Dress Size in America

A Size 12 Dress Pattern in the 1940s ~ A Size 8 Today

We've been vaguely aware of it for years: dress sizes are getting ever more generous.  Your brain is pretty sure you're a size 10, but then you're shopping and lo and behold a "size 6" suddenly fits you.  Flattered, your brain now finds this "smaller" item of clothing much more appealing. The clothing industry is well aware of this and, as a result, dress sizes have been creeping up ever larger for years.  I recently came across the wikipedia article for dress size and found it fascinating.  These charts were standardized in the 1940s and 1950s before the US had a serious weight problem.  Back then the percentage of overweight Americans was about 10 to 12%; now it's over two-thirds! Today's average American woman is a size 14, about 5'3", 165 pounds, and has a 40" bust, 31" waist and 41.5" hips.   That equates to a size 18 back in the '40s.  Yikes! To give you another point of view, Marilyn Monroe's measurements, according to her dressmaker, were 37-23-36, which would be roughly a size 8 for today's sizing charts.  She'd be too "fat" for Hollywood now. How do you feel about dress sizes today?  Are we doing ourselves any favors by allowing the numbers to creep lower and lower?  And how soon until a -2 appears on the racks? Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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3 Responses to Dress Size in America

  1. angela November 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    As messed up as the dress sizes are, what I’d really like to see is womens’ pants by waist size wit a variety of different inseams, like mens’ pants have been sized FOREVER. Because jeans are sized just as ridiculously as the dresses.

  2. Norah October 16, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    It’s weird that, as our average weight keeps going up, what’s considered “too fat” keeps going down.

  3. Lisa Johnson October 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    It is Norah isn’t it? We make it harder and harder on ourselves, definitely a twisted American neurosis … L–

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