"Getting caught is the mother of invention," wrote Robert Byrne, and he was right - getting caught in the zips and buttons of incorrectly sized high-street wear has been a problem in need of solving since, well, forever. Perhaps overly tight blouses weren't quite what Byrne had in mind, but fed up of incongruous sizing in chain fashion stores, web developer Anna Powell-Smith has designed a 21st century solution to this irritating issue.
Writing on the Guardian's Datablog this week, Powell-Smith reveals that from shop to shop, measurements can vary as much as eleven inches for individual garments - and yet are still marked as the same size. After compiling the various size guides available on websites for most fashion stores, she was inspired to create an app that allows you to enter your measurements in order to find out what size will actually fit in each store. Thanks to this inspired invention, the days of misguided self-loathing after having 'gone up a size' is no longer, and for most women, this is a welcome development.
While Powell-Smith's app 'What Size Am I?' offers a solution to the problem, it still remains to be seen why the problem still exists at all. Surely fashion chains have done enough research to realise that not having a universal size guide can be damaging to their custom. If someone is constantly made to feel uncomfortable by trying on clothes that always seem to come up small, the likelihood of them returning to the store seems fairly low. It may not be true of all women, but some simply don't want to buy a larger size when that last button won't do up, and it thus makes little sense for stores to keep peddling anomalous measurements.
Of course, the shops that mark a size 12 as being five inches wider on the hips than their high street counterparts would probably look at universal sizing less favourably, but if the customer really does come first, this really should be the priority. It is all very well making clothes aesthetically pleasing, but a garment doesn't fit, the vast majority of women are unlikely to spend their hard earned money on it. Businesses are evidently always going to try to have the edge over each other, but to do this at the peril of giving women completely botched sizing seems unreasonable. It should be quality and style that attracts buyers to shops, not because one store allows a little more leeway around the waist.
Fans of overseas retail therapy need not feel left out, as Powell-Smith's app also lists measurements at US stores. Alongside this, you can enter your size data into a chart to see how your measure up to other users of the site (perhaps ill-advised immediately post cupcake binge). As the developer mentions in her blog, the fact that something as elementary as this has never been created is quite literally astounding, and perhaps it is its simplicity that has made it go unnoticed. In times of voice activated toilets and other high tech, low necessity inventions, it is easy to neglect what is in front of our noses. But Powell-Smith's app demonstrates that if stores won't make their sizing clear, sisters are doing it for themselves, and making women's passion for fashion that little bit simpler.