Using the state to counter social conformism

by on December 28, 2005 at 6:16 am in Travels | Permalink

Women in search of fashionable clothes the world over have a similar problem: What do you do if you are not a size 6?

Some government leaders in Argentina have an answer.  They have passed a controversial law designed to break what they see as the tyranny of tiny sizes.  Starting Dec.21, Buenos Aires province, which includes the capital’s glitzy suburbs but not the fashion-forward city itself, will require shops catering to adolescent girls to stock clothing in a minimum range of sizes roughly equivalent to sizes 6 to 16 in the U.S.

Provincial inspectors will scrutinize merchants’ clothing racks, "tape measure in hand," says Ana Serrano, the province’s director of commerce and designated sizing sheriff.  Shops that don’t have the prescribed sizes in stock will face fines of up to $170,000.  Officials maintain that the small clothes put pressure on young women to take up extreme dieting.  That in turn contributes to one of the highest rates of anorexia and bulimia in the world, they say.

In a nation where stylishness is a national religion, the sizes law is triggering a fevered debate…Argentina women who aren’t extremely thin have an unusually tough time finding fashionable clothes.

There is another angle:

Some of the problem has to do with the fragmented structure of the local clothing industry, says Donna Reamy…High tariffs, along with Argentina’s history of economic instability, have kept many big foreign chains out of Argentina, leaving only one department store in the city of Buenos Aires and provincial suburbs.

Argentina, by the way, is a leader among Latin American nations in plastic surgery, exercise, eating disorders, and psychoanalysis.  This new policy is a funny kind of paternalistic anti-paternalism: "hey, you, I pull out my gun: tell her it is OK to grow a little fat." 

That is all from the 26 November Wall Street Journal.  A good micro question would be to outline the underlying (implicit) theory of market failure here.

UberIcarus December 28, 2005 at 7:40 am

The implied market failure is that the fashion industry realized it could sell more clothes by using “sexy” persons in advertising, whether or not they were healthy or an accurate description of the average body type. This then lead to that sort of body type being percieved as the new standard of beauty, even when for a wide variety of people it may be unattainable or even unhealthy. This leads to selling clothes toward that standard of beauty (modelesque) which of course cuts out many people seeking to buy clothes that fit.

E.g., it’s a discrepency between what they advertise and what they sell.

I actually experience something like this, to a lesser degree. I’m an increadibly thin male. It’s allmost impossible for me to find pants that fit correctly. I’m 29″x30″, and usually end up buying 30 or 31×30, but usually I don’t have much selection because thats the least stocked size and the smallest size usually offered in the mens section. Often I end up having to go to the teen’s or “boys” section. Which of course if I were self-concious at all, could be mildly embarassing.

Alan December 28, 2005 at 9:38 am

While fashion labels use tiny models in their ads, they tend to actually stock more average sizes in their stores. It’s pretty simple… stock the sizes your customers wear so you don’t turn away people/cash. Clothing stores are profit-maximizers too.

My girlfriend is a size 6… and really struggles to find clothing, because stores rarely actually stock size 6. If they do have “size 6″s, they’re often re-badged size 8s. Maybe I’ll have to tell her to go to Argentina!

Sean December 28, 2005 at 9:57 am

The interesting thing is to juxtapose this with Chilean cities. In the country next door, with largely the same cultural background (some difference on immigration, but Spanish legacy still predominates), there are countless department stores – in the city where I live with a metropolitan area of about 250,000, there are 2 that would be considered “full sized” mall anchors by U.S. standards and at least 3 that are nearly that big. In Santiago it seems that on the larger, fashionable avenues there is a department store nearly every block. Supposedly there are even outlet malls in a few other cities, especially the ones designated as “zonas francas” or “free trade ports”. And so we see Santiago, formerly thought of as a large but relatively isolated outpost, eclipsing “fashion forward” B.A. in the number of North American and European brands setting up shop and selling their wares (at least for a “reasonable” price). In fact one of my Argentine friends has complained about this issue in the past, saying that an Argentine brand of inferior quality can be had for the same price as “premium” apparel such as Armani.

DK December 28, 2005 at 11:43 am

Sudha, you’re assuming that Argentine leaders don’t also treat men as puppets/sheep.

Andy Wink December 28, 2005 at 1:24 pm

Why is the market failing?

Clothing is about image. When someone asks you where you got those jeans, you don’t want to say ‘The Big and Tall Store.’ Even if you’re a plus size girl/woman, you want to shop where everyone else shops. There is a supply of clothes in your size out there, but not at a store you’d ‘be caught dead at’.

On the flip side, trendy clothing stores care about their image as well. There’s a reason some stores don’t go above a size 6 – they feel their customers might not want to shop there if they see plus size girls trying on the same styles they’re interested in.

It’s an interesting little problem. As long as women who are size 6-16 (I don’t think of a size 6 as plus-size) desire to be below a six… this will continue because of the image thing.

Maria December 29, 2005 at 10:34 am

Actually, the most expensive, designer, stores do carry larger sizes. The problem is concentrated in stores with cheap, “fashionable” clothes for the impoverished middle class, and to a lesser extent in brands which are somewhat massive but more expensive.

For the small, cheap, stores, the problem is that larger girls/women are relatively rare (I’m from Buenos Aires and live in New York, so my comparison is between what you see in both cities). This is largely because of the importance given to being thin, and the fact that being “on a diet” is a permanent feature of the life of most women. This is not quite the same as being anorexic or bulimic. I don’t think there is a market failure – it’s more of a cultural failure. It doesn’t make economic sense for *all* stores to carry large sizes – there just isn’t a market. (Disclaimer: I used to be on the receiving end of the “we don’t have your size” speech. I just stopped going to those stores, told my friends not to, and cried. But I don’t think a law is the answer).

So, some stores do carry large sizes. Unfortunately, these are the most massive ones, so that large girls who are not rich end up having to wear mostly ugly, ill-fitting, “unhip” clothes, and this compounds their already diminished status.

I used to believe in the “store signalling” aspect of this, but I don’t think that’s at work – mainly because the very expensive stores do have large sizes (for at least some of the clothes they carry). And these are very well-regarded labels (also, Levi’s are quite in fashion among the wealthier teen crowd, and these come in all sizes, being American and all).

If there’s any market failure here, I think it is that stores for some reason charge the same price for all sizes of any garment. Since there are some fixed costs that go into producing an additional size (you have to design the pattern, or whatever it is called, in order to cut the clothes, you may need to waste fabric because you’re cutting larger pieces, and so on), and the quantity of larger sizes that stores can expect to sell at any given price is relatively low, it doesn’t make sense for them to enter the “large size” market.

æ°´æ— ç—• July 4, 2007 at 5:02 am
hyangel July 13, 2007 at 2:11 am

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45rfgf July 20, 2007 at 2:34 am

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xdrs July 25, 2007 at 2:22 am

liying 07年7月25日

google排名
google排名
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google排名

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电话交换机
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huojia August 7, 2007 at 4:46 am
Missliang August 16, 2007 at 2:52 am

houyuping 07年8月16日

wow gold
wow gold
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翻译公司
翻译公司
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涂层测厚仪
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红外测温仪
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超声波测厚仪
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google排名
门禁
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集团电话
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青春痘
青春痘

不動産投資 July 19, 2008 at 12:47 am

資金を増やそうとするのに不動産投資をするのが手っ取り早い。日本で不動産で東京 賃貸をさがすのはきわめて難しくシステム開発は日本の会社が良い。

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