Reader Request: A Word on Standardized Sizing

Reader popped this into the suggestion box:

A call to standardized sizing would be great. I am 34 years old, 5’3″, 135 lbs and I have given birth three times. At Land’s End I wear a small or extra small. I haven’t worn a small or extra small since a very bad period in high school. And the tops are still too wide in the shoulders and are too baggy on the sides. At American Apparel, I wear a large or extra large. the tops are too narrow in the shoulders and too tight around the middle. I haven’t braved their leggings yet.

Hello? I am no more extra large than I am extra small. Vanity/non-standardized sizing is ridiculous. It’s true that we should not care what the numbers say on the tags, but it can be time consuming/frustrating/disheartening to struggle through a purposeful shopping trip when you don’t know what size to begin with.

Part of me rebels against the idea of standardized sizing because I have gotten to the point where I don’t actually KNOW what size I wear, and I’m actually quite content about it. When I thrift, I seriously wear everything from 4s to 14s in both tops and bottoms, and I can’t tell you how liberating that feels. I am not my dress size, I’m just me. And I shop enough that I can typically eyeball a garment and know if it’s in the me-ballpark.

I have also learned to buy online exclusively from retailers who give me garment specs. If I don’t know the waist circumference for their medium, I’ll either query customer service or look elsewhere. The tape measure doesn’t lie, and I’m more than happy to buy a XXL if that’s what’s gonna fit me best.

But I understand the utility of standardized sizing. Not everyone has the patience to take four sizes of jeans into the fitting room, or wants to have to go through extended rigamarole to order a dress online.

The menfolk have it a bit easier since their sizing is based on actual measurements. Instead of having some phony numbering system, I’d love to see women’s wear switch over to measured inseams and waists. Dresses could be labeled according to waist circumference and hem. Shirts could be tagged by chest size and shoulder width. Not only would this enable us to more accurately gauge if a garment would fit sight unseen, it would force us to become more intimately acquainted with our own physical dimensions. And while a single dress or pant sizing number can be mysteriously loaded, a measure of inches can feel far more scientific and factual.

But I haven’t seen any indications from the fashion industry that standardization of sizes is a priority. Or even that it could be truly possible. So, irritating as it is, I’d try to make peace with the fact that nearly all of us will wear a range of sizes instead of one tidy number.

Image courtesy sporkist.

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66 Responses to “Reader Request: A Word on Standardized Sizing”

  1. Meli22

    I would like a standard system like what you described- measurements, not numbers! It would make shopping that much easier.

  2. Adventures

    I'd love to see either standardized sizing or sizing by measurement. I don't mind which (though I'd prefer measurements from a practical standpoint) just so long as I have *some* idea of what size to order or try on. It frustrates me when dressing rooms have a six item limit but I need to take in three of the same item in each size since I don't want to have to get re-dressed nine zillion times.

    They guys actually still face vanity sizing even though their clothes are mostly in inches though shockingly enough! My husband still has the same problem I do when trying on pants that he needs to take in three of the same pair because the inches on the label don't match the measurements. (We've checked!)

  3. La Historiadora de Moda

    I suppose this could be disheartening if you let it. For example, if you are exercising, eating, healthfully and losing weight and able to wear a size 8 at most places but then go somewhere else and can barely squeeze into a size 12, it would understandably be demoralizing. That said, I don't attach much significance to the size because I know manufacturers are different, and some places make skinny jeans that I can't even get my calf into when it's a size 14 or 16. Once I know that, I don't shop there for skinnies. I have clothing in my closet that is S, M, L, "one size fits all" and a range of number sizes from 6 to 12. This is what happens when you have larger legs and hips than waist and when you thrift a lot. It doesn't really bother me.

  4. The Closet of Kim (ShopKim)

    Clothing size used to matter to me but in recent years it's become some unimportant. Part of that is due to my own impressions of myself changing but also because of the huge variety in sizes. It's hard to care about being a size (insert number here) when that size means such different things from what place to the other. If it fits, great! That being said, standard sizing would make shopping easier. I rarely ever order things online because the thought of paying shipping just to return it is completely unappealing. And with sizes being so varied, the odds of returning are high.

  5. Make Do Style

    Even menswear if fraught with sizing issues as one companies 32 is different to another. How can this be – well it is in the cut and your body. Menswear comes with adjustments as the hems on trousers aren't usually finished and waist adjustments are part of the course.

    One persons 36inch hips is not the same as another persons at they might be taller or shorter. All templates are set by the manufacturer and as most designers outsource their processes the measurements are set in templates. These templates then use % deviation as the way to go up or down a garment size. I could go on in great detail on the process and size impacts but I'll desist!

