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This page was published on 07/04/2009
Published: 07/04/2009

   Industrial research

Published: 7 April 2009  
Related category(ies):
Science in society  |  Industrial research  |  Science & business


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Buying clothes? Try them on first!

Shoppers know exactly what they're doing when they carry an armload of clothes into dressing rooms. Sizes vary between clothes, and small, medium and large are no longer what they used to be, according to a report titled 'Large? Clothing sizes and size labeling'. Researchers from Finland, Norway and Sweden evaluated how effective and informative the sizing systems are today.

Clothes sizes: what you get isn't always what you need © Shutterstock
Clothes sizes: what you get isn't always what you need
© Shutterstock

Based on a consumer survey, trouser measurements in three Nordic states and in-depth interviews in Norway, the report looked at two things: the relationship between clothing sizes and the actual clothing measurements; as well as consumers' views on and experiences of this.

The sizing systems in place today are confusing for many, according to the researchers. Their feelings are given credence when the measurements of the trousers are found to be different between and within clothing sizes. In some cases, the researchers found that trousers labelled as size 'large' are actually smaller than trousers labelled as size 'small'. It should also be noted that sizes in women's trousers vary more when compared with men's trousers.

Meanwhile, the report found that there are few systematic variations between sizes and size labelling that can be referred to: the country of origin of the brand of clothing; the country where it was manufactured; or general differences between Finland, Norway and Sweden. The report noted, however, that trousers found in shops targeting young women are slightly smaller than those found in shops for adult women.

At present, the labelling systems for clothing sizes vary in means and use. With an eye on this issue, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) has plans to develop a new common standard for size labelling of clothes. CEN believes that standards will facilitate consumers' lives worldwide and that every aspect of society should be reflected on in the drafting of a new standard.

According to the researchers, consumers feel that the existing labelling system is adequate but they also see a common labelling standard in a positive light. Consumers will have an easier time finding clothes that fit and make fewer bad purchases if their understanding and knowledge about the link between the body, clothes and size labelling are strengthened. The researchers underlined that this improved knowledge would contribute to the discussions on body weight and body ideals.

The report was written by researchers at the Norwegian National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), and was translated and disseminated by representatives of the National Consumer Research Centre (Finland) and the Center for Consumer Science at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden).

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European Committee for Standardisation
University of Gothenburg

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