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Looking For a Few Good Women

PULLMAN, Wash. — Carol Salusso is looking for a few good women to help solve one of the most vexing problems American women face when they go to a clothing store: finding pants that fit properly.

“Women’s clothing labels are meaningless,” said Salusso, who is an associate professor of apparel, merchandising and textiles at Washington State University. “It’s a size 12 or 14 or it’s a woman’s 40 or something and we don’t know what body measurements it corresponds to.

“Sizing is based on a mythical average that doesn’t exist,” said Salusso, who has been working on apparel sizing research for 20 years. “Dress forms have flat stomachs and they don’t have very much swayback and they have very straight shoulders and the bust line is kind of an odd shape.”

Salusso says garments built on those forms don’t follow natural contours. “Some women have really rounded hips with small waist and more vault to the hips. Others have a flatter buttock. There’s not much waist. The hip isn’t very wide. They just kind of flow out of their legs. ”

She says women blame themselves when clothes don’t fit and it’s not their fault. “Let’s stop criticizing women’s bodies and work from reality.”

Salusso and Tiehong Lin, a graduate student from the People’s Republic of China, designed the prototype pants using a sizing system developed from a national body measurement study of 7,000 women in 39 states.

This current study is being supported by Koret of California, which designs part of its line for older women. Researchers are collecting data in seven states.

During the next three months Salusso and Lin want to recruit 200 volunteers age 55 to 65 from the Pullman-Moscow, Spokane and Lewiston areas, to try on pants that incorporate real body form into a new sizing system.

“We want to see if our patterns fit real women. Instead of saying your body is wrong unless it fits the clothing. We want the clothing to be right because it fits your body.”

Volunteers will be measured and asked to try on the pants. Fit will be checked and a picture taken. “We would like to find groups of people who would like to take this on as a project if possible,” Salusso said.

Women interested in volunteering should call Salusso at (509) 335-3821 to arrange a fitting. She also can be reached by e-mail at salusso@wsu.edu.

(Reporters: Dr. Salusso has been the subject of a number of interesting feature stories over the years. You can reach her at the phone number and e-mail address mentioned in the story if you are interested in learning more about her work or to arrange an interview.)

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