    So, back to you body shape. If you have a dip in your back a US size 8 might be too big on the waist but fit on the hips. You need to accept that off the rail is imperfect and get a tailor or dressmaker to invert the waistband to make it smaller to fit for a skirt or pants.

    I've got swimmers shoulders so have to go up a size on some clothes to accommodate this but then if it is a dress it will be too big elsewhere so I stick to shops that base their template on my figure type or their sizing suits my height and shape. Then some eejit in design tweaks the process and I have to start all over again!.

    Basically there is no solution…

  6. Lemondrop Marie

    I shop vintage and buy all kinds of sizes, so I am a bit more relaxed about trying on various sizes at a modern store. However, I would appreciate a bit more standardization just for speed in grabbing sizes! To be three sizes off is a bit much. Vanity sizing is a bit crazy. Interesting discussion as always!
    Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge

  7. Anonymous

    I have to confess, I get a thrill when I can fit into something a size smaller than I normally wear. I'm a sucker for Old Navy and their vanity sizing.

  8. Sara

    While it's frustrating to not be able to walk into a store and know what size I'll be – it makes no real sense why sizing is so random and irrelevant to the body underneath – I agree 100% with you that it is incredibly liberating to not know what size I am, to not really have "a size." I have no idea how much I weigh (I haven't owned a scale for years) and I have no idea what size I am because it changes from store to store (and even changes within a single brand). Before I nixed the scale and lost track of my size(s), those numbers weighed on my mind. They became more important to me than the reflection in the mirror and how I felt. I was at my most unhealthy, then.

    I don't mean to imply that this is how anyone else should live or should think about their life – this is only how I think of mine. And for me, it comes down to how the thing looks in the mirror and how I feel in it.

    I would like to believe, if sizing were relevant and not random, that I'd continue to rely on my assessment of my reflection – after all, sometimes I might like an oversized fit, or more draping, or more of a form-fitting shape than my "real" numbers allow. And then, really, there would be no ease gained by standardizing sizes, if I'm not in the end relying on them and I'm still trying on three dresses in three sizes.

  9. Anonymous

    Many happy returns for yesterday. My birthday is next Sunday, and I love having a January birthday. The days are starting to lengthen, the snowdrops will be out soon, and I have something special to look forward too when most people are suffering from the "January blues" My DOH takes me away for a lovely long weekend in a nice hotel with good food, dancing and a beauty spa so I can indulge in a massage or facial. Hope you enjoyed your special day.

  10. Miss Peregrin

    I like the idea of standard measurement-based sizing – it actually worries me how many women come into my work and have no idea what their waist measurement is! So, if only for encouraging familiarity with our own bodies, I think that would be the best option.

  11. Julie

    I used to work at Lands' End, and that is really a special case. Because they are a catalog company* they aim for their clothes to conform to a very consistent fit model. Obviously, they want people to be able to figure out their size from the measurement charts. All well and good, but let me tell you that it does mean that if you're having trouble finding LE that fits you right, you probably won't ever find it. I know from experience that their tops are just too boxy for me. No way around it, they are just too short and too wide for my body, and of course the brand's goal is to maintain that across the line. Which is great, since there are a lot of women who think LE is perfect.

    I think standardized sizing is a nice idea but I don't think it could ever actually happen. I wouldn't want every company to use the same fit model, or I'd potentially NEVER find something that fit right!

    *I don't know if being bought by Sears has changed this outlook or not, but I don't think so, based on clothes I've tried on recently.

  12. Vanessa

    I think your idea of standardized sizing– using your measurements– would be most convenient. I envy how easy it is for my boyfriend to shop for jeans. He can pick out his size with no problem, which I have to try on many different sizes in many different cuts before I find what fits. It's frustrating when you go to a store find that such-and-such a size fits in, say, the boot cut style, but in flares you need to go two sizes up. It would be so much easier if at least pants worked by measurements instead of arbitrary numbers.

  13. Harriet

    I just want clothes that fit comfortably and that are flattering. I don't care what number is attached, and I don't think there's any way to really standardize across manufacturers. The way clothes fit is dependent more on the cut, which obviously varies from style to style and brand to brand.

    I am pretty much a solid size 18 — and have been my entire adult life — though with vanity sizing, size 16 sometimes fits. I am not "fat," though I know that's a relative term. Let's just say that no doctor has ever told me that I need to lose weight. My vital signs are all normal, and I can walk several miles and run up flights of stairs without any difficulty whatsoever. Sales people are always trying to squeeze me into smaller sizes because they can't believe I wear this size. What I hate is how clothes that fit me are usually segregated in plus-sized ghettos, where the styles and cuts are not as nice and there are fewer choices.

