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RTW and The Big Four Sizing
Pondering The Extreme Differential (or so it seems to me)
Cathyaw
Cathyaw
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Date: 12/4/13 8:07 AM

I am an average size woman...10-12 in RTW.
In the Big 4 and other pattern companies, I am decidedly larger in size. Removing my hubris from the equation, I do wonder WHY??
I have often thought that RTW people have lowered their dress sizing to play to our lack of humility, thus selling more.
I wonder why pattern makers do not follow suit?!
Has it always been this way, or was there a shift along the way that I missed?
Just wondering,
Cathy

HanPanda
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HanPanda
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Date: 12/4/13 8:15 AM

I think RTW companies adjust their sizing to the average. So as the average size of people has gone up, the same size in RTW clothing has become larger to compensate. I really think the Big 4 pattern companies simply haven't changed their sizing components...or if they have, much less and much slower than the RTW industry. The first time I realized I was a 10 in patterns was almost unnerving; I had never worn two digits in a size before. I just had to learn to "fahget abaht it!"

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2015 In: 36 yards
2015 Sewn: 25.5 yards
2014 In: 99.75 yards
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Wino
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Wino
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Date: 12/4/13 11:05 AM

RTW sizes are arbitrary. Pattern sizing has remained consistent from 1972 onward. Until 1967 pattern sizing reflected RTW more closely and was based on a 1940 US Bureau of Standards study. Before this, patterns were largely based on bust measurement and reflected the age of the young woman (i.e 10,12 14 etc.) until she became a little older and was considered a lady (bust sizes 32, 34, 36 etc.). If pattern sizing was based on RTW how would that work? Ralph Lauren or KMart ? Seems like the system works pretty well as it stands.

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wino

LizJ58
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LizJ58  Friend of PR
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Date: 12/4/13 4:53 PM

LOL, I guess most of us have had "sticker shock" regarding our pattern sizes. I know I did. Since no one's going to know but us, the sewers, I really don't care.

My daughters were also shocked when they each discovered they were size 10 in patterns. The younger one actually measures out to a size 12, but when fitting a dress, it became pretty clear that a 10 was ok.

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- Libby with a "y" not an "ie"
(People who know Richmond will get this!)
Visit my blog - http://www.creativecurvychic.com
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michellep74
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Date: 12/4/13 5:22 PM

I think that a lot of the "sticker shock" (and confusion) could be eliminated if the Big 4 went back to listing their sizes by bust size. Does anyone know why they stopped doing that?

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--Michelle

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CM_Sews
CM_Sews
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Date: 12/4/13 5:31 PM

The clothes you sew will be YOUR size. Really. Forget the number.

RTW is notoriously fickle in regard to size numbers, not the actual size of the garment, but the number assigned to it. I have shopped for jeans and tried on jeans that are in the range of my body size, but the assigned size numbers vary by 4 or 5 sizes.

I actually find that, even though the numbers are different in RTW vs. patterns, I have the same fitting issues with RTW and sewing patterns: my narrow shoulders, needing and FBA, etc. Difficult to do an FBA on a RTW garment of course...

On the plus side, the sewing patterns are consistent; once I've picked a size and know which alterations I need to make, I can apply that to any of the Big 4.

You do need to pay attention to how much Style Ease is built into each pattern. I think the pattern envelope illustrations and photos are sometimes a bit misleading. I always flat measure each pattern. I've purchased different patterns of the same basic style, and measured the pattern pieces at home to find substantial differences in the amount of ease, even though the pattern envelope pictures seem nearly identical.

CMC

MrsCharisma
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In reply to CM_Sews <<
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Date: 12/4/13 6:08 PM

This exactly!

Before learning to sew (and when I was thinner) I realized I had clothes in my closet that FIT and ranged from 6-10 and S-XL. As Stacy and Clinton would say, if you don't like the number, cut out the tag! :)

Clothes that fit well always look better.

I haven't shopped in awhile but I'd guess I was a 10/12 RTW and 14-18 in patterns depending on what I'm sewing.

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www.sewcraftychemist.blogspot.com
Singer Talent 3321 | Kenmore 1503 | Brother 1034D

My Big 4 Sizing: Medium | Tops 14/16 | Pants 18 | Skirts 16/18.

My Measurements: 36 HB | 39.5 FB | 34 W | 44 Hip

DonnaH
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DonnaH
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Date: 12/4/13 6:49 PM

RTW uses vanity sizing. As the "average" woman has gotten bigger over the last 3 or 4 decades, so has the size. IOW, someone who wore a 10 in 1990, would probably wear a 6 (maybe 8) today - in the same brand. And yes, as you get to "off the rack" rather than RTW, the number will be smaller for the same "size" (that is - the higher the price, the smaller the size).

When I was in HS I was 20 to 30 lbs lighter, but in the same size I wear now (mostly 12)! I also fit into the "sample size" dresses at a local outlet (just after college - I had lost A LOT of weight since HS) and at that time wore maybe a 6 or an 8. I doubt if there are any samples now that are above a 2.

Kathleen Fasanella
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Kathleen Fasanella  Friend of PR
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In reply to DonnaH <<
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Date: 12/5/13 7:58 AM

Quote:
RTW uses vanity sizing. As the "average" woman has gotten bigger over the last 3 or 4 decades, so has the size.

"Vanity sizing" is better described as size inflation. Yes RTW sizes to the mean; sizing is social and varies from year to year in exactly the same way IQ does (the average IQ is always 100). It has nothing to do with pandering to consumer emotions than it does with allocating yardage for purchasing. This post explains why, albeit indirectly.
Why larger sizes cost more or Size is nothing but a number

Quote:
(that is - the higher the price, the smaller the size).

The reverse is true, especially these days. On average, wealthy people are thinner than the less well off. If it were true that top tier brands put smaller size labels in (as compared to mass merchants) then the size scale would range from -0000 to 0.

I don't doubt one can find non-conforming examples but do keep in mind that labels with a given designer's name represent completely different divisions and designed for a given segment of the marketplace with compensatory price points. For example, Ralph Lauren's Purple Label is the most expensive division (label) and its sizes run significantly smaller than Ralph Lauren Sport which is the lowest cost line. The latter is mostly sold in outlet malls (actually, specifically designed and manufactured for discount outlets) and goes for a lot less. Customers at those venues are buying the "ralph lauren" part of the label not realizing this is not the same stuff sold at Neiman's, Nordstrom's et al.

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westmoon
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Date: 12/5/13 8:43 AM

I can only imagine that the pattern companies would change their sizing in the extraordinarily unlikely event that some kind of meaningful international standard emerged that all manufacturers used. As it is, in addition to the fact that knowing you are a US size 10 will generally not help you find clothes in any country that is not the US, it will not even necessarily help you find clothes if you move between clothing outlets within the US. I imagine most of us have the experience of going to a new-to-us shop and finding our "normal" size number is not the size we need in that shop -- I frequently find myself trying on two or three different sizes. Given this, I don't suppose there's much urgency for pattern companies undertake the enormous and expensive task of re-engineering their pattern sizing and re-educating all their customers if all the change does is move us to another arbitrary, non-standard set of numbers.

What I think we might see is multi-sized patterns stopping not at 16/18 but at 20/22, the way many Simplicity patterns already seem to, plus possibly an increase in the overall number of Women's sized patterns (though I hold out no hope that W sized patterns will become less populated by the tunic-and-elasticated-trousers/skirt pattern endlessly reproduced by pattern companies).

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