This is from Arthur Gron’s presentation at the January 23, 2013 meeting of Quantified Self Toronto. The transcript has been slightly edited for clarity.
Arthur: I’ve started measuring my clothing to get an idea of my body shape. The reason I did this is that my weight tends to fluctuate a lot. I have two boxes of clothing: my thin clothing and my bigger clothing. Come New Year’s, my plan was that I was going to start running to losing weight again to get back to a reasonable size. I wanted to take a sort of snapshot of how my wardrobe looks now compared to later.
I’ve learned some really cool things about how my wardrobe reflects my body shape, and all I did was just measure my clothing and then enter it into a spreadsheet. Just catalog my clothing in a spreadsheet is pretty much all I did, with very simple tool, just a measuring tape to measure it. I didn’t trust the labels of how much they told me about the pants size was, so I took the measuring tape and did it for myself.
Here’s basically my wardrobe in a nutshell. I have 104 pieces of clothing. I didn’t count the socks or jackets. I just stuck with the pants, jogging pants, dress shirt, golf shirt, tee shirt, pants, shirts, couple of suits, a lot of sweaters.
And then I started thinking–that’s one of the first things I discovered was: why do I have all these sweaters? I mean they sort of predominate. I didn’t realize that my sweaters are predominating myhow much clothing I had. I think it’s because sweaters just don’t wear out. You accumulate them because you don’t wear them a lot. You don’t wear them in the summer so you leave them in your closet. Even if they’re baggy, that’s fine because it’s a sweater. So sweaters tend to accumulate.
Yes, I did estimate the value of it. I estimated how much each piece of clothing I had was, and it came out to like $2,300. That’s a lot of money considering I don’t like spending money on clothing. I buy it at really cheap stores and stuff like that. I’ve never been really a clothes fashion person. And wow, how did that end up with having a couple grand for clothing?
Then I did clothing by origin, because I’m in sociology. I’m interested in social issues and social justice issues, so I wanted to see where my clothes were made. I looked in all the tags and I wrote down where it came from. Here it is: predominantly China, Bangladesh and then surprisingly Canada. I didn’t think Canada would rank in there, but almost 15% of my clothing is made in Canada. A lot of it was unknown because the labels worn out. And then the rest were in the USA, Pakistan, and so on.
The reason I think a lot of my clothing was made in Canada was: I looked at which clothing was made in Canada and it was a lot of the tee shirts. I think the reason why tee shirts are made in Canada is–I get a lot of my tee shirts from when you go to events or something and you get a tee shirt, or from an organization you get a tee shirt. A lot of those tee shirts aren’t made in sweat shops because the organization wants to look good so they tend to be made in Canada. Whereas other pieces of clothing like underwear tend to be made in China because nobody really does social justice, fair trade underwear. Everybody does tee shirts to show off their label. That’s one thing I learned when I looked at my wardrobe. I’m thinking, wait, wouldn’t that be really cool to have like fair trade socks they could give out. I get that, at events, a tee shirt seems to be the predominant thing.
Looking more at the labels, there was only two labels that gave me more of a region than just country wide. The first one was Macau, China. That was a specific region, more than just China. And the second one, for some reason, was Welland, Ontario. Those were the only two labels that gave me more than just the country wide place where I got the clothing from.
I looked at material: cotton predominantly, polyester, not a lot of acrylic, rayon, acetate, and spandex were like up there for most of the stuff I have. And I’m like, oh man, why is there like no organic stuff? Why was there no organic stuff in my wardrobe like wool or bamboo stuff like that. I thought there would at least be something. More organic stuff. My wardrobe mostly tends to be mostly cotton.
Waist size. It’s really cool to see the sort of standard deviation on this, so my minimum and maximum, right? It goes from like 36 to like 42. Wait, because there’s a whole bunch here because I go up and down in weight. So I have pants that are almost 36, pants that are almost 42. Wow, this is really bad.
You tend to wear loose pants a lot when you’re bigger. Then you don’t realize how much weight you start putting on really fast, because you don’t notice it in your clothing that you’re putting on weight, because you’re wearing a lot of loose clothing. So I’m making a point now to get rid of anything that’s bigger and junk it, so when I start getting bigger, I’ll notice much more quickly. Because the mean of 39.53 is about right when I measure myself, I should get rid of everything that’s larger than that. Hopefully, with the running that I’m doing now, I’ll start getting back to a better waist size.
Then I got the outside leg and inside leg. It’s really weird because you measure how big you are. You can measure your body, but it’s much more fun just to measure your clothing to see what you should be wearing.
Audience Member: Is that a measure of you or is that a measure of fashion?
Subject: That was a measure of my clothing so… When you have the whole chart there, you can see some pants hang longer, some pants hang shorter, depending on the style. But yet the means came out to be right, and actually showed me that my body actually does conform to mean averages, which is kind of unusual. It’s a nice confirmation that statistics actually do work, because a lot of people are skeptical of them.
And then for my final measurement, collar size. So I did the collar size of the shirts. And one thing I discovered was that some of my shirts are 15 inches across and some of them are 30. And Why do we wear shirts with collars anymore? Aren’t they designed to protect your neck from sunburns when you’re outside and protect your neck? Now everybody wears their shirts open, defeating the purpose of having that button up collar like Don Cherry wears all these years. Why do shirts have collars anymore? I started thinking about that when I did the collar size.
Audience Member: I’m wearing a v neck right now, would you have extended it both….