    It's really getting bad out there as so many clothing sellers are moving most of their merchandise online. It is almost impossible to choose clothes by looking at pictures. I agree, it would be helpful if sellers included actual garment measurements (width at bust, waist, and hips; crotch length; sleeve length) but can't see that happening except perhaps in higher end clothing. Most clothes that we buy in stores are made in big factories in Asia and quality control varies. The miracle is that so many people are able to find clothing that fits as well as it does.

  14. smaro

    I am happy with the way I am. On various recent shopping trips I can be anything from a 2 (French size), 8-10, 10-12, small, xtra-small and medium. I would be happier to see standard XS, S, M, L, XL etc sizes, but would really be happier to have the actual sizes of garments, such as waist, hip and shoulder on dresses. I don't understand where the sizes, 10, 12 etc came from and they really can vary from shop to shop and garment to garment. I have found in the same shop a size 10 cap sleeved shirt that wouldn't close around the bust versus a size 8 sleeveless shirt that is too big around the bust. At least if everything was marked with 38'waist, it can be nothing but a 38' waist.

    The holy grail would be to have leg lengths and inseams on trousers. I am a shortie and struggle to find trousers, especially at the moment with the current high waisted, flare legged trousers being the fashion. Having this valuable information would allow me to take trousers to the tailor and he could do them up without my having to try them on first. The only additional information I would need to give the tailor is the height of the shoes that will go with the trousers. With these details, I could also gauge where the flare would hit me on a pair of trousers and I could decide whether it would swamp me or not.

  15. 3goodrats

    I would love sizing to be based just on measurements. I don't enjoy shopping and become very impatient with multiple trips to the fitting room. Last weekend I went to H&M to buy something to wear to a party, and despite the fact that I shop there all the time I still had to visit the fitting room FOUR times because their sizes are so inconsistent. I have usually worn a size 6 in their clothing but now – though I haven't gained any weight – I apparently wear a size 10. I don't care about the number, but I'm really frustrated about why they would do this. Shopping has become way too much work and I have other things I'd rather do with my time!

  16. Anonymous

    As a seamstress, I can tell you that the problem is not just sizing but silhouette. For a long time, clothes were either custom-made and/or women wore undergarments that changed their shape so they could fit into the clothes. Up until about ten years ago, standardized clothing was made based on a somewhat hourglass model and was designed to be worn more loosely, which meant that many women could fit into it. There were still fit problems for women on either end of the spectrum, but this will most likely always be true.

    Today's silhouette is very straight up-and-down, replicating the "skinny teenager" look seen on the runways. Not only that, but clothing today is more fitted than it has been since the time of custom tailored suits. Unfortunately, this also means the average woman will not fit into the average garment without taking extreme measures.
    I feel this is done deliberately, by people who have political, religious or social reasons for oppressing women, partly because the shift happened so fast (within ten years) and because it extends across brands, sizes and price points. Fashion is now out of reach of most women who aren't the size and shape of a teenager with the unspoken message being "We don't want to look at YOU."

    Even the pattern companies aren't immune; the most fashion-forward european brands are fitted the same way. I made a basic black skirt this weekend and had to cut it a size larger, take in the waist, and narrow the seam allowance to nothing at the hem just so I could walk in it. This was after attempting for 2 months to find a black skirt in stores. I am a size 8 (or medium). It is intensely frustrating because most of us have better things to do.

  17. Courtney

    I have to second Adventures comments. I'd love to see sizing by measurement, just to eliminate the dressing room shuffle. But I don't know how much it would help. My husband also has problems getting a good fit. His comment lately is "Everything is athletic fit these days … except for me." Funny, but sad at the same time.

  18. dandra

    I'm ok with buy xs in one store and large in another. i don't care about the size anymore. I used to care, but I changed my lifestyle. I eat healthier and exercise a lot (I lost 55 lbs). Now I'm just happy to be alive and healthy.

    Anyway my big complaint is that I have trouble finding shirts long enough. I would like manufacturers to list shirt lenghts. That would help me.

    Also am I the only one who has sizing issues with bras?

  19. Pammie

    Hi – Interesting Post; The sewing book, Fit for Real People (FFRP) contains an interesting discussion of how women's sizes emerged through the decades – really surprising – I concur with you – I am not defined by my size. Even in shoe sizing!

  20. Danielle

    Generally I don't care however, I am now living overseas and you think keeping up with American retailer sizes are a chore…whew! Sometimes I find British sizing, Dutch sizing, and even American sizing (both 2,4,6 and small, medium, and large). I would be all for a global sizing system that would be similar to male sizes. I mean why is it that yet again "they" make life easier for men and yet more confusing and difficult for women? Someone please explain.

