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December 1, 2005

Catalogue retail
Posted by Teresa at 10:45 PM *

This one’s been bugging me for twenty years. Is there some reason retailers can’t just tell you the actual physical dimensions of a piece of clothing? For instance, they’ll tell you that a sweater is technically a size 16, but then say it “runs large for that size.” You’re already having to hunt down their sizing chart to find out how big they think a size 16 is, but determining the size of something that “runs large” is impossible.

How big is “one size fits most”?

Day before yesterday I was considering ordering some long plain black dresses (my wardrobe staple) from an online vendor, but was stymied when I realized that the length of every article of clothing they made was described as “hangs 33 inches from your natural waist.” This was impossible. I phoned to ask how long they were. No one at their ordering center knew. Before the call was done, I’d been bumped to two more corporate centers. I still didn’t know how long their dresses were, but I had the consolation of knowing that they didn’t either.

I’ve run into this over and over again. So let me repeat: is there a reason for it?

Comments on Catalogue retail:
#1 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:00 AM:

Gee, something that gets ME hot (I try to look at the politics and go, this too will pass, because all getting upset about THAT just raises my blood pressure despite the drugs).

I'm at an odd size right now because of a sincere endeavor to lose weight, and I've been at it for a while because I seem to have stabilized here. Without a bigger push (regular, more vigorous exercise, may happen but don't hold your breath) may stay here.

I'm right at the crossroads of L-XL-XXL. AND I CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT IS WHAT UNLESS I TRY IT ON. Or unless it comes with a measurement range. It also doesn't help hat I have a big stomach and a big chest.

i may eventully buy a Salwar Kameeze, but you can buy by size-measurement there. I will probably never buy any other clothing (except the occasional Cafe Press shirt) online. I need to try things on and look at things.

And thank ghu for Savers, a new thrift store concept where they Buy a Clue and arrange clothing not only by what it is-style, etc.- but by size so you don't have to hunt through the whole freaking store to find three items to try on. Except for slacks and under garments, a lot of my clothing comes from thrift stores (dresses, blouses, shirts - i get to wear slacks/nice jeans and a good top (polo, blouse, sweater etc.) at work).

#2 ::: Jenny Rappaport ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:21 AM:

I totally agree that I also hate most online or catalog sizing charts. They are never, never accurate for me, and I always have to return stuff. Which is one of the reasons I like brick & mortar retailers that have a presence online, like Old Navy, since I can order the clothes, try them on, and then just bring them back to the store to return. I lose out on the $5 of shipping, but overall, it's not a bad deal. And for some of the plus sizes, ordering online is the only place I can find all the styles or colors.

On the subject of sizes, can someone tell me why bridesmaid's dress sizes run much smaller than the regular dress size? I had to order one recently, and it was a full three sizes larger than what I normally wear. The man in the store tried to explain that it's because it has "more seams", but that doesn't make any sense to me.

#3 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:23 AM:

Guessing, I would say that it has something to do with most women's lack of accuracy regarding or inability to be truthful about their physical dimensions - a condition encouraged by the American culture.

Take shoe size - a measurement with fewer hang-ups than many in this culture - but still with some. There are women whose feet hurt everyday because they won't admit that they wear an 8 wide rather than a 7 narrow. If you took the same 8 wide shoe (which would fit comfortably on their feet) and labelled it a 7 narrow, they would wear it happily. I believe some shoe makers have noticed this. However, if all shoes were measured by inches, this couldn't be done.

In clotes, slippery sizes allow a manufacturer to make a 'largish' size 16 and selling it to people who are completely convinced they are a size 16 - even if objectively they aren't. The manufacturer can do this because there isn't an exact definition of size 16 - and it can create quite a following, because as long as a woman buys that manufacturer's clothes, she can say she's a size 16 instead of an 18 or possibly a 20.

In general, few women want to go up to a sales person and say, "My size is 52" waist and 28" leg." It's part of the culture to fudge our size, and the wide-ranging American dress sizes allow us to do this.

Now if you wonder why I'm being gender specific here - well men's clothes, especially good clothes and jeans, are sold to the inch. I know what my husband's measurements are - waist, inseam, arm, and neck, even though I'm more than a bit foggy on my own (I don't need to know my own - I know my dress size in every manufacturer I'm likely to buy from).

I'm not even going to go into cut - but the difference in how a garment is cut (or the fabric it's made from) can mean a difference in size of four sizes for me.

Is this a completely logical system? Of course not. But it's pretty low on my list of things to change. Besides with any luck, another 10 years or so will see more stores going to the Levi's standard of taking computerized measurements and making clothes to order.

(Must admit the notion of a dress that hangs 33" from everyone's natural waist is a hoot. I could possibly see it in a skirt, but in a dress? Was there any sort of waistline to the dress?)

#4 ::: Lawrence Watt-Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:27 AM:

You realize it's only women who have to put up with this, right? Men's clothiers generally do give actual dimensions.

It's grossly unfair.

And women's sizes are meaningless, in any case. One of my sisters used to do piecework for a clothing distributor; her job was removing the size labels from garments in whatever size they'd overstocked, and replacing them with labels saying the garments were whatever size they were short of.

Which brings a question to mind. I've noticed that in recent years, men's underwear manufacturers like Hanes and Fruit of the Loom are making serious inroads into the female undergarment market. Do they give actual meaningful sizes, when they're making women's garments? They certainly do for their male customers.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:33 AM:

Hmm... What exactly is a natural waist?

#6 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:42 AM:

Well, here's more information - which people may already have or may be more than they want to know, but it's this or wash the dishes.

Sewing clothes to fit people is more complicated than hemming tableclothes. People have all these weird little bumps and bulges and indentations all over. It's not easy (maybe not possible) to make a clothing pattern using only mathematics and a set of human proportions.

So what most manufacturers do is use a model. Not a model as in the cover of Vogue or Elle, but a person who is fairly close to the manufacturer's notion of a particular size. Your luck in finding off-the-rack clothes that fit you well depends to a certain extent on finding a manufacturer who uses a model who's shaped like you.

I don't wear Ralph Lauren - I don't know where they found their model, but I think it's Mars. I do wear Elisabeth (Liz Claiborne) because I think they've found my long-lost twin and use her as their fitting model. The Nordstrom's house label is OK, and I do pretty well with Jones of New York (must be my cousin). Citron seems to also have some possibilities.

If you're way off the bell curve as far as proportions go, you could be really out of luck.

As for the bridesmaid's dress and 'more seams' - expensive clothing lines (which often have more seams) tend to run to smaller sizes. Why? Don't know.

#7 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:47 AM:

Serge - natural waist is usually the point most indented between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hips.

If you don't have an indent there, educated guesses as to your waist's location can be made by measuring two heads' heighth down from your chin.

As for the reason why it's a 'natural' waist - it's the waist that's on your body. Fashion has moved the your clothes' waist all over the torso, from just under the breasts in Regency England (a high-waisted gown) to down just above the hips, as in some jeans.

#8 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:04 AM:

I usually say "One size fits nobody".

As far as sizing goes, the north american obsession with size (large and small) extends into clothing. I wear everything from a 0 to a 16 - but it's much easier to buy something like a 38, that's pretty much reliably the size I expect.

As somebody that's very fond of vintage clothing, it's really funny to see today's size 2 discover that they're a 1950s size 16...

#9 ::: lisa@digitalmedievalist.com ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:04 AM:

I find that Lands' End is very willing to tell me the exact measurement for any part of any garment, either on the phone, via web based chat, or in e-mail. The selection of style is somewhat lacking however. I've been looking at salwars a lot lately . . .

I do wish that women's pockets would be more realistically sized.

And two out of three years in a sequence the "fashionable colors" are ones that I hate, but seem to be everywhere.

#10 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:06 AM:

This is why I started buying all my jeans from the men's section, a few years back. What I give up in "fitted" hips I gain in being able to walk over to the rack, grab the inch measurements, try on one pair to make sure it's not doing anything funky, and then walk out with several pairs in various colors knowing they'll fit. I've also noticed men's jeans are far more durable for the price than women's. (I would not be able to get away with doing all my shopping like this if I didn't work in a place with a very casual dress code.)

I actually work for an online retail store that sells, among many other things, clothing. We used to carry "standard" T-shirt sizes, so we left it as the labels said and assumed people would know what a small, medium, or large meant. But once we started stocking baby dolls and other shirts aimed at women, we had to add a bunch of charts full of measurements, because every manufacturer goes for a different version of "medium". Heck, I found that from even the same manufacturer, I could wear a small in one shirt style, a medium in another, and a large in a third. (And then there were the sweatshirts, where a "small" could envelop and average-sized woman. But we don't talk about those much.)

As for the wedding/bridesmaid gowns, I'm told that because they're more expensive, they're also carefully marked down in size. Presumably brides are assumed to have very sensitive egos, and need to be able to fit into a dress that claims to be size 2 for their wedding, regardless of the woman's actual dimensions. Only having been in one wedding, and that with handmade dresses, I cannot vouch for this. But it seems to be the general consensus on some bridal boards I frequent. (I'm also told that very expensive dresses are similarly marked down in size, but I have even less experience with those. Hurrah for jeans and shirts forever!)

(I also seem to have the habit of ending my paragraphs in parenthetical addendums. Go figure.)

#11 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:46 AM:

Oh, a topic that resonates with every woman! I pretty much have to try on every item of clothing, too. And let's not even talk about how different manufacturers assume very different proportions for the same size. My favorite example is to contrast (the plus lines of) Tommy Hilfiger, which is apparently is designed for the apple shaped woman, with Jones New York, which does allow for a narrow waist. As an hourglass shaped woman, I fit almost perfectly into a JNY pair of pants. If I try on the same size in TH, the hips fit fine, but the waist stands off from mine by many inches - I could fit my purse in there easily!

I actually do think it's a good idea to account for different proportions in clothing - but there's absolutely no way to account for with the current single-size-number system.

#12 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:58 AM:

Once a guy friend of mine called and asked if I wanted to go to brunch in an hour or so. "I'm sorry, I just got to a store, and I need to leave with a pair of pants." "...And?" Arg! In that one store on that one day I was 14 different sizes. It's bullsh--.

That's why I prefer shopping by catalog, actually. In my experience the sizes are almost even through everything the catalog sells... So if I like their things enough that I figure I'll buy from them more than once, I'll buy a couple sizes in the first batch as ranging shots. Then I mail back the non-fitting things.

Actually, I almost always buy a couple sizes of everything in the order, since the difference between a 3 inch photograph and a piece of clothing means that I'm bound to be mailing stuff back anyway.

The return shipping charges are a tax on females who don't want to wait around for fitting rooms at 6 items a pop.

#13 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 02:05 AM:

Ah, I could rant about clothing sizing for days... and I have! I tried to figure out the "fits too small" problem with formal wear, and what I came up with was that they weren't going by "women's sizes", they were going by "junior's sizes" - a size 14 does not equal a size 14W.

I bought a formal gown a couple of years ago which I had to order via internet (because god knows fat ladies never want to dress formally, and if they do, they prefer crappy shapeless sequinned garbage bags - judging by the selection at the local department stores) and knowing that formal wear sizing was problematic, I followed the sizing chart for the brand I was buying to a T - never mind that it was a full size larger than normal. $150 in alterations later, I had a dress that had been tailored to my exact figure - a full size smaller than it started out.

Since I'm learning what fits (9 West, Macy's House Brand, some Ralph Lauren) and figuring out the clearance schedule, I'm honing my anger. I'd love it if designers of utilitarian clothing would accept that an XXL is not the same as a 2XL.

Other things I would like women's clothing manufacturers to understand:

1.) Women who don't own implants do not have breasts that are shaped like cantaloupe halves; stop putting so much fabric on the top part of the bra.

2.) Also, make those underwires shorter.

3.) Stop with the damned pointy-toed shoes already. And while you're at it, make some shoes in a wide width.

4.) Capri pants make the short-legged and normal-legged look stumpy. Make some slacks for the fat ladies that are full length. I don't care how much money you save not giving us those extra two inches of fabric.

5.) I'm fat, not a kindergarten teacher. I do not want to wear seasonal appliques or shapeless schmattes.

6.) Women of all sizes have these things called "breasts" and "hips". If you are confused by these terms, it's OK - just check out some are from the 16th century through the Edwardian Era. If all the nakey lady bits in the paintings make you feel generally uneasy, watch some films from the 50's.

And for stores:

1.) People keep touting the benfits of excercize - it helps in losing weight, they say. Well, if I can't find a sports bra that's not just a glorified ace bandage in my size, I can't really work out without endangering myself and others. Carry some useful athletic clothing in all sizes!

2.) Department stores, give us a freaking store map. Little is as disheartening as spending 15 minutes wandering around a floor full of ladies wear and realizing that my size is somewhere else entirely. If I can go immediately to the fat lady section, I might spend less time fuming that you've ghettoized me in the infants section, or housewares.

While we're at it, can we come up with a a less oblique euphemism? The "Women's Sizes" is too vague, and "Plus Size" implies that more slender ladies are "minus sizes". I vote for a return to the word "Stout". I would totally shop in a store with Stout Sizes.

#14 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 02:19 AM:

I used to make a lot of shirts, and I read a lot of patterns and pattern-making books in pursuit of this. I learned that the average man needs three basic measurements for his shirt (men being essentially rectangular, absent beer bellies): arm, neck, and chest.

Women are bumpier. In addition to arm, neck, and chest, we may need bust, waist, hip, shoulder-to-shoulder, neck-to-waist, bust point-to-bust point, .... Men's shirts seldom have darts to control excess fabric; women's shirts usually do.

A fact of life: make something one step more complicated, and you get x times new interpretations of the thing. Make it 2x or 3x or size 16x and it's really no wonder you have to search an entire store for one shirt that really fits.

Except it'll be in an ugly color, or the cut won't flatter you, or ....

#15 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 02:27 AM:

As Margaret pointed out, clothing lines are developed based on a set of measurements or a specific human figure (I do this stuff professionally). A current client is creating shirts for the long-waisted, athletic young woman at or above 6'. From sets of measurements and trying on of prototypes, we've found the median (bulge of the bell curve), and this establishes their "Medium".

We could arbitrarily assign numbers - "Bust 34" + 4" ease", but the line will sink or fly based on enough women trying the pieces on, finding the shirts answer their needs, and reordering other styles in whatever their size is. All pieces will be consistantly sized, but cannot be compared to anyone else's line.

Imagine developing a line of sports jackets for jockeys, again with "Medium" as the size that fits the largest percentage. Postulate that on the basis of having successfully fit that niche group, the next commission is to create a comparable line for sumo wrestlers. As men's clothing is far more standardized (where "42 long" has meaning) do a mental side-step and visualize female jockeys/sumo wrestlers, and instead of sports jackets, strapless prom gowns.

The rag trade is as full of abuses as any other, more so than many. There's frequent discussion of these issues on Kathleen Fasanella's site:

www.fashion-incubator.com

Finding the natural waist: if other methods fail, tie a piece of elastic relatively snugly in the area and twist and bend from side to side. Where the elastic settles is it.

#16 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 02:38 AM:

"Traditional" sizing runs in 2" increments, and the slop factor in manufacturing is commonly 2". Commercially produced wedding gowns are often slammed out in only three or four sizes with even more variation in their cutting and sewing, as the theory is that they'll need altering anyway, and the Princess Bride isn't going to know any better.

In a store, you might find a rack with seven or eight slacks in your size, of which two or three fit right (this assumes honest labeling).

Try things on. Or if shopping online, be prepared to send things back.

Addendum on the "Bust 34" + 4" ease" - two blouses exactly fitting these parameters might still vary wildly in fit, if the model for one was slender with a large bust, and the other were for a figure with almost no waist indentation, wide shoulders and smaller bust. Or if two patternmakers were working from the same model, and one knew their stuff, and the other didn't.

#17 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:11 AM:

Enough women, enough of the time, lie about their sizes that the exact same system that works for men fails for women. Companies that offer clear sizing don't sell as many clothes as companies that don't. It's a bottom line thing. Probably the best compromise is given by companies like Land's End, who do have clear base sizes, do provide a lot of information about cut, and will talk endlessly on the phone about precise size.

Now, if only they made some clothes that had some degree of style, I'd be happy.

#18 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:38 AM:

There's a British Standard for clothes sizes, created after a lot of measurement and statistical analysis back in the early Fifties.

The story I recall is that, some thirty years later, it was getting a bit out of tune with the body shapes of British women. It had been created at the tail-end of the era of food rationing, when women still wore corsets, and so on.

The trouble was that the big clothes retailers, instead of supporting a revised standard, all wanted the commercial advantage of their own sizing system which worked better than that used by their competitors.

I expect they'll blame "Europe" for it.

Corporate greed can appear in all sorts of places, spilling into view like the armpits of a woman squeezed into a too-tight tank-top.

#19 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:50 AM:

My personal theory is that women's sizing is designed to induce brain damage.

#20 ::: Synedrian ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:15 AM:

The bridesmads' gowns issue used to puzzle me before I read this post on a weight-loss forum I read (originally posted by Melissa):

"A friend of mine used to work at a bridal shop in Minneapolis and she told me something that absolutely fried my goose at the time.

Wedding dresses and bridesmaid's dresses are deliberately sized AT LEAST two sizes above regular clothing. The reason for this is that the companies upcharge for "large" sizes, often anything 14 and above. So do the math -- 80% of women are a size 10 or larger, which means that these companies can sock 80% of women buying these dresses with the "large size" fee!"

#21 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:34 AM:

I was once drafted as bag-carrier for a dear (female) friend who needed new jeans. I swear we visited every single clothes store in Lower Manhattan that day, but we found not one pair of jeans that fit her.

She was tiny, though. If she'd been just a smidge taller she would have been in range.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:15 AM:

Oh, THAT's what a natural waist is... Thanks, Margaret. When I first read that, I was reminded of a book of fashion photos of the early 20th Century. There was one of a woman with such a waspish waist that there was no way it could be natural. Somebody then suggested to me that the woman had probably had her lowest ribs removed. Sounds rather extreme. But no worse than some things done by surgeons to women today.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:16 AM:

I wonder what size of clothing Keira Knightley wears. Like my youngest sister-in-law, she probably wears 'beanie'.