Subject: Yeah, I just measured like the circumference around it. That was the way I measured it. And I think that’s why I used that, that bar has different peaks on it.
Chest width, the next one. I laid my shirts down and I just measured across to see how wide the shirts were on a side.
So then I had most of the measurements. I would have done more but at the beginning of this, I wasn’t really thinking of what I should measure. I didn’t research how to measure clothing before I started this. I researched clothing after I started it which was a bad way of going about.
I also did a color analysis of the clothing. And there is all, the pieces of clothing in a predominant color on that clothing. I compiled it into one big chart to see what my color spectrum is. It’s mostly black, grey and black and grey, with a few eccentric pieces.
Each one of those is a piece of clothing and each one of those colors is the main color from the piece of clothing.
Audience Member: So this sweater thing you’re wearing now, what’s the….?
Subject: I wouldn’t just grab the grey . This one was tougher. Most of my sweaters are just bland anyway, falling apart. This one is one of those things where I was, like, which is the predominant color on this one. I chose grey. My thing was like, I would sort of squint at and go look. How does that look? I used the GIMP photo editor, I picked a pixel that I liked, and that would give me the HTML color for that pixel.
The big thing that I learned it’s much more fun to measure yourself than step on a scale. And then hopefully when I do this again in six months after I’ll actually be running every day, this will look much better. That’s pretty much all I did. I got a sense of what I learned. Any other questions?
Audience Member: [10:42]
Subject: I didn’t do that. I was tempted to do that, but then oh, it was a little much. Because I was going to compare what my measurements in pants were to what the measurements they said. I decided I’m not going to bother doing that because I really don’t care what they say the pants are. Because I wasn’t going to look, I wasn’t interested in looking at that.
When I started researching how clothes are measured, I came across all these really cool things. I had no idea that every piece of clothing has a number in the label with the company. That’s the company number. So I started putting the company name on it. You just put CA number or the RN number. I didn’t include it here, but in my spreadsheet I have, whenever I saw one of those numbers in the label, I included it in the spreadsheet. I saw what my clothing was, from which company my clothing was being bought from. Then I started remembering all the different CA numbers. So I remembered what neck was and what the series was. I’m going to go back and do an analysis of which companies I’m most predominantly buying from.
Audience Member: Just from measuring different things, so in color, then sort of fashion. The next line represents kind of fashion casual versus color. But the waist size reflects weight. So you’ve got fashion on one of the scales and weight on the other one. Because if you were always the same weight you’d have very little variability in your waist size, not as much as there. But your neck size changed all over the place. But your neck isn’t changing, but you’re interested in different neck fashion changes.
Subject: Yeah I should have done that a little bit better. That was one of those things before I started measuring the clothes. I didn’t think up a really good systematic way of measuring. I just measured the sort of neck size of all the clothing, and that’s why when you look at the graph you have all these different peaks on it.
Audience Member: Your neck isn’t going to change.
Subject: I find that when I do lose weight my neck size does change by an inch or two. And hopefully I’ll go from that.
I’m not sure what else I do. The social aspect of it, in terms of social ranks and fair trade clothing, I’d like to do more of that to see where my clothing really originates from and really track how much energy is being put into the making of the clothing. I’m thinking now that I’d rather just have like a few pieces of clothing all the time that were hand-made by people, and I would know who the designer was and the materials he worked with instead of just seeing how much content came out of all the clothing.
Audience Member: [14:01]
Subject: No, but I was tracking the CA numbers so I could go back. Eventually I’ll look at which store is buying.
Audience Member: If you do this over a long time you can track when you bought it and then when it left you now to go to [14:22] And you can track that as well. What happened when it left you? [14:31]
Audience Member: [14:32]
Subject: Oh I just guesstimated the price based on what I sort of remember paying for it in the store and then just totaled it all out at the end.
Audience Member: How long did it take you do this?
Subject: A few nights, over the course of a few nights… I took a picture of everything first so I would know which piece of clothing is what and the tracking number was the picture ID number. So it made it easier to figure out which one is which.
Audience Member: [15:30]
Subject: I want to start buying more organic materials. I’m looking at that. Everything basically came down to cotton and polyester. There’s so many other materials that I could buy. I really have to sort of spread out. I kind of like that.
Audience Member: [16:02]
Subject: Yeah it was gratifying just to see it because I started. Now I’m looking forward to do it again in six months time to see how much things really change.
Audience Member: [16:21]
Subject: Now when I look at clothing, I’m thinking of its measurements more and I’ve been researching how clothes are measured. So now I can fine-tune it and look at the data to interpret it more fully.
Audience Member: [17:54]
Subject: The freakiest thing I learned when I was studying, trying to figure out how things were measured, was figuring out the history of shoe sizes. It turns out that the way we measure shoe sizes goes back to about 1300 with King Edward II or something. They were measuring it by the heads of cornstalks. So one cornstalk, I forget, was like half an inch long or something. To measure it, they took the King’s foot, and then how many cornstalks you were bigger than the King’s foot, and that was the shoe size. That’s what we standardized it to in 1300. And we still use that measuring scheme for our shoes now. The only difference is between the Canadian and the American one is they count from the heel to the end of the material and that’s one cornstalk so they add that extra half to the shoe size. That’s sort of the only difference between the way we measure. They count from the heel to the end, whereas we count starting from the heel to the toe.
Audience Member: [19:50]
Audience Member: Thank you very much. [21:14]