By Susan Baldani
I’m often jealous when buying clothes for my husband, especially pants. All I have to know is his waist size and inseam, and voila, perfect fit!
I wish it were that easy for women. It’s not enough to know your size, since every designer seems to have his or her own idea of how big or small that size actually is. And length is another tricky situation. I’m 5’4”, which is considered “average” in the U.S., but when buying pants, sometimes average is too long and short fits just right. What on earth do truly short people do?
This is why when trying on clothes I have to bring at least three sizes into the fitting room. It’s a frustrating experience, and buying clothes online is almost impossible. It usually involves shipping items back because they don’t fit.
Shirts and blouses are sometimes a little easier, because if they’re a little too big or a little too small, they can still look okay. But again, when in the fitting room, I usually have at least two sizes of each to try on.
Speaking of shirts, have you ever noticed that men’s shirts have buttons on the right side, while women’s have buttons on the left? Why is this?
Well, it turns out that this fashion orientation dates back to over a century ago. According to the article, “Here’s why men’s and women’s shirts button on the opposite sides,” on Today.com, “The reason is historical,” says Melanie M. Moore, founder of women’s blouse brand Elizabeth & Clarke. “When buttons were invented in the 13th century they were, like most new technology, very expensive,” she says. “Wealthy women back then did not dress themselves — their lady’s maid did. Since most people were right-handed, this made it easier for someone standing across from you to button your dress.”
Most men, on the other hand, dressed themselves. However, the article goes on to state, “there are a few competing theories as to why buttons are on the right side.”
‘I think it’s important to question which time period we’re talking about, since shirt and jacket buttons are a relatively new phenomenon,” notes Chloe Chapin, fashion historian and Harvard University Ph.D. candidate in American studies. “But as a general rule, many elements of men’s fashion can be traced back to the military.”
Once again, the right-handed assumption played a role since “access to a weapon … practically trumped everything,” she says, noting that a firearm tucked inside a shirt would be easier to reach from the dominant side.
Well, you learn something new every day. Now, if only clothes designers could learn how to make women’s fashion sizes consistent, we would have a better idea as to what size we actually wear.
Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.