Were You There When the Berlin Wall Came Down? TIME Wants Your Photos

Fall of the Wall 1989
Citizens of West Berlin hand a pot of coffee to GDR border forces on the Berlin Wall on Nov. 11, 1989. dpa / picture-alliance/ AP Images

TIME is preparing a gallery of Berlin on and around Nov. 9, 1989

Photographs of the fall of the Berlin Wall have become iconic since that night 25 years ago. Full of sledgehammers and smiles, the pictures have shaped our collective memory of how the wall came down.

On the historic night of Nov. 9, 1989, immense crowds gathered to celebrate — and that moment is recent enough that many of the people who were there probably had cameras. That’s why we’re asking TIME readers to give their old photos another look.

If you find anything good, we’d love to see it: TIME is preparing a gallery to mark the anniversary and we want to include the potentially historic images that may still be languishing in family albums and shoe boxes — of Berlin in the days directly before and after the wall fell, or better yet on the night that the freedom to pass from East to West was first announced.

To have your photos considered, just post them on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #TIMEBerlinWall. Please also include a caption with your name and a little information about where and when the picture was taken.

Please note: When you tag your photos #TIMEBerlinWall, you are giving us and our partners permission to use them. (The photo you submit must be taken by you. By submitting it, you acknowledge that use of the photo will not violate anyone’s rights.)

TIME Business

Unpeeling the Controversial History of Bananas

Chiquita Bananas
Chiquita Brands International Inc. bananas are displayed at a store in San Francisco on Feb. 19, 2013. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg / Getty Images

That's a controversial fruit you're eating there

On Friday, shareholders for banana empire Chiquita will vote on a merger with European fruit distributor Fyffes, a decision that would create the world’s largest banana-selling company, to be headquartered in Ireland. Not because bananas grow plentifully in County Cork or the hills of Connemara, or because bananas are replacing potatoes anytime soon. It’s more likely because Ireland has among the lowest corporate tax rates in the banana-eating world.

Chiquita’s shareholders are deciding on a tax inversion, a nifty trick to avoid paying taxes in America, one that has recently ruffled everyone from President Obama to Warren Buffet. (Chiquita told the Wall Street Journal that it’s not motivated by tax incentives, but Fyffe’s executive chairman told the New York Times that there could be tax benefits in the future.)

But Chiquita, whose bananas you have most definitely eaten, has done way more controversial things.

Before it was today’s Chiquita, with one-fifth of global banana market share, it was United Fruit, an even more massive banana conglomerate known to generations of Latin Americans as “the Octopus.” It had tentacles all over the Americas, grasping corridors of power everywhere south of the United States. United Fruit was despised in Latin America, so much so that its simulacrum made it into literature by a Nobel Prize-winning author. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez wrote of “the Banana Company” arriving in the jungle town of Maconda, bringing with it “dictatorial foreigners… to run the town” using “hired assassins with machetes.”

Then, in 1970, after years of earning a bad reputation, United Fruit appeared to have been saved. Here’s how TIME described what happened, in 1973:

As the scenario for an underground comic book, the story would sound unreal: a U.S. company widely reviled in Central America as an exploiter of plantation laborers runs into a rising tide of Third World nationalism. Workers turn intransigent, and profits slump. Then a secretary interrupts a board meeting in Boston with news that an unknown buyer has cornered a huge block of the stock. He turns out to be an ex-rabbinical student who ousts the old management and transforms the company into an empire of steers, root-beer stands and ice-cream parlors. South of the border, he speeds the replacement of Yanqui plantation superintendents with native managers and raises wages sharply. Peace, harmony and profit reign.

But the ex-rabbinical student, named Eli Black, slipped cruelly on the banana conglomerate he had purchased. In 1975, a week after the Securities and Exchange Commission discovered that Black bribed the Honduran economics minister $1.25 million for lower banana export taxes, Black committed suicide. United Fruit renamed itself Chiquita Brands International in 1990, and worked to clear up its image.

