My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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All I need is a pair of pants.

Dear Clothing Designers,

I am disappointed in your lack of understanding of the diversity of women’s bodies. I traipsed down Broadway, into Soho, and out to the malls in search of a pair of pants that fit. I was willing to spend a decent amount of money on said pants so I visited everything from high end designers to department and chain stores. I tried on over 150 pairs and came up empty handed. I tried on pants ranging from sizes 6-12, petites, regulars, and “short.” I was even willing to get the bottoms hemmed if only I could find a pair that fit up top. I even tried on the ugly pants.

The relationship between my waist, hips, ass, and thighs appears to be completely alien to you, for none of you seem to make a pair of pants that fit all of these dimensions (let alone length). Why? Am I _that_ different? Or would you simply prefer that I conform to your body aesthetics? Like many other women, I do not belong on a hanger. I am not shaped like a model nor do I have any interest in resorting to anorexia to try to fit into your skinny clothes. I am curvy and I like my curves.

I am a confident woman, but shopping demoralizes me. Your industry sells a standard of beauty, demanding women to conform and ostracizing them when they do not. I know that I am not alone in not fitting into your clothing. Have you ever considered the impact that you have on young women’s sense of self? How hard would it be to diversify your clothing dimensions?

I long for the day when I can submit my dimensions and order personalized clothes. I know it’s coming, but I desperately want it NOW. Particularly since the only thing that is “in” seems to be tight and tighter. Why oh why can’t we personalize our clothes yet?

In the meantime, dear clothing designers, please bring back phat pants. I don’t care if they’re not “in style” but at least they fit. I desperately need new clothes for all of the ones that I bought when phat pants and flowy yoga pants were the in thing are falling apart. I have upcoming engagements and I desperately need pants. Please, I beg you, do something.

Thank you.

PS: For all of you men who think that my flowy clothing is my “style,” please realize that it is simply because nothing else ever fits. Welcome to the hell of women’s shopping.

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41 comments to All I need is a pair of pants.

  • The trip to the UK might be worth it….apparently this company is doing quite well

    http://www.bodymetrics.com/

  • C

    Apparently http://www.myshape.com/ does personalized clothing in the US, but they almost never seem to have selections customized for me in stock. Your mileage may vary!

  • Funny that pants have become a dilemma at my home as well. My wife is now 18 weeks pregnant and we have moved to maternity pants. Not suggesting that you have to but I empathize with your pants ordeal. I am very sorry for what you are going through. I understand.

  • This is a worldwide problem.

    Here in Chile, where the retailers have the complete domain of the market, clothes are designed for some ridiculous standar type of woman.

    I really love the diference and they just are not considering this!.

    I allways see how “normal” people suffer at the stores and never obtain clothes that fit and see well.

    I really would like to see a better use of the technology and better value for the clients. In fact I’m thinking a lot about this. How to solve this an in the meantime solve this need of our little chilean market.

    But you know what?. We as clients also accept the impossitions of the stores and producers.

    We need to be more exigents. The way that we dress talk a lot about ourselfs.

    As a teacher of a business administration school (nobody is perfect!) I will put this issue as a possible research field.

    I wish you a happy new year and please never stop to put your interesting social network site posts (I’m a fan an also a researcher!).

    Regards,

    Juan Felipe

  • Actually there are MANY solutions and brands that work wonderfully for a variety of bodies (did you try Marni, Martin Margiela or Jil Sander? I am betting you did not and trust me their stuff is fantastic). IT is just that fashion prefers that women remain aspirational and not inspirational as our profit margins are better if you feel insecure. Your poor self image is generally our profit.

    But do not despair! In fact Web 2 has hit fashion in a BIG way its just that the boys club hasn’t paid any attention so you probably haven’t heard being tuned Techcrunch and other such bullshit in the boys club.

    Women have taken fashion head on and independently made a lot of changes in how information is disseminated, how consumers are allowed to weigh in and how trends are percolated through the cultural bell curve of cool. And while there are plenty of sites that will help you do measurements (most of them not worth listing here) honestly the best way to find clothing that fits is spend time with fashionistas to get advice. Your girlfriends are probably just as far up shit creek as you are when it comes to finding clothing since its a necessity for you and not a joy like it is to fashion women. Coutorture has 240 regular women of all sizes, budgets, bodies and interests who blog about their issues and solve each others problems.