#24 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:53 AM:

it can create quite a following, because as long as a woman buys that manufacturer's clothes, she can say she's a size 16 instead of an 18 or possibly a 20.

And this is why I can't wear many lines of clothing: because I genuinely am a size 4. When I try on a size 4 and could fit one or more volumes of the Baroque Cycle in the waist of the pants or skirt with me, I know that the line has given in to hopelessly large amounts of vanity sizing. (My mother knows of Neal Stephenson mostly through standing outside fitting rooms and hearing me call out, "No, Ma, it's no good; the brown skirt's a Neal Stephenson again," as a reference to this problem.) It is okay to be a size 20! It is okay to be whatever size you are! "Size 4" is supposed to be a useful guide to fitting clothes, not a compliment!

I have a friend who genuinely is a size 0 (she is under five feet tall), and she's pretty much sunk -- she's been vanity-sized into the children's department, and she's not shaped like a child.

My most recent complaint is that larger women are not gorillas and smaller women are not tyrannosaurs, so if they could stop making sleeves that way, I would be much happier. But I would gladly pretend that all my sweaters were meant to have three-quarter sleeves if only they would stop upsizing things.

#25 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:00 AM:

nerdycellist: People keep touting the benfits of excercize - it helps in losing weight, they say. Well, if I can't find a sports bra that's not just a glorified ace bandage in my size, I can't really work out without endangering myself and others. Carry some useful athletic clothing in all sizes!

Try Title Nine Sports or Athleta. They both are women's sport retailers and have a fantastic selection of bras that are not the glorified ace bandage in lots of sizes. There's one Title Nine sports bra that I like so much I wear it as an everyday bra.

#26 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:05 AM:

Mystique. Plus trying to disguise the self-evident fact that they are mass-producing clothing to fit people who are not mass-produced, and that therefore if anything ever fits anyone properly it's a minor miracle. Not to mention the fact that the actual garments may well be being made in a country far, far away where English is seldom spoken and the British and American sizing systems unheard of.

What does "free size" mean?

#27 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:26 AM:

Oh, and: the one shirt I have that says, "One size fits most" would not, I estimate, fit anything above a size 10. So really it should say, "One size fits some," or possibly even "One size fits a few."

#28 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:07 AM:

I've found "one size fits most" to be anything from an L to an XL from the same retailer. I believe these tags should say "...but not mary" on them to save me the trouble of trying them on.

The only way to get any joy from catalog clothes shopping is to treat the purchasing experience as a (very slow) trip to the dressing room. Order a bunch of stuff, try it on the second it arrives, and return everything that doesn't fit. I have a friend who does this religiously and she's able to find things that fit great despite being petite & having a big ol' butt.

My particular woe is that garment makers clearly believe 1. zaftig women are proportionately much wider than slender women, so shirts fit like big flappy boxes, and pant legs make me look like I'm ready to dance a hornpipe; 2. all shirts should end at my belly button, instead of at my hips, because that's the most flattering look on a round person 3. All shirts that are long enough to be sensible should be tailored to fit the chest and then hang straight down from there, because women like to look pregnant when they're not; 4. shirts that are actually tailored to fit ample bosoms should forego darts in favor of lacy set-in cups with gathers, for a subtle, professional look.

#29 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:26 AM:

In my experience, part of the issue with wedding dresses and bridesmaid is that they seem to be sized along pattern sizes, and pattern sizes tend to be pretty stable.

Now I haven't sewn for a couple of years, but patterns give measurements in inches, and from that I know that while I may be a size 8 if a buy a pair of pants, according to my pattern measurements I'm a size 12 or 14.

The theory I've heard most often is that vanity has pushed women's clothing sizes down, down, down. That women want to wear smaller dress sizes, so the manufacturers take last decades 10, and call it an eight, and after several years, things have gotten ridiculous.

And as far as on-line, I'll second the pervious Land's End comment. You can enter your actual measurements, and get what your size should be in their tops, bottoms, and dresses, etc.

#30 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:31 AM:

The "dress hanging 33" from natural waist" means that the part of the dress that is below the natural waistline on the dress is 33" long. There may be a seam at the natural waist, there may not, but there is a point in the design where it changes from "fitting bumpy upper body" to "fitting differently curved lower body". It probably doesn't match where the client's waist is, but it's a start.

They can't tell you how long the dress is because *they don't know*. (The dresses are bagged at the plant, and they'd have to go find a dress in the size you want, take it out of the bag and measure it (and the dresses are probably not at the customer service center anyway).) The bodice part of the dress is going to be a different length on every size (assuming any kind of rational pattern-making), so the shoulder to hem length will be different for every size.

They used to say things like "mid knee" or "mid calf". At least they're giving us a number now -- "knee length" skirts generally come to 3" above my knee (and I'm only 5'6"). I generally take the "length from natural waist" number as a reference. IOW, a 33" skirt is going to be shorter than a 36" skirt and longer than a 29" skirt.

#31 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:37 AM:

Yes, this is why I can't buy clothes online.

Also, in a city that is about to spend five months below freezing and a lot of that time below minus ten, why can't I find trousers that are a) warm, b) have pockets, and c) aren't designed for someone six feet tall. The six feet tall ones are in sports shops, cost the earth, and say "puma" or "adidas" which would not be my preference, but I'd put up with it if they had them in a reasonable size.

The really weird thing is that when I go into shops that sell new women's clothes, I can't find any pants sized to fit me at all, at any price, but when I go into second-hand clothes shops I have no problem. Clearly there are women my size and shape with better shopping fu who frequently buy and discard clothes. Thank goodness for them, anyway, or I'd be a hissing and a scandal, not to mention cold.

#32 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:49 AM:

Renee --

If the man's shirt is going to fit, you need neck, chest, waist, neck to point of shoulder, sleeve, which is measured on the arm neither outstretched nor relaxed, width of back, width of waist at the back, height of back (which is the vertical distance between those two) and circumference of the wrist. Serious tailors will look at other things, too, like the set of the neck.

I pay 140 CAD and up for dress shirts at places that take all those measurements; I don't care, because they fit and they'll last and I don't, after all, need many.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op -- which is where I get most of my clothes -- seems to size things for relatively small people; I usually wind up with XL or XXL in tshirts and sweatshirts and such. They have decent 'this size is this single measurement' charts and the concept of tall pants, so I only sometimes wonder about who their default tiny person is who takes a medium.

#33 ::: Andrhia ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:49 AM:

Labels I've seen in recent years just say 'One Size' and make no testament as to fit whatsoever. :)

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:53 AM:

Men have it easy, I'd say. But I always have a hard time with long-sleeved shirts because of the above-average length of my arms. Which is one reason why I prefer wearing short-sleeved items.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:09 AM:

Speaking of clothes and those who design them...

#36 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:13 AM:

I'd love it if designers of utilitarian clothing would accept that an XXL is not the same as a 2XL.

So, what is the difference?

#37 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:15 AM:

Serge: I have a similar problem, in that I either (and this is mostly a problem with coats) have to get a coat that has sleeves that end halfway down from my elbows, or one where I can fit another person inside it, and doing up the zipper (experimentally verified, with four different girls). I've gone for the latter, every time.

#38 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:16 AM:

I'm 4'11".

I hem.

#39 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:36 AM:

Jo Walton - do you wear long underwear under trousers?

#40 ::: Adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:39 AM:

Clearly, if women's clothing retailers let you know the exact measurements of their garments, then the terrorists will have won.

Also, on bridal and bridesmaid gowns, they are also "upsized" so that the shops can soak you for alterations.

#41 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:47 AM:

"You realize it's only women who have to put up with this, right? Men's clothiers generally do give actual dimensions"

Generally, and some men do. Like me. And even when actual measurements are given, sometimes the fit is off. I find it happens most with pants; I wear a 30Wx30L, which is often the smallest many labels produce (sometimes I can find a 28Wx30L, which is preferable). Even with that size, however, it's a crap shoot.

What pisses me off lately is all the different "fits" now. Slim fit; Casual; relaxed; loose; individual; classic-- I get head-explodey just thinking about it.
I'm lucky that I have a few pairs of pants that fit remarkably well. The rest aren't bad, so I just wear those to work.

And that's not even worrying about shirts. I have a slim, very athletic frame, and most ready-to-wear, off-the-rack shirts are either too tight across the chest, short in the sleeve, or close around the neck.
Still being on a limited income, I can't yet afford tailored clothing. But one day I will, and I'm going to love it.

#42 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:50 AM:

I recently got an enlightening education from a friend about what it's like to be (naturally, in her case) very well-endowed and trying to buy shirts. She's often showing her midriff, not because she *wants* to, but because her breasts are taking up that much of the shirt. She also has problems with her cleavage getting cold in the winter. Not a set of difficulties I was aware of, since I'd need about three sets of implants to look like she does. (They once weighed her breasts to make sure they weren't going to cause her back problems. They aren't -- barely.)

While I've ranted before about what we so laughably call the women's sizing system, it hadn't actually occurred to me that part of it has to do with the variability of women's shapes, which a couple of people have mentioned above. It's hard to standardize when there are so many measurements that play a part. Which is not to say the industry couldn't be a little less arbitrary -- of course there's room for improvement. But I guess sizing things based on a few measurements wouldn't fix the problem, as much as I might like to think it would.

#43 ::: Victor S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:57 AM:

Actually, men's clothing has vanity sizing in trouser measurements, though Levi's is still honest. Eddie Bauer and LL Bean both have jeans that fit me, but are sized 2 inches smaller than either (a) my information with a measuring tape, or (b) Levi's button-fly.

What Graydon has written about men's dress shirts is totally true; my neck is a bit over 16 inches around, and my arms measure 33 inches, but a 16/33 shirt on me has far too much fabric in the body. When my neck was slightly larger and I tried 16.5/33 shirts, I could button the body around me and Lara both. Hilarious, except when I had to wear them in earnest. And every shirt I've ever owned bunches up behind the collar because (I'm told) I stand too straight for my shirts.

Oh, and those 'Custom Shop' shirts? Don't. Hold out for real tailoring or nothing, is my advice.

Lara has taken to periodically ordering clothes from a mail-order tailor in Thailand. This after she worked out that the cost of a trip from Boston to New York for a failed shopping weekend was more than the cost of an inexpensive custom suit. The downside, of course, is that you'll get results that mirror your ability to get accurate measurements.

She also makes her own clothes, using pattern-drafting software. It's not cheap in expense or time, but she think's it's worth it, since she can make herself all-cotton bras that really fit.

#44 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:59 AM:

Delurking.

Serge writes:
Oh, THAT's what a natural waist is... Thanks, Margaret. When I first read that, I was reminded of a book of fashion photos of the early 20th Century. There was one of a woman with such a waspish waist that there was no way it could be natural. Somebody then suggested to me that the woman had probably had her lowest ribs removed. Sounds rather extreme. But no worse than some things done by surgeons to women today.

Please. Can anyone show any evidence to prove this is not simply an urban myth propagated mostly by drooling male corset fetishists? Any evidence at all that people were doing major abdominal surgery on a cosmetic basis in the 19th and early 20th century? Even one example of an actual person having this done?

A close look at period photos, especially fashion shots and the ones on naughty postcards, will reveal that they had primitive retouching capability and used it extensively on women's waists in those shots. It's possible to get a wasp waist today on a man or woman (Fakir Musafar has done this - see The Perfect Gentleman) but it requires some genetic luck in having the right shape to start with and long-term regular corseting (23+ hours/day, including while sleeping). No surgery required; bodies are malleable. Wearing corsets from childhood did much of the job at the time.

There's also an element of visual illusion in a front-on view because of the contrast with the bust and hips; look at a corseted woman from the side and she looks thicker waisted than normal - the corset makes her waist closer to cylindrical by pushing the flesh around.

I wonder what size of clothing Keira Knightley wears. Like my youngest sister-in-law, she probably wears 'beanie'.

My mother and I had precisely the same horrified reaction - her dresses hang so badly ("like sacks", was my mother's comment) on her skeletal body that you can't tell that she's female (or postpubescent) and you can't tell what historical style the dresses are supposed to be. They should've taken the period solution and stuffed the tops. She'd have been a fright in period - the type of body caricatures were made for.

#45 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:09 AM:

As long as I'm delurked:

Marie Brennan writes:
I recently got an enlightening education from a friend about what it's like to be (naturally, in her case) very well-endowed and trying to buy shirts. She's often showing her midriff, not because she *wants* to, but because her breasts are taking up that much of the shirt.

It's possible to not only be different sizes top and bottom but to be different sizes front and back. There's no good fix for that short of custom dressmaking.

She also has problems with her cleavage getting cold in the winter.

Tall-size turtlenecks are her friend.

#46 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:10 AM:

Mris wrote:

I have a friend who genuinely is a size 0 (she is under five feet tall), and she's pretty much sunk -- she's been vanity-sized into the children's department, and she's not shaped like a child.

... and let me assure you that "under five feet tall" (or slightly over) doesn't mean that you can't have breasts and hips - no matter what the clothing manufacturers think...

Pattern sizing is an interesting 'art' - and often done terribly.

#47 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:12 AM:

I'm tired of having to try on a half dozen pair of pants, all labeled 18-20W, and have only one pair actually fit.

I remember when I could walk into a store, find pants I liked, try them on, and if they fit, I could go pull one each of their different colored sibs, buy them and take them home - KNOWING THAT ALL OF THEM would fit...

I do not like clothes shopping anymore.

And would someone explain to me WHY I can't find anything but Capri pants or shorts for summer?

I work in an air conditioned office and would really like full lenght summer-weight pants. I haven't been able to find any for about 2-3 years now.

(Need I mention that Capris do not fit the office dress code?)

#48 ::: Natalie ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:19 AM:

This is why I'm learning to sew. My hips are one size, my natural waist is two sizes smaller, and my bust is right inbetween. I'm also extremely short-waisted and relatively short, so that can also make things difficult. And I like very plain and modest clothing (except when I'm being deliberately immodest, which isn't very often), and that's hard to come by in my size, because I'm not into appliqued kittens or sequins.

So, yes. Learning to sew. And someday soon, I will have a number of pairs of work-appropriate pants that fit me properly. I will say, too, that taking my measurements has been a strangely freeing experience. They are what they are and I need to acknowledge them if I want the pants I'm making to fit. No value judgement required. It's a good feeling, after years of feeling inadequate because of all the stores in the mall, only Lane Bryant has clothes that will fit.

#49 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:20 AM:
Can anyone show any evidence to prove this is not simply an urban myth propagated mostly by drooling male corset fetishists?

Snopes has a page. Although the meme doesn't seem to necessarily be the work of fetishists, male or female.

#50 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:22 AM:

My mother claims that there is a department dedicated to discontinuing any style that actually fits--it's affiliated with the department dedicated to discontinuing useful tools. To my dismay, I've discovered that the department now discontinues any fashion that fits me as well.

Oh, and as a short woman, I also resort to hemming.

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:23 AM:

Actually, Susan, it was a woman who suggested the rib-removal upon seeing that photo when I gave her the book it was in. Also, it's been a long time since that happened, but I seem to remember that it was a street scene and an angle that wouldn't lend itself to an illusory perception. But it was a long time ago.

I had no problem guessing that Keira Knightley was female and postpubescent, especially as Guenevere in King Arthur. Your comment that she'd have been a fright in period makes me smile because it reminds me of Raquel Welch. She was talking about The Three Musketeers and how the fashion of the era was a bit problematic for someone like her who has, and I quote, "...a full crowd on the balcony..."

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:25 AM:

You too, cd? There are advantages to being able to play an extra in Planet of the Apes, like when one must grab something from a tall cabinet. When it comes to shirts and coats though...

#53 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:28 AM:

Jill Smith writes:
Try Title Nine Sports or Athleta. They both are women's sport retailers and have a fantastic selection of bras that are not the glorified ace bandage in lots of sizes. There's one Title Nine sports bra that I like so much I wear it as an everyday bra.

Aww, what cute li'l bras those sites carry! Most of them don't come in anything larger than a C, but there is one style (of all of them on the two sites) that's only two sizes too small for me!

Last time I tried buying sports bras I went to one of those giant emporiums with professional fittings, found a style which fit after extensive alterations (which were not free), and acquired two sports bras which give me exceptional cleavage and a lot more bounciness when I walk than a normal underwire bra. That's what sports bras are supposed to do, right? Ace bandages are starting to look sort of good. My current solution for situations when I'm going to be jumping around involves a combination of two underwire bras, one of which is several sizes too small, and a very tight bodysuit. Quite seriously, Victorian underwear is more comforable and considerably more effective. Unfortunately, it looks funny under modern clothes.

The problem is that bra technology fails at a certain weight class. I can't convince any of my engineer friends to address this.

#54 ::: Hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:32 AM:

Well, part of the problem is that *most* clothes are designed to have a certain amount of ease, which can vary depending on the style and intended fit. That means that if you go by actual dimensions, you might get something too small, if you don't take ease into account. Not that most people seem to realise it. The number of people I see wearing clothes that are straining at the seams...

Another problem is that the women's garment industry doesn't follow any kind of engineering standards, like the IT industry does (sometimes). That means manufacturers can do whatever the hell they want.

A third problem is that manufacturers have been changing sizes so people won't realise that they're not as thin as they used to be. So you end up buying a size 2 because that sounds really good, even though you should be a 12 or a 14. (I don't think we have those wacky sizes in Canada. At least any time I've seen something that was a size 2, 4 or 6, it looked like it would *maybe* fit a 12-year-old.

The fourth problem... Well, people are kind of dumb sometimes and they write wacky things in their catalogues.

#55 ::: Tracie Brown ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:47 AM:

It's all part of A Nefarious Plot (tm).

Then there are the non-existent sizes. I don't know if there are non-existent sizes in men's clothing, but for women, the non-existent size is the size between misses XL and women's 1X. You'd think the largest misses size would be one size smaller than the smallest women's size, but no-o-o-o-o. To be fair, some manufacturers have started filling in the numerical gap with women's X or 0X, but then some of those have reinterpreted the size equivalencies so that the new X is the same size as the old 1X, which leaves the same gap in actual sizes. sigh. While this usually happens in women's sizes, just yesterday, I noticed that Target had some misses turtlenecks in misses XXL, which turned out to be the missing size, but this is not the same as Old Navy's XXL, which is at best everyone else's XL or maybe even L (it's pretty skimpy).

