gear · inclusiveness · normative bodies · swimming

All people vary in size? Really? Shocking!

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A photo of a women’s size guide on a wetsuit according to which XS is 5-5’2 and 95-110 lbs and XL is 5’9 + and over 155 lbs.

One of the things I love about our Facebook page is when people share things with us. Often it’s links for us to pass along on the page but sometimes it’s readers sharing their own experiences and observations. One reader, Sara Wabi Gould, was shopping for a wetsuit and was amused/horrified at this size chart and the accompanying text, “all people vary in size.”

She sent an image of the tag to us with the comment, “Wetsuit sizing strikes again. “Over 155”???”

According to this chart that variation tops out at 155 lbs. There’s also, according to this chart a strict correlation between weight and height.

Our bloggers had some reactions too:

Cate: “I remember reading once, in the 80s or 90s, some sort of “advice” in a women’s magazine that women who were 5.0 should weigh 100lbs, and for every inch after that you could add 5lbs. At the time, my not-quite-5.2 self weighed about 118lbs, the tiniest I’ve ever been — I think I was a size 4. I now weigh about 140 – 145 (haven’t weighed myself for a while) and I don’t THINK I’ve grown. I’m incredibly fit and strong and happy with my body. But I think I’ve carried that bullshit algorithm in the back of my mind for three and a half decades, with a flicker of shame every time I get on the scale that I am so much heavier than I “should” be. When I let it, that flicker of shame can outstrip the accomplishment of riding my bike 150 km in a day, running 8km comfortably on a hot day, deadlifting 200 lbs or being a super functional, fit, healthy 56 year old. These charts are dangerous bullshit.”

Tracy: “I feel oppressed by diet culture just looking at the chart and the way they assume height and weight correlate in just that way.”

Kim: “I’m 5’8 and just after I did the London to Paris challenge I was at my lightest at 155lb. This was me as endurance cyclist not lifting at the time. So does that mean I need to ride 450km in 24 hours and 14 minutes if I want to deserve a wetsuit? Bahahahaha!!!”

Sam: “Oh, FFS. I’m 5’7 and 155 lbs is a weight I haven’t seen on a scale since my early twenties. So I guess I’m an XL in a suit that’s too long for me. This brings me to one of my pet peeves about XL sizes. Sometimes they’re just a bit larger than L and other times they’re four times the size of L since they’re meant to fit everyone larger than that. It’s like the “one size fits everyone bigger than L.”

Diane: “By this sizing, my daughter (who is petite by almost any standard but very muscular) might need to get a medium as she is on the cusp for weight. What happens if you weigh 117 lb? Or 140? The answer if you weigh over 155 is generally that you learn to swim without a wetsuit. There are some slightly larger models out there, but most larger swimmers I have talked to simply gave up on trying to find one.”

You might want to also read Catherine’s post about choosing a wetsuit.

What would your reaction be to encountering this size tag on an item of clothes/sports gear while shopping?

4 thoughts on “All people vary in size? Really? Shocking!

  1. The size chart is all the things the bloggers have mentioned. Silly, oppressive, out-of-touch. I am 5’2 and have generally been anywhere from 140-160 my entire adult life. I generally wear a small or medium. The only way I would weigh 110 pounds (based on the “rules” that Cate mentioned and that I also remember from some terrible dieting rule) is if I were sick. Fuck whoever designed those wetsuits and came up with those parametres.

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  2. I see those kinds of size tags all the time. I’m 5′-9″ (175.3 cm) and weigh around 230 pounds (104.3 kg). Obviously, I don’t exist for most manufacturers. Designer label and exercise clothing beyond yoga styles are only a dream. Good luck finding ski pants, wet suits, paddle board long sleeve one piece suits, etc.

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  3. March 2020, I was determined to make a dream come true and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef( as my world wide adventures were grinding to a halt due to Covid). I was very anxious about the wetsuit fit as I am a 5’10, size 18/20 person . The boat crew assured me they had a suit for me. And did they ever, many options even-and in my trying on of 6 different suits-mens and women’s, discovered that manufacturers can’t even get sizing to be consistent-larger sizes sometimes didn’t fit, but a smaller label , same manufacturer did. Mind boggling. And utterly frustrating. But worth it in order to have that once in a lifetime experience.

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  4. My partner bought this wetsuit for herself without trying it on. She’s “over 155” but apparently too much over for it to fit.

    I did find this company selling inexpensive wetsuits on Amazon that have 25 sizes for men and for women. I’m curious whether their data points would translate to real humans.

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