Dress Size Matters?

Last night my friend’s car was broken into. The thieves broke her passenger side window and stole her gym bag. Luckily, they were in too much of a hurry to notice her laptop behind the back seat.

A police officer arrived to inspect the damage and advise her of her options. At first he was concerned that her gym bag might be a designer bag worth thousands of dollars. When he found out that it was not, he said something that struck a nerve. “Luckily, they just took clothes.”

Now I realize that he was really trying to say that it was lucky the thieves did not get her laptop, but I did have to reply to his comment.

“You obviously have no idea what it’s like for a woman to shop for clothes,” I countered in a light-hearted tone. He sheepishly nodded in agreement, but I’m still not sure he understood the point.

While sizing for men’s clothes is generally specified in inches, women’s sizing is left to a random, very inconsistent, number. A woman’s “size” can vary between brands and even between styles. Putting the stress of simply finding something that actually fits aside, for many women the number on the tag is every bit as important as the number on the scale.

To ease the burden of finding clothes that actually fit, a company called MyBestFit takes the guesswork out of shopping.  Currently a kiosk in the King of Prussia mall and soon to be released in others, MyBestFit uses a rotating full body scanner to take over 200,000 points of measurement. Based on this information, it provides a customized shopping guide listing the styles and sizes that would be the best fit.

This sounds like an absolutely fabulous device and I look forward to the day I can try it out myself. Yet the stress of inconsistent sizing is not the only issue to address. The bigger issue is that for many women, their self-esteem is tied to that number.

What will it take for us to let go of the numbers? Numbers do not measure a person’s beauty. Aside from the fact that sizing has changed over time – a 32-inch bust was a size 14 in 1937, a size 8 in 1967 and a size 0 today[1] – cultural standards of beauty change. The Renaissance beauties were most definitely full-figured. And even in today’s standards, in which thin is in, “beauty” itself cannot be quantified.

Neither can a person’s kindness, generosity, or quick-witted sense of humor. A person’s “value” cannot be measured because people are invaluable.

When we recognize and accept the absurdity that is the sizing of women’s clothing, it is easier to let go of that number. And when we can let go of that number, it is easier to recognize and embrace the magnificence of our true beauty.

[1] http://finance.yahoo.com/news/One-Size-Fits-Nobody-Seeking-nytimes-3929963386.html?x=0