  21. angie

    Hot topic! I am dead set against size standardization. Inconsistent sizing is a blessing in disguise. I hear you on the fit challenges (I experience them too), but I’m siding with the retail industry on this one. As someone who dresses every body type from size 00 to 34 for a living AND as an ex-fashion buyer, I am extremely grateful that sizes are inconsistent across different retailers and brands. It means that we can all find garments to fit our unique bodies. Unlike men, woman were blessed with curves that make us anything but standardized. You can’t have a set of standardized clothing sizes without a set of standardized bodies. It’s as simple as that.

  22. Kate

    I'm precisely that person who doesn't have the patience to take multiple sizes of everything into the dressing room to find the one that first. I would LOVE a standardized sizing scheme, especially if it were based on measurements. Eliminate the guesswork.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I do appreciate places that step outside of the normal scheme in their vanity sizing, like Chico's – there's no value judgment in 1, 2 or 3 for me, because it's so far outside what others do.

  23. Roberta

    One thing I love about eBay shopping is that it all comes down to measurements. That top could be a medium, an XL, some wacky euro size, but if the measurements are mine, I can have it. Truthfully, it bugs me when the sizes change from one season to the next since I do so much online shopping. Returning something because I was a 12 last year and am now apparently a 10 (oh, sure!) is annoying!

  24. K.Line

    I think Anonymous is onto something with the silhouette being as much a factor in clothing fit as measurement (or number) size. But silhouette – and fabric drape – is something you can't really standardize – that's why all women benefit by developing the skill to look at a garment on a hanger and determine (within reason) whether that shape is a go or no go. With practice, eventually one can even determine whether the garment will fit in the size one's looking at.

    Since I started sewing – really, online shopping – I've needed to rely on inch measurements, not random numbers. It doesn't do me any good to think I'm a medium, when the medium I'm constructing is built for a woman with a 32 – or 38 chest size. Neither of those is my size.

    All in, I can't say how useful it is to be able to look at something and know (80% of the time) from experience, whether the garment will fit. I got that skill from years of stealth shopping. And lots of practice.

  25. GLC

    I wish there was some – any! – standardization in sizing. It's frustrating enough that one brand may have a large that barely fits while another brand has an extra-small that is still too big, but then the sizes are still different within the same brand! That doesn't make any sense at all.

    Also, men may have it easier with clothes listed in inches, but they still have problems (although not as bad when compared to women's clothes). For one, even though pants are listed in inches, that number may not be right! How hard can you mess that up? And for two, every man I know complains about shirt sizing as well. I hear a lot of "It fits in the shoulders but it's huge in the waist and the sleeves are too short." It's strange to hear such a universal complain.

  26. Anne

    Even standardized sizing wouldn't help us non-standard shaped women. I wish more companies had, say, pants in several different cuts for those with narrow hips and a short OR long raise, wide hips and a long OR short raise and thicker OR narrow thighs… but that surely won't happen. That said, I'd love standardized sizing. I sew clothes and am familiar with my measurements anyway.

  27. J.

    I'm going to represent the smaller end of this spectrum.

    This past Christmas, I got quite a few clothes. Now at 5'0", I am quite used to having to hem my clothes, but I essentially swam in my new clothes. Why? Due to the increase in people's waistlines, stores have started making a 24" waist their size 0. I'm a 23" waist, and barely one at that because that extra inch is enough for the pants to slide down and reveal half my butt crack.

    Don't get me wrong here. I am not upset at larger figures for the change in sizes. I am actually not mad at the change in sizes. From store to store, the sizes will vary, and I'm okay with that.

    I am upset at the system we have. I am upset that size matters.

    Size is just a number. It doesn't indicate how good you look. Fit does. If your size 8 dress gives you lovehandles and jiggly bits, for the love of God, size up! A 10 will look so much better because it actually accommodates your body.

  28. Lorena

    Loved your post !
    I have to say that it makes sense, SO MUCH SENSE to have our sizing done similar to mens as you mention.
    Now, I remember a couple of years back I was in a show room for women's apparel and I heard the marketing people discuss about how "the size 6 will now be a size 4 so people can feel good about buying our brand…"
    It makes no sense to me, all I want id for it to fit me correctly, I am a size 4 to 12! What can I say !???

  29. Jen

    I think it would be great if women's sizes went the way of men's, but I just don't think that's possible. Men are pretty straight-cut, but women have CURVES. Therefore, for every one men's measurement, women would need at least two (we don't just have waists, for example, we have hips too).

