The apparel industry has struggled with a lack of reliable sizing standards since the US government began mass-producing military uniforms in the 19th century. At that time, rudimentary body sizing “systems” were developed manually, by taking chest, waist, and leg measurements from thousands of male recruits and identifying patterns between them. The data was used to derive other parameters based on a single chest measurement, and eventually formed the basis for civilian men’s sizing labels — although it was never truly standardized.
Developing a universal sizing system for women has been even more challenging. The 19th century saw the first standardized methods for women’s sizing labels based on generic patterns of a range of body types. However, proportional variations in bust and waist measurements among women complicated the standardization process and to date, no standard size labeling has been widely adopted.