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6s & 8s: The Size to Fit Fashion Fuss

04/07/2016 04:37pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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The hoopla over Amy Schumer's reaction to her inclusion in Glamour Magazine's so-called Plus-size issue, brings with it a reappearance of her " 6 or an 8" defense, a quip with XXL impact for the reactions it sparks. A key component of this particular debate lies not in the brilliant Ms Schumer's size claim. It is the abysmal inconsistency of the garment - and shoe - industries' size-to-fit ratios, which wind up as media fodder and online commentary fixation, where conversations quickly go south and productive discourse is stunted.

In fashion, women's in particular, size and actual fit are relative calls. To this day, consumers have to wonder: Are they random and whim-determined? Ethnically/culturally reflective? Is it psychological manipulation as sales strategy? There are retail clothing lines that flatter as they cater to westernized height and heft, then there are retail clothing lines are the ultimate ego buzz kills, sized for adults as small and slender as pre-pubescent girls. Fashion lines not only cater to but flatter outright their target demographics - out of sheer retail logic. Woe to the consumer for whom some item does not appear to be intended, who believes he or she has a right to equal shopping opportunity across the board. The question of that fairness is it's own Pandora's box and much maligned, driven in no small part by millennial entitlement awareness. Long-term success, a retail equalizer, is ultimately determined by profit, which over time sorts all things out via the reality of sales figures. Never was everything for everyone, as utopian as this is in concept.

Size by numbers, argued and defended, is here at issue: What is a 0 or a 1 in one line is a 2 or a 4 in another, is an 8 or a 10 in another. One line's Small is another line's Large. Price points help suggest which way the fit to size ratio is skewed, as does country or even continent of origin (Where all the stuff is actually manufactured is its own albatross). From one line to the next and even within a single line, size and fit inconsistency is the muck of an industry through which we all must wade. I myself range from, say a 2 to an 8, an XS to an L. No rhyme or reason.

I think Ms. Schumer needs to let go of the 6-to-8 claims. Her gift for language and its delivery should provide her with a better response - maybe it's an opportunity to point this mess out. When I hear or read her familiar quip, I have to ask: a 6 or an 8 in what? As fashion fan, writer and consumer, I as legions of us know, the number means nada. And don't get me started on the boondoggle of the fashion industry, that ubiquitous "True to Size" quip, ...

With the utter lack of an official industry standard, which by practical necessity should be global (maybe that's the crux of this issue, as international size comps are even more disparate), "True to Size", S, M, L, 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 etc remain quite meaningless. The US government once attempted standardization of women's sizing but failed, ultimately discarding the flawed system they briefly implemented. Online retailers now offer interactive sizing guides or note a fit model's height and weight, or sometimes even her measurements, but retailers still have a long way to go in disclosure relevance, if it is to be useful at all. Unless shoppers are willing to post their personal stats + the size they bought, consumer online reviews are a waste of time and page space - where one has worn the item or how much one loves the item helps not one iota. I've written on this before at HP, Trendy Wendy: Call for Relevant Online Reviews.

Ideally, there should be an industry-wide adaptation of standard sizing - not to aid vanity or shop-til-u-drop budget busting, but for the sake of earth-friendlier consumption. Repeated online and catalog shopping returns waste gas, manpower, materials (Please find ways to reuse boxes - to crush a perfectly good box is not recycling) and time. There is nothing free in all the "free" shipping and returns retailers are required to offer in order to remain competitive. If we indulge, can we find a way to do it smarter?

In the end, one could argue on the irrelevance/luxury of fashion as being not intended for any sort of equalization through standardization. Thanks to media saturation and the phenomenon of viralization, emperor's new clothes and celebrity influence create new highs in faux need and excess wants that come with very real ramifications, from compromised states of mind to the waste of cherished resources.

As our society continues to struggle with weight, size and numbers as fashion-founded self-worth tabulators that are continuously in flux and therefore subject to debate, it would be nice if the randomness of 6s and 8s were less of an issue. Perhaps we could then instead keep the focus on weight and size as it pertains to our lifestyles and health.

photo by kimann