Monday, June 2, 2014

The dumbing down of FIT



Just when you thought it couldn't get worse..........This past Wednesday's Wall Street Journal had a really interesting article on the sizing in clothing today.  Here are a few quotes:

"..."Alpha sizing", the industry term for a simplified apparel-sizing system where two numerical sizes, like 6 and 8 are combined to form an alpha size like Small or S."

It seems the "relaxed" styles, aka sloppy, that are trending right now have been contributing to this phenomenon. Items with stretch built in (everything?) also are more likely to come in alpha sizes. But the Journal also notes that more traditional items like bras, blazers and pants are getting "Alphasized" ( my word ) as well.

How does alpha sizing affect you?  Here's another Journal quote, "The difference between a Small and Medium might be 2 inches, 2 1/2 inches, or for some brands, even 3 inches. By contrast, the difference between each numeric size, from 0-10, s typically 1 inch."  Now add that fact to this one: "Women typically have a size the they feel is their size. More than half will walk away without buying if their size doesn't fit rather than try a larger size." See where we are going here? Isn't it always about the bottom line, the almighty dollar?

So, here I am in Macy's looking at jackets. I usually take a 4 or 6. But all I am finding is Small or S. Dang, the shoulders hang off, the jacket just does not fit like my size 4 or 6. What no Extra Small? Mediums are way too big. Now I walk away. But that is me and more than likely you, too. We know what good fit is. We don't' always achieve it but we get a lot closer than what is in RTW, and now you know one of the reasons. But what about those who don't sew? That is where vanity steps in and the manufacturer wins. Back to the store, but let's make believe I don't sew. I just need a summer jacket. I always take a size 4 or 6. Hmmm, all they have are Smalls and Mediums. I try them on. The Medium is huge. The Small is kinda big too. But it's a Small. It must be the right fit. A 4 or 6 is Small. I look around. Most of the people I see are pretty casually dressed. They look good, as in good enough. My jacket looks good  as in good enough and it is a Small so it must be the right size. I plunk down my plastic and am out of there with a new jacket. Now I will contribute to the slovenly masses walking the streets without a clue about fit. I think you are getting my view point here.

Why is this happening, other than the fact the most of the public has no clue what decent fit is anymore?  Back to our WSJ article here. "If I only have to build four sizes instead of eight, my supply chain is going to be much more efficient", says Ed Gribbin, president of a company called Alvanon. More efficiency, more profit! Once again good fashion is hijacked for margin. Chiching!

Here's another illuminating fact per the Journal. There is a lack of consistency in this alpha sizing.  "Not all brands combine the same two numbers for their alpha sizes." It seems that in women's wear a small is a size 6 and 8 for 2/3rds of manufacturers. For the remaining third of manufacturers a small is a size 4 and 6. I  think at this point, as I am standing in my imaginary Macy's I start to spin and shriek. WTF size do I wear???

OK, back to sewing. We have the power and don't ever underestimate that. First, I feel really good that no one is pulling this crap on me. I'll make my own jacket, thank you very much. I feel good that I am not contributing to the already disgusting margins being made by clothing manufacturers on the backs of the poor and desperate. I don't want to contribute to Mr. Gribbin's margins. I just want to wear a nice piece of clothing that fits me to the point that it makes me look better than what I can pick up in RTW. I am lucky to sew and I am blessed to know how to sew. No one's pulling this crap on me!

I really do think that the state of fashion for the masses has really gotten out of control at this point. Let's do everything we can to teach others our skills. Let's not support the manufacturing of garbage on the backs of others. And let's stop all this sloppy clothing that is so pervasive. If you are a newbie to sewing and not sure what good fit is other than being comfortable, I have a great resource for you. Here is a link to a standards book written by the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers. On page 22 is the beginning of their "Quality Standards for Fit". I think this should be on every sewist's bulletin board for reference. We take so much for granted and this information is so necessary to your development of quality sewing, garments that really look good on you.