In women's shoes, the nonexistent size is 9-1/2. As in "whole and half sizes 5-10, except 9-1/2". At least shoes usually come in my size (6-1/2 medium).

It's a plot, I say!

#56 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:04 AM:

Is anyone "normal" size? I doubt it. But as a somewhat stocky petite, I've had great luck with the Land's End catalog. Turtlenecks where I don't have to roll up the sleeves by three cuff lengths! Pants that don't spill over my ankles! And since I get cold easily when it's under 60 degrees F, I adore microfleece. ("Warm face, warm hands, warm feet" are lyrics I really identify with.) Shoes are a bit more problematical, since I have wide feet, but the stores are rarely any better. One pair I ordered nearly fits, and the other should fit with inserts at sole and heel (I hope). Best of all is the Overstock section, where I recently got a $5 turtleneck, nice color and fit, and another for $9.

"Fashionable colors," however.... For the past year, various hideous shades of green have been in vogue, and they nearly make me nauseous. Deep aqua (my favorite), has vanished entirely, so I may have to wait indefinitely for that microfleece petite medium robe that *won't show coffee stains*.

And we're all still waiting for nanotech to provide low-cost instant clothing in our size and shade of choice. One day, maybe.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:07 AM:

Nanotech clothing, Faren? It'll probably be using a Windows o/s. That should be interesting, especially when it crashes.

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:15 AM:

And while you're at it, make some shoes in a wide width.

I would add, there are women with feet shorter than size 7, and some of them have really wide feet as well. I get tired of trying to find size-3 shoes that don't have flowers, Barbies, or princess-portraits on them.

I'd like to remind manufacturers that 'junior', 'miss', and 'woman' in clothing are size ranges, not age ranges: you can be a twenty-something junior, or middle-aged and a 'miss'. (Being 5'2", somewhat-overweight, and mid-50s in age, I want comfortable clothes that fit decently and look good. I work in a 'business-casual' environment, so lace and ruffles are a bit out-of-line.)

As-built sizes seem to reflect the country of manufacture: some countries definitely 'run small'. I intend to use some of my reasonably-well-fitting clothes to make patterns. I'm also considering Sandra Betzina's patterns. (I also have a copy of Body Mapping, which helps you to get a decent basic pattern to start from.)

#59 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Susan --

I have seen someone get good results with a very long 8" ace bandage in the sports bra application. (Jan the Valkyrie; she looked noticeably different when not bound up, but also ran assault courses, etc. without difficulty.)

There are also (as I'm sure you're aware) the Decent Exposures 'made from velour intended for tarpaulins' bras, which some have reported good success with.

#60 ::: Mary R ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:25 AM:

My proof of down-sizing sizes - the movies. In Pretty Woman and Fabulous Baker Boys there are scenes where Julia Roberts/Michelle Pfeiffer are trying on dresses. Someone asks if they wear an eight. Julia/Michelle snaps back "a six!" Stuck in my mind because it was the exact same scene in two fairly contemporaneous films. About a decade later, saw one of those Ashley Judd thrillers. She's buying a dress. The shoplady asks "a two?" Ashley snaps back "a zero!" Is Ashley Judd three sizes smaller than Michelle Pfeiffer? I don't think so.

As for myself, I've had good luck with Land's End plus sizes, with one exception - anything with a scoop neck is cut so wide that it exposes my bra straps. LLBean was great, but they've cut way back on their plus sizes.

If you're in the Boston area, Lady Grace rocks for really large bra sizes - and they carry sport bras. The fitting ladies are great. They have a web site, but I've only shopped in person.

#61 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:26 AM:

I've read about size deflation. Clothing companies will make bigger clothes with smaller size numbers to sell more. The fun part is when they actually get to the small sizes. I've seen Size 0, and even negative sizes.

I found this article about it:

As Waistlines Grow, Dress Sizes Shrink

#62 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:40 AM:

I would add, there are women with feet shorter than size 7, and some of them have really wide feet as well.

My mother has the opposite problem: she wears 10 1/2 AA. Most women's shoes don't come in 10 1/2--it's half sizes up to 10, then skips to 11. Plus she has a 5A heel and *always* needs heel inserts.

--Mary Aileen

#63 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:48 AM:

I am, mostly, these days, a size 12. Not entirely--in some things I am still a 14, because many 12s do not have room for my tush . . . but then I need darts and/or a good belt at the waist, and the pants look funky anyway. So mostly, I'm wearing 12 pants.

But on top, since I'm in the well-endowed club, I'm all over the place. Some M, some L, the occasional XL, some 12, some 14.

The last time I went bra shopping, at Macy's in Manhattan, I had 3 bra ladies helping me, and they flat-out did not believe what size I was. Small band + big cup size does not compute, apparently. They kept remeasuring me and looking at me and saying things like, "but you don't look that big!" Which is kind of hard for me to understand, because I look plenty big to me, lol.

My other problem? I'm long in the torso and short in the leg. So capri pants hit me at the ankle, which is just fine in the summer, but regular pants are nearly always long to one degree or another. Technically, I'm a petite, but a size 12P doesn't have the hip and tushy room I need. And blouses, as someone already mentioned, tend to run a bit short at the waist because of the uplift provided by my bosom and the fact that I'm long from the shoulder to the hip.

My mother is 5'4" and long legged, I'm 5'3.5" and long in the torso (though still too short for the majority of bathing suits). Standing, she is taller than me by a smidge. Sitting, I'm at least an inch taller than she is. She can't find pants either--she's a 0 or a 2 but everything's too short--or bras, because she's a C cup.

Has anyone seen inexpensive women's sweatpants with pockets? I'm in desperate need of a pair of sweatpants with at least one real pocket. I live literally across the street from my gym, and I hate the idea of having to put on a coat, get a locker, etc., all of which I could avoid if I had sweatpants with a pocket in which I could put my gym membership card and my housekeys.

#64 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:54 AM:

As a smallish petite, lately I've given up on shopping for jeans altogether and have simply switched over to long skirts worn with untucked tops; the combination offers a bit more flexibility than jumper dresses (or "pinafores" for the Brits, iirc). Various extra layers can be worn both above and below for added warmth; knitted wool skirts make wonderful winter petticoats over a non-itchy cotton/rayon layer or even long underwear (if the hem is sufficiently low and/or the boots are sufficiently high). However, this obviously might not work for everyone's workplace, gender, etc.

So there really are negative sizes now? I was wondering when that would happen, ever since I saw my first size-zero. Sheesh.

#65 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:56 AM:

My proof of vanity sizing over the past 20 years? Me. I weigh 20 pounds more than I did in my junior year of high school. My waist is 4" larger. And yet my jeans still say size 5 or 6. I am not fooled. I still HAVE a few pieces of clothing from then, and THEY don't fit any more. Which is truly odd, in the case of the prom dress, because where the 1986 Gunne Sax size 7 fails to zip is across the BACK, after the waist, and yet I am wearing a SMALLER bra size than I did then (the effects of nursing) ad THOSE go by inches.

However, this did not daunt me. Since I was using the prom dress as a goth-club costume item, I put six safety pins on each side of the zipper, and used them as lacing eyes, and laced it shut with a black shoelace. Effective!

#66 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 11:59 AM:

patterns for larger-size women's clothes (and not bad looking either): Sew Grand Patterns http://www.sewgrand.com/

Dresses, skirts, shirts, pants. They have mail locations in both Canada and the US.

#67 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:00 PM:

Serge: I have long legs and arms (I would estimate my arms to be 28" or so from shoulder to fingertip, and my legs are almost 4 feet from hip to floor), and an average-sized torso (when we sit, I'm about as tall as my father - when we stand I'm almost a foot taller!). Plus, I'm skinny. But yes, it helps immensely when I need to get stuff from high shelves.

I wonder if there're any photos of me when I have my oilskin coat on and a girl friend under it, with both our heads sticking out of the neck? It looks mighty peculiar...

#68 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:02 PM:

Alas, I have been blessed(?) with an hour-glass figure. And while I am overweight, my waist IS 10 inches smaller than my bust and hips...

I don't think they make *anything* for this figure type.

I have been working on losing weight the last couple of years and have gone from 22-24W down to 18-20W. I actually got into a pair of 14-16W pants a month ago, but they were just a smidge too tight.

Ah well, maybe by Spring...

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:04 PM:

I'm 6 feet tall, cd, with long arms and long legs, but every once in a while I come across women who're shorter than me and yet their hips are as high or higher than mine.

#70 ::: LeeAnn ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:08 PM:

Maybe you guys can help me - my tall, thin husband can only wear tall sizes. He does all right with LL Bean and Eddie Bauer, but he says he's tired of looking like a lumberjack. (his words- I like the look) Is there a resource any of you know of that sells tall men's clothing that is not also "big" men's clothing? We're talking 32in waist with a 36 to 37in inseam, and his arms are really long. He says he's tired of cold wrists.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:12 PM:

One more thing, cd... I've always wondered what I really look like to others, which is why I'd ask my wife if this or that actor has my body type. Unfortunately, she doesn't think I'm built like Hugh Jackman. Anything but. She thinks the closest to my type is Mark Alaimo, who played Gul Dukat on Deep Space 9. She did reassure me that I don't have the latter's giraffesque neck.

#72 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:13 PM:

The last time I went bra shopping, at Macy's in Manhattan, I had 3 bra ladies helping me, and they flat-out did not believe what size I was. Small band + big cup size does not compute, apparently. They kept remeasuring me and looking at me and saying things like, "but you don't look that big!" Which is kind of hard for me to understand, because I look plenty big to me, lol.

Melissa -- me, too: Macy's bra ladies are horrible about arguing with small band/large cup sizes. It was as though I had gone in and announced that I was the Queen of Air and Darkness: they just kept repeating that I didn't look it, with tones implying "doesn't exist anyway." When we lived in the Bay Area, they would try to sell me larger band/smaller cup sizes even when they had measured. "It's the same thing anyway." Uh, no. Going up two band sizes and down two cup sizes is not a well-fitted bra, and I'm not paying $N for bras that don't fit.

#73 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:22 PM:

I go to the store and get several pairs of jeans from the rack, around what I think is my size. I try them on. If any fit, I set them aside. Put the rest back. Take more. Repeat until desired number of pairs is achieved.

As some of you know, I recently lost a WHOLE LOT of weight. I discarded all my clothes that fit at my former weight, to prevent backsliding. I also went down more clothing sizes than I did body sizes; I no longer have the emotional need to wear baggy clothes to conceal my body. Also a tight garment over muscle and skin may mark the skin slightly (I'm very fair and my skin is sensitive), but doesn't HURT.

I will NEVER shop for anything that has to actually fit over the Internet. Or by catalog. I'm rather oddly shaped too, and my butt keeps getting narrower but bigger front-to-back, as the squats work. Besides, there's no way of telling how I'll look in something until I try it on. And I want to actually TOUCH it and decide whether I can stand the texture of the fabric.

Hehheh, if anyone can find something to "fit over the internet," call me. That would be huge!

#74 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:31 PM:

An additional challenge can occur when one lives in a country with a dominant genotype, and one does not match that genotype. I live in Scotland, where women tend to gain weight around the midriff, but my hips started in Germany and seasoned in the US for three generations. Shopping for trousers can lead to a black depression that lasts for days.

Solutions? I've tended to shop when I'm back in the US, where mixed genetics mean a wider variety of fits (Jones New York uses my cousin, too). But the move toward smart casual means that I can't buy trouser suits for work any more. I can't seem to tailor trousers to my satisfaction, though I can sew well enough to make a fitted jacket in a week of evenings. (Probable diagnosis: the problem is with my head, not my hips.)

My next attempt, when I get my passport back from the Home Office, is going to be a trip to southern Germany, where (maybe) I will match the local genotype well enough to buy clothing!

(And sewing in the UK is complicated by having to know, without any indications in the pattern books, which manufacturers use US sizes (wherein I am a 10-12) and which use UK sizes (making me a 16-18). Frequent errors have taught me a lot about upsizing and downsizing, but that's a lot less fun than getting it right the first time.)

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:35 PM:

A couple of times, my wife tried to get me new shoes by way of the internet. I thought the old ones were just fine and still had a lot of life left in them. She disagreed. But after having to send them back every time, I made her realize that standard stuff never fits my feet right and that I have to actually try them on.

#76 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:37 PM:

For me to find things that even approach dress shirts, I have to buy from Bravissimo.

Considering that I'm in the USA and they are in the UK, this can be frustrating, to say the least. Garments that look cute on their 'Curvy' models look like sacks on 'Super Curvy' me; Bravissimo's three variations for each shirt size -- Curvy, Really Curvy, and Super Curvy -- has been a blessing for getting shirts that don't get gap at the bust or flap at the waist, but that's still a limited range of shirts.

What I want to know is why the only shop I know that cuts specifically for curvy women is in the UK? The US has several times the population (and thus should have several times the amount of seriously curvy women), so why is no one doing the same thing and selling shirts here?

#77 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:50 PM:

abi, years ago a company I worked for had a Japanese partner company, and sent a representative to the US for several months. Murakami-san was average size for an American woman, and was absolutely thrilled to be able to buy really nice clothes that fit! In Japan, of course, she was considered huge, and if you think Western fashion is cruel to large women, you haven't been to Japan (at least as she told it).

And she wasn't chubby. She was just tall, with a medium frame. Apparently she was supposed to be ashamed, and wear dull clothing to show her contrition for being born the wrong size.

#78 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:52 PM:

Argh. sb "...had a Japanese partner company who sent a representative..."

#79 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 12:55 PM:

Sports bras -

The decent exposures ones look mighty comfy, but not up to any stress my bosoms may put them through. When I was "thin" (as thin as a girl with Eastern European Peasant and Samoan blood can get) I wound up wearing a combination of three bras for my tap-dancing class; one sturdy, snug fitting underwire bra, one compression sports bra with standard back and one compression sports bra with a racer back.

That was two cup-sizes and two band sizes ago. You'd think that with the problems I'm having finding any bras that fit, I'd be tipping over from top-heaviness, but they really aren't that bignormous - just enough to make me hour-glass shaped.

I think my problem is perhaps less with clothing manufacturers and more with store buyers. I know there are probably heavy duty "encapsulation" bras that fit me - they're in the Juno catalog. But I rarely have the discretionary income to purchase three bras in likely sizes in order to find the one that fits, and then the extra few bucks (and time when my post office is open and has parking) to ship back the rejects. It's the same with shoes. If stores would just carry a few of these - even just fit models that I could order through them - I'd be a lot less cranky.

I am built like a (busty) tyrannosaur, so all long sleeves hit me at my knuckles. I'm thinking of bringing out my leather bracers from my ren-faire days to compensate. On the other hand, 3/4 sleeves look just as silly on me as capri pants; just short enough to look a little shrunk. I'd also like skirts that hit me at, or slightly above the knee, since my legs are a pleasing shape, even at my size. Under the knee skirts also contribute to making me look stumpy.

But then I too am learning to sew, partly for costuming interests and partly so I can have some clothing in flattering cuts and colors and appropriate to my "age" (immature) and social status (Single Nerdy Female seeks SNM.)

#80 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Xopher,

Your story reminds me of my Scottish mother in law, who can reach 5' tall if she wears 2" heels. She used to live in the Netherlands, which has the greatest average height in Europe.

When she came to San Francisco, with its large (numerically) Asian population, and saw clothes that were actually too small for her, she burst into tears. Literally.

neotoma,

I have often noticed that British manufacturers shape their clothes more. They tend to use more darts and curved seams, and place them better. One suit saleswoman I met said it was the last remnant of the Saville Row tradition.

On the other hand, the fabrics they use are often horrible. It's harder to find unblended fabrics, or ones that are all-natural, both in manufactured clothing and in cloth shops.

#81 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:09 PM:

I agree about the madness around women's sizes and the difficulty of defining what a good fit means, but the other problem is the cost of imposing a system on a huge amount of non-systematic stuff.

I'm not sure how many different garments (counting every size of a distinct style as a separate item) a typical clothing manufacturer offers, but I bet it's between the tens and the hundreds of thousands.

Would you rather set up the system to figure out what the true measurements of all that is with new stuff getting added frequently when you're not sure whether your customers will care or if you might even alienate some of them, or would you rather think about the new spring line and your current quarrels with your distributors?

You could set up a system to just measure new items as they're added, but would it be ugly to have measurements for some of your clothes and not others?

None of this is impossible, but I can see how it takes enough initiative that it's not likely to get done.

#82 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:10 PM:

Serge, re: Keira Knightley -

She did look lovely as Guinevere, but in the recent iteration of Pride & Prejudice, they costumer needed to be hauled out and smacked. Most of her gowns were ill-fitting, to the point where there was one scene where Mr. Darcy could have just leaned over and dropped a small squirrel down her bodice and no one would have noticed.

I understand the Bennetts were not well off, but I'm sure they could afford a few inches of thread to close the massive gap between her bodice and her chest.

Otherwise, a great adaptation, if you can get over the repetitive and loud score and occasionally unflattering Elizabeth Bennett costuming.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:35 PM:

Yes, nerdycellist, Keira was lovely as Guinevere. (And she was 19, I was embarassed to find out later because that makes me a dirty old man.) As for Pride and Prejudice, a squirrel down her bodice would definitely be noticed, what with such a willowy figure. I wouldn't be surprised that her ill-fitting dresses were indeed there to indicate the Bennetts weren't doing too well. Heck, noticed how none of them seemed to know about brushing one's hair once in a while. Then again Darcy's hair was also rather messy and he could afford a comb. (Recognized the actor, by the way?)

#84 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:35 PM:

Victor S: Actually, men's clothing has vanity sizing in trouser measurements, though Levi's is still honest.

I dunno about that. Levi's has shocked and disappointed me. I bought a pair of Levi's carpenter shorts and loved 'em. Six months later, I picked up a pair of Levi's worker shorts, exact same waistband size, and didn't bother trying it before bringing it home. The damn thing barely stays on my waist. I look like a middle-aged gangsta wannabe when I wear it.