    Communities turn out to solve even these sorts of old fashioned problems. If you ever want any help drop me a line.

  • Zak

    Someone beat me to sharing http://www.myshape.com
    I haven’t used it because I find the “Editor” style pants at Express fit very well. If you haven’t been to Express, I suggest a field trip there.

    One caveat from past experience: not all “editor” pants are the same. Some of the stretchier fabrics seems to be better one size smaller, while the fabrics that don’t give, tend to require a size up.

  • Your problem, finding trousers that fit, is shared by a lot of men and women. Although I’m thin, I also have trouble finding trousers that fit well, and many of my male friends go to an endless number of stores trying on trousers. Here is the problem (and a solution): clothing stores are like lemmings, they go from one fad to another. So a few years ago we had the extremely baggy trousers fad, which fit no one, then in the past year, we have the very tight jeans fad, which also fits no one. Or what low rise fad which is indecent.

    The solution: each clothing brand tends to use a standard “model” or pattern for their trousers. Example: an Asian girlfriend told me that Diesel’s jeans look good on Asian women (who tend to have flat butt syndrome). So I went to Diesel and voila, jeans that fit in almost every style. So if I want jeans, I just go to Diesel and avoid the rest. This is true for the clothing brand, Theory, which is sold in Nordstroms, Macy’s, etc. Their trousers fit me very well (just about everything they make fits me, which I can’t say for many other brands) — just about every style. By contrast, I can never wear any of the jeans or trousers at Replay or 7 for all Mankind.

    So my advice is to try to find some store that really carries this “model” or pattern for your figure. It might take you a long time to find it but if you do, stick to it and no more running around trying to find stuff to wear. Clothing companies tend to favor one body type over another, you need to find which one makes clothes for your body type.

  • try http://www.zafu.com/ – answer a few questions about how things fit you and get recommendations for pants, jeans, and other items of clothing. A few women I know who have had problems finding the right fit have spoken highly of it

  • I’m so with you on this.

    I’m petite and definitely considered thin by most people, but as a former athlete I have a considerable amount of muscle on my legs that most women my size probably don’t have. So any pants that fit my waist and hips cling to my thighs like bad leggings. But if I size up to pants that don’t look obscene on my legs, they’re far too big around the waistband.

    What gives?

  • MoMA had an interesting display of some future custom clothing tech… who doesn’t want the future now? I’m glad that as a guy, I don’t have to suffer so, but I have been terribly picky with my clothes and pants especially too not for fit but for weirder more eccentric concerns with utility and fabric and sensitivity, etc. But having a 15 year old sister and lots of female friends regularly reminds me of the suffering that women’s clothing can be!

  • When I was in high school they once played over school closed circuit TV system a flick design to scare students into going to college. The entire video was some suit talking about how in the future, robotics and IT would replace all manufacturing and service sector jobs in like 3 years, so we all better go to college. Of course, by then we all already knew what was happening to the Rust Belt economy (I grew up near Detroit) so this wasn’t exactly news.

    Anyway, one of his stories was about how in a few years all clothes would be manufactured by machines that would scan in our bodies and then “print” out our clothes on demand, and they wouldn’t even have seams (the seamlessness seemed to be a big deal ). The other story that sticks in my head was how fast food restaurants would become essentially attended vending machines. Anyway, his predictions haven’t panned out yet…

    You’re definitely not alone in this one. I definitely have trouble finding pants (and clothes in general) that fit well. Oh to be a skinny hipster boy …

  • danah, this problem is not unqiue to women.
    • My housemate was complaining about this.
    • My sister was watching a What Not To Wear episode featuring a guy who bought too-big shirts so they would fit his long arms.
    • I was at REI recently, and the “small” t-shirt is too bulky for me. And a bit on the short side.

    Why do fashion designers assume everyone has no torso and is wide as a truck?

  • addys

    People of different nationalities tend to have differing proportions, depending on the dietary habits, recreational culture and gene-pool variations of the region. We previously lived in Manhattan and now on the west coast, and my wife (who is reasonably thin & in shape) can never find anything which fits her. She now does all her clothes shopping during our yearly visits home (outside the US) – over ‘there’ she is well in the normal range and can find clothes in virtually any store.

  • Joe Blo

    I’m such a standard size that my problem is that there are none left of the most common sort.