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My two cameras have both gone on to camera heaven. I am just lost without a camera and have been researching repair or getting a new one. I may get a cheapy to get me through until I can afford a really nice DSLR like I used to have. In the meantime, I have a few subjects to get on my soapbox about, so even without pics, I can guarantee the blog won't be boring. I hope you enjoyed this post. 

So many of you have asked "when are you going to start your jacket?"  I have a lovely lavender and black wool boucle that I want to use for a Chanel jacket but right now the prospect of playing with dark wool really is not inviting. I have also wanted to make my next jacket out of a blue and white sort of boucle. We are talkiing medium to light blue, sort of like faded jeans. I could not find what I wanted through Linton. I have also searched some other vendors but no luck. Today I called Banksville and they say they don't have a lot of blues but will send me some samples. They are on their way and I can't wait to see them. I am not a hundred percent on the actual style of the jacket, either. I am thinking something with a collar and buttonholes. We'll see. I certainly was inspired by the jackets Claire showed us. The styles were so varied. I was really surprised by that. I also will try to build some shape into the jacket, the way Claire taught us. So I will keep you posted but for the moment I have a big pile of fabrics, great ones for summer, all pretreated and ready to go for summer garments. Since our season is rather short, that is my priority. Plus, I love to sew linens and nice cottons so I will keep you posted. Happy sewing...........Bunny

42 comments:

  1. Interesting post, Bunny! I was nodding my head throughout. RTW just seems to be getting worse and worse over time.

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  2. I've stopped shopping without realizing I stopped shopping. Now, when I wear my RTW clothes I can identify why they are off. I definitely reach for my handmades first.

    Now to experiment with sewing bras. I'm tired of paying $50 for half decent.

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    1. According to the article, bras are being alphasized too! Hanes says that now 25% of its bra sales are alpha sized. All of this convenience for the manufacturer results in a sloppy look for the wearer and more money in their pockets. The frustration is how do you educate the masses to what good fit is?

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    2. I work at a "bra store", The alpha sized bras don't sell well for us. They are very stretchy and offer no support. Think the "Ahh bra". More for leisure time for me. But again, maybe part of this "who cares how things look/fit" thinking.

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    3. A good fitting bra is critical to how your clothes fit. I don't fall on the busty side, but my clothes wouldn't look flattering on me if I bought some alpha sized bra. Gah, what is this world coming to? I haven't shopped for clothes in years. I'm tall and the only way I can get the length I need is to buy a size bigger. No way I'm doing that. Another plus to sewing is that it keeps my sanity and I have the joy of saying, yeah, I made that.

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  3. I think even more than inconsistent sizing, the poor quality of materials and their workmanship is what drives me nuts about RTW, and even with the higher end garments. I see fit as a very personal matter, though I agree that it would be nice if more people agreed on fit standards. A very popular sewing/fashion blogger who creates some lovely garments almost always makes them skin tight, in my opinion. I believe she would be FAR more attractive if her clothing weren't practically painted on her body, but obviously she doesn't see it that way and apparently many others don't either, as she has 100's off replies to her posts exclaiming how beautifully her garments fit her.

    Maybe age plays a part as well? I'm almost 53, consider myself conservative in most things, and like to appear stylish, but I think it's totally possible without wearing a tent or having your seams straining. LOL. Looking forward to seeing what you create next!

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    1. I know of whom you speak and if I see one more dart at or past the nipple I will scream. My personal opinion is that someone who has that many followers and sets themselves up as being rather avant garde with their fashion likes, ok with me by the way, has a responsibility to their readers to do it right. The problem, as I see it, is no one is telling this blogger that her clothes, which basically are very pretty, look awful on her because of her lack of fit knowledge. I am an old lady at this point and young women, all of them, are beautiful. Let that shine through without the distraction of poor fit.

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    2. I know of this blogger as well and I couldn't agree with you more!

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  4. Amen, Bunny. People today believe if they can zip or button a garment it "fits". Really? I am also pretty sure most people do not own full-length mirrors, because if they saw what I see, they would not go out of the house dressed as they do. and yes, we all need to be passing on our sewing skills to the next generations. Yay for sewing teachers!! Maybe someday we will have at least a little impact on the garment/fashion industry.

