Full-Body Scanners…at your local mall

(Reposted from the New York Times at Sociological Images)

My grandmother worked in a clothing factory a few decades ago, and she always told me how little size tags actually mattered – if you were supposed to sew 20 pairs of size 10 pants and you had only so much fabric and so much time, by the end of the day the tags got put on whatever size pants you’ve made.

On a side note, she also told me that when thongs first came out that they were easy to steal since they were so tiny.  Her boss figured this out pretty quickly on in the production process as barely any thongs made it to the end of the assembly line.  Factory workers were then prevented from wearing long sleeves.

But, alas, I have always thought about the tired factory worker with only size 10 tags every time I go shopping for clothes.  And whether you shop fair-trade or not, sizes vary across brands and even within brands.

Have you ever carried the same pair of pants in three different sizes into the dressing room, wondering which one will fit today?  I sure as hell have.

According to the New York Times, companies have finally begun tackling the problem of unreliable sizes and “vanity sizing”:

Some are pushing more informative labels. Some are designing multiple versions of a garment to fit different body shapes. And one is offering full-body scans at shopping malls, telling a shopper what sizes she should try among the various brands.

NYT writer Stephanie Clifford reports that the company My Best Fit has designed a full-body scanner that can provide you with a shopping guide of your sizes from different stores:

The customer steps into a circular booth, fully dressed. A wand rotates around her, emitting low-power radio waves that record about 200,000 body measurements, figuring out things like thigh circumference.

Next, the system matches the customer’s measurements to clothes in its database. MyBestFit currently measures clothes from about 50 stores, including Old Navy, Eddie Bauer and Talbots.

Customers then receive a printout of the sizes at each store that ought to fit the customer best.

The retailers pay a fee when they appear in the results, but they cannot pay to be included in the results; the rankings are based solely on fit.

This chart demonstrates how a size 8 can vary from store to store:

Although the article didn’t mention variations in men’s sizes, Sociological Images was quick to point out that men’s clothing suffered from size inflation as well.

Ok, great.  So we have proof of the Loch Ness Monster – we know we’re being duped into buying smaller and smaller sizes.

Will this revelation convince men and women that body shape can’t be summed up in a number?

Will full-body scanners teach young men and women who suffer from poor self-esteem that all bodies are different, and that absolute conformity is impossible?

Or will this just teach adults and children to memorize what clothing stores have the smallest sizes?

If I ever have a child, I’m really tempted to cut out the tags of all clothing they wear until they start buying their own.  As revealed by this post, sizes are apparently more than even adults can bear.

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