All clear the image was not, however. For one thing, a lengthy TIME investigation published in 2000 linked Chiquita CEO Carl Lindner’s significant political contributions to preferential trade policies pushed by the Clinton Administration. European tariffs were keeping Lindner’s Chiquita bananas out of their market, so the argument went, and Lindner wanted the U.S. to put pressure on Europe to relax its restrictions. So Lindner wrote generous checks to the Democrats, allegedly to get the U.S. to threaten to increase U.S. tariffs on European goods. “The Clinton Administration was ready to mount a global trade war on Lindner’s behalf,” TIME reported, after Lindner showed he would “dispense cash to the Democrats.” And a few years later, in 2007, Chiquita acknowledged it had paid $1.7 million to Columbia’s paramilitary groups until February 2004, according to TIME.

If the shareholders agree to move Chiquita across the pond — Fyffes shareholders hold their vote next week — it won’t be the most controversial thing the company has done. And that’s just the history of one company, selling a fruit that appears to attract controversy wherever it goes: even the 1920s hit song “Yes! We Have No Bananas” has inspired disagreement.

TIME Style

The War That Shaped Women’s Legs

Nylon Stockings
A woman puts on nylon stockings, circa 1940 Gamma-Keystone / Getty Images

The answer to 'a maiden's prayers,' nylon stockings first went on sale 75 years ago today

In early 1940, TIME reported that something strange was going on in Wilmington, Del.: every Wednesday, women would wait for the stores that sold lingerie to open and then rush in, ready to offer proof that they were Wilmington residents.

The reason for the rush? Wilmington was the home of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., the chemical company better known as DuPont, and was the only city in America where nylon stockings could be purchased, for between $1.15 and $1.35 a pair (and only by residents of Wilmington). By the end of each Wednesday, the stores would be nearly sold out. Even though silk stockings were cheaper — about $1 a pair, by TIME’s reckoning — the nylons sold out for months after their debut on this day 75 years ago, Oct. 24, 1939.

Shortly after the discovery of nylon — which DuPont still touts as the first-ever “true synthetic textile fiber” — was announced in 1938, a TIME reader summed up the reasons behind the excitement. In a letter printed in the June 5, 1939, issue, she captured the feeling that it was a patriotic duty to boycott items coming from Japan, which happened to be the nation’s main source of silk:


In TIME, May 8, under People you noted that General Motors’ president had presented Princess Ingrid of Denmark with a pair of synthetic silk stockings. Since the Japanese sacked Nanking in 1937, I have worn no silk at all—and the substituted lisle & rayon hosiery are hateful to me. Those synthetic silk stockings sound like the answer to a maiden’s prayer. Are they on the market as yet? If so, where, please? If not—who is making them? Surely not General Motors? Whoever is making them can probably use another experimenter to test their wearability as a new product—so if you can give me any information, I will be more than grateful.


> Du Pont’s synthetic silk, said to have the elasticity that rayon lacks, is a synthesis of coal, air and water called Nylon, or Fibre 66. Nylon is not yet on the market, but Du Pont has given three girls at the New York World’s Fair a pair of Nylon stockings apiece which they have been wearing steadily for the past three weeks. Celanese Corp. of America is also working on a synthetic silk fibre, as yet unnamed. —ED.

A follow-up in the letters section two weeks later noted that readers could take comfort in the fact that “the Nylon girls” at the World’s Fair did wash their stockings every night — and it turned out that the Nylon girls did more than demonstrate the new product. Though much was made of the idea that imports from Japan might be as much as halved when national sales of Nylon began in May of 1940, the marketing certainly didn’t hurt. When that day came, TIME reported that the 6,000-dozen pairs that had been sent to New York City stores were almost all gone at the end of the first day, despite a two-pairs-a-person limit, setting hosiery sales records for many stores.

In 1941, silk imports from Japan were discontinued altogether, affecting stocking-wearers among many others. Since production of nylon was still ramping up, women mobbed stores to get new nylons before supplies ran out. “In Denver, women bought $125,000 worth of stockings in two days—enough to provide every woman over 14 in Denver with a pair, at 92¢ apiece,” TIME reported that August.