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    1. You brought back a funny to me memory, Maris. About 25 years ago my hubby asked me what I wanted for my birthday, wise man that he is. I told him I wanted a beautiful tilting cherry full length mirror I had seen at a furniture store. He accomodated. Seriously, I had never had a full length mirror up until then. THAT is when I started to worry about the fit of my garments. What a difference it makes to see the full picture. I totally changed my hem strategy and started to make clothes that actually fit. So your suggestion of a full length mirror has great merit and I bet, like my former self, many don't have one. It should be mandatory sewing equipment, like a pair of scissors.

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  5. Thanks Bunny for your insight. Things are exactly the same in Australia - total cr...p.

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  6. So far the wedding industry has not adopted this scenario but it can't be far behind! One bride told me today that a recent trip to a bridal salon she was told "we only stock size 12's, that way all you have to do is have a seamstress size you up or down"...REALLY? Make a 12 into a 2 or a 20...those would be some monster seam allowances! Clients do think good fit mean the one single button should button or the zipper might zip...I want to scream!

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    1. There is another factor playing here…their in-store alterations can now charge another $$$ to re-make the dress to fit. When I went through that process for a bridesmaid dress for my daughter I caught on to the scam pretty quickly. They were so quick to up-size her I didn't catch on at the time-only later when paying $$$ for the alterations.

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    2. Ah yes! I picked up some wedding work at a local shop. They hired out the trimming down, the 'sizing up' went to the woman who ran the shop. She does do amazing work, I'll give her that. But such incredibly cheap fabric! Just icky to the touch! The swankier shop around the corner, with trendier styles and better fabric, is owned by the same people. They get you coming and going!

      I don't shop anymore either, but my sons still do. Didn't pick up the flyer at the Nordstrom Rack this evening, but they "gift you" alteration coupon books for signing up for their store card.

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  7. I fully agree. Sizes draw me crazy lately to the point I don´t know which size I am anymore. Thanks god I´m learning how to sew my own clothes.

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  8. Even inside one only shop, like Zara, sizes are uneven.

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  9. Amen to all you said Bunny and the other posters. I'm currently sewing fitted costume dresses for a chorus of 75 women ranging in ages from 20 to 75. It's a big job but I'm determined to have all 75 dresses actually "fit" their wearer as that's the only way I can sew with pride!

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    1. To quote my Mom, "you have earned your crown in heaven." What an undertaking!

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  10. I read that article with increasing incredulity last week. Then I got to the statement that bras are starting to size that way and I nearly screamed. The poor fit being foisted on an unsuspecting public is borderline criminal. And yes, there are bloggers who are perpetuating the misinformation. Not just skin-tight, but also bloggers, and even designers, who should know better, but who seem to have no concept of where bust points and darts should end, how much ease should be incorporated into a design, or how long a pattern's torso should be.

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    1. Amen, sister! I almost got on that track but decided to save it for another day. I am glad you brought it up, Ann. I am so tired of seeing bloggers with large followings have no sense of responsibility to their readers. They publish their garments with nary a mention of nippleitis or gaping armholes. Just, "Look at how wonderful I am," when really they are leading their flock into the belief that poor fit is OK fit. On some blogs the authors really don't know better and the tip off is often the ill fitting garments on their toddlers. Other times it is experienced bloggers/sewists who really really should no better. They need to learn it's OK to say they had a hard time with the fit. It's OK to ask if any followers would know of a solution. It's alright to tell it like it is and not be seen as inadequate. It sure as heck would make me respect their abilities a lot more. This is another post coming on! You are all going to wish my camera were working again!

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  11. I wondered why I haven't been able to buy a good bra lately -- they all seem to be either too small or too large. It is so discouraging........guess make your own is the answer.

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  12. As a new sewer..i totally agree with everything you and commenters said. It seems hard for me to get the information that i need for fit. I don't know where a dart is supposed to end! I've only sewed 4 garments..but i already have a hard time buying RTW because of fit or quality fabric. But i am not good enough yet to deck myself out in hande made well fitted garments. At least with each one i have made i learn something about the fit i want to achieve the next time. Keep passing on yor knowledge to my generation!

