TIME Style

The Bizarre History of Women’s Clothing Sizes

"All dresses shall consist only of cloth sufficient for the body basic and the trimming allowance. The trimming allowance for non-transparent materials shall be limited to 700 square inches for all sizes, in excess of that required for the basic," reads WPB (War Production Board) order L-85 as amended Library of Congress

A look back at the start of arbitrary sizing

In the world of women’s clothing, a 4 is a 2 is a 6. Everything is relative — unless, of course, you’re shopping in Brandy Melville’s teen-“friendly” SoHo store, where the only size is small. (“One-size” reads labels that don’t even bother with the usual “fits all” addendum.)

One of the most infuriating American pastimes occurs within the confines of a dressing room. But where do these seemingly arbitrary sizes come from? Sit down, unbutton your pants and enjoy a condensed briefing on women’s clothing measurements:

“True sizing standards didn’t develop until the 1940’s,” says Lynn Boorady, fashion and textile technology chair and associate professor at Buffalo State University. “Before then sizes for young ladies and children were all based on age — so a size 16 would be for a 16-year-old — and for women it was about bust measurement.”

Suffice it to say, assuming all 13-year-old girls and 36-in.-bust women were created equal proved problematic. “Mostly it was assumed that the women in the house would know how to sew,” Boorady says.

But consumers — and the booming catalog industry, which proliferated as Americans moved to more rural areas — were ready for change. In a 1939 article titled “No Boondoggling,” TIME explored the Department of Agriculture’s effort to standardize women’s clothes, an effort that had been inspired by the fact that U.S. manufacturers guessed it was costing them $10 million a year not to have set sizes. “Each subject — matron, maid, scrubwoman, show girl — will be [measured] in 59 different places,” the article read.

The data of 15,000 women was collected by Ruth O’Brien and William Shelton, and while the project was impressive — “especially considering they didn’t have computers to analyze the data,” Boorady says — it didn’t exactly solve the problem.

“It was flawed for many reasons,” agrees Parsons School of Fashion professor Beth Dincuff Charleston. “They didn’t really get a cross-section of American women… It was smaller than what the national average should be.”

Since the survey was done on a volunteer basis, it was largely made up of women of a lower socioeconomic status who needed the participation fee. It was also primarily white women. And the measurements still primarily relied on bust size, assuming women had an hourglass figure.

Then in the late 1940s, the Mail-Order Association of America, representing catalog businesses including Sears Roebuck, enlisted the help of the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) to reanalyze the sizing — often using the measurements of women who had served in the air force, some of the most fit people in the country — creating a 1958 standard that was largely arbitrary. Sizes ranged from 8 to 38 with height indications of tall (T), regular (R), and short (S), and a plus or minus sign when referring to girth.

There was no size zero, let alone the triple zeroes that sometimes are displayed in stores today.

As American girth increased, so did egos. And thus began the practice of vanity sizing. Over the decades, government size guidelines were heeded less and less, items of clothing began getting marked with lower numbers and eventually, in 1983, the Department of Commerce withdrew its commercial women’s clothing size standard altogether. A private organization called ASTM International began publishing its own sizing tables in 1995.

According to Slate:

In 1958, for example, a size 8 corresponded with a bust of 31 inches, a waist of 23.5 inches and a hip girth of 32.5 inches. In ASTM’s 2008 standards, a size 8 had increased by five to six inches in each of those three measurements, becoming the rough equivalent of a size 14 or 16 in 1958. We can see size inflation happening over shorter time spans as well; a size 2 in the 2011 ASTM standard falls between a 1995 standard size 4 and 6.

That means that ideals are changing too, Boorady adds: “We went from size 16 being a model in the ’40s to 12 in the ’60s. Marilyn Monroe was a 12 in the ’60s, which would now be a size 6.”

Now, stores often size based on their own preferences, which can make for frustrating online shopping experiences — modern-day catalog browsing — unless you already know your exact size.

But are we doomed to a future of sizing confusion? Maybe not. Parsons’ Dincuff Charleston notes that new technologies might be welcoming a new era of customized clothing. “Body measurements are so advanced now — with 3-D scanning, digital changing rooms — I think that people will have options for better fitting clothing,” she says. “And with 3-D printers, maybe you’ll be printing your own clothing.”

