Dress size

Dress size

In clothing, dress size refers to a set of standard dimensions for dresses and other women's garments such as tops, skirts, and trousers.


Every person has unique body measurements, unique habits of movement and unique ideas of clothing, e.g., placement and shape of the neckline, waistline and hemline. Therefore, every dress should (ideally) be designed and made for each wearer by a custom dressmaker, who fits the dress to the measurements of the wearer with an appropriate amount of ease. Dresses were made in this way until the end of the 19th century.

However, the Industrial Revolution introduced the mass production of clothing in standard sizes, known as ready-to-wear clothing. Standard sizes were also used earlier in designing uniforms, especially for the armed forces of various countries. These standard sizes are purportedly arrived at by statistical analysis of large numbers of people. Dress sizes are included in the European standard EN 13402.

In the US there are two standards: US standard clothing size and another produced by the American Society of Testing and Materials.

ISO 3635 describes "Size designation of clothes - Definitions and body measurement procedure", used in the international market.

The classification of body measurements into standard sizes has been useful for industrializing the manufacture of clothing. However, the present system is not ideal, since a sizable fraction of women do not match one of the 20 common sizes. Moreover, many styles of dress are not made for all the standard sizes (cf. petite sizes). Unfortunately, more sizes and broader manufacture of styles seem unlikely, since they would likely diminish the economies of scale associated with mass production.

Types of measurements in standard sizes

These standard sizes describe combinations of body measurements that are commonly seen in the general population.

*Horizontal torso measurements that can be specified include the neck circumference, the shoulder width, the over-bust circumference, the bust circumference, the bust-point separation, the under-bust (rib-cage) circumference, the natural waist circumference, the upper hip circumference and the lower hip circumference.
*Vertical torso measurements that can be specified include the back (neck-waist) length, the shoulder-waist length (not the same as the back length, due to the slope of the shoulder), the bust-shoulder length, the bust-waist length, and the two hip-waist lengths.
* Sleeve measurements that can be specified include the under-arm and over-arm lengths, the fore-arm length, the wrist circumference and the biceps circumference.

However, because of the drape and of the fabric, relatively few measurements are needed to obtain a well-fitting dress in most styles.


The standard sizes have not had stable names, however. For example, the dimensions of two size 10 dresses from different companies, or even from the "same" company, may have grossly different dimensions; and both are almost certainly larger than the size 10 dimensions described in the US standard. Vanity sizing may be partly responsible for this deviation (which began in earnest in the 1980s).

The new European standard EN 13402 seeks to address this problem, since it is an absolute scale and mandatory; there is no mandatory clothing size standard in the U.S.

ee also

* EN 13402
* International Clothing Sizes
* US standard clothing size
* Petite sizes
* Vanity sizing
* Size zero

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