But the craze couldn’t last too long: the next year, DuPont announced that their supplies of nylon would go to military purposes (like parachutes) rather than garment manufacturers; throughout the rest of the war, nylon hose was in short supply. When it did return to the market, so did silk from Japan and other synthetic materials, though nylon was still preferred by many. These days, however, all that fuss over stockings seems pretty silly: it doesn’t matter so much what the stockings are made of when lots of women don’t wear them at all.

TIME conflict

This Vintage Map Shows the ‘Greatest Battle in the History of Naval Warfare’

The Battle of Leyte Gulf between Japanese and U.S. forces took place 70 years ago


In 1959, reflecting on the Battle of Leyte Gulf from a distance of 15 years, TIME declared that the World War II engagement — between the Japanese navy and U.S. troops on and around the island of Leyte, which the U.S. had taken a few days before — was “the greatest battle in the history of naval warfare.” (The map above is from that issue; roll over to zoom on a desktop or click if you’re viewing on mobile.)

The battle began on Oct. 23, 1944, when Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita of Japan led a fleet into the region and was flushed out by U.S. submarines. Over the course of three days of heavy fighting, the U.S. troops crippled the Japanese navy — and in the process made clear that old-fashioned line-of-battle style naval warfare no longer made sense, ending a military tradition that had been in place for centuries.

The battle was also a crucial step in General Douglas MacArthur‘s making good on his famed 1942 “I shall return” promise to the Philippines. But the troops weren’t the only Americans there — TIME correspondents were also in the area, sending dispatches back to the office. In the magazine’s Oct. 30, 1944, letter from the publisher, TIME explained how the process worked:

Last Friday John Walker of TIME’S Battlefronts department handed his first dispatch from the Philippines to an Army short-wave broadcaster.

“American power came back to the Philippines today over the glass-smooth, grass-green waters of Leyte Gulf under a tropical sun coming through an ominous haze lit by yellow flashes and the blasting of guns,” that message began. “It was virtually perfect weather for the landings.”

Walker’s words flashed across 7,000 miles of ocean via U.S. Army Signal Corps circuits to San Francisco. And there the monitors of the Blue Network picked them up—recorded them—wrote them down—and wired them east by fast overland telegraph—to reach TIME’S editors in New York in less than an hour’s time…

“All landings seem to have come off well,” Walker reported. “The beach where I am was perforated by both mortar and artillery fire at landing. Two boats hit, one sunk. Casualties relatively light. Loyal Filipinos helping us from the first moment of landing.”

Walker went on to tell how General MacArthur got his first view of the Philippines—”a gun-rocked coast backed by rolling hills. He saw it from a cruiser standing in to shore an hour after the landings, sitting placidly on the flag bridge puffing his pipe. . . .”

And when the General came ashore at Red Beach, TIME’S Bill Chickering, veteran of the Gilberts and the landing on Bougainville, was waiting on that “toughest beachhead” to report MacArthur’s arrival with President Osmeña:

“Both men seemed calm,” Chickering short-waved, “but MacArthur borrowed a canteen and his hand trembled as he held it to his lips. Watching his expression, there was no mistaking his elation. . . .

Read TIME’s full 1959 remembrance of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, here in the archives: Greatest & Last Battle of a Naval Era

TIME celebrity

The Situation’s Day in Court: Here’s How 5 Other Celebs Dealt With Tax Troubles

"Love, Loss, (Gym, Tan) and Laundry: A Farewell To The Jersey Shore" - 2012 New York Television Festival
Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino attends "Love, Loss, (Gym, Tan) and Laundry: A Farewell To The Jersey Shore" during the 2012 New York Television Festival. Dave Kotinsky—Getty Images

A brief history of the IRS vs. famous people, from Lauryn Hill to Sophia Loren

Last month, Michael Sorrentino — better known as “The Situation” from MTV’s Jersey Shorewas indicted (alongside his brother Marc Sorrentino) for allegedly failing to pay taxes on nearly $9 million of income. Thursday, Oct. 23., the brothers head to court for their arraignment in Newark, N.J. (Please note: the original arraignment was set for Oct. 6, but the judge kindly postponed it so The Situation could go film a reality show called Marriage Boot Camp in Los Angeles. No, we’re not making that up.)