TIME relationships

Woman Spends Entire Week In KFC After Getting Dumped By Her Boyfriend

Col Harland Sanders founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken
Col. Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. John Olson—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

"I just wanted some chicken wings."

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, a woman in China realized that only one person could help her in her time of need: Colonel Sanders.

Tan Shen, 26, accidentally on-purpose spent a full week at a 24/7 KFC in Chengdu, calling in sick to work, to mourn the loss of her relationship.

“I hadn’t planned on staying there long, I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan told Yahoo. “But once I got in there and started eating I decided I needed time to think.”

But is KFC really where you’d want to spend your time of mourning? Are the chicken wings really that good?

After all, Tan herself admits that after a week, “I was getting sick of the taste of chicken, so there was no point in staying there anymore.” (That and local media started showing up to take photos).

Here are some places that might have been better week-long hideaways:

McDonald’s
Find a Play Place and start enjoying the little things in life again.

Walmart
If it’s good enough for a 9-month pregnant woman, as depicted in Where The Heart Is, it should be good enough for the lovesick.

Anthropologie
Just so aesthetically pleasing.

A make-your-own, pay-by-the-pound Fro-Yo shop
Because… cliches.

Maybe then Tan would have looked slightly more upbeat:

TIME

Here Are The Strange Things Dudes Are Asking on Lulu’s New Messaging Service

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Getty Images

The once women-only app is doing some serious male outreach

Lulu — an app that allows women to rate men as if they were consumer goods, including hashtags ranging from the good (#SelfMadeMan) to the gross (#PornEducated) — has now opened up the lines of communication between female and male users. After three weeks of beta testing, the two-year-old app launched its Truth Bombs feature Wednesday, which allows men to anonymously ask women questions. This feedback just might be what they need to raise their Yelp-like score.

“This is the first time we are doing any messaging,” said Lulu co-founder Alison Schwartz. “How it works is guys can ask an anonymous question or test out a theory they want to test out with women, some sort of query, and then they get instant feedback from millions of girls.”

The new feature pointedly marks the evolving relationship Lulu has with its million-plus male users. When the app launched in Feb. 2013, it was advertised as a secret, ladies-only space to swap information about former male relations. Bros stole glances at female friends’ phones and attempted hacks to see how they were doing. After a slew of Internet backlash (and anti-Lulu petitions) deriding the app for inciting bullying and gender-based double standards, Lulu made the experience more male-friendly in 2014 by having a policy where men had to opt-in and give their full permission to be reviewed. In May, the male-outreach went a step further and Lulu allowed men to check their scores, giving them tips and affirmations. (“Girls love your kissing.”)

And now, men can go straight to the source and ask women questions. But what have the men been asking? During the beta test, these were the most popular questions verbatim (there are some pretty bad typos), some of which led to 2,500 responses, although most questions average 15 replies:

  1. How many guys have you slept with and how old are you… GO !
  2. What age did you loose your virginity?
  3. Do women like abs or arms more?
  4. How frequently do girls masterbate?
  5. Do girls find it attractive if a guy claims p***y is being thrown at him left and right?

Um, woah. Some of these misspelled questions about “loosing” virginity (“Freudian slip?” asked Scwhartz) are just the type of sophomoric musings you’d expect from a dude who gets to anonymously crowdsource information from anonymous women. But when asked how the women were responding to the questions, Schwartz said, “They are meaningfully answering what the guys are asking about. They are trying to be really helpful.”

And there are moderation protocols — “we have designed a product against bullying,” said Scwhartz — to keep things clean, relatively. Although of the 60,000 Truth Bombs that were asked during the three week beta test, averaging some 100 Truth Bombs an hour, only 800 were flagged.

For now, the messaging option is all anonymous and each thread is limited to one guy (the one who posed the question) and millions of female users. Although other men can view the threads, they can’t participate in the conversation.

“But we see on the app that there’s interested in moving to a one girl one guy dynamic,” said Schwartz. Could the next step in Lulu be one-on-one communication, perhaps enabling dating? “Anything is possible, but we would do that in a way that this is very true to Lulu.”

