A step towards gender inclusivity, size inclusivity, and helping the environment
Shopping for clothes, whether in person or online, has always been and continues to be difficult. The modern fashion industry impacts many interconnected issues, such as gender expression, climate change, and body shaming. Unifying and regulating size guides is a solution that has the potential to implement beneficial changes to all of these areas.
In the last couple of years, the topic of “True Size” has circulated on the internet. True size or true-to-size refers to a garment’s ability to correctly match the already established size guide of a company. For example, a pair of women’s size 20 jeans from Levi’s should have a waist circumference of 37.75 inches. If the actual measurement of the jean’s waist circumference was 37.75 inches then that pair of jeans would be true to size.
In a 2022 CBC Marketplace article, journalists Stephanie Matteis, Menna Elnaka, and Rosa Marchitelli set out to compare the marketed versus actual size of popular Canadian jean brands. Notably, every company investigated displayed different size guides; a size zero pant may be shown to have a waist circumference of 24 inches at one store but 26 inches at another. They found most stores to be inconsistent by one to up to six inches bigger than size guides advertised on the company websites for women and one to two inches for men. They called this “vanity sizing”, a questionable business practice in which companies discretely increase the actual measurements of their clothes with the aim to make the customer feel smaller. This is done by preying on insecurities and intensifying body dysmorphia of consumers. These altered sizes are clearly misleading, but more concerning is the spread of a narrative that villainizes diverse bodies.
On the other hand, society is still fighting brands for basic inclusive sizing which, no, does not just end at XXL. In a world where everyone is shaped so differently, it’s incomprehensible for a brand to not accommodate or at least capitalize on natural differences in body size by producing better fitting clothes. It is more ridiculous to create a business model based on storefronts holding a single small size. Looking at the popular brand Aritzia as an example, their largest pant size is a “16” which has a waist of 35 inches. According to a 2008 Statistics Canada study, the average Canadian woman’s waist circumference is 35.6 inches. When this is the average, it’s absurd to label it an extra-large and simply not accommodate a whole group of people. Brands like this exclude many womens’ bodies, catering to only those who wear smaller sizes. Even when brands do advertise inclusive sizing, it’s not uncommon to either never find one’s size in store or be told right off the bat those sizes will be online only.
Fast fashion is a rapid production fashion chain that utilizes cheap materials and quick trends to sell as many goods as possible, often leading to the detriment of our environment. Fast fashion also benefits from companies’ variable size charts.
Due to new tricky policy and marketing tactics, returning clothes is also becoming more difficult. When you buy a misleading sized article of clothing, it is difficult to return. With the addition of inconsistent or exclusive sizing, many consumers wind up purchasing clothes that don’t fit, repurchasing the item in another size, and throwing the original out — once again contributing to ecological damage. When a consumer is able to put up with the hassle of returning a garment, the reality is that the brand new item may still end up in the landfill.
Lastly, considering the importance of clothing for gender expression, the need for gendered sizes is becoming increasingly obsolete. In this day and age it is common to see people dressing in a way that subverts gender binary. What’s more, many women opt to wear jeans or hoodies sized for men for fashion or comfort. Most, if not all storefronts separate men and women’s clothing. Unfortunately, society has not yet condemned the many stigmas involved with shopping for clothes resulting in prejudice and discrimination towards transgender and nonbinary communities making the entire shopping process unpleasant and harmful. Separating clothes by gender is only another way society has controlled expression and companies have taken advantage of overcharging marginalized groups such as women.
So how would this ‘Universal Chart’ help? This solution works by intertwining the two issues it’s trying to fix. A universal chart would be a regulated size guide using actual measurements (in inches) of garments rather than arbitrary and varying numbers or gender. A system like this might be reminiscent of thrift stores in which clothes are usually hand-measured for the size then separated by type of garment (i.e. t-shirts in one place, bootcut jeans on another rack).
What this solution really does is desegregates clothing by perceptions of expressed gender, reduces returns and therefore negative contributions to the environment, and encourages diversity and clothes that fit a body, not a body that fits clothes.