The Situation and his brother face one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, along with three and two counts, respectively, of filing false tax returns for 2010 through 2012. The Situation also faces an additional count for allegedly failing to file a tax return for 2011.

But Mr. Sorrentino is hardly the first celebrity to get into an, er, situation with the IRS. Here, a look back at some other stars who found themselves facing serious tax troubles:

Al Capone

What was it that finally brought down America’s most powerful mobster — who in this case we’ll consider a celebrity? Tax troubles. In 1931, authorities found Capone guilty of tax evasion and hit him with an 11-year sentence. By the time he was released, Prohibition was no more — and other mobsters had taken over his organization, as TIME reported. His health began to deteriorate too — a result of having contracted syphilis — and it was really just all downhill from there.

Lauryn Hill

In 2013, the legendary hip hop artist served a three-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to tax evasion. The Grammy winner was convicted for failing to pay nearly $1 million taxes, People reported. She told the judge she intended to pay the taxes eventually, but was unable to do so during the period of time when she dropped out of the music business. Shortly before her sentence began, Hill took to her Tumblr to post a sprawling open letter, where she connected America’s deep history of racism to her IRS troubles.

Willie Nelson

When somebody mentions the name Willie Nelson, a few things probably come to mind: a twangy voice, long gray braids, a deep love for marijuana — and a hellish battle with the IRS. In 1990, the country legend owed $16.7 in unpaid back taxes and had to hand over many of his possessions to keep himself out of prison. To help pay his debt, the country crooner even released an album called The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? in 1992. Nelson struck an agreement with the government that if the album sold 4 million copies, his debts would be cleared. That did not happen — but it did come close, pulling in $3.6 million. By 1993, Nelson finally settled his tab.

Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes’ relationship with the IRS has been a tumultuous one. The saga began in 2006 when the actor was initially accused of tax fraud. Two years later, a federal judge sentenced him to three years in prison for willfully failing to file his tax returns. Snipes began his sentence in 2010 and was released in 2013. He soon dove back into his acting career with a role in 2014’s The Expendables 3 and, now, with a rumored role in another Blade film.

Sophia Loren

Fun fact: film legend Sophia Loren served 17 days in prison in 1982 over a dispute with the Italian authorities over her 1974 tax return. Here’s what happened: she declared less income that year because her compensation for the film Il viaggio was deferred, thus moving her into a lower tax bracket. Officials, however, maintained that she should have paid a higher rate. She appealed the ruling but still ended up being forced to serve 17 days (of a 30-day sentence). But in 2013 — nearly 40 decades after the dispute began — Italy’s Supreme Court finally cleared her of the tax evasion charges. So yes, she paid the right amount after all.

TIME Gadgets

Watch Steve Jobs Unveil the iPod 13 Years Ago

Gather ’round, kids. Gather ’round. Old Uncle Doug is going to regale you with a tale of an excellent rectangle that was introduced to the world on October 23, 2001.

Back in 2001, MP3 players weren’t scarce, by any means, but they each had a fundamental problem: They were either pocketable and could only hold a few dozen songs or they were comically big and could hold several hundred songs.

I didn’t own the original iPod. It was too expensive (I didn’t have $400 to my name) and initially Mac-only (I didn’t have a Mac — a side-effect of not having money). I was, however, enamored with portable MP3 players. In fact, instead of buying several CD-, flash- and hard drive-based MP3 players at upwards of $200 a pop, as I did, I probably could have owned an iPod and maybe even a Mac.

