US standard clothing size

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US standard clothing sizes for women were originally developed from statistical data in the 1940s–1950s. At that time, they were similar in concept to the EN 13402 European clothing size standard, although individual manufacturers have always deviated from them, sometimes significantly.

However, as a result of various cultural pressures, most notably vanity sizing, North American clothing sizes have drifted substantially away from this standard over time, and now have very little connection to it. Instead, they now follow the more loosely defined standards known as US catalog sizes.

Body measurements below are given in inches.

History[edit]

Men's standard sizes were probably developed first during the American Revolutionary War, and they were in regular use by the American army during the War of 1812 for ready-made uniforms (Felsenthal 2012). These were based on the chest measurement, with other measurements being assumed to be either proportional (the circumference of the neck, waist, hips, and thighs) or easily altered (length of the inseam) (Felsenthal 2012).

As this was largely successful in men, the same approach was attempted in the early 20th century for women using the bust as the sole measurement (Felsenthal 2012). However, this proved unsuccessful because women's bodies have far more variety in shape. The hourglass figure is frequently used as an industry standard, but only 8% of women have this body shape (Felsenthal 2012). A woman with an hourglass figure and a woman with an apple-shaped figure who have the same bust size will not have the same waist or hip sizes.

This was a significant problem for mail-order companies, and several attempts at predictable, standard sizing were made (Felsenthal 2012). In the 1940s, the statisticians Ruth O'Brien and William Shelton received a Works Progress Administration grant to conduct the most ambitious effort to solve this problem. Their team measured almost 15,000 women across the US. After discovering the complex diversity of women's actual sizes, which produced five to seven different body shapes, they proposed a three-part sizing system. Each size would be the combination of a single number, representing an upper body measurement, plus an indicator for height (short, regular, and long) and an indication for girth (slim, regular, and stout). The various combinations of height and girth resulted in nine different sizes for each numerical upper-body measurement, which was highly impractical for manufacturing (Felsenthal 2012).

As a result, O'Brien and Shelton's work was rejected. In 1958, the National Bureau of Standards invented a new sizing system, based on the hourglass figure and using only the bust size to create an arbitrary standard of sizes ranging from 8 to 38, with an indication for height (short, regular, and tall) and lower-body girth (plus or minus). The resulting commercial standard was not widely popular, and was declared voluntary in 1970 and withdrawn entirely in 1983. In 1995, ASTM International published its own voluntary standard, which has been revised since then (Felsenthal 2012). It has not been widely adopted.

Women's sizes[edit]

Women’s sizes are divided into various types, depending on height. These charts give an indication of size only and are by no means exact as they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, sometimes by a full inch up and down.

Overview[edit]

There are multiple size types, designed to fit somewhat different body shapes. Variations include the height of the person's torso (known as back length), whether the bust, waist, and hips are straighter (characteristic of teenagers) or curvier (like many adult women), and whether the bust is higher or lower (characteristic of younger and older women, respectively). These categories include:

Misses sizes
The most common size category. For women of about average height (5'4") with an average bust height and an hourglass figure. Dress sizes may be given as girth at the bust in inches (e.g., 36), but even-numbered sizes from 2 to 16 are more common. Categorical sizes range from XS (extra-small) to XL (extra-large).
Junior sizes
For short women with higher busts and fairly straight bodies. Junior sizes are commonly given as odd-numbered sizes from 1 to 15, which correspond to the next number up in misses' sizes.
Women's sizes or plus sizes
For larger, curvier women of average height, sometimes with lower bust lines. Like misses' sizes, the sizes may be given as a dress size based on the bust measurement, but they are usually given as even-numbered sizes from 18 up. Categorical sizes usually range from 1X (similar to extra-large, but with slightly different proportions compared to the misses' size) up.
Misses petite
For short women with average busts and more hourglass body shapes. Sizes follow the misses' standard and are marked with a P, as in 10P.
Junior petite
For very short women with average busts and fairly straight bodies. Size may be denoted as "5JP" or as "5P".
Women's petite
For larger, curvier, shorter women, sometimes with lower bust lines. Sizes are marked the same as women's with a P, as in 20P.
Young junior
For short women with high busts and fairly straight bodies.
Tall sizes
For taller women (usually 5'8" or above), usually with a proportionately average bust height and an hourglass figure. Sizes are usually written with the corresponding misses' size and a T to indicate tall, as in "10T".
Half sizes
For short women with lower busts and more hourglass body shapes. Sizes are written with a ½, as in "10½".

Details[edit]

Please compare to your favorite fit charts. These measurements conflict with many other size charts.

Misses’ sizes
5'5"–5'9" (165–175 cm) tall, average bust, average back
Dimension/size6-810121416182022
Bust32-343434353637½3940½
Waist22-24½25½26½27½28½3031½33
Hip33-35½36½37½38½39½4142½44
Back-waist length14½14¾15½15¾1616¼16½16¾

[citation needed]

Miss petite sizes
5'1"–5'3" (157.5–160 cm) tall, average bust, shorter back
Dimension/size6-8mp10mp12mp14mp16mp18mp20mp22mp
Bust32-343434353637½3940½
Waist21-23½24½25½26½27½2930½32
Hip34-35½36½37½38½39½4142½44
Back-waist length1414½14½14¾1515¼15½15¾

[citation needed]

Junior sizes
5'4"–5'5" (162.5–165 cm) tall, higher bust, shorter back
Dimension/size579111315171921
Bust303132333435363738
Waist222324252627282930
Hips323334353637383940
Back-waist length13.751414.2514.514.751515.2515.515.75

[citation needed]

