Size Inclusivity circa 1989

Today, I was thumbing through some old issues of Vogue Knitting.  I stumbled upon this issue from 1989:


Look carefully at the cover, where it says “Special sizes Part 1”.  Intriguing, no?  Further investigation reveals this:


Two patterns designed in special sizes.  The text reads: “At long last: Fashionable details programmed into two on-the-go career tops designed and sized for the full-figured woman”.  Here is the kicker.  Every pattern in this edition (with the exception of these two) comes in 5 sizes: to fit 32, 34, 36, 38, 40″/81, 86, 91, 96, 101 cm bust.  These two sweaters, designed for us full-figured gals, also comes in 5 sizes: to fit 38, 40, 42, 44, 46″/96, 101, 106, 112, 116 cm bust.

Let’s review what this tells us:

  1. “Normal” women are sized only from 32-40″.
  2. “Full-figured” women are sized only up to 46″.
  3. Apparently, if you are a size 32-36, the full-figured sweaters won’t suit you, and if you are above a size 40, none of the “normal sweaters” are going to suit you. 
  4. If you are not a size 32-46, then you are not the target audience.

This was 1989, of course, and things have changed since then, right? Well, yes and no. Emma just requested a pullover designed by Kim Hargreaves (Tan, Ravelry link here). I had a look and it comes in 6 sizes – 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, and 43 (81, 86, 91, 96, 101, and 109 cm), which are labelled XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL. So, in 1989 my current size would make me “special”, while in 2020 I am XXL. Head thunk.

On the other hand, lots of designers are now striving to be more size inclusive. Just today, I’ve been looking at a new Kate Davies pattern (Treit, Ravelry link here), sized from 33-60 inches, and an Andrea Mowry pattern (Pink Velvet, Ravelry link here), sized from 32-64 inches. And a quick look at a recent Vogue shows patterns with a much wider range of sizes, like Aegean (Ravelry link here) sized from 32-52 or Staple (Ravelry link here) sized from 36-60.

One of the reasons why we knit is that we can tailor things to fit. But in the old days, a full-figured girl would need to exercise a lot of math to make that happen. Today, we can all be equally mathematically challenged and still knit something that fits.