    I'd be ok with standardized sizing, no matter what my number. At least shopping would be simple and you wouldn't have so much to remember (because don't we all already have enough to remember?)!

  30. Charlotte

    Listing garments by measurement seems a good solution, and if you look at early catalogs (1920s), they did just this. I mostly thrift for clothes, and take a tape measure along. Sometimes when I get the item home, the silhouette is wrong, but if I've blown 29 cents on it, no sweat. It goes back. The more I thrift, the more I can tell what's going to be good and what won't, just by the garment's shape. My waist is up under my armpits and my legs are yards long, so it's a bit like dressing Gumby.

  31. Anonymous

    This Apple thinks waist size wouldn't get it done. I struggle to find tops that fit my bust but actually flatter. I agree with an earlier anonymous who said silhouette is really important.

  32. Cedar

    I would prefer sizes at least be consistent within a brand. I own a pair of J Crew pants that I love–very flattering fit, nice leg shape, not obscenely tight in the butt and thighs–so I bought the exact same style in a different color on eBay, and even though these are the same size and style (and if you lay them next to each other, they look the same), and they are tiny! They are way too tight around my hips, and I can't even zip up the zipper.

    In general, though, I kind of life inconsistent sizing between brands. Not only for the lack of obsession with a number, but because I just know certain brands fit me better than others. For example, Ann Taylor ALWAYS fits my round butt and hips. Theory (which I only pick up at second hand stores–too expensive otherwise!) are a great fit for me. My first pair of skinny pants (a trend I had been avoiding because of my pear shape) was from them, and they look great. Gap, however–generally meant for more straight figures. And Old Navy always looks too big and boxy on me.

  33. Healthy and Homemade

    I honestly don't care what the number is, as long as it fits and looks good. With that said, why is it SO hard for one size to actually BE a size for everything?! My waist is 29 inches, so make a flippen size in pants that works for me!! I will fit whatever to my hips, and get the rest taken in. I just don't want to buy every single item in a different size because designers base their sizing charts on a made up scale instead of actual body measurements.

    Perfect example: I wanted this super cute skirt from Tulle that was on sale. An XL had a waist measurement of 28 inches. UMMMM excuse me, I know vanity sizing has gotten out of control but when was a size 28 waist ever considered extra large? So confusing to me =/

  34. fleur_delicious

    I'd prefer standard sizing, personally. Part of me really believes that one reason the number has so much power is because we GIVE it so much power. Even by naming vanity sizing "vanity sizing" (which we all know is a code word for "we'll give you a smaller number for the size you are") creates a discourse whereby the smaller number is flattering. And I really do believe that by purchasing these items, we are unwittingly buying into this discourse that "smaller number = better," thereby creating a real need for that flatter/the smaller number. I'm not an extreme member of the relativist camp, but I do believe that discourses have power, and the more we employ them, the more power we give them over us. So yes, I'd like to see us go back to a standard sizing. Sure, it might sting a bit at first, but I think we could all respect ourselves a bit more if we weren't playing this "vanity" game every time we went to buy a dress or a blouse. I mean, really, think about shoes. Though I think shoes are getting wider, and so participating in their own version of "vanity sizing," largely, shoe measurements are consistent. And what is one reason why ladies love to purchase shoes? Because you already know what size you wear, and it's so much easier to figure out if a brand will fit you or not, because the sizing is consistent. What if we had that freedom with everything we wore?

    And yes, I personally wear anything from a 0 (thank you, J. Crew – soon I won't even be able to buy your smallest clothes because they'll be too big. thhhbbpt!) to a size 12/14. And actually, I've found that I'm pretty consistently a size 12 in vintage and in sewing patterns. I'm a 34-26-36. If that's a 0 or a 12, what does it really matter?

  35. bekster

    First of all, Happy Birthday yesterday!

    I have mixed feelings about the sizing issue, but I think it all boils down to the fact that I want to feel like my size is (at least) reasonable compared to other ladies' sizes. I know, I know, we're not supposed to compare. It's not a competition. But… it kinda is. For psychological comfort, we wouldn't need to standardize the clothing sizes, we would need to standardize the people. However, I don't think any of us really want that, so we'll just have to continue to struggle to feel good about ourselves despite how big or small (or whatever) we are.