Here’s a photo of two real gems I still own: the Pocket mStation (left) and the NeoPlayer (right), with an old iPhone 4 thrown into the mix to give you a sense of size. I’ll frame these someday:

iPod Size
Doug Aamoth / TIME

These two ridiculous beasts each used a 2.5-inch hard drive commonly used in laptops. So I could stuff a ton of songs on them, but I couldn’t stuff either of them into anything but the Hammer-est of Hammer pants.

Apple / Getty Images

The world needed an MP3 player that was small enough to fit in a pocket, yet had enough storage to hold hundreds of songs. The problem was that flash-based storage maxed out at mere megabytes and tiny, high-capacity hard drives didn’t exist in sufficient quantities…yet.

This was a conundrum for Apple engineers in late 2000, as Steve Jobs had expressed interest in building a sleek, pocketable MP3 player that could hold a ton of music. In true Steve Jobs fashion, Jobs tasked Jon Rubinstein with building such a device even though the necessary components didn’t exist.

Rubinstein lucked out, though. In February of 2001, while he was meeting with Toshiba, a boatload of tiny, high-capacity hard drives nearly fell in his lap. The following is a passage in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs book (page 384):

At the end of a routine meeting with Toshiba, the engineers mentioned a new product they had in the lab that would be ready by that June. It was a tiny, 1.8-inch drive (the size of a silver dollar) that would hold five gigabytes of storage (about a thousand songs), and they were not sure what to do with it. When the Toshiba engineers showed it to Rubinstein, he knew immediately what it could be used for. A thousand songs in his pocket! Perfect. But he kept a poker face. Jobs was also in Japan, giving the keynote speech at the Tokyo Macworld conference. They met that night at the Hotel Okura, where Jobs was staying. “I know how to do it now,” Rubinstein told him. “All I need is a $10 million check.” Jobs immediately authorized it. So Rubinstein started negotiating with Toshiba to have exclusive rights to every one of the disks it could make, and he began to look around for someone who could lead the development team.

The “exclusive rights to every one of the disks it could make” quip is important. Apple rolled out the iPod in late 2001; it would take a while for competing MP3 players to shrink down and catch up.

Further Reading:

Read next: Aaron Sorkin Confirms Christian Bale Will Play Steve Jobs

TIME Opinion

ISIS and American Idealism: Is History Going Our Way?

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

In the Middle East, it's theory versus reality

Future historians, I suspect, will look at the United States’ current effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS while simultaneously insisting that President Assad of Syria must step down with some puzzlement. Foreign intervention in civil wars is nothing new. France and Sweden intervened in the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants in Germany in the early 17th century, France intervened in the American Revolution, and the United States has intervened in civil wars in Korea, Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia. But while in those previous cases, the intervening power took one side of the conflict, in this case, the United States now opposes both parties. How have we ended up in this position? The answer, I would suggest, goes back at least until the early 1990s, when the collapse of Communism convinced certain intellectuals and the US foreign policy establishment that history was inexorably moving our way.

A new era in world politics began in 1989, with the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union. In that year a political scientist named Francis Fukuyama, then serving as deputy director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, wrote a sensational article, “The End of History?,” in the conservative journal The National Interest. Communism was about to collapse, and Fukuyama argued tentatively that the world was entering a new era. “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history,” he wrote, “but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Within two years Soviet Communism and the Soviet Union itself were dead, and many thought Fukuyama had been proven right. He elaborated his ideas in a scholarly work, The End of History and the Last Man, which appeared in 1992.

Fukuyama had worked with prominent neoconservatives, and neconservatives in the Bush Administration wrote his fundamental idea into their 2002 National Security Strategy, a blueprint for US domination of the world based upon democratic principles. “The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism,” it began, “ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity.” Like the Marxists over whom they believed they had triumphed, this view saw history moving in a definite direction, and those on the “right” side believed that they had a right, if not a duty, to push history in the right direction. President Bush repeatedly declared that the Middle East was ready for democracy, and decided to create one by overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. (Fukuyama, interestingly, declared in 2006 that the Bush Administration and neoconservatism had gone astray.) That did not lead, however, to democracy, but rather to a terrible religious civil war in Iraq, featuring the ethnic cleansing of about four million Iraqis under the noses of 150,000 American troops. The United States finally withdrew from Iraq after seven years of war, and the Shi’ite led Iraqi government has now lost authority over both the Kurdish and Sunni parts of the country, with ISIS moving into the Sunni areas.