#85 ::: Alexis ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:45 PM:

I knew upsizing had gone ridiculous when I was trying on suit pants in Ann Taylor and the woman suggested a size 2. I'm a size 6-8 normally, and even that is upsized - when I was last at this weight I was a 10-12. (I eventually bought a 4.)

My personal peeve is that I'm different sizes top & bottom now because of upsizing, so anything that's sold together is hopeless. Though it was always a problem -- my bust is a relatively stable (large) size but my hips etc. are nonexistent.

#86 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:51 PM:

When I was in Japan I couldn't find anything that fit. I had to mail order stuff to a place in the US who could then ship it to Japan.

A lot of Japanese women have a tough time finding clothes that fit them here in the US. Banana Republic fits them perfectly, and I wonder if they designed their clothing with the Asian market in mind. When I worked in SoHo there was always a stream of Asians buying clothes from their store on Lower Broadway.

#87 ::: Becca ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:51 PM:

nerdycellist,

I wouldn't be so quick to assign blame only to the buyers; I know that when I (up until last year) worked for a clothing manufacturer, we cut, and therefore sold to buyers, only in certain size combinations -- so a misses pant that came in sizes 6-16 could only be purchased in some multiple of 1-2-3-3-2-1, for example, and if the store sold out of just the larger sizes, to restock they had to buy the whole set again. Most collections, even designers' ready-to-wear lines, are set up in similar fashion for ease of manufacturing, and I know that shoes work the same way. The only way I've figured out to get around this, if you're on either end of the scale, is to make friends with the buyers and/or the receiving department at your favorite store, so they can let you know as soon as a shipment comes in, or set your size aside for you.

Jenny Rappaport,

I had a related, but different problem with a bridesmaid dress a few years ago -- as the wedding was taking place 3000 miles from what was home at the time, I had to take my own measurements and order the dress over the phone, and when I finally got out there the thing (ordered by the shop, working from the measurements taken here by a good tailor and read to them) could have fit two of me into it. I had lost some weight in the intervening months, but went down only about half a pants size, not enough to explain the astonishingly bad fit.

Insult to injury, that particular shop's seamstresses turned out to be not very good, so I speak from experience when I say that princess seamed garments need to be taken in on all 6 seams to look right. Luckily, the bridal party at the wedding was such a sartorial disaster (two styles of dress in three different colors, oy!) that my dress didn't particularly stand out. As it was, we attendants definitely did our part to make the bride (in her $1500, tailored-elsewhere dress, thankyewverymuch) look gorgeous.

#88 ::: Maureen McCarty ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 01:55 PM:

What I found mind-boggling was when I recently auctioned off some clothing on ebay: I painstakingly measured things like chest size, waist, and sleeve length on those items with dubious sizes such as "one size" or S/M. I received quite a few emails asking what number size they were! Actual inch measurements didn't seem to register with those people. Crazy.

#89 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 02:45 PM:

How large is "one size fits most"? Too large for me, nearly always. But at least it doesn't tick me off as much as "one size fits all".

Incidentally, I need to give props to L.L. Bean and Lands' End, whose customer service people can look up and tell you things like the front and back rise on a pair of pants.

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 02:47 PM:

Is anyone "normal" size?

I guess we've answered your question, Faren.

#91 ::: Christy Bertani ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 02:58 PM:

Bras. A very tiny, but well endowed friend of my put up an excellent resource for bras here:

http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~cat/bra.html

I tend to mail order my bras from Bravissimo in England. They've also got amazing sports bras that support my 38 F balcony section even while hop-skip-jumping around. Okay, the shipping is hideous, but the customer service is well worth it for me. I haven't found any store comparable in the U.S.

#92 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Serge writes:
Yes, nerdycellist, Keira was lovely as Guinevere. (And she was 19, I was embarassed to find out later because that makes me a dirty old man.) As for Pride and Prejudice, a squirrel down her bodice would definitely be noticed, what with such a willowy figure.

My mother (post-double-radical-mastectomy) and my sister (diagnosed anorexic; about 5'8" and 105 pounds) both have more bosom than Keira in P&P. Your taste is your own, of course, but within the period she wouldn't have been attractive and would probably have availed herself of the period equivalent of stuffing her bra and adding frills on the bodice to make it look like she had a bosom. The styles don't work on that sort of body.

I wouldn't be surprised that her ill-fitting dresses were indeed there to indicate the Bennetts weren't doing too well.

Then someone didn't read or didn't care to follow the book. Oh, to be doing as badly as the Bennetts. I haven't looked at the exact conversions lately, but from memory, here's income for the characters converted into rough modern equivalents:

Darcy: 10,000 pounds/year = ~US$1,000,000
(that's just income, not counting his property). Definitely a good catch.

Bingley: 4,000/yr - ~$400,000, not too shabby either.

Mr. Bennet: roughly 2,000/yr = ~$200,000/yr, which is a level of poverty I'd be delighted to become accustomed to, even for a family of seven. Again, that's just income, not property.

Mrs. Bennet: 5000 pound marriage settlement (~$500,000), which she can't touch the principal of, but does have an independent income from the interest of about 5% - ~$25,000/year. Mr. Bennet can't touch this, and she can pass it on to her children.

The Bennets' problem is not current poverty, but the entail (inheritance by next male heir only) of the estate - when Mr. Bennet dies, Mrs. Bennet and the girls will be stuck living on her ~$25,000/year, which would indeed be challenging for six people, not to mention a major comedown in style of living for her (considering her marriage settlement, her family of birth must have been fairly well off as well.) Or they could try to mooch off relatives or work as governesses (one can just see Kitty or Lydia!) It's a serious concern. Lizzy marrying Mr. Collins would have kept the money and property in the family. But they aren't poor at the time of the story except by comparison to Darcy and Bingley; the panic is for the future.

(If Mr. Bennet had died and left his widow with five unmarried daughters, the girls might have been tempted to quietly bump off mum and split her portion between them.)

As to the dresses, the book at least has them retrimming hats, and it's almost beyond belief that they wouldn't have been capable of making their own or at least doing substantial alterations. Those are standard female skills for the time period.

Heck, noticed how none of them seemed to know about brushing one's hair once in a while. Then again Darcy's hair was also rather messy and he could afford a comb.

Carefully disordered hair was something of a fashion fad for at least some of the time period covered by the costumes. The most shocking hair scene to me was Lizzy's arrival at the Bingleys' with her hair hanging completely loose.

#93 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:06 PM:

Re P&P: I haven't seen this version, but I don't remember anything in the book about Lizzie out on the moors. I had the very strong impression that the Bennet family lived somewhere in the south of England (going to Brighton, for example, or London, and it not being three days on the road).

I can't see them with the 'windblown' look either.

#94 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:12 PM:

Much of this reminds me of my problems with shoes -- 14AA. It's not that 14 is an unusual size: it's that it's rare to find narrow shoes in that size. A few L.L. Bean shoes fit (but aren't particularly well-made); beyond that there are some Rockport, Bostonian, and Allan Edmonds shoes that fit. Don't ask abot boots.

Below a certain price point, it's still cheaper for manufacturers to ignore people who are a relatively small part of the population and lose that part of the market, for all the talk about mass customization, than to make short runs which entail their resetting their equipment.

And as with women's clothes, the exact fit depends very much on the precise shape of the last used to make the shoe, so a generic "size" is actually a very poor way of classifying shoes (aside from the fact that human feet tend to be asymmetrical and may not both be the same "size").

#95 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:13 PM:

One other issue I haven't seen mentioned here is that while department stores do sell some men's clothing in an "athletic" fit (I've also seen it as "Young Men's") there ain't no sich animal for women. I row and at some times of the year I lift weights; however, if you looked at my arms and shoulders you would probably not notice them being especially large. Yet all but my loosest-fitting tops are now tight in the forearms, upper arms, or armholes. In a few cases they're also tight across the back - that's less of a problem because I can just size up. But if the problem is just with the shoulders and arms, I can't simply buy a larger size because it would be too large every where else.

#96 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:17 PM:

Becca: so a misses pant that came in sizes 6-16 could only be purchased in some multiple of 1-2-3-3-2-1, for example, and if the store sold out of just the larger sizes, to restock they had to buy the whole set again

Ah! This makes so much sense, thank you--doesn't make me happier, mind, when a story's out of my size but has tons of others, but at least there's a reason.

#97 ::: katharine ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:18 PM:

This is why I'm learning to sew. My hips are one size, my natural waist is two sizes smaller, and my bust is right inbetween.

Natalie--My hips are two sizes larger than my "rise". The "custom" fit on the jeans at Lands' End didn't do a lot for me--I sent them back three times and just kept the fourth one. The only rack LE that might fit would be boy's size 14 jeans.

I knew there was a reason I liked men's jeans, back in college. Despite too much material in front...

I still can't get jeans that fit right when I'm standing and don't cut me when I sit down (Unless I buy Canadian Ikeda, which I find in an out-of-the-way boutique in Whitehall, MI). Even Ikeda binds after a while. Since I have a medical condition that can cause large size variance in a short period of time, I've pretty much sworn off pants, unless they're sweat pants.

If I ever do an outside 8-5 again, it's going to be skirts with a lap blanket for winter, because learning to sew well takes time, and learning to manage chronic health takes time, too.

I chose eating over dressing well.

But Lands' End could still put pockets in their sweat pants!

#98 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:21 PM:

Wow, this is way down the list.

Graydon:

If I were making you a dress shirt, I'd take all those measurements you mentioned, too, and I'd use them. If I were only making a simple shirt (aka Hawaiian shirt, or some other boxy style), and working with a standard pattern, I'd take your neck, chest, and arm measurements, to be sure you didn't choke, swim, or rip the sleeve out of the armhole the first time you reached for the top shelf. Assuming you don't have seriously sloping shoulders, it should look good with that much care.

Making the same shirt for, say, myself, I'd do neck, bust, and arm, and a shoulder point-to-shoulder point measurement across the back, another across the front, and I'd adjust the slope of the shoulder. I don't care about baggy or not, so that should do it, unless the pattern was waaaaaaay too generous in the body (not unusual for such a shirt on my body), so I could take in the sides and mid back/front a bit, too. My bust isn't too big, so I'd probably skip a side dart (and any armhole adjustments that might entail.)

Think of it this way, for shirts: a man's torso is (usually) a rectangular box with a pair of slight downward slopes on the top edge and a pair of slight inward slopes on the sides. A woman is similar, except that the angles of those slopes are going to tend to be greater. In addition, however, she has two more-or-less conical sections attached in front which vary independently in size and shape from the measurements of her own torso.

There might be a way to make standard sizes for women, but as someone else already mentioned, the linear system most manufacturers use isn't adequate to do it. For example, my sister and I technically both wore size 12 shirts in high school, based on chest size. In bust sizes, however, I was still a 12 and she was a 16. If you count in shoulder widths, though, I was an 8 and she was an 18....

I like men's t-shirts. Roomy, cotton comfortable, plain, and in colors I like, as opposed to wishy-washy pastels with ribbon bows or cheap lace in lieu of quality craftsmanship.

#99 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:39 PM:

I confess, Susan. I never read Austen's book. And I'm not an expert on the period. But I still liked the movie on its own terms.

Keira would not have been considered a beauty in those days? Sure, but by the same token, I don't think that a beauty of that era would have been considered beautiful to modern audiences. And I certainly consider Keira very beautiful. Yes, men do look at women above their shoulders. Even when we're talking of Keira Knightley. Or Claudia Black. (Be still, my heart.)

#100 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 03:47 PM:

I have boatloads of trouble finding affordable pants that fit me, at a 32 waist and a 34 inseam. Really, anything below a 34 waist is stocked very thinly most places, and most distributors seem to expect a 32 or smaller inseam to go with that. If I go to more upscale places I can usually find something, but then I'm paying out the nose. I also suffer from the short sleeves vs. baggy chest issue Serge and cd are complaining of.

My other chief complaint, though, is the "affordable" issue. My wife and I can head to a discount clothing shop (Ross, Mervyns, etc.), and she can invariably find an entire outfit that together costs what a single (non-t-shirt) item for myself would. This gets inverted when you go upscale, of course, but it really is much, much easier to be a budget conscious female shopper than male, IME, and it can be quite frustrating.

#101 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:01 PM:

Skwid: I had that problem in Junior High/High School - but in my case it was 28" or 30" waist, 34" or 36" inseam. The pair I'm currently wearing's 33" waist, 42" inseam, fit really well, and I'm completely unable to remember where I bought them. This is freakishly annoying.

#102 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:07 PM:

Julie L. muttered:

As a smallish petite, lately I've given up on shopping for jeans altogether

To my chagrin and irritation, I've discovered that low rise CK jeans fit my petite (and curved) self perfectly, with a bit of hemming. I wince at the price - but they actually fit (at my waist, at that), and wear amazingly well.

As far as sewing for myself goes, I'm able to draft my own patterns for a fair variety of things, but still hate hemming pants.

If anybody in my area's interested, I'd also be quite happy to sort out a semi-regular stitch-and-bitch - somehow it's just easier to get motivated to get things done with agreeable company.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Every once in a while, my wife and I catch an old western on TCM where the heroine finds that the normal attire justn't isn't very practical out there on the range. The hero (or some other man who happens to be around) hands her a pair of pants. Which somehow always manage to fit her perfectly in all the right places.

How does that work?

#104 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:18 PM:

cd, yeah, I put on a few pounds after college/marriage, which put me much closer to the "normal" range. I used to be in the 28" waist range, same inseam as now, which many places don't stock at all. I'm still underweight by most charts, but at least I can find a few pairs of pants a year that are worth getting, now, without paying a fortune.

#105 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 04:37 PM:

I look like a fairly normal person- at least to myself.

Except that most of my dimensions seem to be well off standard, in detail. Wide feet, thick neck, short arms, short legs, long torso. . . I'm some sort of large dwarf. 40W/30L pants, 18.5/33 shirts, 10EEEE [or more?] shoes.

#106 ::: Jenny Rappaport ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:00 PM:

Thanks everyone who answered my question about bridesmaid dresses! I have been enlightened. =)

#107 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:49 PM:

Margaret: spot on about the marketing reasons, but

men's clothes, especially good clothes and jeans, are sold to the inch.

But not necessarily enough inches specified. Men's shirts are sold by collar size (plus sleeve length for long-sleeve shirts), with the false assumption that the mfr knows the exact ratio of neck to chest. I order Land's End short-sleeve shirts with a 17 collar because nothing smaller is comfortable if I have to button the neck (which I avoid), and find the body OK; L. L. Bean's 17 collar is attached to a shirt that feels like it could fit two of me.

Lawrence: men's underwear is \not/ uniform; I found out the hard way that Hanes 40 is no larger than somebody else's 38, not to mention both fit inside 36 trousers.

xeger: As somebody that's very fond of vintage clothing, it's really funny to see today's size 2 discover that they're a 1950s size 16...

As Margaret said, only more so -- my wife has just about given up on Land's End (despite their accuracy); she's small enough that their smallest size doesn't fit her due to their size inflation.

Madeline F: The return shipping charges are a tax on females who don't want to wait around for fitting rooms at 6 items a pop.

I look on return-shipping charges as a convenience tax. A catalog fetches what I want from a monster pool, or backorders it reliably, instead of making me hope that my size is in stock; some also hem to order for free. (As above, I like collars I can breathe in, and even though I'm moderately lean my legs are so short that finding right-sized trousers is a matter of luck -- cf one of Serge's comments, I'm 10" taller than my wife but we have the same inseam.) It doesn't help that I \hate/ to shop for anything other than books -- I know what I want, I know it exists, why can't somebody just transmat it here instead of making me go through half a dozen stores?

And men with non-statistical shapes have the same problems as women; until I got very serious about exercise, I had to buy pants a waist-size large and belt them tightly, or risk splitting the back every time I sat down.

"Fashionable" colors are an issue even for men; almost nobody makes yellow Oxford shirts any more.

Victor S: You stand too straight for your shirts? What a comment on the designers' observations and/or the public's habits....

becca: we cut, and therefore sold to buyers, only in certain size combinations

Fortunately this doesn't apply to T-shirts; otherwise fannish vendors would be out of luck -- what actually sold when NESFA was doing convention T-shirts was substantially large-shifted from what the printer kept telling us was the normal mix, but said printer could at least sell us exactly what we asked for.

I don't notice anybody even talking about the problem of sets. (Maybe most people here aren't sentenced to wear suits?) The last time I bought a suit I had to buy a size large (see above about pants); the vendor got only a little more than I paid a tailor to shrink everything else to fit the rest of my frame. Then I lost enough weight to make suspenders a requirement; when I leave off the jacket to help move pieces of staging after a concert I look a bit like one of those clowns with bouncing trousers.

#108 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:53 PM:

'men's clothes, especially good clothes and jeans, are sold to the inch.'

while condoms are strangely underspecified.

#109 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 05:57 PM:

Serge wrote:
Every once in a while, my wife and I catch an old western on TCM where the heroine finds that the normal attire justn't isn't very practical out there on the range. The hero (or some other man who happens to be around) hands her a pair of pants. Which somehow always manage to fit her perfectly in all the right places.

How does that work?

1. Scriptwriters
2. A costume shop with skilled alterations people, catering to...
3. Stars who insist in their contracts that their butt look good

There was an old radio show (? - I heard it on an audio tape) called (?) Ruby, where the heroine undergoes horrendous travails, works it out in the nick of time only to find herself in the soup again. At wit's end, the protagonists discover the real source of all their grief - the writers.

Can anyone supply more info?

#110 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:07 PM:

"There was an old radio show (? - I heard it on an audio tape) called (?) Ruby"

A ZBS Studios Production. They did a few hippy-dippy surreal adventure serials.

http://www.zbs.org/

Ah. They have downloadable MP3s of Ruby.

#111 ::: Mary R ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:19 PM:

Question - what actress today would be considered a beauty by Regency standards?

I was thinking of learning to sew (again), but the largest fabric store in the Boston area (Fabric Place) is no longer going to be carrying dressmaking fabric.

