Microprocessing

Clothes-Fitting Technology Could Save Online Shopping

A deep dive into an overlooked innovation

Angela Lashbrook
OneZero
Published in
8 min readMar 5, 2020

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Illustration: Amanda Berglund

II recently bought a pair of pants. This should be unremarkable, but pants shopping is such an absolute nightmare for most women that it is, for many of us, a significant life event. It’s an investment of money and often requires a significant investment of time, emotional energy, and space in the group chat in which the relentless relitigation of the value of a particular pair becomes the main topic of conversation for… too long.

Anyway, I bought these pants on Madewell’s website, which has a quiz you can take to determine your size in that particular item. The size it recommended was one size down from the size I wear in another brand, Everlane, so I didn’t believe it. No way did I fit into that size. I ordered my usual, which, when they arrived, were — you guessed it — way too big.

Quizzes like the one I took that correctly insisted I size down are a well-intended solution to fixing this problem, which can be annoying, expensive, and even environmentally unsound, thanks to the emissions from shipping and the impact of making the clothes to begin with. Though it may seem like a minor innovation to some — perhaps especially to those who don’t mind a loose-fitting cargo pant — the quiz software could represent a legitimate solution to all these problems, making online shopping in the future a much more viable option and reshaping how we spend our cash.

Kristine Englert, director of enterprise marketing at True Fit, one of the biggest sizing-quiz software companies, with clients including Kate Spade, Lane Bryant, and Levi’s, says the company’s research has found that a particular size can correspond to dramatically different fits, depending on the brand. “A size six in women’s jeans, for instance… could really be anywhere from a two [to a] 10 based on the brand,” she says. “Wild, right?”

Truly. Academic studies support True Fit’s findings. One of the most thorough, a 2003 study out of the University of North Texas, analyzed 1,011 pairs of women’s pants across a variety of brands and found that sizes varied in every measurement category. While the mean waist measurement for a size four pair of pants was 27.97 inches…

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Angela Lashbrook
OneZero

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.