    If I got to choose, though, I'd throw out sizes altogether and take a personal tailor. 🙂

  36. lisa

    I agree that it's frustrating to shop in a world without standardized sizing, but I don't think it's because manufacturers are out to make the world especially frustrating for consumers. Companies probably try to accommodate the majority demographic that shops for their stuff. American Apparel posits itself as a hip company with trendy basics and attracts a relatively young demographic, so they would probably cut their clothes for that younger (and typically thinner) demographic (i.e. their metabolism hasn't slowed down yet, they might not have developed hips and love handles, they might not have had kids yet). I find that at stores skewed towards a younger crowd, I typically have to buy a larger size than I usually do. And I know that Aritzia (a clothing retailer in Vancouver) carries XXS and XXXS because they're aware that a lot of high school girls and very petite girls shop there. That being said, it does suck if you fall outside of the majority demographic and you really like the store's/brand's clothes. :-/

  37. Marie

    I don't shop online because I have no clue what size I'll need or how it will fit. I don't understand how people do it.

    In practice, I would need to know several measurements for a given piece of clothing, because everyone is proportioned differently, and my waist-hip ratio or waist-bust-shoulder ratio is different than yours. Just having a hip measurement for pants doesn't do it.

    I don't know all my measurements, and while some standardization would be helpful, honestly I think I'd be overwhelmed by all the numbers and preciseness.

  38. Elaine

    I'd be fine with clothing sizes if they were all the same. I agree with the reader… I am so sick of tyring to figure out and remember my size in every single store! Ugh.

  39. Emily

    Your measurement suggestion is a great idea, actually! I'd never thought of that before.

    It really gets up my nose when I go shopping and end up buying three different clothes sizes — not because I attach too much importance to those sizes, but having to bring three different versions of the same thing into the fitting room is just plain annoying.

    It would also save me from some of the conversations I have to overhear in the fitting rooms at times. You know, "That's really nice, but it looks a little tight. Want me to get you the next size up?" "…But that would be a size 12!" Argh.

    I'm going to put a quick link to this post on my own blog, too, if you don't mind! It's something I've been ranting about for a while, and I think it would interest a lot of my readers.

  40. Nina (Femme Rationale)

    one company i used to work for did a lot of business w/a HUGE retailer and they required vanity sizing. it was so ridiculous that the xs fit me like size m. it was such a big difference that women should be outraged to think they can easily be duped like that.

  41. Lady Cardigan

    I'm so thin that people accuse me of being anorexic (I'm not). I'm usually a size 6. That's right, I said 6, not zero. Which makes me bigger than that model who was reportedly fired for being "too fat"! So no, I don't care what size is on the label because I know how meaningless it is.

    However, I would like some consistency in sizing. I wonder if the popularity of breast implants is complicating things. I recently saw a size chart that had my chest size at XS but my waist was a medium. ??? What size do I wear, then? And who I are they designing these clothes for? Very thin women with breast implants, I can only guess.

    Usually the disparity isn't that extreme, but I can't even figure out my waist size because a 27 from one retailer will fit me and from another retailer it doesn't. Don't get me started on sleeve lengths. My arms are very long so I used to have to wear talls. These days I can find some regular shirts with sleeves that fit, while others won't, even from the same store.

    Men get at least some accurate measurement info and women don't. I think that shows retailers' disdain for women. I don't care about the stated size, I just want help determining what will fit me.

  42. Anonymous

    Hear, hear! I cannot buy anything without first trying it on. . . it would be wonderful to have standardized sizing. Of couse, no system is perfect for every body and cuts will vary, but at least having general guidelines would really save me some time in the dressing room with everything from size 8 to 14!

  43. Tina Z.

    I used to hate inconsistent sizing until I started to think about how it actually makes for better fitting clothes. Here's how: different designers, factories, etc have different ideas of what a woman's body looks like and therefore cut clothes in different 'sizes' based on different ratios of bust-waist-hips and even height. So the resulting inconsistency mean some clothes fit way better than others. Example: Michael Kors clothing fits me like a glove whereas the Converse like for Target doesn't fit well at all. So I'm willing to experiment with sizing to find the lines that fit me the best with minimal tailoring, regardless of the number. Consistent sizing would might that I, and everyone else except one body silhouette, have to get everything tailored all the time, and that is not ideal in my mind.

  44. Kelly

    I would LOVE it if we could shop by chest, waist, or hip measurements. Talk about easy shopping.

    My problem is that I barely even look at size charts anymore because they are so off. If I only went by size charts, I think I would continually buy something two sizes too big or small! I'm more likely to think of the store's demographic or sister companies, and then think about how I'm sized at those similar stores.

  45. futurelint

    I would love the standardized sizing based on measurements! It's a little annoying that sizes are so different but I'm pretty good at eyeballing my size by now!

  46. The Budget Babe

    standard sizing would be nice but i think its unrealistic, each body is just so unique. all we can do is try stuff on and try our hardest to ignore the numbers.