The web site for Lady Grace is www.ladygrace.com. They carry bras in 32-58, cup sizes AA-L. (I hope none are 32Ls!)

One of the great things about knitting is that it is relatively easy to adapt to fit any size body. Does anyone have a recommendation for designers of larger knitwear sizes? I really like Joan McGowan-Michael's stuff at White Lies Designs. I am a large hourglass and look horrible in tentish clothes.

#112 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:20 PM:

I'll just start out by saying I wear a 38 L bra (separated on the off-chance some guy who wants to buy a used one will miss this) so the Lady Grace bras are not big enough for me and I've never tried on a sports bra that actually supported me.

However, I do buy bras, underpants, and swimsuits from Decent Exposures and they also make pants and skirts and tops and leggings.

I buy clothes from Making It Big and they have a range of pants shapes that cover most large shapes. I wear the Easy Pants in winter and Ecco Pants in summer. I don't buy shirts with cuffs from them because my arms are too long, but they have a fair number of non-cuffed shirts. I can usually tell which tops won't fit by the way they're made. Anything that's the same size front & back will try to crawl up my breasts and over to my back.

The company has changed hands recently and they now carry some non-natural fibers, and items have limited color ranges. I may end up buying undyed items (they're made in Cotati, although some tops are imported from Bali) and dying/having them dyed myself.

#113 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:52 PM:

CHiP,

I don't notice anybody even talking about the problem of sets. (Maybe most people here aren't sentenced to wear suits?)

I am. But women's suits are often sold as matching separates, so that I can get one size of jacket and another size of trousers. The last time I was in the US (a weekend in Boston), this was not the case, and meant I did not buy a suit.

What we gain in convenience, we sacrifice in fabric and colour variety. But since all I want is black, that is not a sacrifice I mind. It is also very important to make sure that this black jacket goes with that pair of trousers when there is more than one set of matched separates in roughly the same colour by the same manufacturer. This is not always easy without natural light, but I think of it as sartorial evolution in action.

#114 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Fast little pocket for sweats/swimsuits, etc.:

Use a non-raveling fabric - 3 1/2" x 7 1/2". ***
Fold up bottom end 3".
Fold down the top 1".
The top should overlap the bottom 1/2", and the edge of the lower flap should be 1/2" short of the top fold.

Sew each side through all layers 1/4" from the edge. You can do this by machine or by hand.

Tack the pocket at its top to the inside waistband of your sweats. Leave the raw edges out to reduce bulk.

You should be able to open the thing up enough through the unsewn overlap to access your stuff, yet the flap keeps things inside.

*** make a sample out of paper and alter dimensions as needed

#115 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:01 PM:

Quoth Serge: A couple of times, my wife tried to get me new shoes by way of the internet. I thought the old ones were just fine and still had a lot of life left in them. She disagreed.

If the disagreement is largely over how much wear the soles have received rather than how the tops look, perhaps she would be appeased if your old shoes were simply resoled. This can be done at a local shoe-repair shop, or if you have no local shoe-repair shop and/or the patience to find one, in many cases by mail-order.

The particular outfit I've linked has the rights to use the exact same replacement soles as the original manufacturers did in the first place, giving you the pleasant result of shoes that feel bouncily brand-new on the bottom but already fit comfortably up top. With their help, I succeeded in finally tricking my husband into owning more than one pair of shoes at a time, which had been several years' succession of nearly identical pairs of brown Rockports piling up in the closet as their soles wore through. They also did a dandy resole job on one pair of black Rockports which I sent in, though my other pair was sent back untouched (and completely without charge-- they have printable prepaid labels for sending your shoes to them in the first place) because the exact matches for the original soles were no longer available.

Yeah, they don't nec'ly cost much less than buying a new pair of the same shoes (if you can find them), but I think they're easily more worthwhile than tossing out beloved comfy shoes and/or hunting down replacement shoes that actually fit. (One of my friends recently made the discovery that her real dress-shoe size is not after all 9, but rather 6EE or something similar. "No wonder they kept falling off even after I stuffed the toes full of newspaper!")

#116 ::: simbelmyne ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:04 PM:

No one has said anything about socks yet. I can shorten jeans. I can make my own shirts. I can wail at the horrible badness of bra shopping but occassionally find some that fit and are actually cotton. Socks I can do nothing about. I generally wear a size 6 1/2 sneaker and like my socks to be mostly cotton and to fit a bit tightly. Women's 'small' is too large for me. Youth's size 'large' is too small.

I can't remember the last time I went clothing shopping for myself and didn't want to come home in tears.

#117 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:07 PM:

I'm one of those people who always feels like he's at war with his own wardrobe. Regardless of what weight I've been, I have never acquired any substantial girth to my tush. Therefore, pants uniformly want to vacate my waist and make straight for the ankles.

Needless to say, this can be embarrasing and usually happens at the least opportune times, for instance when I'm carrying something heavy. I've been told that the resulting gait would qualify for a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

One of the few garments that I've found that breaks this rule is my Utilikilt. Unfortunately, it's just not OK to wear it to work. If I were an engineer/coder, maybe, but not in marketing.

Over the last several months, I've lost about 35 pounds and none of my old clothes fit. In my resulting cautious trips to mall-land, I've discovered that I am now in some unexplored region between a 44 and 46 jacket, 34 and 38 pants, and L and XL shirt (approx 17x35). Like Xopher, I'm banishing the big clothes, but don't want to spend much until I stabilize, hopefully about 10-15 lbs lighter still. It's really wierd trying on one jacket that's snug in the upper arms and shoulders and then trying the next size, which turns out to be so much bigger I could have company in it. Perhaps size inflation is not just in the number, but in the delta between sizes, too.

The one thing I am planning on doing is having darts put in my shirts, because if the chest and collar fit, the waist is usually way too big.

Nowadays I have some objective data about my dimensions, as I get measured regularly at the gym. When I started my diet/exercise program, I wore size 48 jackets, and my (nipple height) chest circumference was 46". Now it's 42.5" and mostly size 44s fit. My waist is now 36.26 and size 36 Levis fit, although other pants are totally unpredictable, with labels spanning 3 sizes.

There are good systems of measurement. For instance, check out what Vanson Leathers asks of customers who order custom made leather jackets, pants or track suits. 44 pages, with photographs, and the strong encouragement to have a good tailor take the measurements for you, exactly as specified. Unfortunately, we've yet to hit the point where cheaper clothes can be mass-customized to this level of detail.

#118 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 07:18 PM:

Larry: re pants, have you considered suspenders? You may have to sew buttons onto the inside of your waistbands (suspenders with clips usually don't work very well), but it beats the alternative.

Tube socks are a godsend. If you need something dressier, "trouser socks" often have tube-sockish (non-fitted) construction, and can be found made of cotton with just enough spandex to suck it in around the foot.

#119 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:34 PM:

Like almost everyone else, I have trouble with sizing, so I buy clothes when I find things that fit and are comfortable and good-looking. About 4 years ago I discovered I walked right into size 10 Gloria Vanderbilt stretch jeans. I bought 5 pair, all different colors. I also wear LL Bean size 10 jeans. Okay, I'm a size 10, great.

So yesterday I went to buy a pair of pants for a wedding: and discovered that I am now a size 8. No, I have not lost weight. I tried on many, many size 10 pants and they were all too large. I had a fit of giggles in the fitting room. At least I can indeed wear some versions and styles of the new size 8.

We won't talk about what I have to go through to find tops that fit.

#120 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 08:57 PM:

Carol Kimball - I understand that clothing has to be manufactured to a particular model. I don't understand why I can't find out what that model is without all the try-ons.

_Threads_ used to have regular features on fitting particular shapes that were interesting just as exercises in flat-to-round visualization. Alas, they are now publishing articles on using the Bedazzler. I guess it isn't coincidental that cloth stores are closing. (Why is yardage so expensive compared to made clothing?)

#121 ::: jrochest ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:08 PM:

Bras for triple D's and above.

Buy British! While US bras dig into me in nasty places and and squash me rather than holding me up, English bras are wonderful. I'm assuming it's the genotype, but they make me look about 10 years younger.

Figleaves.com has an excellent selection of sportsbras, ranging up to 40G. And they're based in the USA.

#122 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:32 PM:

Xopher commented:

abi, years ago a company I worked for had a Japanese partner company, and sent a representative to the US for several months. Murakami-san was average size for an American woman, and was absolutely thrilled to be able to buy really nice clothes that fit! In Japan, of course, she was considered huge, and if you think Western fashion is cruel to large women, you haven't been to Japan (at least as she told it).

Well - I have to say that it was wonderful going to Japan, and discovering that I was -average-. Things Just Fit. Pants ended at the right place, jackets had a waist where mine was, bras fit, buses had the overhead rail at a comfortable reaching height.

It was -wonderful-!

And she wasn't chubby. She was just tall, with a medium frame. Apparently she was supposed to be ashamed, and wear dull clothing to show her contrition for being born the wrong size.

Well - given some of the things that I've seen retailers try to pass off as clothing for larger sizes here... we're in no position to throw stones.

#123 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:53 PM:

Y'know, I wonder why it is, with all this wonderful modern technology, and all this talk of the "long tail", that no enterprising merchant has yet made a business out of a chain of technically assisted tailor shops. Go in, get measured, get color-matched--use "expert" systems to suggest styles and colors, have a garment partiarlly automatically made up and finished at a factory, have a final fitting, and get a really good looking and well fitting garments. They wouldn't be--quite--as good as bespoke (custom-designed) garments, but they'd probably be at least as good as any ready-to-wear, even the best.

#124 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 09:56 PM:

It's somewhat reassuring that EVERYBODY has problems finding things that fit. In my own case, Sandy and I could be long-lost twins, our specs are so similar. I've actually made Sandy's observation ("I'm some sort of large dwarf") as "Picture the world's tallest dwarf...". In my own case, add the problem of the Giant Head. I've actually purchased hats simply because I've been ecstatic to find a hat that I can fit on my head.

My solution: once I finally find an item that fits, I buy it. When it wears out, I buy it again. And never will I be tempted away. The problem, of course, is that even a non-trendy manufacturer eventually stops making The Garment That Fits, and I once again am forced to go on a quest. I hate shopping for clothes.

The entire question of size deflation reminds me of the cars in Kornbluth's The Marching Morons : The automobiles all have a top speed of 100kph - and the speedometers are all rigged accordingly so the drivers will think they're going two hundred and fifty.

And, not to derail the thread, but Keira as Guinevere? Feh. Her nightclubbing outfit in Bend It Like Beckham, otoh...

#125 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:11 PM:

Simbelmyne, you might try going to a specialty store for outdoor sports (EMS, REI, that sort of thing) and trying on a pair of "sock liners" made for hikers. Those are generally made a little smaller than regular socks of the same size, and you can get them in cotton, synthetics, or sometimes silk. Or you can look for socks that come in a youth size extra large. (Probably harder to find, but will give you more color variety.) Whenever you're in a kids' clothing store or shoe store, ask if they have any socks in that size, or if they know where you can find them.

#126 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:43 PM:

If you're a large size with a big butt and a defined waist, try Eddie Bauder Natural Fit jeans (front rise is shorter than back because of the contoured waist).

I find a lot of tops and jackets I like in large sizes in the J. Jill catalog (though the stores don't carry large sizes).

Now if I could just find a good replacement for my discontinued favorite 42B underwire stretch cotton-microfiber blend Lane Bryant demi bra that came in about 12 colors I would be happy.

#127 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2005, 10:59 PM:

In general, few women want to go up to a sales person and say, "My size is 52" waist and 28" leg." It's part of the culture to fudge our size, and the wide-ranging American dress sizes allow us to do this.

I'm a woman, and I would LOVE to do this.

Of course, that's mainly because I fall off multiple sides of the range (I have a 33 inch inseam--which NOBODY makes for a female--a very short torso and no breasts). I don't own anything that fits me properly. I can't find anything that fits me properly. If it's correct in length, it's hanging off me in all directions like a sack. If it's not hanging off me like a sack, the ankle hits two inches above mine.

I want to be rich and have someone make clothing for me.

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:02 AM:

Nah, Julie L... It wasn't my shoes's soles that had given up. I'm just a typical guy, where it comes to clothes and shoes. So what if the shoes are obviously scuffed as long as the stitches aren't falling off?

#129 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:14 AM:

One Christmas many years ago, my husband decided to buy me a dress as his gift to me. He'd seen one he thought I'd like, so he called to ask my size. Not wishing to tell me what he was looking to get, he asked for my size in things. So I gave him the list. I was an 8, a 32 or small in tops, unless they were cut loosely, at which point I might be a smaller size. I was an 8 or 8/9 in most jeans, but in slacks was a 6. I wore an 8 or 10 in dresses, or a 32 or 34, or small or medium, depending on how they were cut, and an 8 or 6 in skirts. This poor guy was standing in the mall at a pay phone, obviously using a too small piece of paper for this. He never did get me the dress, as he walked into the store, spoke with a really nice older woman who understood the "husband buying wife something to wear" problem, and neither was sure if the dress would fit. (He brought me in later to try the dress, and I told him I'm glad he hadn't gotten it, as it was poorly sewn.)

We've developed a very nice method for him buying me things. He sees something I'd like, or that he'd like to see me in. He takes me to the store. I spend an hour or two trying things on (usually more than just the item he saw) while he sits outside the fitting room with a book. When I come out, he looks up from his book, comments truthfully, then goes back to his book.

Yes, he comments truthfully. I explained early in our marriage that I did not wish to leave the house thinking I looked great when in fact everyone was pitying me for looking so.... fat, bad, thin, old, young, desparate, out-of-place, whatever. He did learn to be very diplomatic about it, though. "Did you mean to look frumpy?" he'll ask. Or "those clothes don't flatter your shape." One time he did say a sweater and bra combination made me look as if I had a towel rolled up in there. Since I knew it wasn't the sweater, I threw the bra away and never bought that style again.

#130 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:14 AM:

Serge writes:
I confess, Susan. I never read Austen's book. And I'm not an expert on the period. But I still liked the movie on its own terms.

I should have mentioned one other thing re. the Bennets - trying to find dowries for the five daughters would indeed present significant financial challenges on their income.

I didn't dislike the movie. It did some things better than the BBC miniseries (the dancing was noticeably better, not that that would be difficult, though the dances less temporally correct) and some things worse (replacing Austen's words with the scriptwriters' was not an improvement, and the end scene was ridiculous.)

Keira would not have been considered a beauty in those days? Sure, but by the same token, I don't think that a beauty of that era would have been considered beautiful to modern audiences. And I certainly consider Keira very beautiful.

I think she has a pretty face. The period body-ideal was slender but softer and more rounded. And breasts are definitely needed to make the fashions work. Not too much breast - probably the B-D cup range would work best; larger than that and you get an awkward top-heaviness and a lot of annoying corsetry (I speak from experience - I wear these styles regularly and have made them for a range of body types.) But there's got to be something. I'm aware (and sorry) that the modern beauty ideal involves being stick-skinny, but for those with a more bounteous taste in women (say, size "10" and up) I think c1800 beauties would do just fine.

Yes, men do look at women above their shoulders.

And tell them they have expressive eyes, no doubt. Not that I'm cynical or anything.

#131 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:20 AM:

Cynical, Susan? I wouldn't tell a woman other than my wife that she has expressive eyes because it would probably be considered inappropriate. But the eyes definitely matter. And a strong conk can actually be a plus. Thus my earlier comment about Claudia Black and her effect on my heart.

#132 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:25 AM:

xeger writes:
If anybody in my area's interested, I'd also be quite happy to sort out a semi-regular stitch-and-bitch - somehow it's just easier to get motivated to get things done with agreeable company.

Yeah, yeah! I just spent a lovely evening with a friend sewing 1830's sleeve-puffs. They look like squishy albino pumpkins and are just adorable.

I suggested to a friend that we hang them from our rear view mirrors like fuzzy dice, but that was before I made my own. They're too big, alas. But so cute.

This was much more fun than doing mending or hemming or any other sort of useful sewing.

#133 ::: Lawrence Watt-Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:25 AM:

Men's underwear sizes aren't consistent?

Huh. And here I thought I'd stuck to one brand for forty years just out of habit. Turns out there was an actual reason.

#134 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:05 AM:

"Men's underwear sizes aren't consistent?"

A man visits his doctor, complaining of terrible headaches.

"I can't go on like this much longer, doctor," he says, "I'll do anything, anything to get relief from this constant agony.

The doctor reassures him, orders a battery of tests, and perscribes the strongest pain killers he can find. They're enough to keep the poor man sane while he goes to specialist after specialist to be scanned, poked, and prodded.

When the results come in the doctor has the patient sit down. "The good news is that we know the problem. The bad news is . . . well, you may not like the cure."

"Please, Doctor, anything!"

"Well, the scans show that your testes have become impacted against the base of your spine. The pressure they're exerting is the cause of your agony. And I'm afraid that the only solution is . . . removal."

The man sinks his face into his hands and sobs. "So be it, doctor!" he says at last, "Anything to get rid of this pain."

A few hours later, the man leaves the medical building feeling a bit sore down below but miraculously free of his headache.

"Well, this is the first day of the rest of my life. I may as well start out with a new wardrobe." He stops at the first men's clothing store he can find, a dusty hole-in-the wall run by a gnome-like tailor. "A three-piece suit and dress shirt please!" he asks, "Your finest, spare no expense. My shirt size is . . ."

"Eh-eh-eh!" scolds the tailor, "Marvin knows!" He circles the man, nodding and taking down notes. When he is done he ducks into the back and comes back a moment later with a shirt that fits perfectly.

"Amazing!" says the man, "Now, my waist and inseam are . . ."

"Eh-eh-eh! Marvin knows!" The tailor jots down some notes, goes to a rack, and picks off a pair of slacks that fit perfectly.

The performance is repeated for the vest, hat, and jacket. "Marvelous!" says the man as he pays the bill. "Worth every penny!"

On his way out the door he hesitates by a display of underwear. "While I'm here, I'll take a pack of these size 34 briefs."

"Eh-eh-eh! Marvin knows!" scolds the tailor, "You wear a size 36. You put on a size 34 and you'll cram your testicles against your spine and get a terrible headache!"

