“Let me look for the cropped version”. I was standing in the Sandro changing rooms, in a pair of trousers needing a good 5cm of shortening. The sales assistant came back 5 minutes later, empty handed: “I think you might already be wearing the cropped version”. I was. In fact, these trousers were never produced in anything but a cropped version, yet they were still too long for me.
I’m not particularly small, yet “(Oh My God) you’re so small” is one of the most recurrent comments I hear from my co-workers, taken aback by the 15cm I loose when I take off my heels. At 1,54m, I would be considered tall in India, Bahrain, Bangladesh and a dozen other countries*, or in Europe in the 18th century. Not that I have any intention to move to any of these regions, nor do any of the small people I know.
When commentators criticise fashion for being a sizeist industry, they mean girth, not height. A crusade championing plus size women, and the lack of clothes at their disposal, is more populist and headline-grabbing, at least in Western countries, than wishing for shorter trousers, skirts and dresses. It’s also easier: the first requires added width of sizes (and possible design adaptation), the second demands producing the same size in different, length-based versions. It would be a logistical nightmare, not to mention eating up on margins since produced volume in each size would be lower.
Yet as fashion brands conquer more and more markets with a significant percentage of small people (The average Chinese height is about 10 cm below the average British height, although this largely depends on the survey you refer to*), clothing companies might not have a choice. Just like brands started introducing sizes and designs tailored to the need of a bigger audience when they realised overweight Americans were a great, untapped market, they could create sizes for smaller people. Acknowledging the “sizing challenge” in Asia, companies such as Kiwi sportswear have already started producing lines based on this height difference.
Would such items be sold in Europe? Considering the percentage of sales to Asians and Middle-Easterners in European stores, as well as my purely self-centred motives, I like to think so. The small market is just getting too big to be ignored.
* Based on the Average height around the world Wikipedia table, consulted 25 August 2012
Pictures: Photo from Elle Muliarchyk Dressing Room self portrait series