What went wrong? In 1993, Samuel Huntington had put forward an alternative view of the future in another widely read book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. To begin with, Huntington—who, ironically, had been a graduate-school professor of Francis Fukuyama’s at Harvard—denied that the western way of life now dominated the globe. How the future would develop, he argued, remained a very open question. Though Huntington painted with a very broad brush, his vision looks more accurate now than Fukuyama’s. The Muslim world is both enormous and diverse, and nothing suggests that Muslims from south Asia through much of Africa are about to embark upon a war with the West. However, most of the major contending factions among the Muslims of the Middle East—the groups that realistically stand to come to power in contested regions like Iraq and Syria—reject, to varying degrees, fundamental principles of western civilization, including religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Yet both various pundits and the leadership of the Obama Administration, including the President himself, remain convinced that the Middle East has a destiny to follow the western model, and that American intervention in their civil wars can encourage them to do so. The Obama Administration reacted to the Arab spring based upon the assumption that the fall of authoritarian regimes was both inevitable and surely beneficial to the peoples involved. At first that seemed to be true in Tunisia, but the Administration has in effect backtracked on it by accepting the military coup in Egypt, and in Libya and Syria this plan has not worked out at all. Just this week, the New York Times reports that the new freedom in Tunisia has allowed ISIS to recruit numerous fighters there.

Speaking to the United Nations on Sept. 24, President Obama insisted that ISIS must not, and cannot, prevail, because of the evil that it has done. He also called upon the Middle East to reject religious war and called for “a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world” to work against violent ideology. These are inspiring words to American ears, but they are finding almost no echo among the competing factions of the Middle East. For a complex variety of political, religious and cultural reasons, ISIS has commanded more dedicated support than any other Sunni faction in Syria or Iraq. Nor is there any evidence that two of their principal opponents—the Assad regime in Syria and the Shi’ite led government in Baghdad—share the President’s views on democracy and religious toleration either. The Obama Administration has been reduced to trying to stand up a “third force” of more friendly, reliable Sunni insurgents in Syria—a strategy the President rejected a year ago after a CIA paper explained to him that it was most unlikely to work.

Nearly 80 years ago, writing in the midst of another great world crisis, an American historian, Charles A. Beard, noted a distressing fact: that history shows no correlation between the justice of a cause and the willingness of men to die for it. This has not changed. We cannot rely upon impersonal forces of history to create a better world. Instead, the current U.S. attempt to impose a vision not supported supported by any major political group in the region is likely to create more chaos, in which extremism can thrive. We and the peoples of the Middle East both need peace in that region, but that peace must be based upon realities. If we decide ISIS is indeed the most important threat, we shall have to recruit allies from among the actual contending factions, rather than try to build our own from scratch. And, while encouraging cease-fires and the peaceful settlement of ongoing conflicts, we might try to set a better example for the peoples of the world by making democracy work better here at home.

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

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.”

Read next: 6 Items You Should Wear To Achieve World Domination

TIME Crime

Hero or Villain? Why Thousands Mourned a Bank Robber

Pretty Boy Floyd
From the Oct. 22, 1934, issue of TIME TIME

Oct. 22, 1934: Bank robber “Pretty Boy” Floyd, a Robin Hood figure of the Depression era, is shot to death by FBI agents

He may have been one of America’s best-loved bank robbers: tens of thousands of people paid their respects at Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s funeral after he was shot down by G-men on this day, Oct. 22, in 1934.

