JOPLIN, Mo. —
This is a little-known historical fact that I might have made up, but in the 1930s, before he went to work at Princeton University, Albert Einstein worked for the Macy’s department store in New York City.
He was hired by the manager of the store’s women’s clothing department who wanted Einstein to develop a new sizing system for women’s clothing.
“Al, baby, you’re a smart cookie. Give me something simple that guys can understand,” the Macy’s guy said to Einstein.
“Dat’s easy,” Einstein said. “First you take da matter und then you mix it vith energy und then you square da root, double da cosine, move da decimal point ober dare, und den you put your right foot in und take it out und den you shake it all about.”
In retrospect, it was a bad idea.
Somehow the basics of his women’s clothing sizing system stuck, which is why there is no man alive who understands how it works.
I know this because, as a veteran husband, I have spent years trying to figure what size to get my wife when shopping for clothes for her.
It’s easier to order coffee at a Starbucks than it is to buy clothes for women, and everybody knows it’s almost impossible to order coffee at Starbucks.
“Welcome to Starbucks. I’m Stephanie, I will be your barista today. What can I prepare for you?”
“Uh, I’ll have a large, black coffee.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Men’s clothes are easy to figure out. There are six sizes to worry about: Small, medium, large, extra-large, double extra-large and Limbaugh.
But when it comes to women’s clothing small, medium and large are just starting points. Only a small portion of women’s clothes actually fall under the small, medium, large category. Most clothes are shifted into sizes like petit, mini-petit and invisible.
“Well, she was a mini-petit, but then she lost some weight and now she is invisible.”
“Would that be a small invisible or a medium invisible?”
Sometimes women’s size are grouped into what sounds like age categories — like misses, junior and women. You can also have a junior petit or a women’s petit. There is also a size called “young junior,” which sounds redundant to me. There is also a “plus” size that I don’t recommend ever getting for your wife. And for women who might be a bit tall there is a size called — now follow me here — “tall” and finally there is a “half,” which is apparently reserved for former magician assistants.
What all of that means is that a veteran husband can’t just look at the label on one of his wife’s dresses and expect to figure out the correct size.
Sure the label may say “6,” but does that mean she is a size 6 in petit, junior, tall or grande?
For the record, there is no grande size in women’s clothing. Don’t, even as a joke, suggest to your wife that there is. Trust me.
Making matters worse is that some women will insist that they are the same size as there were when they were in high school. I don’t mean to pick on women here; guys do the same thing. Here is a 50-year-old man buying a pair of jeans:
“Waist size? Oh, I’m a 32 just like when I was a junior in high school. (Pause) What’s so funny?”
Because of this complex sizing system, most veteran husbands, when shopping for their wives, look for women roughly the same size as their wives.
“Hi, I’m looking for a dress for my wife.”
“I see, sir, and what size does she wear?”
“See that blond over there? She’s about her size.”
This can get a bit uncomfortable if the guy happens to be shopping in Victoria’s Secret.
There is one way to get around all of this size confusion. Forget about shopping and go to a bar.
Ha. I joke.
Nope, the way to get around the whole size thing is to get your wife a coffee maker.
And then hire a barista.
Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.