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The myth of standard sizing

Brownbridge, KM and Gill, S (2013) The myth of standard sizing. In: 3rd Global Conference - Beauty: Exploring Critical Issues.

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Abstract

Sizing of clothing is key to how it is consumed, discussed and experienced within any society, as well as having a direct bearing on the wearer’s body image. However, whilst it is common practice to define women’s bodies by abstract size categories such as 10-12-14, there is little accessible discussion of how these systems are devised that allow a clear understanding of the dynamics they create for the consumer. This paper will integrate quantitative research into current sizing practices of UK women’s wear retailers with qualitative feedback of women’s experiences of sizing. Using content analysis methods sizing data has been collected from individual retailer websites and structured into a graphical format. This enables the simple comparison of retailers individual sizing systems and provides a clearer understanding of the dynamics they provide for the consumer. Experiences of sizing systems by UK consumers were collected through structured and semi structured questionnaires alongside the collection of their body measurements. This has enabled individual experiences to be recorded and contextualised in relation current sizing practices. The dynamics of sizing and its complexities are discussed with reference to consumer experiences and sizing systems, raising issues around fit, proportion and the concept of size spread (The level of fit tolerance expected from each individual garment within a sizing range). This is contrasted to the idea of ideal fit. There were few indications of variation in expected proportions of key dimensions within sizing systems between retailers. This was perceived to have an impact on body image and be the cause of reported dissatisfaction. The research suggests a more holistic approach to understanding not only the creation of sizing systems, but also how they are interpreted and navigated by the consumers is needed

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