#135 ::: Holli ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:05 AM:

All of this only serves to confirm my suspicions that the entire retail fashion industry is geared towards women shaped like my 16-year-old sister. Sadly, they did not do this for me when *I* was 16, as I am gangly, narrow-shouldered, long-legged, flat-assed, wide-hipped, and yeti-footed. I have lucked into fitting nearly all the size 10 clothes at H&M, top and bottom, but I spent *years* searching for a long coat that did not make me look hopelessly pear-shaped, before finding one at Banana Republic, of all places. Still can't find shirts *or* pants that are long enough, most of the time, and precious few clothes are cut appropriately for my oddly-proportioned frame.

I also own six of the same bra, because after buying two of the first bra I'd ever found that very nearly fit right, I spent months looking for similar bras, found nothing, and eventually found the same bra on clearance for $10 and bought every single one they had in my size. Unfortunately, they're now starting to fit too loosely, because I wear them so much, and I'm going to have to find a new One True Bra.

#136 ::: Tom Womack ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:44 AM:

Y'know, I wonder why it is, with all this
wonderful modern technology, and all this talk of the "long tail", that no enterprising merchant has yet made a business out of a chain of technically assisted tailor shops.

I suspect 'technically assisted' and 'tailor shops' don't go together very well; to keep the prices sane you need a back room at sweat-shop wages, to make sure the blasted things fit you need possibly two fitting sessions, and sending a suit from the customer's location to a low-wage economy costs 1800 Thai baht ($40) per suit per direction each time and takes two weeks (can be done quicker, but rapidly costs more than the suit).

Bangkok's got attractions enough for the time it takes to get a load of clothing made, but the flight costs more than I normally spend on clothes in a year.

#137 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 05:09 AM:
It's somewhat reassuring that EVERYBODY has problems finding things that fit.

Well, no. I take a 40" waist with a 30" inseam on my pants and wear knit polo shirts or t-shirts in XL. I have no trouble at all finding things that fit me. Sorry.

Yes, I am well aware that the waist ought to be rather smaller. That's not the topic at hand, though -- and quite a few other Americans seem to be in the same shape....

#138 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 05:40 AM:

The technically assisted tailor does exist. In men's tailoring (at least in the UK) it's 'made to measure', which more expensive than ready made, but considerably cheaper than bespoke. It's essentially done by taking a much wider set of measurements than for ready made clothing, but the suit is then fully made up (in the case of the company I use, still in a northern mill town). When it comes back, they can do minor tweaking to improve the fit, but won't casually rip it to pieces and reassemble the way a bespoke tailor would do.
All of that is probably a quarter of the price of a bespoke suit - but it's still at least twice the price of ready made. I am too tall and too oddly shaped to have any choice, but paying £500 or more a go really isn't any fun.

#139 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 05:45 AM:

One of the few garments that I've found that breaks this rule is my Utilikilt. Unfortunately, it's just not OK to wear it to work. If I were an engineer/coder, maybe, but not in marketing.

A kilt looks gorgeous on everyone. I've never seen a garment that flatters so many body shapes. I'd never seen Utilikilts until Worldcon, but I wholeheartedly approve.

(This opinion may or may not be connected, causally or consequently, to the fact that I am married to a Scotsman and living in Edinburgh.)

#140 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 07:54 AM:

David Goldfarb: Well, no. I take a 40" waist with a 30" inseam on my pants and wear knit polo shirts or t-shirts in XL. I have no trouble at all finding things that fit me. Sorry.

I can't say I have no trouble, but I don't usually have trouble finding pants to fit (other than the fact that manufacturers are under some weird compulsion to change the names of the different cuts every year or so). Shirts are a little trickier-- I can almost never find shirts that fit in stores, but catalogue-ordered XXLT (from Eddie Bauer, mostly) shirts do fine. It helps to have chosen a profession where nobody expects me to dress all that well.

It does get annoying not being able to go into a store and walk out with a shirt that will fit, though. Weirdly, while I'm too big for most of the shirts sold in your typical mall store (I can wear an XXL for a while, but a couple of washes usually shrink it to the point where it won't stay tucked in), I'm too small to find anything reasonable in the local "Big and Tall" stores, where they seem to specialize in XXXXL polo shirt in safety orange. I didn't know the "Heavy Equipment" look was so popular...

Anyway, this thread has been fascinating reading, and definitely makes me feel better about my clothing situation.

#141 ::: dagny ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 09:53 AM:

Re: pattern sizing
It has been my experience that the sizing chart on pattern envelopes will tell you to make a size that will end up being too large. I'm talking about the Simplicity/McCalls/Butterick patterns. Vogue generally runs truer to size. For me, the magic formula is one size above what I would buy off the rack but two sizes smaller than they recommend. I don't know if this will hold true for others, but I thought I would throw it out there.

#142 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 09:57 AM:

Chad --

It depends on the big and tall shop. There's one called Kingsport in Toronto that could certainly sell you shirts that fit. Expensive shirts, but everything is tradeoffs.

#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:01 AM:

Considering how troublesome it is to get mundane clothes that fit well, how difficult are things for those who live in the worlds of Fantasy, and not just those of Heroic Fantasy? I wonder if, after the War against Sauron, Legolas and Gimli opened the first ever Big & Tall clothing store.

#144 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:24 PM:

Serge - In the world of fantasy, things mostly just fit. Seldom does anyone have to stop in the heat of battle to hitch up their trousers. Unless, of course, the character in question is disguised as someone else. I think the well-fitting gear is at least partially a function of magic.

Same goes for most SF. Nobody ever gripes about their pressure suit binding in their crotch or armpits. Perhaps they have the robot tailors from Sleeper. "OK! OK! We'll take it in."

#145 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:37 PM:

I agree with Abi - Utilikilts for all! I'm wondering how many decades we're going to have to wait before people start wearing them outside of designated kilt zones (cons, ren fests, celtic festivals) athough I did see some guy shopping a Target in a Utilikilt or similar a couple of months ago. I'm afraid I stared at his legs shamelessly, in the manner that some men stare at my chest when I'm wearing a corset. I'm such a chauvinist pig!

But please guys - when you're wearing the kilt, DO NOT bend at the waist. Especially when you are going regimental. Thank you.

(additionally, my objections to KK in P&P have less to do with her slenderness, and more to do with the fact that her costume in one scene was ill-fitting by any standard. If not a tuck, they could have put some double-sided stick tape on it.)

#146 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 12:41 PM:

nerdycellist - I do wear the UK around town, I just can't wear it to work. Given that Seattle is pretty small, I do run into co-workers when I'm wearing it, and they tend to be taken aback.

And yes, I'm sufficiently self-aware not to bend at the waist when wearing the thing.

#147 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:15 PM:

I'm afraid I stared at his legs shamelessly, in the manner that some men stare at my chest when I'm wearing a corset. I'm such a chauvinist pig!

One of my favourite kilt memories is of a ceilidh (Scottish country dancing) class with two tall, broad shouldered, ruddy cheeked and golden bearded Viking descendant types. As the evening progressed, as the eightsome reels got more enthusiastic, with faster twirls and higher kicks, it became increasingly clear that these two gentlemen were true Scotsmen. Eventually it was beyond all possibility of doubt.

On the other hand, I don't know that the memory would have been nearly as magical in Target. I think they had to be seen in context, dancing and laughing, or not at all.

So yeah, guys, bend from the knees, not the waist. It's better for your back anyway.

#148 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:21 PM:

My, my, my. So many people to whom I can relate. Shopping for clothing is a nightmare for me, and something I can never do by catalogue. I am petite but busty, with moderately large feet. I can generally find pants and skirts that fit me, but when I look at shirts and blouses I have to grab three sizes. I seem to be a 4-6-8, Sm-M-L. I wear a 34 D, so not only are bras next to impossible to find (I can find 34C and 36D) but blouses that fit my bust are too long in the arm much of the time. I can't wear a button up shirt without darts, and even then I risk "boob gap" at the buttons.

My biggest pet peeve is trying to find shoes. I am told over and over that size 9 is the most common women's shoe size, but it seems to be the most difficult to find. "We buy them but we run out". Well, I ask, why don't you buy more of them then? There are always plenty of lovely 6-8 shoes, but fat lot of good that does me. My sister wears a 10, and she has it even worse.

#149 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:36 PM:

Dagny, the different fit of Vogue patterns versus Butterick/Simplicity has to do with the designed ease. I also find Vogue fits better (well, closer), but the waists are always too long for me and that means lots of modifications to the pattern. When I still had time to sew I was pretty much just making my own patterns from scratch because it was easier.

Now I don't have time to sew so I live in a uniform of mail-ordered components that don't fit quite right, but cover me well enough for my needs. The main requirement is that they not be so expensive that if I coat them in glue or india ink, the loss is a real issue.


Also, regarding the Utilikilt: I'd like to put in a vote as somebody who doesn't find most men attractive in one. My experience with them has been that only men who basically don't know how to dress themselves wear them -- your mileage may vary wildly -- and that has given me a visceral negative reaction to them.

For men who complain that that is the only item of clothing that fits them well, I have to say that we all have trouble finding clothes that fit, and some of us finally learn to resort to tailoring. At least for men's clothing it's generally free when you buy it; I can spend $800 on a pair of silk trousers and the alterations are never included.

#150 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:42 PM:

I suspect that the average shoe size is going up without manufacturers taking notice--I wear a 12, which means that at any given time I own a pair of sneakers, perhaps a pair of my mother's sandals, and a pair of foot-killers for more formal occasions. (The current pair is sufficiently painful that it kept me from enjoying Fellowship of the Ring.)

Luckily, it's my only major fit problem, and one that can be solved by throwing sufficient money at it--Nordstom's has quite a nice big-shoe collection.

I am beginning to wonder whether someone ought to start an online fitting resource by brands and styles: These pants work if you have big hips and a small waist, these pants work if your hips are narrow, the tall size of these pants is very tall indeed, and so on. Or perhaps someone already has.

#151 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Ayse - I like to think that I do a reasonably good job of dressing myself, including when I'm wearing the UK.

As far as alterations being included with men's clothing, all I have to say is that that was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

#152 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:09 PM:

Emily, if they have I can't find it. If Eddie Bauer Natural fit jeans fit you, then Ralph Lauren won't but Jones New York trousers will...that would be heaven.

And BTW Lands End hems trousers to order (though I too gave up on their custom-fit jeans after about 12 tries - how I wish I could have just said "increase the rear rise 1" but not the front rise and add 1" to the hip, knee and ankle...")

Kayjay, have you tried the small end of Women's Petites for shirts? 14WP blouses might fit without being too long in the sleeves and often have bust darts though they might be too big in the shoulders.

I have the opposite problem - most 20Ws have bigger busts than I do, so many jackets and coats are too large in the bust. Bust darts never fit but princess darts often do.

#153 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:17 PM:

nerdycellist: I'm wondering how many decades we're going to have to wait before people start wearing (Utilikilts) outside of designated kilt zones (cons, ren fests, celtic festivals)

Funny you should mention it: just last week, I got on the elevator in the dowdiest place in the world - a state office building - and there was a guy in a utilikilt.

(I've seen them on the streets of Manhattan, too, but that NYC doesn't really count as "outside a designated kilt zone.")
Maybe it won't even be decades.

#154 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:18 PM:

Larry, I think that since I don't know you it should be obvious that I was not talking about you and any possible inability to dress on your part. I just don't think the kilt looks universally good on every man who wears it, as somebody else stated. I can think of four counterexamples if I am willing to punish myself by remembering those men in kilts.

A kilt may well be very comfortable -- though my own experience in them is quite the opposite, given their tendancy to flap up in wind, or gap open at the overlap -- but that's a very different thing from looking good on everybody.

As far as alterations being included with men's clothing, all I have to say is that that was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Or in San Francisco, only a few months ago, which was the last time I helped a man buy work trousers. You're obviously not going to get free alterations with Dockers, but when you buy a suit or dress pants, the basic alterations are still included here.

Maybe it's a big city/medium city thing.

#155 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:31 PM:

Ayse,

I was the one that said that kilts look good on pretty much everyone, and for the traditional kilt, I stand by that statement. I've seen hundreds of men in kilts in the 14 or so years I've lived in Scotland, and I can't think of any whose memory would constitute a punishment.

All those yards of pleated wool around the back seem to give the slim some bulk and the heavy some balance. The double layer at the front doesn't actually flap about even in an Edinburgh wind (particularly with the sporran weighting things down). And the swing of the fabric makes even the most graceless man - and I have seen some very graceless men in kilts - seem to dance.

I have not seen enough utilikilts, from afar or up close, to judge whether they have the pleating or the swing to match their woolen counterparts. From what I know of canvas, I can see how they could well fall short.

#156 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 02:34 PM:

Ayse - I think the free alterations is more of a store-based thing. Nordstrom's and Bloomingdales will still do some alterations for free, such as cuffing pants, but if you need serious work done, such as rebuilding the trousers to a suit so that they actually fit, that'll cost. And I wouldn't trust that to department-store tailors anyway.

Typically, when I buy a suit, the jacket may fit, but the pants are often several inches too large at the waist and don't even ask about the extra yards of fabric in the tush area. Unfortunately, I don't like anything that's sold as separates, although some of the DKNY ones could work in a pinch. (I own only a few suits these days, but I'm not afraid to pay $800+ for one.)

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 03:03 PM:

Kilts... I think I'll pass, what with my bow-legged gait. This though reminds me of the 1993 worldcon held in San Francisco. I was walking thru the main hotel's lobby when someone called my name. It was editor Jim Frenkel, who I figured remembered me from a lengthy chat at a Canadian con in 1982, one that had encompassed what Canadians call the American Revolution, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Does he have that good a memory? If so, then wow. Anyway, while we resumed chatting, we noticed a bunch of men walking around in kilt and military jacket. I assumed they were with the worldcon, partly because that's the only occasion I see men in kilt. It's a good thing I didn't make any joke to them about the Unexploded Scotsman Squadron because those gents were with some other event. (Almost as weird as 1996's NASFiC in Los Angeles, where we shared the premises with a Charismatic Catholic Convention, where you couldn't tell who was with what.)

#158 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 03:18 PM:

Larry wrote back that "...In the world of fantasy, things mostly just fit..." And nobody ever gets dirty. Except in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. The only way to get Gandalf to wash his clothes and his hair was to have him die and then be reborn.

#159 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 03:29 PM:

Graydon: It depends on the big and tall shop. There's one called Kingsport in Toronto that could certainly sell you shirts that fit. Expensive shirts, but everything is tradeoffs.

That's why I specified "local big and tall shops." I knew a couple in DC (well, the Maryland suburbs) that were really tailor shops that figured out they could draw in more clients by offering big and tall sizes.

As for the cost, well, Vimes's Law applies to most clothes, not just boots for coppers.

#160 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 03:58 PM:

With all this talk about kilts, I have to admit that I Just Don't Get It.

I HATE wearing skits and dresses. HATE it. Even if I can wear boots instead of horribly uncomfortable shoes, I'm still uncomfortable and can't wait to change.

Even with tights, my legs are cold, I can't sit cross-legged without fuss or disaster, and my normal stumbling and clumsiness are opportunities for showing Entirely Too Much Flesh.

Of course when I was a kid, my mother used to punish me by making me wear dresses to school, so perhaps it is just me.

#161 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:20 PM:

Michelle K - To (sort of) answer your question about kilts, see Stefan's joke above.

#162 ::: sGreer ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 04:21 PM:

Natalie: the sewing industry in the US has had a consistent pattern size scheme since the 30's, I think, when someone first laid down the law and everyone else followed. And since you'd be altering the patterns yourself, it's not actually that difficult (once you get the knack, which takes a bit of practice -- I suggest using an old bed sheet as practice fabric) to buy a size 16 pattern if your bust is size 16, and just slim down the waist if your waiste is 12 or 14.

I've only ever met two women who were perfectly proportioned according to sewing charts. My sister, the right-down-the-line 14 (who's also 5'7" so height fits too), and a coworker who was a perfect sixteen...but also 4'11" -- which meant all the pants and skirts fit her from waist to mid-thigh, and from there on were waaaaay too long. She had a long body and short legs, so she couldn't shop in petite sections, where they assume the body is proportional to the leg length.

I remember one brand of dresses I used to buy that had a label of "one size fits a lot of people" ... there was something so amusing about that, at least to me. Not everyone, but a lot of people.

And I try very hard to buy men's clothing whenever possible -- jeans, shirts, socks, and so on. I buy one pair of men's jeans and can wear them for two, three years; I buy one pair of women's and the knees are blown out six months later, and I'm really NOT that hard on my clothing. There is a planned obsolescence in women's clothing that aggravates the difficulty of finding stuff that fits.

Lastly, there's always so much about boobs 'n hips 'n waist, but I find the hardest thing to fit is upper arm. My arms are 13" around; my sister's are 13.5", and it's not because we were athletes -- my mother's arms are 13", too, and she never did more than some aerobics back in the 80s. But any of us try on shirts and even if it fits in the chest, waist, or shoulders, the arms are still so tight sometimes we can't even cross our arms without getting the ugly streak-folds of fabric tension across the arms. Plus there's that lovely feeling of having your circulation cut off. Banana Republic is one of the worst for skinny-arm cuts; Old Navy seems to run looser in the upper arms.

#163 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 05:08 PM:

Nobody ever gripes about their pressure suit binding in their crotch or armpits. Perhaps they have the robot tailors from Sleeper. "OK! OK! We'll take it in."

Actually, there is a wrong-size-suit scene in one of Diane Duane's Space Cop books. The suit is a little too small....

#164 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 06:41 PM:

Larry Brennan,

So THAT'S what's behind the high school students wearing their pants so low that they're falling off?

#165 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 07:16 PM:

More online shopping difficulties:

I was looking at the Wintersilks Web site yesterday, and saw a pair of pants that looked plausible. I wanted to know whether the pockets would hold my wallet and keys, rather than just a quarter for a phone call.

There's a "live assistant" feature on the Website--you click, it politely explains that you need to allow popup windows, you do that, and you're typing back and forth to an employee.