  47. Fritinancy

    Bras come in "standard" sizes based on tape-measure metrics, and you still have to try them on to find your correct fit.

  48. A-C

    I would LOVE standardized sizing. I would be able to shop online if I knew the size in inches of whatever I'm thinking of. Instead I'm stuck only buying stuff from real stores where I can try stuff on.

    I know that it can be disheartening to try stuff on and need to go up to a "big" size. But you know what, its a number, it does not convey your value to anyone, it only tells you what size the garment is. Once we get beyond the idea that the size of a garment conveys human value, then we'll be able to make a dramatic step forward in the area of self-acceptance.

  49. Clare

    I'm a big proponent of the inseam and waist measurement idea, especially as a petite woman. I actually have lots of thoughts on this topic, but I'm majorly exhausted and don't wanna type anymore. 🙂

  50. Solidaritybitch

    I don't mind the lack of standarized sizing. My fella is slender, but even within H&M jeans, he ranges between 28-31 inch waist measurement and they all fit him quite well.
    My big beef is when you're online shopping. I wish that retailers also gave you a description. Like "fits true to size" or "fits generously" to give you some cues. Like I never shopped at Ann Taylor or Loft prior to getting my job, so during an online size, I purchased my H&M and Zara sizes (6 and 8), and had to go back to the store and exchange for 2 and 4. I like how Crabby Apple makes this distinction.
    Some times online retailers give you measurements and they're really odd. Like Tulle4us, which had a pretty knit dress. The medium had a 31 inch bust line (seriously)? I sent them an inquiry, gave them my measurements, and they were like, "Oh you should wear a small." I did not buy that outfit.
    I also dislike how even though I've had myself measured by a tailor and I don't fluctuate weight-wise, I don't always fit into woven fabric (non-stretch) vintage pieces I buy online. Oh well.

  51. poet

    Thanks for this post! I couldn't agree more. I spent most of my life in Germany and was astonished by the differences in clothing size when I came to the US. I understand that standards are different across countries (in Italy, everything is 2 to 3 sizes up from what it would be in Germany), but so much variation within one country? It is too confusing. Sizing by measurement would be nice indeed.

  52. Vix

    Another fan of sizing by measurement (W/H/Shoulder).

    No, it doesn't solve all problems–I'm another one who has ordered by tailor-taken measurements and then been mystified at the fit I get.

    But it helps one winnow out what probably *won't* work, and once the clothing is tried there's a frame of reference for how that particular retailer's numbers translates to an on-body experience.

    Sizing by measurement won't limit companies to designing for one body type/silhouette, either. They can certainly continue to use their own fit model. I'll just have some idea of whether I can fit INTO their clothes in the first place…as well as how much I may have to spend in alterations to get the clothes to ACTUALLY fit!

  53. Anonymous

    I don't mind vanity sizing. What I do mind is the general lack of larger sizing in fashionable stores. The amount of money design houses are losing out on by not making things in plus-size is astounding. That offends me way more than not knowing what size I am.


    Wow! Thanks for answering my request! And 52 responses is astounding.

    Sizes based on measurements would be great. My time for clothes shopping is extremely limited, so I am disheartened when I carve out time to look for something and still can't find anything because I have wasted valuable time getting undressed and redressed.

    The number itself? Bah. There are so many numbers. I sew, and I have learned to stop attaching sentiment to numbers. I want my clothes to fit, for crying out loud.

    Thanks again, Sal. You are the best.

  55. The Raisin Girl

    I'm always excited when I randomly fit into a much smaller size than I normally would, and horrified when I need a larger size than I thought. The weird thing is, when I wear a size smaller than I should, I know deep down it's the sizing, not me. But when I have to go up a jeans size or get that XL shirt, I'm convinced it must be me gaining weight.

    I think women's clothing should be sized by actual measurements, the way men's clothing is. I'd love to just grab the jeans that fit my waist and leg length, and then decide what looks best…rather than wear a 16 in one store, an 18 in another, and (shudder) find myself in a 22 WIDE somewhere else. I'm not sure who made up the odd numbers system for women's clothing in the first place, but it should definitely go.

  56. Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP

    Yes- the lack of standardising in sizing gives me the irrits big time.

    There is a move here to make a standard, but apparently politically the designers don't to, because many of the higher end designers don't want 'real size 14 women wearing their clothes' so they size their size 14 the same as their size 10!