    That said, if you’re ever in Asia I recommend that you try out their tailoring. In India, Thailand, or China… and I’m sure many others, you’ll find that you only pay for the cost of the cloth and they’ll tailor it to fit just you. Usually, you can get it done cheaper and quicker than you could get your clothes cleaned at the pricey hotel they have you staying in. Gold jewelry is the same way, you pay by weight and choose any design you want.

    Now shoes… don’t get me started. I just buy 3 pair of anything that fits after a week so I don’t have to shop more than once every few years.

    I’m glad that it’s not just guys who hate shopping 😉

  • I can definitely relate to your problem. The fabrics and some styles that have been very popular, particularly the low rise and the stretchy fabrics conform to the “wrong” parts.

    My daughter, who is in college now, used to swim competitively. When swam, she would buy pants for small booty. Her legs and butt were not much different in size. Finding jeans for her then was easy.

    Now since she isn’t swimming anymore, her shape is more hour glass–a more “normal” woman size–finding jeans is almost impossible.

    On one weekend at home, she tried on 80 pairs of jeans, she found one pair at Gap called “Curvy”. At this point, it didn’t seem to matter to me what they cost–they fit!

    I also have major problems finding pants, particularly pants I would wear to work. Many fit too low, if they fit in the waist, there are too tight in the hips or thighs. If they fit in the thighs and hips, there too big in the waist. Length does seem to matter to me…if I found pants to fit, I would pay someone to alter the length.

    I was able recently to find one pair of pants at Express, though a little long, they did fit (yipee).

    Good luck with your quest and I will definitely check out some of the links found in the comments to this article

  • To find a perfect pair of pants is such a pain…

    First, they don’t have the size; it they do, you’ll never find it in the colour you like.

    And the problem doesn’t end there. They offer you the tightest denim, which refuses to move above your thigh. But they’d say, “well, it’s the ‘in’ thing.”

    I always thought fashion means anything you are comfortable in. But unfortunately, the definition seems to have changed lately.

    All the best with your search. hope you get lucky the next time!

  • I second Jeremyliew’s suggestion of http://www.zafu.com/. I have a difficult time finding pants that fit, generally going for pants that ‘sort of fit’ or ‘mostly fit’ instead.

    Good luck.

  • joe

    Of course, it’s not just women who have problems. I have no ass… which apparently isn’t normal for a guy.

  • I think we can all identify with this problem. Men and women. I’m a man, based down here in New Zealand. I’m thin and tall, with most of my length in my legs.. Can I find a pair of pants that fit me? Well, no I can’t. They are nearly always too short in the leg, so I end up sporting that early eighties MJackson look with the white socks and all!! 🙁

    But, I have a theory. Its the mass production of clothes in Asia. As Esma Vos pointed out in a comment earlier about the Diesel brand. So, I took a breath, clutched my wallet and headed into an expensive store that stocks locally made clothes. And what do you know! They fit!! So, now I have two or three reasons to buy local. 1. They fit 2. Supports local business 3. I’m paying for the real cost of clothing

  • i’ve been living in black wide-leg gaucho pants for about 2 years. you can get them for less than $20 on ebay (seach “gaucho” or “palazzo”), and they are really easy to dress up and comfortable enough to sleep in. i have 7 pairs. otherwise, i don’t even bother trying on pants in stores.

  • Hi Danah –

    This is my dilemma as well. I’ve taken to wearing more skirts because it’s easier to find skirts that fit me. Also, if the pattern is simple enough, I could make one.

    But pants – they’re a whole other story. I’ve found that the majority of pants out there are made for women who are a good 5 – 7 inches taller than me and skinny as a toothpick. After months of searching, I found one pair of cords last night that fit me fine and a pair of dress pants that, like you, I need to hem by three to four inches.

    I’m still looking for a decent pair of jeans.

    Here’s hoping that more clothing designers start making clothes that the rest of us – not just the Barbie and Ken dolls.

  • YES!

    YES!

    YES!

    OH GOD YES!

    I can’t echo this post enough. I hope they heard you!

  • Try being anything over a size 12 and finding pants or a dress. Geez Luiz, as soon as one gets over size 14 they forget you have tits, an ass, a tummy, thighs or a sense of fashion. All the tops are designed to make you look 1) pregnant 2) like the hostess in a Chinese restaurant 3) like a teapot wearing a tea cozy. The average dress size in the US has been 14 for years and it’s now that in Aus. How about letting the store buyers and clothing importers in on the statistics? Just as in Second Life, I’m not customising my body to fit poorly cut and designed fashion.