See Also:

This Map Shows What Guys Are Like in Each Major City

Rate The Date Online: Lulu App Lets Women Review Hookups

TIME feminism

Annie Lennox: ‘Twerking Is Not Feminism’

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show
Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards Kevin Mazur—2013 Kevin Mazur

The artist explained why she doesn't subscribe to Beyoncé's brand of feminism

After making headlines for asserting that Beyoncé represents feminism “light” last month, singer Annie Lennox expanded on that during an interview with NPR published Tuesday to promote her new album Nostalgia.

“Listen,” Lennox told Steve Inskeep, “Twerking is not feminism. Thats what I’m referring to. It’s not, it’s not liberating, it’s not empowering. It’s a sexual thing that you’re doing on a stage; it doesn’t empower you. That’s my feeling about it.”

Lennox clarified that her comment about “feminist light” figures weren’t directed specifically towards Beyoncé, but rather all sexualized female performers.

“The reason why I’ve commented is because I think that this overt sexuality thrust, literally, at particular audiences, when very often performers have a very, very young audience, like seven years [old], I find it disturbing and I think its exploitative, and it’s troubling,” she said. “I’m coming from a perspective of a woman that’s had children.”

You can listen to the whole interview below:

TIME viral

New York Subway Performers Rally for Arrested Musician

The video has almost been viewed 500,000 times

Buskers in New York City planned a demonstration Tuesday on behalf of a fellow subway performer whose arrest for serenading commuters was recorded by protesting bystanders and turned into a viral video, the AP reports.

Adam Kalleen was arrested in an underground station in Brooklyn Friday after he refused a police offer’s request to put down the guitar and go. While the officer said that the 30-year-old needed permission to play, Kalleen and on-lookers said that the MTA does not issue permits.

The video, which has been viewed almost half a million times on YouTube, shows people protesting Kalleen’s arrest for loitering. “You don’t have something better to do? There are people breaking real laws,” someone shouts.

The fedora-wearing busker can be seen singing Neil Young’s “Ohio,” a song written in 1970 by Neil Young about the Kent State shootings, to the chants “F*** the police” from the crowd.

The MTA guidelines state that “artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations” are permitted, although that does appear to conflict with state law that prohibits subway station loitering “for the purpose of soliciting or engaging in business.” Busker advocacy organizations exist to fight for street performers’ rights.

An NYPD spokesperson told the AP that the department is looking into the arrest.

[AP]

TIME Rwanda

Rwanda Now Screening Travelers From The U.S. And Spain for Ebola

A New Jersey elementary school recently barred entry to two transfer students from the Ebola-free country

As mass panic over Ebola sweeps over the globe, resulting in widespread stigmatization of travelers to and from Africa, one Ebola-free East African nation is stepping up its precautionary approach toward people traveling to or from America and Europe.

Rwanda Tuesday began screening people who have been in the U.S. or Spain in the last two weeks. A handful of patients have been diagnosed with Ebola in both countries. Rwanda is already denying entry to visitors who have been in Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, or Sierra Leone in the last 22 days.

Coincidence or not, Rwanda’s new policy clips on the heels of a New Jersey elementary school that barred entry to two transfer students from Rwanda, even though the country is 2,600 miles from the closest Ebola-afflicted country.

Rwanda’s protocol is laid out on the U.S. Embassy’s website.

TIME apps

Tinder Thinks You’ll Pay to Find a Match. Swipe Right?

Does this mean there will be less bathroom mirror selfies?

Money can’t buy love, but it might be able to buy you a better Tinder date.

The free, location-based mobile dating app, which allows users to swipe right in hopes of finding a match and left to pass, will begin offering “a few premium features” come November, CEO and co-founder Sean Rad recently said at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.

Rad didn’t provide many details, Forbes reported from the event in Philadelphia, but said the new features are ones that “users have been begging us for” and “will offer so much value we think users are willing to pay for them.”

Does this mean less bathroom mirror selfies? Probably not. But Rad hinted that the pay-for-play features might focus on opening up location restrictions, allowing people to make connections while they’re traveling to new places. He also said the “premium” options will cater to areas outside of romance, like “local recommendations when traveling, trying to make friends, doing business.”

“Revenue has always been on the road map,” he added.

But don’t worry, you can still swipe for free while procrastinating at work: “The core offering will always remain free,” Rad said. “At least that’s the plan.”