  57. Kate Coveny Hood

    I never even considered that women's sizing could switch to measurements. That's a really good idea. But one that will never happen from a marketing standpoint. I could just see that department meeting, "women don't want to see their actual size! It will make them feel fat and it WON'T make them feel like spending money. We're helping them to feel slim and beautiful and spend a lot of money on our jeans. Bottom line: vanity sizing sells jeans."

    But seriously – I wonder if another complication would be the fact that women probably have more varying sizes than men. I don't know…I just saw "Adventures" comment and it looks like menswear is subject to vanity sizing as well.

  58. Kristen

    I went through a recent pants FAIL because of this whole non-standardized sizing. I never know what size to order/look for and it is SUPER annoying. DOWN with vanity sizing!!!! DOWN !!! 😛

  59. Erin

    Oooooh I like the idea of women's clothing being marked by measurement. Measurements vary so much, I feel like it would help eliminate the "I'm a 2!" "I'm a 14!" stigmas. And it would probably result in more people buying better fitting garments.

  60. Casey

    The wackiness of clothing manufacturer's sizing is what has driven me increasingly to sewing for myself (which, I know, isn't a viable option for all)! 😉 No sizes to worry about besides the measurements to make the pattern fit. No large stacks of dresses in three different sizes to lug to the dressing room. haha! That is what I hate the most about shopping: I can't always rely that what I think will fit, will. Even shoe sizes I've noticed have gotten a bit weird. I used to wear a solid 8 1/2, and now am a 8 sometimes dipping into 7 1/2! I don't get it… haha.

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  61. Elizabeth Ann

    There are plenty of retailer that (intentionally or unintentionally) list inaccurate measurements of their garments online. I've on more than one occasion ordered items that based on the retailer's own listed measurements should have fit me perfectly but didn't fit at all (and it's almost always too big rather than too small for some reason). Standard sizing would help solve this problem. I wouldn't have to stare at a 25 waist measurement wondering if it really meant 28 or if 25 was in fact the truth. The tape measure may not lie but I'm beginning to think that some online retailer do.

  62. Darla: Retro Ways

    Casey is right I have noticed that eithier my feet are shrinking or all of the new shoes are growing.

    I dont even bother with numbers anymore I just have to buy stuff in person so I can do the tride and true just measure the item up to my body test.

    The only sizes I can trust are vintage sizes. When it comes to patterns and clothing from the 1950's I usually always wear the same size which makes online shopping easier if you can still read the size!

    Oh the joy of numbers and labeling.

    xo Darla

    ps. Great post!!!!!!!!!

  63. Anonymous

    Late to the party on this one, but there is no solution except learning the brands and styles that fit your own shape, not size, but shape. Educate yourself to be a smart consumer and don't predicate your self-worth on a number.

    Jeans, which in lady sizes are sold in the standard measurement you suggest, vary depending on proportion. Not everyone is the same between their hips/waist/bottom [these disparities become even more prevalent for Encore sizing, which is why 16-24's normally look like tents or are all done in stretch knits].
    I.E. I wear a 28 in James, Paige, and Hudson jeans. I can not fit my thighs into a pair of Habituals or Earls, and 7's and Citizens swim on me. Just because there is a standard measure does not mean the pants will fit.
    Also it is not a feminist issue, as men have the same problems, no one is trying to 'confuse' you or make your 'life difficult' as a woman. My partner, a technical designer for menswear, complains constantly about the fit of clothing and factory control in asia [where the majority of american garments are produced]. This is not only with the brands he consults for, but when he shops. He wears Levi's 514's and at the shops he will grab three pairs of the SAME size and each will fit differently. Sometimes he buys them, sometimes not, but he wastes huge amounts of time trying on the exact same pair of pants all over NYC until he gets the right one.
    Learn what fits you and remember that the clothing businesses do not owe you anything. If it doesn't fit, give your money to someone else.

  64. Sal

    Anonymous(8): I tend to agree. As frustrating as it is to have to search high and low for items that fit, the fact is that it's our job to find clothes that flatter us. Although it would be far better if there were some sense of consistency – so that we could avoid brands we know simply won't work – we can't expect retailers to try to make it easier on every one of is. It's an impossible task.

  65. Queen Mommy

    Standard sizing based on measurements would make shopping ever so much easier. It IS a little frustrating to me that I have to wear a XXL in some stores….just so a shirt fits over my breasts (but the sleeves are way too long, and the waist is huge….I think I'm going to save for a Carissa Rose button-down….but that's beside the point), but in another store a small fits perfectly well. In fact, just the other day, I was shopping for skinny jeans. In the same store, same BRAND of jeans….in one style I wore a 5, but in the other I wore a 7. Maybe it would be a pain for manufacturers, but it sure seems like it would make life easier for the rest of us.