Trying on new clothes can sometimes be an incredibly negative experience – made all the worse by the fact that sizes seem to vary so wildly between different brands, different designs… and even different versions of the same style.
While a person may be a size 12 in one store, they may be swimming the same size elsewhere, and vice versa.
Now an author has discovered the real reason behind the different proportions on female garments, claiming that the frustrating fashion inconsistencies can all be traced back to a “racist” eugenics experiment that took place in the 1930s.
US-based Heather Radke, who recently released a book on body image called Butts, a Backstory, explained that clothing sizes often fluctuate between stores thanks to one woman – who insisted on using only white people during a study she conducted on body image measurements almost 100 years ago.
In the 1930s, a problem of inconsistent sizing had plagued the country. Insider reported that women often returned items to stores because they didn’t fit, leading many of them to choose to make their own garments.
Have you ever noticed that the sizes of women’s clothing are not consistent from store to store? Well, an author has discovered the real reason behind the different ratios (stock image)
Heather Radke, who released a book on body image called Butts, a Backstory, explained that dress sizes fluctuate between stores thanks to a ‘racist’ eugenics experiment from the 1930s
In an effort to create a “standard dress size” in the 1930s, Ruth O’Brien (seen), head of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Textiles and Clothing Division, conducted the experiment
In an attempt to solve this, Ruth O’Brien, chief of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Department of Textiles and Apparel, developed a “standard size for commercially sold clothing.”
She partnered with the Works Progress Administration—an agency established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935—and visited thousands of American households to measure women.
However, according to Radke, the results were biased because O’Brien only collected data from white women during the study.
In her book, Radke denounced “enthusiastic eugenicist” O’Brien, who she said was “motivated by a desire to effectively eradicate inadequately white, disabled, and queer people.”
‘[She was] openly trying to create a race of perfectly normal Americans, equating full citizenship with having this decisively average, but arguably unattainable body,” she wrote in her book, according to Insider.
“By codifying normal, they also codify abnormal, which is always the implicit project of creating an ideal.”
O’Brien ended up creating 27 bars based on her findings — but because of her lack of involvement in the experiment, the results were largely skewed.
According to Radke (pictured), the results were largely biased because O’Brien only collected data from white women during the study
In her book, she denounced “enthusiastic eugenicist” O’Brien, who she said was “motivated by a desire to effectively eradicate inadequately white, disabled, and queer people.”
Then, in 1943, gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson and artist Abram Belskie (seen) used O’Brien’s findings to create life-size plaster casts of a man and woman.
“Her story shows how difficult it is to create a standard sizing system for women’s clothing, and how ingrained racism and eugenics were in American life in the 1930s and 1940s,” Radke told Insider.
Then, in 1943, gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson and artist Abram Belskie teamed up to create life-sized plaster casts of a man and a woman, depicting the average height of Americans.
They made the mannequins, called Normman and Norma, hoping stores would use them to standardize dress sizes — but in reality, it did the exact opposite for women.
While creating the male image, Dickinson and Belskie were able to come up with a realistic average size thanks to an excess of information gathered by the military.
According to Insider, men had to get their measurements taken when they joined the military, so “there was a ton of data from both World War I and World War II.”
But when it came to creating the female sculpture, they had a much harder time deciding on the proportions.
They decided to use the results of O’Brien’s research to create Norma – the only problem was that only a certain body type had participated in her experiment.
They made the mannequins, called Normman and Norma, hoping that stores would use them to standardize clothing sizes – but in reality it did the exact opposite for women
Radke explained that many brands have now started customizing their sizes based on their own customers, making almost every store different
For years, Normman and Norma were used by stores to determine size, but as time went on, brands began to realize that the female image was not an accurate representation of a woman’s body – and many began to change their size based on their own customers .
“What happened over time is that [brands] have adjusted their size to show who they believe is their core customer,” Jessica Murphy, co-founder of a platform called True Fit, which focuses on helping shoppers find the right size, told me. Today show earlier.
“That’s why we have so much inconsistency. If you have a brand targeting a 60-year-old customer, their size medium will be representative of their demographic.
“If you compare that to a brand serving a tween or teen customer, their size medium will look very different.”
Radke, who said she suffered from body issues herself because she “couldn’t find clothes that fit her well,” explained that there will probably never be a standard size of women’s clothing due to the “wide variety of bodies.”
“It’s just too expensive for clothing manufacturers to make enough sizes for the wide variety of human bodies,” she told Insider.
“This can be profound because it can help you feel less like there’s something wrong with your body when you can’t find clothes that fit.” It’s not your body that’s wrong. It’s the clothes.
“I had always felt like there was something wrong with my body because I often couldn’t find clothes that fit me well, but when I learned about the history of sizing and the way sizing works today, I realized that clothes are actually isn’t. designed to fit.
‘They can’t be. There are simply too many variables in the human body for clothes to fit well for most people.’