vast majority of orders are in the center of the size spread. Now, as the average person gets heavier, over time, sales begin to weigh in (excuse the pun) on the upper end of the size range so the size spread is off kilter. Now why does this matter? It matters because of marker design and allocation (arcane as I said). To make an efficient marker (keep fabric waste to a minimum) you need balance. For every size 6, you need a size 14. For every size 8, you need a size 12. The 6/14 and 8/12 balance each other in a marker. So, if you have orders for too many of the larger sizes and not enough of the smaller sizes because people are getting fatter, you don’t have balance because now you need 3 size 12’s for every size 8 or 2 size 14s for every size 6. So, you change the sizing structure. This way it rebalances.”

Read more detail in Kathleen’s comment itself, or take a look at the related entries on her blog:

No doubt the industry uses our egos as a powerful marketing tool (and I’m still suspicious of those “skinny mirrors”), but they also drive profits by reducing production costs. And regardless of the industry’s motivation, this sizing evolution trend will probably continue as long as we are getting larger on average. My advice to men and women who are faced with being “sized out” of American clothing labels (when the smallest size available is too big) is to shop European and Asian clothing labels instead.