So-Called ‘Alpha Sizing’ Is What’s Making Shopping So Damn Impossible

“We only carry sizes one, three, and five. You could try Sears.” Anyone who groaned at that Mean Girls line knows that women’s clothing sizing practically requires a Ph.D. in physics to comprehend. Why are you a 0 at Banana Republic but a 10 at H&M? What dark arts are being practiced here? Today’s Wall Street Journal sheds some light on sizing sorcery, reporting on the rise of so-called “alpha sizing,” meaning using small, medium, and large designations as opposed to numbers. More retailers are adopting it for a very simple reason: It’s way cheaper. “If I only have to build four sizes instead of eight, my supply chain is going to be much more efficient,” one consultant explained to the paper. However, merging a 6, 8, and 10 into a medium is going to result in sizing headaches for many customers (not to mention the problems with alpha-sizing bras, which many brands are adopting as common practice).

According to the WSJ, megachains like Zara, Old Navy, and Uniqlo use the alphanumeric system, but there are some holdouts: activewear chains Athleta and Lululemon are sticking with numbers for now. Combine alpha sizing with ever-present vanity sizing, and no wonder you have to bring eight different sizes to the fitting room. Clothing manufacturers of America: just standardize things already. If men can walk into a store knowing their inseam and waist size and come out with a wardrobe, why can’t we just base things on the numbers? Our vanity can take the hit.

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