A New York Times story today gives some insight into why the sizing on women's pants often seems annoyingly random. A business piece called "Clothes That Fit the Woman, Not the Store" chronicles the attempt of a Dallas entrepreneur to standardize the sizes of women's pants according to three different body types. Dubbed Fitlogic, the concept is that within every size of pants, 0-16, there would be three different offerings, based on the three body types.
Jones Apparel and Garfield & Marks are currently experimenting with the Fitlogic program at stores such as Nordstrom and Macy's. In a sidebar, another Times writer gives the Fitlogic system a whirl, and finds a pair of pants that fit her shape perfectly, although she didn't buy them because she didn't like the style.
Yet, the Times piece reports a lot of barriers to getting size standardization off the ground. The chief one seems to be that women's clothing retailers benefit from the status quo: "Then there is the reality, however counterintuitive it may be, that retailers and clothing makers thrive off sizing confusion. Consumers who find a brand that fits are likely to stick with it and a standard sizing system would encourage them to visit other stores." It's so hard to find anything that fits that when women do, they're brand loyal by default.
So, the fact that shoppers find the current lack of standardization frustrating is not enough incentive for manufacturers and retailers to change it: "There is little doubt that consumers would benefit from Fitlogic, or any other standardized sizing system, if it were widely adopted," the Times reports. "Size, by definition a standardized measure, has become one of the most flexible concepts in retailing. The creation of vanity sizes -- intentionally smaller than an objective size, to flatter the buyer -- has introduced pure guesswork into shopping. A size 10 from one clothing manufacturer is a size 8 from another and a 12 from still another."
In other words, don't expect Fitlogic to be sweeping the racks at your local mall anytime soon.