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    1. Sorry for typos..on my phone :)

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    2. It does take time, so be patient, Anna. There are many who will help you along the road. Like I said , until I got that full length mirror, I thought I looked fine. Another big help is a digital camera with a remote. You take pics of yourself, upload them, and then self critique. I never knew I had a lower shoulder and hip until I started doing this. Stick with it, woman. You will do fine.

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    3. I do have a full length mirror, and that helps a lot!
      I have a fit question. If i need to lengthen the torso on a dress bodice with darts going from the bottom up...do i extend the darts and widen them a bit so they still end at the same place?

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  13. Jeez, just when we thought it couldn't get any worse...

    I think the most helpful thing experienced sewists can do is talk about this issue, openly and calmly, with helpful examples. Claire Kennedy is good at this, IMHO.

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  14. Alvanon is the custom dress form company that talks about accommodating the actual body and providing options for a good fit. I can't imagine their CEO is advocating this change in direction, probably making an observation. I could be wrong though.

    Anyway, you are absolutely right - knowing how to sew makes shopping easier - I basically don't because I am hyperaware of construction, fabric, etc. I went to buy a bridesmaid dress - to date it's my most expensive one - and the ladies tried to get me to size up just in case. I felt confident choosing the size that fit my measurements with the right amount of ease and when I picked it up, I was happy. Except I know I could have made it myself :)

    And the bra sizing??? Don't get me started. Alpha sizing is a horrible idea

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    1. I just keep thinking there is a joke in there somewhere about alphaboobs.

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  15. I hate shopping anymore, because it's so hard to find age appropriate clothes that are affordable and well made. Nor have I gotten to a level of sewing for myself that looks good either. I'm guessing there are far more like me too. So for me, if it's going to fit improperly and be of low quality, I think I'll take my chances and just sew it myself. At least if it doesn't fit, I can tell people I'm new at it, and they'll be far more forgiving. Plus at least I know the quality fabric is there. LOL

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  16. What a great post, Bunny! I have been perplexed lately by the S-M-L sizing. It's hard enough with regular sizing, which really doesn't exist, does it? What with vanity sizing (size 00? Really?) But I didn't realize that there was an economic side to this new "alphasizing". Making my own clothes has really made me picky. I am appalled at the fit of RTW, not to mention the techniques. Sometimes friends will ask me what is wrong with a new garment of theirs. After a little hesitation, I usually say, "Well, it doesn't fit you!" Another thing about sizing/fit and sewing for oneself is that our bodies change with time. A size that fit just fine a few years ago will need adjusting. It's a gravity thing!

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  17. I always like to see discussions on fit and what makes a good fit. My personal pet peeve is that most women are wearing their clothes too tight - which is just as bad as the too big you describe above. Body conscious is good but body encasing is not. I think a lot of people mistake very tight as something that shows off their shape, which it does but also creates all kinds of pulling, drag lines etc that I can't ignore. But it is difficult to learn the skills to create a very fitted garment that does not pull or strain. I wish more new sewers would learn more fit basics.

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    1. I agree. There is much today that is being worn too tight. I don't mean too tight as in I'm a prude but too tight as it just doesn't look good or flattering. Sometimes you wonder if people really care.

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    2. When I see these tight garments on people posing in pictures on blogs as well as out in the public, all I can think of is "sausage casing." Can't help it!

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    3. There used to be (maybe still is) a video on youtube of a woman crashing a party. She is wearing only a tiny 'butt floss' thong, and paint. I remember watching this video with a friend who insisted that tightly fitted clothing was the style. I insisted she was naked, except possibly for a strategic triangle at the front. My friend wouldn't believe me, till the narrator actually said it was paint. Paint and a thong. Thinking back, I probably noticed the lack of draglines....


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  18. What I've noticed with some of my quilting buddies is that when they got older they had fitting problems with the ageing body changes and didn't know how to deal with it so stopped sewing clothes!!! To my way of thinking, this is exactly why you want to be sewing your own clothes, to make them fit.
    Am just green with envy with your sewing workshop.