Watch the full interview below:

TIME animals

Scientists Trace Back the First Sexual Act Ever, to Weird Ancient Fish

Ancient fish were the first to copulate. And according to a world renowned paleontologist, it looked a lot like square dancing

Scientists have discovered the origins of sex, and like anyone’s first time it sounds pretty awkward.

Now light some candles and let’s set the scene: The first act of copulation occurred in the nippy Scottish sea some 385 million years ago. The fornicators in question were a set of primitive jawed, bony fish aptly called Microbrachius dicki. The dirty details? Well, according to Australian paleontologist John Long, “With their arms interlocked, these fish looked more like they are square dancing the do-se-do rather than mating.”

Not only had scientists previously thought that the first sex act occurred on land at a later date, but Long says, “We didn’t expect these little suckers to have reproductive organs.”

But the M. Dicki were endowed, as is explained by Long and his colleagues in a paper that was published in Nature Monday. Although their genitalia are not described in romantic terms.

Long, a professor at Flinders University, explained to the BBC that the fish’s arms linked them together, “so the male can get this large L-shaped sexual organ into position to dock with the female’s genital plates, which are very rough like cheese graters. They act like Velcro, locking the male organ into position to transfer sperm.”

This is also the first species that displayed a different appearance between the male and female.

TIME celebrities

You Can Now Grope Benedict Cumberbatch’s Waxy Figure at Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds Unveil New Wax Figure Of Benedict Cumberbatch
The unveiling of the new wax figure of Benedict Cumberbatch at Madame Tussauds Fred Duval—FilmMagic

"What a weird and wonderful compliment," said the Sherlock and Imitation Game star

Benedict Cumberbatch’s beautiful, waxy figure debuted at Madame Tussauds London on Tuesday, and we have to admit that we’re a little concerned. After all, less than a year ago, Justin Bieber’s replication went into early retirement due to excessive groping — and with Cumberbatch’s die-hard following, it’s easy to assume that the Sherlock and Imitation Game star could suffer a similar fate.

Cumberbatch himself, however, appeared unconcerned about melting, and was instead excited at the prospect of finally being able to photobomb himself.

“What a weird and wonderful compliment… I’ve been accused of being wooden in my work but never waxy!” he said in a statement. “Also my agents will be thrilled, they’ve wanted a clone of me for some time!”

We just hope that, given Madame Tussauds’ open-door policy allowing visitors to “get up, close and personal… in a fully interactive experience” that the Cumberbabes will be more gentle than those fiesty Beliebers were.

TIME Arts

Hundreds Protest Met’s New Opera for ‘Romanticizing Terrorism’

Protestors Hold Vigil, Rally Condemning "Klinghoffer" Opera Outside Lincoln Center
A protestor holds up a sign outside the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on opening night of the opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer" on October 20, 2014 in New York City. The opera, by John Adams, depicts the death of Leon Klinghoffer, a Jewish cruise passenger from New York, who was killed and dumped overboard during a 1985 hijacking of an Italian cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists. Bryan Thomas—Getty Images

"The Death of Klinghoffer'' is about the murder of a disabled Jewish man by Palestinian extremists

The Metropolitan Opera House’s opening night of 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer received a standing ovation in New York City Monday. But the noise made by crowds outside of Lincoln Center before the curtain rose may have rivaled the cheers inside the opera house.

Hundreds of protesters, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, railed against the John Adams opera about the 1985 murder of disabled cruise passenger Leon Klinghoffer by four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front, on charges that it is anti-Semitic and glorifies terrorists who shot a 69-year-old Jewish man in his wheelchair and then pushed him overboard.

“If you listen, you will see that the emotional context of the opera truly romanticizes terrorism,” Giuliani told crowds across the street from Lincoln Center. “And romanticizing terrorism has only made it a greater threat.”

The Met disagreed that the opera, which premiered in Brussels more than 20 years ago, glorifies terrorism.

“There’s no doubt for anyone who sees this opera that… it’s not anti-Semitic,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, told the BBC. “It does not glorify terrorism in any way. It is a brilliant work of art that must be performed… At the end of the day, anyone with any sense of moral understanding knows this opera is about the murder of an innocent man.”

The AP reports that there were a some orchestrated disruptions, including shouts of, “The murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgotten!” from the balcony, during the show, though the heckling was muffled by cheers when the cast took a bow.

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