Have you ever wondered why clothing boutiques and department stores have fitting rooms? It is actually more of a necessity than a luxury. Sizing is so unpredictable that retailers look for every opportunity to prevent returns. Fitting rooms are quite useful to that goal.

As long as we are talking about fitting rooms, it is important to recognize them as a place in which customers – primarily female customers – come to realize that sizing doesn’t mean much. Just because one item is a size 8 does not mean it will fit in the same way another item of the same size does. That size 8 might be perfect for one brand but too small for another.

Yes indeed, sizing drives many a shopper crazy. And yet, what we consider standard sizing today is miles ahead of the standards of decades past. An interesting article published by the Globe and Mail in July, 2020 lays it all out.

When Clothes Were Handmade

Sizing is a relatively new thing in retail clothing and high fashion. Back in the days before mass production, clothing was made by hand. As such, everything was individually tailored. Measurements were taken before garments were made to ensure a proper fit.

Even people who purchased clothing from tailors rather than making it themselves were fitted first. That all changed with the introduction of the sewing machine and the subsequent introduction of mass production for retail.

Mass-producing clothing eliminated the ability to take individual measurements. So manufacturers had to come up with a standard sizing format. The problem was that they couldn’t agree. Not only did manufacturers size the same types of items differently, they also worked with different standards even among their own customers.

Whatever Works for You

The early days of retail sizing was pretty much a ‘whatever works for you’ scenario. According to the Globe and Mail, it wasn’t abnormal for manufacturers to size children’s clothing according to age. That didn’t work for the obvious fact that children are not all the same size and shape at the same age.

Likewise, some manufacturers sized women’s clothing according to bust size. Others relied on the hips. Men’s clothing was sized by waist and/or shoulders, though sometimes neck diameter was considered as well.

The point is that there were few genuine standards. Government tried to fix things in the late 1930s and ’40s, but their efforts weren’t all that successful. Some 80 years later we still have trouble pointing to any single sizing standard that works for both sexes, all ages, and across all styles of clothing.

Technology to the Rescue

It appears as though truly standard sizing will never be possible thanks to the inconsistencies among human bodies. But there is a solution, and it is found in technology. According to The Stockist in Salt Lake City, Utah, sizing is now being addressed by way of virtual technologies that utilize intelligent software and video images to help customers figure out the best sizes.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the virtual fitting room. Virtual fitting rooms can be deployed in brick-and-mortar boutiques or online. In both cases, they work the same. Computer software uses either a photograph or a live scan of the customer to analyze size, weight, and body shape. Then, depending on the clothing items the customer chooses, software can render an image of what said garments will look like and recommend the proper size to choose.

There may finally be a solution to the sizing problem. Even if technology gets at half right, the results would be better than what we would otherwise do: take a stab in the dark.