  • jheri

    I have severe fitting problems (I’m a 6’3″ tall female who weighs a bit under 60 kg – almost zero curves and very long legs) and have had luck with makeyourownjeans – a place in India that does custom jeans. Hunting around at tall ladies shops youu can find some things that sort of fit, but they are closer to feed sacks than anything cute or trendy. I’m 24 and don’t like to look 60.

    I’ve been exchanging email with a researcher at Cornell who studies scanning systems for fitting clothing and getting good fits for unusual body types. This will eventually happen for many types of clothing. I can’t wait… here is her email:

    “Dear Jheri,

    thank you for your comments. We hear similar reports form women who have body types that are not particularly ‘rare’, just different from the standard used by the apparel industry. There are indeed several companies that are using bodyscan data for apparel, and one in Denmark, though I suspect their garments are fairly expensive, and I am not sure if they do womenswear or not. I think the company in Denmark is now called Harvey Lewis. Bodymetrics in England makes jeans for women using scan data. Also, Lori Coulter in the US makes swimsuits from scan data, and Brooks Brothers has a scanner in their main NYC store…

    Also, custom clothing is available online from Lands End – go to http://www.landsend/custom. The clothes are made from measurements that you take yourself, but the results are good and they are reasonably priced.

    Good luck to you and your friends. The technology is certainly developing, and my be more widely available sooner than we think!”

    ___

    Another researcher told me this sort of thing has been delayed because it is soooo economical to make clothing in third world countries.

    So sitting here wearing a men’s 30 inch inseam as culouttes and wearing a long sleeved top that ends about 3″ from my wrists…

  • I feel like I’m getting in late to the party here, but my wife and I, who are both non-standard shapes (she is very petite at 5’1″ but curvy, I am just on 5’7″ but have big, short legs thanks to years of gymnastics and weight training) are both able to buy pants off the rack at Gap (of all places) without needing to have our clothes adjusted. The same goes for our daughter, who is 10 and little at 4’4″ (she has no backside to hold pants up and is in the 25th percentile for height at age).

    Given we live in Australia, our occasional trips to the US result in a Gap buying frenzy. Either that or we prevail on US-based friends who can buy for us and post.

  • Clap!Clap!Clap!

    Well said!

    I am not alone in this world after all.
    I have been through HELL to find the right size of clothes. I never seem to find anything that fits properly. Not only pants but also tops!
    Clothes size have shrunk so much that sometime I tend to believe that only anorectics are able to buy the new trends these days.

    Let’s go for personalized clothes and fast!
    In Portugal there is a new initiative called the Clothes Hospital ( http://jn.sapo.pt/2007/04/20/etcetera/hospital_moda_opera_urgencias_agulha.html where you can take your old clothes and they restyle it for you. I think it is a cool initiative. I will visit them next time I go to Lisbon.
    But I also need new clothes!!! and some that fit and that are comfortable too. Another issue many designers seem to forget!!!

  • Embarrassing confession: I have SUCH a hard time finding pants that fit, I still use my Bella Band (www.ingridandisabel.com/bellaband.html) from my pregnant days.

    It’s basically a elastic-y band wide band that fits over your pants waistline, meaning you leave your pants unbuttoned and unzipped and that whole area stays covered. Now it looks like I just have a black or white camisole underneath my shirts – no prob.

    This is a great solution for me right now as I seem to fit into pants perfectly except for the waistline. Unless they are gauchos or yoga pants. I despise the fact that I have to do this. Beyond words. Totally feel your pain!!!

  • There’s a great consignment shop on the Upper East Side that has more variety of couture designed stuff that is always worth visiting. Check out the store – Bis Designer Resale – http://www.bisbiz.com

    Don’t be discouraged by my use of “couture” in the description as I use it to mean clothing that is well measured, well proportioned, and well made – not Karl Lagerfeld’s obsession with size 0 twigs. A great couture piece is one that is designed as nicely on the inside as on the outside, thus, changes in your figure or alterations to the garment don’t mean that the piece suddenly looks like shit. Just a rant, but one worth taking into account

  • i can’t find pants i like either. sure some “fit” my body. but they don’t “fit” my identity.

    so i’ve had the 7 pairs of pants i wear made in indonesia for me. designed after an old pair of kickwear jeans i liked (back when they made simple designs that looked elegant) and modified according to my criteria. they cost me ~$10/pair.

    go to bali. you should anyway.