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    1. I totally agree and have had those same conversations with my formerly sewing friends. I hate the idea that because they have a normal body for their time in life that they give up. That's another whole blogpost, too!

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    2. I've heard Peggy Sagers comment several times, something like, "more sewers have turned to quilting because they never learned to fit." I agree. And even if one knows how to fit, one needs to know what a good fit looks like.

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  19. You have been an inspiration to me! I started sewing about 50 years ago. I made most of my clothing throughout high school. Either my clothes fit my junior body or I didn't know much about fit. After I had children, I made most of their clothing. They wore classic heirloom and smocked dresses (I have 3 daughters). I quilted between children graduating and grandchildren. Now I have 6 grandchildren and mostly sew heirloom clothes for them. Now I cannot buy clothes to fit. So I am starting to sew for myself again. I consider myself a good seamstress but know so little about fitting. I have bought 2 books on fitting. I was going to sign up for a Craftsy class on fitting, but when I saw a students dress and the darts were so off and she was so proud, I thought this is not the class for me. So do you recommend any books on fitting patterns?

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    1. I think for someone just getting going with fit awareness, Nancy Ziemans' book "Pattern Fitting with Confidence". She starts with teaching you how to buy the proper size pattern and that sometimes is the hardest part. I am not a fan of Palmer Pletch methods as they use tissue fitting and in my opinion and experience, because I did try it a few times, tissue rips. It doesn't drape like fabric. It requires some extra fussy work taping pivot points and seams. And you can't get a really good fit from half a tissue paper garment, IMO. Remember I told you I had one lower shoulder and hip? Others swear by PP, just not me. I also firmly believe in muslins. I don't do overkill on the muslin thing as I feel the eventual good fabric will always need tweaking. Another fabulous resource is PatternReview. They have a board for fitting issues where some real experts will generously walk you through getting you garment to fit. It's fun to read just for inspiration. And the last thing I recommend is a digital camera. Talk pictures standing normally facing front, then back, then directly sideways and all full length. No need to stretch arms, twist, or any other strange gyrations. I only say this because lately I have seen a plethora of pics showing just the smallest bit of the garment or the strangest poses when requesting help on PR. Even if you don't use PR, upload those pics and dissect them on your computer to know what is actually happening. Oh, and another great book on fit is Sarah Veblen's. Great info in there as well. Good luck.

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  20. Hi there Bunny and all your followers too,
    What a wonderful discussion!
    I so agree with all that you are saying. I used to follow a particular blogger but have just got to the point where I just can't anymore..............need I say more.
    DH and I went out as we were a little stir crazy and hit the shops as I need summer tops etc. Oh dear, it was depressing beyond belief. I have to admit, I just couldn't part with the money...............the poor fabric, shoddy workmanship; it just made me want to cry.
    The shop assistants, I am sure thought me too fussy. My husband explained that I enjoyed sewing and I realized that I was standing apologising for wanting something better than they could offer. Many labels that were respected years ago have gone over to the dark side - by that I mean cheap horrible fabric, but incredible price tags..............No way.

    I have a beautiful linen dress I made a few years back and I still cringe that I eventually posted a picture of it on a forum, explaining that I had not regained my figure since surgery. It is made well, but sadly my shape has changed and I am trying hard to get my former waist and hips back; until then, certain tailored clothes will remain in my wardrobe.

    Yes ladies, I don't want to look like a "skin on a sausage" from the waist down! LOL. So, the remainder of my beautiful pure linen is coming out of my stash and I am making sure that I forget about my former self and cut the size that I currently am...................its annoying though isn't it that size changes mean that I am still XS in some makes, 4 or 6 in others and heck, 8, 10 or 12!As you say bunny what size am I?????

    Oh, I am of a certain age, 57 and agree about the full length mirror; a tip from my lovely Mother and sewing teacher who I adored beyond belief. These ladies taught me well, since returning back to the U.K. the one thing I don't have at the moment is a full length mirror, so you have reminded me that it has to be replaced!!

    Fabulous blog as always, welcome home...............we have missed you.

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