Junior petite sizes
5'1" (155 cm) tall, average bust, shorter back
Dimension/size3jp5jp7jp9jp11jp13jp
Bust30.53132333435
Waist22.52324252627
Hip31.53233343536
Back-waist length1414.2514.514.751515.25

[citation needed]

Young junior sizes
5'1"–5'3" (155–160 cm) tall, higher bust, shorter back
Dimension/size5/67/89/1011/1213/1415/16
Bust282930.53233.535
Waist222324252627
Hip313233.53536.538
Back-waist length13.51414.51515.516

[citation needed]

Women’s sizes
5'5"–5'6" (165–168 cm) tall, average bust, average back
Dimension/size343638404244464850
Bust384042444648505254
Waist30323435.537.539.541.543.545.5
Hip394143464850525456
Back-waist length17¼17⅜17½17⅝17¾17⅞18

[citation needed]

Half-sizes
5'2"–5'3" (157.5–160 cm) tall, lower bust, shorter back
Dimension/size10½12½14½16½18½20½22½24½
Bust3335373941434547
Waist272931333537½4042½
Hip353739414345½4850½
Back-waist length1515¼15½15¾15⅞1616⅛16¼

[citation needed]

Men's sizes[edit]

Men’s sizes
Dimension/size
38404244
Chest3436384142444648
Waist2830323436384042
Seat/Hips3335373941434547
Shirt sleeve3233333434353536
Inseam3031323234343436

[citation needed]

Girls' sizes[edit]

Girls' sizes
Dimension/size7810121416
Chest25.52628303234
Waist22.52324252627
Hip26.52729313335
Height525457606467

[citation needed]

Boys' sizes[edit]

Boys' sizes
Dimension/size78101214182022
Chest262728303233½3540
Waist2324252627282930
Hip272829½3132½3435½37
Neckband11¾1212½1313½1414½15
Height4850545861646668

[citation needed]

Children's sizes[edit]

Children's sizes
Dimension/size1234566X
Chest18.52020.521.52223
Waist1718.5192020.52121.5
Hip19202122232424½
Height31343740434648
Back-waist length91010½10¾
Finished dress length17181920222425

[citation needed]

Baby sizes[edit]

Infant sizes
Dimension/sizeNB0-3 mo3-6 mo6-9 mo9-12 mo18 mo24 mo
Weight5–8 lb8–12½ lb12½–16½ lb16½-20½20½–24½ lb24½–27½ lb27½–30 lb
Heightless than 21½ in21½–24 in24–26½ in26½–28½ in28½–30½ in30½–32½ in32½–34 in.

[citation needed]

Toddlers' sizes
Dimension/size1/21234
Chest18.51919.52020.5
Waist1717.51819.520
Height2831343740
Finished dress length1415161718

[citation needed]

Conversion from catalog sizes[edit]

Companies who publish catalogs may provide the measurements for their sizes, which may vary even among different styles of the same type of garment. The sizes seen in catalogs generally have roughly the following measurements:

Catalog misses' sizes: 5'5"-5'6" (165–168 cm) tall, average bust, average back
Dimension/size468101214161820
Closest standard size10121416182022
Est. height5'4" (162.5 cm)5'4" (162.5 cm)5'4.5" (164 cm)5'5" (165 cm)5'4" (162.5 cm)5'6.5" (169 cm)5'6" (168 cm)5'6" (168 cm)5'6.5" (169 cm)
Est. weight lb (kg)115 (52)125 (57)135 (61)145 (66)155 (70)165 (75)175 (79)180 (81.5)195 (88.5)
Bust3435363738.54041.54344.5
Waist2526272829.53132.53435.5
Hip35.536.537.538.54041.54344.546

[citation needed]

Catalog women's petite (half-sizes): 5'1/2"-5'4" (153-162.5 cm) tall, lower bust, shorter back
Dimension/size18W20W22W24W26W
Closest standard size12½14½16½18½20½22½24½26½28½
Est. height5' 1/2" (153 cm)5'1" (155 cm)5'1.5" (156 cm)5'2" (157.5 cm)5'2.5" (159 cm)5'3" (160 cm)5'3" (160 cm)5'3.5" (161 cm)5'4" (162.5 cm)
Est. weight lb (kg)125 (57)140 (63.5)155 (70)170 (77)180 (81.5)190 (86)215 (97.5)225 (102)235 (106.5)
Bust3638404243.545.547.549.551.5
Waist283032343537394143
Hip3840424445.547.549.55253.5

[citation needed]

Catalog women's sizes: 5'5"-5'6.5" (165–169 cm) tall, average bust, average back
Dimension/size
Closest standard size343638404244464850
Est. height5'5" (165 cm)5'5.5" (166 cm)5'6" (168 cm)5'6" (168 cm)5'6.5" (169 cm)5'6.5" (169 cm)5'6.5" (169 cm)5'6.5" (169 cm)5'6.5" (169 cm)
Est. weight lb (kg)145 (66)160 (72.5)175 (79)190 (86)205 (93)220 (100)235 (106.5)250 (113)265 (120)
Bust384042444648505254
Waist30323435.537.539.541.543.545.5
Hip394143464850525456

[citation needed]

With the average American woman's height (20 years and older) at about 63.8" or approximately 5'4" (162.1 cm) (Department of Health 2012), both standard and catalog size ranges attempt to address a variety of weights / builds as well as providing for the "shorter-than-average" height woman with "petite" and "half-sizes". However "taller-than-average" women may find their size-height addressed by manufacturers less frequently, and may often find themselves facing issues of slightly too short pant legs and sleeve cuffs, as well as waist lengths.

See also[edit]

References[edit]