Clothing and the Metric System

The inspiration for this is the fact that it’s getting cooler now in north Florida, down to about 64 at night.  Needless to say, that’s Fahrenheit.  I never think about the metric issue until I start thinking about the weather.  Then I think of my friend Sue in Canada.  She taught me this great quickie formula for conversion of Fahrenheit to Centigrade, or vice versa, which bypasses all that dividing or multiplying by 9/5 or 5/9.  So here you go:  To convert F to C, subtract 30, then divide in half.  So, 64F is approximately 17C.  Sue would consider that balmy.

On the other hand, some days, Sue posts on Facebook that it is expected to reach 27 (!) and she is going to die!  I think, me too!  I need to build a fire!  Then I remember.  27C is about 84F.  I consider that balmy.

And don’t get me started on kilometers.  All I can say is that lucky for me, most modern cars have speedometers for measurements of both.  Otherwise, driving in Canada, as I have done, I would have no idea whether or not I was obeying the speed limit.  Not that I take that into account in any case.  I go with the flow, and correct according to road conditions, and hope that works out.

Sue lives in a border/tourist town between Canada and the U.S. on the St. Lawrence River, and they have learned all sorts of conversion tables in their heads.  Centigrade to Fahrenheit.  Kilometers to miles.  Canadian dollars to the U.S. dollar.   Clothing sizes.

Yes, clothing sizes.  It dawned on me that sizes for women’s clothing in other countries might be different from that in the U.S.  Not that it has anything to do with the metric system, but I was right.

Most of us have long been suspicious that clothing manufacturers or distributors in the U.S. deliberately reduce the sizes of clothes so that women don’t get depressed about how fat they are.  So, size 12 in the U.S., which as far as I know is still considered average, would be a 14 in the UK and Canada.   And they are probably fudging a bit too.

This is no more evident than when we hire a new female employee at work.  We provide free uniforms to them, so as part of the orientation process we ask, What size do you wear?  The answers are hilarious.  I wear a 4, they say.  I look at these women and silently think, okay.  You are 6 inches taller than me and weigh at least 40 pounds more than me.  (And I weigh somewhere between 115 and 120 and wear a 10 or sometimes 12.)  You wear a 4 in an alternate universe.  So mentally, I just always add 8.  If you think you wear a 4, I order a 12.

But speaking of depressing, in shoes, I wear a 6 1/2 U.S. , but they don’t seem to make half-sizes for the U.S. any more.  So I have to choose between a 6 and a 7.  In the U.S., a 6 is a 4 1/2  and a 7 is a 5 1/2.  In Europe, a 7 in the U.S. is a size 39.  Okay, that would depress me.

Now that “winter” is coming on–a relative term, and it won’t happen for a couple of months yet–I have to take stock of my “winter” clothing.  I have to find my gloves, and my furry caps, and buy some tights, and get a suede brush for my boots.  I have to wash my workaday jacket and have my actual coat cleaned (for the longest time I didn’t even have a coat).  I should buy socks too.

I hate cold weather.  I don’t like waking up in the dark.  I don’t like wearing so many clothes.  I don’t like not being able to sit in the back yard at my picnic table and read.  This is worse than preparing for hurricane season.  Much, much worse.  I just have to remind myself that I only have to hunker down and endure it for about two months, because by February it will be spring.

I could be the poster child for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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10 responses to “Clothing and the Metric System

  1. I’ve always used that temperature conversion method too, but the other way round, to go from C to F, it’s double it and add 30, which is exactly the same as yours but in reverse. By the way, you have a small typo in your example calculation, you put ‘So, 64 is approximately 17F’, you mean 17C right?

    US clothing sizes are a complete mystery to me, I never really got to grips with them when I lived over there and I’m still confused. I’m 120lbs and I generally wear a 10 in the UK (sometimes an 8), but in the US if I bought a 6 or 8 it was almost always too big and I had to go for 4. But now you’re saying you are 115/120 and you wear a 10 or 12 US? I guess it doesn’t help that there are variances between manufacturers, so maybe it depends where you shop, they also do that vanity sizing thing. After I read your post, I just had a look on Wikipedia – scroll down and have a look at the tables, the difference between UK and US sizes seems to be different in ‘dresses and suits’ compared to ‘clothing’ – silly me, I thought that dresses and suits were clothing? Soooo confused: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_sizes

    In shoes, I’m a 6 in UK, which I think is 7 US, and 39 in rest of Europe (which tallies with your figures!). I also agree that kilometers are confusing, we still do miles in the UK too.

  2. Oh thank you Vanessa! I corrected that mishap! It is so easy to get confused with this stuff anyway! You are so right about that difference in manufacturers. You and I may weigh about the same, but you are probably taller than me, and so you are probably “thinner”. I’m 5’2″ (in feet and inches) and please don’t ask me to convert that to meters 🙂
    On my refrigerator, I have a handy magnetic reference guide for converting cups to fluid ounces, and tablespoons and teaspoons to millileters. Don’t ask me why. I guess it’s in case I decide to cook some foreign recipe, like that would ever happen!
    And don’t you find that making the sizes “small,medium, and large”, which you think would simplify things, only makes them more complicated?

    • I’m 5’6″, so a little taller, yes.

      In the UK, most recipes are done by weight, but since my time of living in the US where I discovered the ease of measuring ingredients out in cups, I now tend to seek out American recipes when searching online, just so that it’s easier to measure out the ingredients! Cups, tablespoons, who needs stupid innacurate scales right?

  3. I hate when it gets cold. It hasn’t cooled off that much here, as I’m still seeing 86 degree days. First cold snap that lasts for 4 days and I will be wishing for winter to be over.

  4. Also don’t ask me to do currency conversions. Or speak another language. In the U.S. we are hopelessly provincial in a sense. The country is so large that we rarely encounter a different currency or language, although the latter is changing. If I remember correctly, about 14% of the population now is Hispanic. When I was in high school I took French, and in college I took German, but I never really learned to speak either one. I can read them passably, though not as well as I used to.

  5. Jeff, me too! But I can deal with it as long as the drop in temperature is gradual. The worst is when the temp drops 20 degrees in one day and stays there. But we are already at the “wear a sweater or a jacket” in the morning, and take them off in the afternoon. We are not yet to the stage of turning on the heat in the morning and the AC in the afternoon. Our days are still mid-80’s too.
    Vanessa, I took a look at that Wiki article and chased down many of the references as well. Fascinating! No wonder we’re confused.

  6. Although the Philippines was a US colony for 50 years, it is on the metric system.

    But, I never “thought” metric (or otherwise) while living there. I never said a place was X kilometers away; it was X minutes away. I never asked for a half-kilo of something in the market. I picked out the quantity I wanted and then it was weighed.

    Now clothes, which I bought at the PX on military bases were “US.” So I thought in inches for my waist.

  7. I hate to confuse the shoe thing but I wear an 8 US which really is a 39 European. I have shoes sized both ways (Dansko’s for the European sizing). My feet are much bigger than Fakename’s are! So is the rest of me, for that matter.

  8. Fakesister, I have never understood why we think smaller is better. So many times in my life I have wished to be taller and heavier. Nor do I understand why we think small feet are a good thing. They are harder to balance on and are subject to far more stress. I think you are more “normal” than I am, and beautiful besides.

  9. Actually, given the size of my feet and hands, I think I should have been much taller! And look at all those relatives: Uncle Carl and his kids for instance.

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