  • Tex

    May I recommend JC Penny’s? Not exactly the first thing you think of when you think “stylin’,” but when you have an ass like mine you resort to what you can get. I can usually find something within 5 attempts, as opposed to 40+ pairs elsewhere!

    Seriously. I mean it. JC Penny’s.

  • Lauren

    Screw Ready to Wear! – an innovation that clearly has outlived its usefulness for all of our clothing needs (unders may be an exception – or not).

    Find a woman/man who knows how to sew and has a machine (still plenty out there), choose your own fabric and style and your own personal tailor will get to know both your tastes and shape. Just imagine.

    Local, helpful to both parties involved, and won’t cost you more than the crap the corps are shoving at us.

    And, delightfully subversive too.

  • rickdog

    There must be dozens if not hundreds of clothes makers in my area, the Twin Cities (I think they used to be called seamstresses but genderality no longer applies here). My girlfriend’s daughter is one. Maybe your task would be much easier if you found people to make your clothes.

  • cynthia

    Amen. Gah, I totally relate to the madness of having to try on 5 different sizes in order to find something that fits. Sizing seems to be becoming more and more erratic. Depending on the cut, the store, and the fabric, I’m anywhere from a 6 to a 10 on a regular basis. Someone please explain to clothing designers that women are not supposed to be the same width around their hips and thighs as their waist! All I can say is that it’s a darn good thing belts are so fashionable these days. Now if someone could just do something about the fact that the new trapeze tops make anyone with a chest look about 6 months pregnant, I’d be very happy. Ugh.

  • cynthia

    Amen. Gah, I totally relate to the madness of having to try on 5 different sizes in order to find something that fits. Sizing seems to be becoming more and more erratic. Depending on the cut, the store, and the fabric, I’m anywhere from a 6 to a 10 on a regular basis. Someone please explain to clothing designers that women are not supposed to be the same width around their hips and thighs as their waist! All I can say is that it’s a darn good thing belts are so fashionable these days. Now if someone could just do something about the fact that the new trapeze tops make anyone with a chest look about 6 months pregnant, I’d be very happy. Ugh.

  • A few people have mentioned the option of getting your clothes custom-made, but no one has suggested just getting things tailored. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems to me to expect clothing off the rack to fit us well. As you say, there is no standard size or shape, and bodies will never fit into some designer’s mold. So, find a pair of pants that fits the biggest part of you (length, hips, bum, whatever) and get them tailored to fit the rest of you. A good tailor usually only charges $15-20 per item. I’ve spent enough marathon days hunting for the “right” jeans to know it’s way more efficient and much less demoralizing just to get ’em nipped and tucked to suit your beautiful bod just as it is.

  • I’ve resorted to making, or (crudely) altering, my own clothes — I not only can never find anything that fits properly, but I also hate shopping (the latter is quite likely related to the former). I can whip out a pair of simple pants in less than an hour — and those flowy yoga pants are uber-simple. Do you still have your sewing machine? Of course, sewing *does* take some time …

  • Well, you see, I tried that. I went over to India to get things made, and I came back with more ill-fitting crap. (not to mention the utterlly *wrong style*) And this was stuff that was “custom made.” They took my measurements… every single tailor. So I think the trouble is not that designers don’t understand… you are under a size 12, so they generally *get* you. (the rules change for us plus-sizers) but that the pattern cutters, translate things strangely, and therefore they are sewn strangely.

    There is also “style and pattern override” where I would say “low cut” and I would barely see collarbones.. where the style is strange, so they will be strange with the fitting, because culturally they have thier “ways of working”

    And if anything is cut/pieced/sewn in a 3rd world country (even by grown ups, paid well) it might post a problem for you. I’d try London… they seem to hit it right, and they have known their tailoring for centuries.

  • dj

    “I even tried on the ugly pants”, hahaha. It was that bad, huh?

  • Try Crescendo Apparel. http://www.crescendoapparel.com.

    It is a company based in Chicago for women with small waists and full hips!!