I asked for the pocket size on garment number whatever-it-was. She asked me to wait a moment, and came back with the width of the pocket opening.

I explained that I needed to know how deep they were. It transpired that they didn't have that information recorded wherever she was, nor did she have the garment available to check. When I asked, she was willing to take my email address; she is supposed to contact company headquarters, find out, and email me with the information.

It doesn't seem like that unlikely a question, nor do I expect many people care how wide the top of a pocket is but not how deep it is/what it can hold.

#166 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 08:59 PM:

My best friend just got married a month or so ago. He has a lot of close friends (he's in a band with four other guys), and so his groomsmen party was *huge* (10 guys. Plus his father, and father-in-law. Plus him. The little gazebo was *crowded*).
It was the groom's wish that we wear kilts (he's Irish). And we all happily obliged.
I have to admit, I was both slightly nervous but also slightly excited by the prospect, and I'm happy to report that it carried off *extremely* well. From the initial oohs-and-ahs of the unexpected bloke-in-a-skirt to the already-mentioned greater comfort with dancing (I'm always dancing. It's part of my nature. And some of the other guys, being in a band, are used to it, as well. But that day, we were *all* dancing. And I've always thought that half [though not all] of one's ability to dance comes with confidence; being both slightly inebriated and newly liberated from pants [that's a great band name], we all danced pretty well. And we had a lot of fun doing so). It took a while to get used to, but we did.

I think my favorite moment was the groomsmen shot. We had the sober-gentleman's shot, you know the one, all puffed chests and deliberate grins, and then the bride requested a candid, "slutty" shot of her and all her bridesmaids, in which they were pulling up their dresses to show some leg.
We groomsmen took one look at that shot and decided we needed a Braveheart-esque shot of both sides lined up, legging each other.
And then, of course, the guys mooned the camera-guy. I think that's what you do when you're a bloke in a dress.
(for the record, while we were all brave enough to put on a kilt, none of us were fully "Scotch gentleman." We all had full support for the undercarriage, so to speak)

I've never liked the utilikit thing, and my sister constantly remembers a young-man-in-a-kilt (and not in a positive way) she met when she and I went to a Neil Gaiman signing, but I think it's rather difficult to look bad wearing a kilt. Kind of like a tuxedo; as this past summer proved, even Vince Vaughn, in a tux, looked money and knew it, and even with what looked at best like a terrible haircut and at worst like a shoddy hairpiece.

#167 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 09:19 PM:

Couple notes from skimming the threads.

I wonder why it is, with all this wonderful modern technology, and all this talk of the "long tail", that no enterprising merchant has yet made a business out of a chain of technically assisted tailor shops.
About a decade ago, Levi's offered customfit jeans. I never bought them, just remembered they used our company's technology. From an article on the system:

Using PC-based technology, jeans are tailored to fit based on four measurements: waist, hips, inseam and rise. Measurements are taken by a sales associate, then fed into the computer, which determines a prototype trial pair. Once the fit is perfect, the order is sent via modem to a Levi's factory in Tennessee for production. Two to three weeks later the customer picks up her jeans at the store, or can have them sent directly to her home for $5 extra.

My biggest gripe about women's clothing isn't just the sizing but the fact that it seems most reasonable business clothes are delicate or dry-clean only. My laundry requires so much more specialcare than that of my husbands, even if I want basically the same thing: button-down shirts and basic black slacks.
Soo it's not just the initial expense that's greater, but the regular ongoing maintenance is more troublesome.

#168 ::: ZenoP ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 10:08 PM:

Same goes for most SF. Nobody ever gripes about their pressure suit binding in their crotch or armpits.

[de-lurking]
There was also the Babylon5 episode where Zack Allan was complaining about his uniform's fit. The story goes that the actor, Jeff Conaway, was heard on set complaining about the security uniforms being baggy and the Great Maker overheard and inserted the dialogue.
[lurk mode=enabled]

Zeno Paradoxus

#169 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:00 PM:

About a decade ago, Levi's offered customfit jeans.

As I recall, they discontinued that when they sent their producton overseas.

Having anything made in the US these days is what corporations consider "prohibitively expensive." Which means that they can't get the profits they want while paying their workers a living US wage.


As for kilts, I still maintain that there are men who look terrible in them. Men who, for example, walk like drunken bears, look like drunken bears in skirts when they wear kilts. I don't find that particularly attractive; YMMV.

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2005, 11:28 PM:

Jeff Conaway... Didn't he play the hero of that so-bad-it-was-good D&D ripoff Wizards and Warriors in the mid-Eighties?

#171 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 12:15 AM:

Jeff Conaway... Didn't he play the hero of that so-bad-it-was-good D&D ripoff Wizards and Warriors in the mid-Eighties?

Ayup.
He's probably still best known for his roles in Taxi and in Grease, though.

#172 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 03:38 AM:

As for kilts, I still maintain that there are men who look terrible in them. Men who, for example, walk like drunken bears, look like drunken bears in skirts when they wear kilts. I don't find that particularly attractive; YMMV.

I admit not everyone shares my unabashed fondness for men in kilts. I've seen the drunken bear type on Princes Street after Scotland rugby matches (and, indeed, before them). They have their own charm - they are frequently very exhuberant, but rarely, in my experience, hostile.

I wish I were as accepting of the variations in my own figure as I am of those of men in kilts. It has been my good fortune in life to find people who feel about women's shapes the way I feel about this topic.

#173 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 03:44 AM:

Will, that sounds like a classic event. I only know from observation, but I do see how a kilt can encourage dancing.

My husband, father in law, and brother in law all wore kilts to my wedding (in Oakland, CA). My brother in law, the only one on that list then unattached, was inundated with female attention(and, it being the Bay Area, some male attention too.)

#174 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 10:09 AM:

There were at least two Utilikilts at Loscon this year. IMHO, the sailcloth, or whatever fabric they're made of, doesn't have enough drape for a good kilt (for the sewing-impaired: it's a bit on the stiff side). But I do like guys in skirts.

#175 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 12:42 PM:

I always figured the "clothes in the middle ages fit" thing was really "labor in the middle ages was crushingly low-cost."

(I remember someone's description of the construction and use of plate armor [paraphrased]: a demolition derby in a lovingly restored vintage Cadillac. )

#176 ::: Alphabeter ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 02:57 PM:

I'm guessing Patrick's New Year's wardrobe is now complete? ;)

Seriously, I want to know who besides anorexic, coked-up celebrities and nine-year-olds can wear all the size 0s that have invaded my midwestern mall?

I live in Iowa. A state where the AVERAGE female size is 12 and I dare say in my NW region, 14. So why did the Gap lower their highest size to XL?

And why does some XL fit a female with say, a 36B (not me, I'm larger) while another style requires only a medium?

Why do clerks tell people that "this fits my sister and she's your size" and then tell you that if you wash it it will shrink, only to have to stretch permanently out of shape? Or that it will loosen with wear--and then it does shrink?

I want every fashion designer, whether Tom Ford, Stella McCartney or Jaclyn Smith, to make their clothes based on humans and size accordingly. Starting with a size two twig with no boobs and then swearing it will look the same on a natural size ten with say, a 36B chest is completely untrue and unrealistic.
AND every size twelve must be the same size twelve in every design. NO MORE carrying charts for each designer, store and item!
I wear a size ten in shorts, but eight in pants for Jaclyn's summer sets at JCPenny's but a twelve in sweaters and a six in fitted tops for Cheryl Ladd at KMart. Oh and I wear a size 9 1/2 dress shoe in Manolo but an 8 in flats for BabyPhat.

I see there is no more wonder why I wear men's clothes bought at the Goodwill and in pret-a-porter catalogues (where they take your measurements and then tell you sizes).

Its a conspiracy. I'm ready to bring down the smoking scissor seamstress (pardon me Chris Carter).

Or we could go back to the leaf thing.

#177 ::: Alphabeter ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 03:03 PM:

Ayse

You should check out American Apparel

They do custom casual clothes, all made in the USA (southern CA).

20/20 did a profile of the founder on their "New Wealthy: How to Get It show" two days ago.

They skew young and they don't have stores everywhere yet, but its nice stuff for what it is.

#178 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 04:56 PM:

I always figured the "clothes in the middle ages fit" thing was really "labor in the middle ages was crushingly low-cost."

Yes and no; probably a lot depended on how much money/labor you could afford to spend on your clothing instead of food purchase/production.

There's a fascinating book(let), "Cut My Cote" by Dorothy Burnham, that lays out the schematics for a wide variety of historical/global garments to demonstrate how their piecing tended to minimize the waste of yardage. Spinning and weaving take a lot more time than cutting and sewing, and in one way or another, a well-made garment may outlast the first body shape it was originally made for. In many cases, therefore, the size of a garment might be dictated more by the width of the loom than by the width of the wearer. The glaring exception she presents is an Imperial Manchu silk robe, whose shape may've been based on an older version that minimized the waste of ox/horse-hide.

#179 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 07:38 PM:

I've been to American Apparel (they have stores in NYC). I don't care that they skew young--but they skew too thin for there to be anything in the store that fits me. (Actually, I'm not 100% sure of that--it's possible that they carry socks.)

#180 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 09:07 PM:

What is it about a dinner jacket - which is what I call what I think you call a tuxedo, but I could be wrong - that makes even an oik like me look like a gentleman? Given a reasonable haircut, that is.

#181 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2005, 10:07 PM:

American Apparel skews very young for me. I've been into their shop on Telegraph and my reaction is that I rarely want to wear clothes quite so revealing. (They're very tightly cut.)

When I have time, I actually enjoy sewing my own clothes that fit perfectly, or completely rebuilding store-bought ones. But right now, I'm in the middle of a rather demanding return to school, where looking like a total slob every day is perfectly fine, so mail order clothes that fit poorly are fine for everyday, and I know a nice seamstress in Oakland who can take in everything else.

I'd be interested to see what will happen to American Apparel's production as they grow, and if they ever go public. Most likely the first move will be to manufacture in Mauritania, where you can label something "Made in the USA" while taking advantage of near-slave labour in the "free trade zone" around the airport. I've been there as businesses grew, and there comes a production point where in order to support the staffing in the home office necessary to handle the business, you have to cut your production costs.

#182 ::: Becca ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 12:21 AM:

CHip: Fortunately this doesn't apply to T-shirts; otherwise fannish vendors would be out of luck

I suspect that the t-shirts involved in any large-scale silkscreening enterprise are bought in sufficient bulk that the manufacturer finds it worth their while to do runs of shirts in single sizes. There was no truly compelling reason -- aside from possible materials wastage on small orders -- why our pattern-making software and drafting board couldn't have turned out a cutting table's worth of black size 12 pants. It was simply "how it's always been done."

Of course, it's also possible that that particular vendor was just left with a pile of blank size smalls, but those are fairly easy to turn over, for youth soccer organizations and the like. A department store stuck with 10 pairs of olive green size 2 Petite pleated-front high-waisted slacks (multiplied by however many stores are in the chain) are almost certainly going to take a loss on at least some of those pants.


Ayse Sercan: Having anything made in the US these days is what corporations consider "prohibitively expensive."

And that right there is why I'm no longer employed in the garment industry -- not for lack of business for the company, but lack of business actually being done out of the cutting rooms I was stocking. When in-house production started slowing, they hired a fresh-out-of-college girl, had three of us with seniority (and higher paychecks) teach her our jobs, and let us go. Not that I'm still bitter about it or anything, of course.


Kayjay: I am told over and over that size 9 is the most common women's shoe size, but it seems to be the most difficult to find. "We buy them but we run out". Well, I ask, why don't you buy more of them then?

Shoe manufacturers are, if anything, worse than garment people in their insistence that orders must include the full size ranges. Again, the best advice I can come up with is to make friends with the salespeople or the store buyers, so they let you know when shipments come in. I've also had a fair bit of luck -- as a 9W foot with a high instep and a narrow heel -- at Nordstrom, although I was miffed to discover that they'd discontinued their store brand pumps.


Skwid: it really is much, much easier to be a budget conscious female shopper than male, IME, and it can be quite frustrating.

Unless you're at the upper end of the women's sizes, because I have stories that would curl your hair about shrunken seam allowances, shrunken ease numbers, and in one spectacular case, an order of misses jackets made with petite arms (what was that about tyrannosaurs?) for our "budget" customers.

"Budget", of course, is relative, since the Sears and J.C. Penney catalogs, our "top line" customers and the people for whom we never, ever skimped or substituted, were paying us around $7 for a pair of pants that they then sold for $35, or $10 for a jacket with a sticker price of $50. So it wasn't really surprising if, on an order of pants for Marshalls for which they were paying $3.50/per, there was no guarantee if the button, belt, amount or even type and color of fabric was the same as what the buyer ordered from in the showroom. (And yes, this does mean that, even if the label in the discount store is the exact same size and style as the lovely pair of pants you're wearing from the department store, you still need to try them on, because there really is no guarantee.)

#183 ::: Rosemary ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 09:00 AM:

Hi -
Consumer Reports measured same-size pants from several manufacturers a couple of years ago. More than 1 vendor (Lands End was one of them, I think?) had mens pants size 38 (exact same style, etc.) where individual items varied in waist size by as much as 3 inches! So you may, indeed, need to try every single pair in your size because only one of the 2x may fit correctly.

For larger-size women, Junonia on-line lists size specifications for each garment (only works on some browsers). So for a shirt, there are measurements for neck width, shoulder pt to pt, sleeve/muscle width, bust 1 inch below armhole, sweep 1 inch above hem, vent height for Each Size, 1x to 6x.
For pants, it shows relaxed waist, hip 8inch below waistband, front rise, back rise, inseam...

Wouldn't it be great if more vendors did that?

#184 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 09:48 AM:

No one has said anything about socks yet. I can shorten jeans. I can make my own shirts. I can wail at the horrible badness of bra shopping but occassionally find some that fit and are actually cotton. Socks I can do nothing about.

Have you considered knitting? Seriously--I make most of my boyfriend's socks, and I have recently branched out into knee-high winter stockings for myself. (Ah, the joys of natural fibers! I have to wash my store-bought stockings every two wearings, but my merino-linen stockings were just washed for the first time, after a week or wearing--because I felt I ought to rather than because they needed it...)

If you're going to knit in cotton, BTW, remember that cotton is heavier than wool; a 50-gram ball of wool will make an adult sock, assuming the adult does not have huge feet, but it'll only get an inch or so above the ankle in cotton.

But please guys - when you're wearing the kilt, DO NOT bend at the waist. Especially when you are going regimental. Thank you.

Heh--the joys of being in the SCA. It's always amusing watching the guys who're new, and have had it pointed out to them that their spiffy new tunics leave little to the imagination if they sit the way they normally do...

I always figured the "clothes in the middle ages fit" thing was really "labor in the middle ages was crushingly low-cost."

Dunno; I think it was more "since someone was going to have to do this by hand anyway, we might as well make it fit".

One thing you do learn in doing research into medieval methods of doing things is that, to that mindset, human labor is always cheaper than raw materials. If there are two ways of doing something, one taking more materials and the other taking someone doing endless hours of tedious labor, the labor-intensive version wins every time.

#185 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 10:17 AM:

Why do clerks tell people that "this fits my sister and she's your size"...?

I had a friend a few years back who worked at a computer-game store. One day, early on, he was bored and he decided to sell a certain game- some miserable DOOM clone with animated toasters or something. He sold the entire stock by 2 PM.

So, idle hands is one explanation.

The other is, of course, that the clerks are being pressured to move product, and they're actually listening. Personally, if I was running a mall store, I'd be kind of amazed if my employees did ANYTHING I told them.

#186 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 11:34 AM:

I always figured the "clothes in the middle ages fit" thing was really "labor in the middle ages was crushingly low-cost."

[Carrie S.] Dunno; I think it was more "since someone was going to have to do this by hand anyway, we might as well make it fit".

One thing you do learn in doing research into medieval methods of doing things is that, to that mindset, human labor is always cheaper than raw materials. If there are two ways of doing something, one taking more materials and the other taking someone doing endless hours of tedious labor, the labor-intensive version wins every time.

Robin Netherton gives a wonderful workshop on gothic fitted gowns (mid 13th-mid 14th centuries) which includes instructions like having the fittee lie flat while the fitter sits on top of them to fit the top of the gown. The gowns themselves are engineering marvels - astonishing cleavage and no jiggling at all. Robin is a G cup, if I recall correctly, and demonstrated the support and control provided by jumping up and down. It was impressive (no jiggle). I want to try one of these sometime when I have a good fitting partner and the aforementioned hours to spend on tedious labor (though I'm not dedicated enough to hand-sew the whole thing.)

#187 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 11:51 AM:

What is it about a dinner jacket - which is what I call what I think you call a tuxedo, but I could be wrong - that makes even an oik like me look like a gentleman? Given a reasonable haircut, that is.

Flattering style and color combination. I learned the same principle in makeup class for slimming the nose: darker shades on the sides and a lighter stripe down the middle.

Tails are even better for this, since a waistcoat has a more vertical line than a cummerbund.

"The tendency of black to diminish the size should be fully appreciated." - Edward Lawson's Guide to Dancing, London, c1905.


#188 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 01:18 PM:

The eBay tip you gave during the salwar kameez craze taught me to patronize vendors that gave dimensions with their size measurements -- this helps so much to know how the drape will be, for me.

#189 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 02:16 PM:

Oh and Marilee, sistah! I buy my 38 L bras at Decent Exposures, as well. The front-loading combo of velour lined with cotton works quite well.

#190 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2005, 11:14 PM:

What is it about a dinner jacket - which is what I call what I think you call a tuxedo, but I could be wrong - that makes even an oik like me look like a gentleman? Given a reasonable haircut, that is.

In addition to Susan's color comments, I'd point to the rigorous shape -- a good tux jacket ("tuxedo" usually refers to the coat-and-pants combo) has sturdy shoulders and lapels (not inflated, just sturdy) so it hides some bad posture. (wrt color, note that a tux combines flat black and gloss black, giving detail with subtlety -- a rare combination any time.) Also, tuxes are still pretty uncommon; they're a uniform for classical music performers and some bands, and are otherwise seen (at least in their proper black-over-stiff-shirt form) only on formal occasions, so anyone wearing such is singled out -- and may respond to this singling with better bearing.

