Spain to wreck European clothing sizes initiative?

According to a BBC report the Spanish government is proposing a new clothing sizes initiative which conflicts with the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) proposal described in Metric Views last year. If this report is true it threatens to undermine the progress that had been made toward a Europe-wide sizing system for clothes.

The BBC report can accessed from this link. And the CEN proposal was described in Metric Views here.

According to the report, the reasoning behind the Spanish proposal appears to be that mannequins and models are too thin and as a result women risk their health by striving to lose weight in order to be able to wear the clothes seen on the catwalk and in the shop window. This may well be a serious problem, but it is difficult to see how changing the sizing system will solve it.

The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) is a private sector body independent of the European Union. The great advantage of its proposal (known as EN 13402) is that it is based on the dimensions of the customer â?? not on an ideal model that the clothes are designed to fit. So provided that the customer knows her bust, waist and hip sizes, she should be able to find the â??best fitâ?? garments. This contrasts with the current systems in which a size 12 in one shop will be a size 14 in another shop and will not necessarily have the same relationship between bust and hip.

Much of the problem stems from the obvious fact that people vary in shape as well as in size. Consequently, a single number cannot adequately describe the person a garment is intended to fit. EN 13402 allows for this by giving two or more dimensions in the form of a pictogram, whereas (if the BBC report is correct) the proposed new Spanish system will simply repeat the same mistake. Ironically, the Spanish proposal appears to be duplicating a survey carried out by the British Standards Institution and other European standards organisations that was the basis for EN 13402.

The relevance of all this for UK metrication is that EN 13402 is based on dimensions in centimetres. It would be a great advance if British consumers could be persuaded to remember their dimensions in cm, but it was feared that the British retail industry and clothing importers might resist it precisely because it would require women to remember, say, 96-82-100 rather than 38-32-40.

If Spain really does go it alone, it will be even more difficult to achieve a common system throughout Europe.

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