The FBI agents, however, were not among the mourners. Earlier in the year, the agency had declared him Public Enemy No. 1 for his alleged role in the 1933 Kansas City Massacre, when machine-gunners mowed down three policemen and one FBI agent as they attempted to return an escaped federal prisoner to the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kans. Floyd was named as one of the shooters; he’d hoped, the FBI said, to free his incarcerated friend, who was killed in the crossfire. In a story published the day of his death, TIME called Floyd “a murderously cool shot, [whose] trigger finger has already accounted for at least six deaths.” Summarizing his criminal CV, the story went on:

At 18 he robbed a neighborhood post-office of $350 in pennies. A three-year apprenticeship in the St. Louis underworld landed him, in 1925, in Missouri Penitentiary for a payroll robbery. There he peddled drugs, struck down guards, and met “Red” Lovett, who teamed up with him on his release in 1929. For the next four years he robbed rural banks, taking on new partners as his old ones fell dead by the wayside.

The public remembered him differently: as an Oklahoma tenant farmer beaten down by financial hardship and forced into a life of crime — but always looking out for the little guy. Rumors circulated that he had destroyed mortgage notes when he robbed banks, freeing struggling farmers from foreclosure.

There may have been at least a kernel of truth to the legend, based on his reputation for generosity to the “hill people” who helped him hide from the law in the foothills of the Ozarks, according to Jeffery S. King’s book, The Life and Death of Pretty Boy Floyd. King claims Floyd was paying to feed a dozen families who might have otherwise gone hungry.

He couldn’t hide in the hills forever, though. FBI agents got their shot at him in Ohio after Floyd crashed his getaway car into a telephone pole. They chased him down in a cornfield and fired on him while he ran. But his story didn’t end there; five years after Floyd’s death, Woody Guthrie memorialized him in song. “Pretty Boy Floyd” remembers the fugitive fondly, with the lyrics:

But many a starvin’ farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes…

Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

Read about TIME’s 1934 account Floyd’s death, here in the archives: Floyd Flushed

TIME Sports

Tour de France Prize Money Way Up

Tour de France 1934
Frenchman Rene Vietto tries to break away from Spanish rider Vicente Trueba as they climb the mountain pass of the Tourmalet (Col du Tourmalet) on July 23, 1934 during the 18th stage of the 28th Tour de France AFP / Getty Images

With Wednesday’s official announcement of the route for the 2015 Tour de France, the best cyclists in the world know exactly where they’ll be next July. They also know what they stand to win: there are about 2 million euros (about $2.6 million) at stake, with a €450,000 prize for the final winner and €22,500 for the winner of each stage (that’s about $576,000 and $28,800, respectively).

That’s considerably less than the prize pool available for the famously lucrative International Dota 2 video game championships, but it’s plenty to get excited about — especially compared to the money that used to be available for Tour de France winners.

When TIME first covered the world’s most famous cycling event, in 1934, only 60 competitors were entered (versus 198 today) and the stakes were much lower:

L’Auto, Paris sportpaper, founded the race in 1903 as a circuit of the Auvergne highlands, enlarged it by stages to its present scale. L’Auto foots the bills for meals & lodging, furnishes to each contestant his bicycle, as many tires as he can wear out, $2.64 per day for pin-money. This year publicity-seeking merchants have scraped up 800,000 francs ($52,800) for prizes. The winner of each of the 23 daily laps gets 1,.000 francs ($660).

Even accounting for inflation, that’s not much compared to today’s prizes: $52,800 in 1934 dollars is $937,207.88 today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, and $660 is $11,715.10. That means the winner of each stage stands to make twice as much as he did 80 years ago, and the overall prize pot is nearly three times as big. And the prizes haven’t exactly climbed steadily: in 1954, TIME reported that the winner of each stage would take home a mere $570 (about $5,000 today).

At least 1934’s racers could afford a train ticket, if not necessarily first class. And, as TIME wrote in its coverage of the race, that was important: “One race was so swift and grim,” reported the magazine, “that after the finish a rider was reported to have bought a train ticket over the route so that he could inspect the scenery.”

Read more: A Brief History of the Tour de France

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