#191 ::: Nancy C. Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 10:11 PM:

J.Jill will, if you call them, give you all the pertinent (and some just plain handy, but not obvious) measurements for all sizes of all their clothing. This I found out quite by accident earlier this week, which truly made my day while shopping for a good black skirt and jacket to wear to my dad's military funeral. They even gave me the front and back fall measurements of the jacket, without my asking.

#192 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 11:35 PM:

For those who sew their own: the January 2006 Threads has an article on fitting pants.

#193 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 02:29 AM:

CHip, Ah.

It sounds like your tux is what I would have called "formal" or "white-tie": ultra-formal evening dress for men, a black cutaway tailed jacket worn open over a boiled stiff plain white shirt with wing collar, kid waistcoat, white tie. Very rare now, except for classical musicians, for some strange reason.

Dinner dress means stiff-foldover-collared white shirt, no ruffles, no ruffles, no ruffles, black bow-tie (slim-line) with non-tailed, boxy black jacket and no waistcoat. Shiny lapels, maybe. Trousers with both suits are black, with a dull black sateen stripe up the outside leg. Highly polished black shoes.

#194 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 03:21 AM:

We, in some strange custom's employ, move in a rigorous tux.

I've owned one (not bought custom or new, of course) for a long time, and have very little occasion to wear it; the last was at Bruce Schneier's pre-wedding party, which was formal. Before that, I wore it to Nebula banquets, where, yeah, it stood out; the only other guys who did were Ben Bova, Norman Payes, and Sam Lundwall. Occasionally the toastmaster would dress, though when Joe Haldeman did he wore sandals, and while there are many possible accidents of dress, wearing sandals with black** tie is not one of them.

The rig is still in the closet, waiting for an appropriate occasion, but for almost everything my tailored blue-gray three-piece*** is more than adequate. If I should ever win an Oscar(tm) I'd want Mizrahi. What works for Elmo works for me.

*There is an entire subgenre of screwball comedy about this. Your choice as to whether the high point is Hugh Griffith in Start the Revolution Without Me, Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. or Harpo Marx in anything.
**Actually, it and the tux were green.
***Yes, I know: "Three-piece what?" The usual answer is: MP5, short double shotgun, and .45 or 10mm backup. Hi, Jim.

#195 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 07:16 AM:

Just once in this life I'd like to mention to a sewing sort of person the huge quantity of really nice shirts that I've been given that I can't wear without the tails pulling up into a giant wad at the waist and ask if they know someone who can cut them down into a tailless version and not get a lecture on how to shop for shirts. I DIDN'T BUY THESE! I DON'T PLAN TO BUY ANY IN THE FUTURE! YOU'RE NOT HELPING!

Ahem.

The only shirt with a tail that I've ever worn that didn't do the above was lent to me by a black-powder rifle enthusiast and was sold by Remington Arms Co.--something called a "shooter's shirt" with extra long tails. He damn near didn't get it back.

#196 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 08:07 AM:

There are things called "shirt garters" which can attach to the bottom of your shirt at one end and the top of your socks at the other; they seem to be generally worn along the outside of the leg (beneath the trousers), though I'm not sure what they do when you sit down. Also, there seem to be other things called "waist grippers"(?), small friction patches that can be sewn inside a trouser waistband to resist shirt-tail escape plans. My initial Google-fu didn't turn up anything that felt like a comprehensive reference/purchase site, but there certainly seem to be various sources, both or separately.

#197 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 08:20 AM:

Julie L... Do you know where on the web one could find riding coats like the ones in the recent Pride and Prejudice? If not, do you know where to find the pattern? We know a local seamstress who could make one for me if we provide her with the pattern.

#198 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 11:09 AM:

Just once in this life I'd like to mention to a sewing sort of person the huge quantity of really nice shirts that I've been given that I can't wear without the tails pulling up into a giant wad at the waist and ask if they know someone who can cut them down into a tailless version and not get a lecture on how to shop for shirts.

I could cut them down; it's pretty simple. And I don't buy modern shirts for men so I couldn't deliver that lecture.

#199 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 11:18 AM:

Also, tuxes are still pretty uncommon; they're a uniform for classical music performers and some bands, and are otherwise seen (at least in their proper black-over-stiff-shirt form) only on formal occasions, so anyone wearing such is singled out -- and may respond to this singling with better bearing.

I spend a lot of time in the social company of dozens of men in tails (rarely tuxes - they're too informal for most occasions), so it's not a matter of rising to the occasion of being singled out. They ALL look good.

I'll add another parlor-psych theory, though: making an effort to look spiffy and knowing they've succeeded might add self-confidence and thus lead to better bearing and a better attitude in general, which is always attractive. Putting on dress-up manners might also help. All of this creates good feedback from others which would help reinforce the confidence.

#200 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 11:27 AM:

It sounds like your tux is what I would have called "formal" or "white-tie": ultra-formal evening dress for men, a black cutaway tailed jacket worn open over a boiled stiff plain white shirt with wing collar, kid waistcoat, white tie. Very rare now, except for classical musicians, for some strange reason.

White tie or "tails" after the tailcoat. Eveningwear. Rare in some social circles, but most of the men in mine have at least one set if not two or three and multiple shirts and (of course) several gorgeous waistcoats. They get together in corners and do amusingly girly conversations about fabric.

Dinner dress means stiff-foldover-collared white shirt, no ruffles, no ruffles, no ruffles, black bow-tie (slim-line) with non-tailed, boxy black jacket and no waistcoat. Shiny lapels, maybe.

"Tux" or dinner jacket. Formerly informal afternoon wear, now considered proper for evening. Waistcoats are fine, I believe, but most people now choose to wear a cummerbund. Bow-tie and cummerbund in colors other than black are primarily for high school proms and 1970's weddings.

Trousers with both suits are black, with a dull black sateen stripe up the outside leg. Highly polished black shoes.

I do know one guy with proper shiny slippers with bows on them. All us ladies ooh and ah over his feet.

Hey, we haven't covered morning dress yet, or whites!

#201 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 11:52 AM:

Do you know where on the web one could find riding coats like the ones in the recent Pride and Prejudice? If not, do you know where to find the pattern? We know a local seamstress who could make one for me if we provide her with the pattern.

I'm not sure if you mean the coat or the overcoat.

I'm not aware of any good pattern for the former - Rocking Horse Farm used to have one but they seem to have discontinued it, which is just as well, since it was pretty, um, dubious. If you want a coat like that, you also don't want a normal sort of seamstress - you want a tailor. Tailoring is not the same as sewing, and if your coat isn't tailored it won't look right. (I learned this the hard way years ago.) As mentioned upthread, the coats are stiffened and padded (though not as much as more recent ones) to give them their shape. Most of this doesn't show on the outside but it makes a huge difference in the look. You can order one here if you want to spring for the $500+ cost (which is not exhorbitant), but looking at their pictures I'm not entirely confident in their work. Their Victorian stuff looks better, though, so maybe it's just the photographs.

Rocking Horse Farm (look under Regency or Colonial) and Mill Farm both have overcoat patterns, if that's what you want. Those are a lot less complex to make. I haven't used either pattern so I have no specific notes on them.

#202 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 01:01 PM:

I was amused to see in a catalog we got the other day a shirt advertised as "the solution to plumbers' butt."

I have no further comment about that.

#203 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Thanks for the tips, Susan... I'll have to go peek at those sites.

Remember in the movie when Darcy and Bingley are going around on horseback? They're both wearing a loose coat with the back slit up to their waist, which comes in handy when it's draped over the horse's rump. When they're off the horse, the coat reaches down to their ankles. Is that what you call the overcoat? If I could find a pattern, I'd ask that seamstress to make me one. She also tailors things, which is good, what with my own body proportions.

What I would REALLY like to get is something like the outfits worn by the Senators in the movie Titus. The movie is based on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and it went for a Late 19-century look, but not exactly, more like what if Rome had never fallen. Very interesting, visually. You should see Jessica Lange when her character passes herself off as Hera and wears a head-dress not made of peacock feathers but of long knife blades.

#204 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 02:53 PM:

Remember in the movie when Darcy and Bingley are going around on horseback? They're both wearing a loose coat with the back slit up to their waist, which comes in handy when it's draped over the horse's rump. When they're off the horse, the coat reaches down to their ankles. Is that what you call the overcoat?

Yes. Either of those patterns should be workable. Rocking Horse tends to have somewhat minimalist directions. I've never used anything by Mill Farm at all.

What I would REALLY like to get is something like the outfits worn by the Senators in the movie Titus. The movie is based on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and it went for a Late 19-century look, but not exactly, more like what if Rome had never fallen. Very interesting, visually. You should see Jessica Lange when her character passes herself off as Hera and wears a head-dress not made of peacock feathers but of long knife blades.

That's the Taymor Titus. I saw it with my mother for Christmas a few years ago. (Why yes, we love to watch Shakespearean slasher flicks for family holidays!) Taymor is an absolute genius, though the impact of her production was greater when she did it on stage for TFANA. (The McKellen RIII suffered some of the same problem when expanded to the screen - too much scenery available to chew.) Even after seeing a couple of other Tituses (Titi?), the Lavinia-as-deer/rapists-as-tigers imagery in her stage version (and to a lesser degree in the movie as well) is permanently engraved in my visual memory.

Anyway, I don't specifically recall the Senators' costumes, but I expect there are people around who could copy them for you if you really wanted them.

And now I must quit procrastinating and go off to pipe seams or I will have no clothes for tomorrow.

#205 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 04:13 PM:

Piped seams: the cure for Plumber's . . . uh, never mind.

Back in the Original Cast days of SNL, they did a commercial parody for Shirt Glue, which kept the active businessman's shirttail in all day long.

#206 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 04:41 PM:

Thanks for the tips, Susan. This makes me wish I knew how to sew, if only to make my own hall costumes at SF cons. Maybe when I get bored with computer programming...

"And now I must quit procrastinating and go off to pipe seams or I will have no clothes for tomorrow."

That's a good exit line.

#207 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 01:30 AM:

Er. I haven't actually seen the new P&P, but as a supplement to the earlier comments of those who have, I'd like to add a small snippet from a general overview of Regency wardrobe:

In Regency-speak, the word “coat” refers to the tailcoat, THE essential piece of Regency male clothing. These tailcoats can be divided into two main kinds:

Dress coat—square-cut at the waist with square-cut tails that fell to about the back of the man’s knee. Some had velvet collars. Yum!

Morning or riding coat—the informal style, distinguished by sloping front edges and shorter, slightly rounded tails.

Most popular colors: black, brown, dark blue, olive, bottle-green, plum.

Beau Brummel favored dark blue until black became the universal color for formal wear, but I’ve also read that dark blue was a color frequently worn by men of the professional classes, so the more top-lofty nobs avoided it for its less-than-aristocratic connotations.

#208 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 01:37 AM:

Oh-- also, there's a current museum exhibit of costumes from various Austen adaptations, in Bath through the end of this year; dunno what happens to it after that, and it doesn't look as if the new P&P is represented, but still might be interesting for anyone already in the area.

#209 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 07:33 AM:

Since you brought up Beau Brummel, Julie... Ever seen the Fifties movie about him? It had Stewart Granger as Mister B, Elisabeth Taylor as the love interest, and Peter Ustinov as Prinnie. It's been years since I've watched it, but I remember that even yours truly, non-expert that he is, could see that the women's fashion was completely inaccurate. Then again, until the 1990s, that was almost always the way they did things in movies.

#210 ::: tigtog ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Serge, I don't know whether you want an overcoat/riding coat that just looks good or one that is actually practical. Driza-BoneTM makes a classic Australian oilskin riding coat, designed to keep riders warm and dry on horseback - split down the back, even legstraps so that the coat won't flap in high winds.

They've even started doing a lighter-style non-oiled-fabric version. Ooh, and a "Town and Country" coat in a wider variety of colours.

They do market in the USA and online.
I'm not on a commission here, BTW. I bought one for my Dad for his birthday a few years ago (just before we went into a drought, heh). He loves it.

They're not cheap, but the oilskins last a lifetime. Bushies (that's folk who live in the bush, not supporters of foreign presidents) in Oz swear by the Driza-Bone and Akubra hat combination.

#211 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Thanks, tigtog.

#213 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 03:50 PM:

dark blue was a color frequently worn by men of the professional classes, so the more top-lofty nobs avoided it for its less-than-aristocratic connotations

And I thought "blue collar" was a modern invention!

#214 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 08:34 PM:
Beau Brummel favored dark blue until black became the universal color for formal wear

This reminds me that I recall hearing that what caused black to become the universal color for men's formal wear was the preference for it on the part of the protagonist of one of Bulwer-Lytton's novels - supposedly the novel was popular enough to influence the fashion in this way. Anyone know if this is true?

#215 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 09:03 PM:

Dave L: what Susan said. I've had occasion to wear both; college chorus wore tails (which IIRC they've since given up), but the 30 years since has been all tux. (Except a couple of summer concerts, one in white tux-style jacket and one, a cantata of "Casey at the Bat" (yes, it was awful), in what I wear for hot-weather comfort plus a Foster's gimme cap.) cf Mike's discussion in (and the cover of) How Much for Just the Planet. And let's not talk about ruffled pastel shirts, or the toothpaste-green tux-style jacket the set designer was wearing the night we rode him out of town on a rail....

#216 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 03:33 AM:

Serge: nope, haven't seen the Beau Brummel movie; my acquaintance with sartorial cinema is not all that it could be, alas.

And I thought "blue collar" was a modern invention!: while I'm not certain when that phrase kicked in, iirc the phrase "bluestocking" does have similar origins. Let's see-- according to this side, frex, when protofeminist British women began to hold literary salons in the 18th century, some of their invited (male) speakers wore stockings made of plebeian blue wool rather than formal black silk.

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 03:35 AM:

Sartorial cinema?

#218 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 09:55 AM:

And I thought "blue collar" was a modern invention!: while I'm not certain when that phrase kicked in, iirc the phrase "bluestocking" does have similar origins. Let's see-- according to this side, frex, when protofeminist British women began to hold literary salons in the 18th century, some of their invited (male) speakers wore stockings made of plebeian blue wool rather than formal black silk.

I believe it goes further back than that. This is not something I've personally looked into or documented, but I have read that in Elizabethan times, blue (indigo?) dye was cheap and easy, so it was the color used for servants' clothes.

Now I wonder how the color and the collar got combined into the modern term. I can't for the life of me think why anyone would need/want a blue collar. Hmmm.

#219 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 10:12 AM:

Actually, I was punning. I didn't intend to spin off so much speculation!

My impression has always been that "blue collar" is a 20th century term in opposition to "white collar". I believe it arose specifically from the American small factory working environment. A factory or assembly line would have manual laborers wearing blue chambray or denim shirts (still known as "work shirts" in some contexts), while the administrative and management staff would wear white shirts with neckties.

#220 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 10:27 AM:

As far as "blue collar"--I've been told this is a reference to shirts--merchants, bankers, and office workers (think 19th/early 20th century) wore white shirts; skilled tradesmen, industrial workers, and laborers wore colored ones, which didn't show dirt as quickly--and blue was a reliable, inexpensive, fairly fast color. Think chambray*, which, like denim, used to be blue by definition, pretty much. In some cases the blue collar doesn't just refer to the shirt, but to the smock or overall worn over the other clothing. The shirt with the name on the pocket (whether the worker's or the company's) is a descendent of this tradition, and I seem to recall seeing German industrial workers wearing the blue overall (like a labcoat, only in blue, rather than what we think of as overalls) in mid-20th century documentaries about VW and such.

*Chambray is THE material for the "blue workshirt" which, before the 1960s and 1970s, really was a workshirt, and not a fashion statement. I don't know if checked flannel shirts are a mostly American variation or not.
Also, in many cases, the white shirts had separate, starched collars**, while the workman's shirts didn't--just a plain, low band collar.
Similarly, tweed was the fabric the lower classes used for their coats; it was inexpensive and immensely durable, and wouldn't become shiny with wear, while the middle classes on up went for broadcloth and such, for full suits.


**Frugal young office workers (think John D. Rockefeller Sr. before Standard Oil) could wear the shirt two or three days in a row, with a fresh, clean collar, which was almost all that showed, and save on their laundry and clothing costs.

#221 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 01:00 PM:

[i]The usual answer is: MP5, short double shotgun, and .45 or 10mm backup. Hi, Jim.[/i]

That's a long suit, indeed. And lumpy.

#222 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 10:52 AM:

Writing with utter prejudice, I have to say my favorite tuxedo comes ready-made -- on my cat! To see Emperor Horton in all his glory, click on http://www.forestcats.net/gallery.htm (second photo down).

#223 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Faren Miller:

That link doesn't work. It gets a page from Networks Solutions that says the site is under construction.

#224 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 11:49 AM:

That link doesn't work. It gets a page from Networks Solutions that says the site is under construction.

I got to it by copying and pasting the text itself rather than the link.

Handsome cat!

#225 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 11:50 AM:

I had the same problem. Type the url up and that will take you there. Faren's kitty looks like life is a living hell. Not.

#226 ::: efischer ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 11:24 AM:

Please explain why size 10 ten years ago is now size 4-6. And is you lose any more weight and become a size less than that they do not sell anything for you in major department store. You can't find size 2 and rarely size 4. Size 10 was a very average size 10 years ago. Do people who are a little thinner than that ever find clothes.

#227 ::: Rob Rusick spots tracking probe spam at #227 ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 10:33 AM:

At least, that's my best guess what it represents. Nothing human, in any case.

#228 ::: elise SEES SOMETHING SPAMLIKE ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 02:18 PM:

Is that potted meat product in your comment, bobhadze, or are you just glad to see us?

#229 ::: Mary Aileen agrees its a spam probe ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 02:38 PM:

There's no payload--the link goes to Google--but it's definitely not a real comment.

#230 ::: Lee sees something suspiciously like spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2010, 01:45 AM:

@232

#231 ::: Renatus see SPAM @ 234 ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2010, 08:15 AM:

Gonna have to try harder to match content to post and names of actual posters, bot.

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