The Stats and the Story

Recently, I ordered a custom, hand-knit sweater from an Etsy vendor and she requested my measurements. I’ve really botched my measurements in the past, so I took a series of photos and drew some lines on my body in Photoshop with inch measurements so she’d know exactly how I was measuring my shoulder span and bustline, where from, and what it meant to me. I trashed those photos ages ago, unfortunately, but the exercise was an interesting one. And I wanted to re-create it here for a number of reasons, which I’ll explain shortly.

I used this recent outfit photo because it shows a group of garments that I wear frequently (and frequently in this combination), because this is how you see me on a near-daily basis, and because I think the numbers superimposed over the clothes make for some interesting dynamics. Here are the measurements I sent to her.

Hopefully you can see all of those, but just in case you can’t, here they are again:

Shoulder span: 16.5″ (this is the only flat measurement included here)
Bust: 37″
Underbust: 34″
Natural waist: 32″
Wearing waist: 37.5″
Hips” 42″
Arm span: 52″ (couldn’t find a way to fit that onto the photo)
Height: 5′ 5.5″
Weight: 150 pounds

How all of this translates into clothing sizes:

Dress size: 8 or 10
Shirt size: All. Seriously. It depends how I want something to fit. Typically an 8 or medium, though.
Bra size: 34C
Skirt size: 8 or 10
Pant size: 10 or 12
Inseam: 31″ (sometimes 32″)
Shoe size: 8

My proportions mean that I don’t typically have a lot of fit issues. I do occasionally have to get pants hemmed, or waists taken in since what fits over my hips is sometimes quite loose in the waist.

What’s the point of all this? I mean, besides arming you with info in case you want to get me a gift? Well, for one thing it shows that top size and bottom size can have discrepancies, even on a seemingly “proportionate” figure. It shows that skirts will fit someone with my figure quite differently from pants. It shows why I typically belt high on my torso, and that there’s a noticeable difference between high and low waists on me. It shows that I’m not built like a model and never will be, which has likely been clear for quite some time. Hopefully, the photo itself and the numbers that accompany it show that I’m just fine with that.

I have always felt comfortable using myself as an example on this blog. I’m all I’ve got, so if I want to illustrate a concept, I’ve got to use my own body and hope that you, as readers, can compare and draw conclusions that apply to your bodies. In this case, I’m willing to bet that there are droves of you who weigh 150 pounds or have 32″ waists or are 5’5″ and aren’t shaped a thing like me. And wear completely different clothing sizes. Weight, size, and proportion conspire to create an infinite variety of human forms, and two people who share weight, size, and proportion can look incredibly different from one another.

But perhaps most importantly, this post shows how little you know about someone just by looking at them, and how body stats actually provide scant additional, relevant information. I’d wager that most of you had no idea what I weighed or what my waist and hip measurements were. And even though you’ve now got a whole bunch of details about my body, you still don’t know everything. You don’t know how many vegetables I eat each day, or how much weight I can lift, or how far I can run without getting winded. You don’t know anything about my medical history or the various ailments that affect my weight, eating, and overall health. You don’t know my body fat percentage or BMI, and neither do I because I don’t consider either to be tremendously helpful figures. You don’t know how I look without a bra or barefoot or naked. You don’t know how often I exercise, or what I do when I exercise, or how it affects my figure or muscle tone. You don’t know how my body used to look, or what I love about it, or how it changes in response to life events, or how I’m feeling about it on a daily basis. You know the stats, but you don’t know the story.

Our bodies are so much more than they appear. And they are ever so much more than the numbers that describe them. Those numbers can be helpful in certain contexts, but they will never provide a complete picture. So don’t ever let stats turn you against your body. Don’t ever let them rule you, shame you, or hold you back. They are just one chapter in the story of your body. The true, whole story of your body is one that only you can know.

And, in my opinion, that makes it sacred.

Originally posted 2011-10-31 06:03:55.

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131 Responses to “The Stats and the Story”

  1. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    How very interesting. Super-specifics like this are so helpful in understanding how to clothe my own body, but few people want to give up this kind of precise information–so THANK YOU!!

    I’ve been reflecting a lot on body type and fit this week (because I’ve been shopping for denim–ugh!) I should take my own measurements.

    And oh my goodness, those sweaters from Pilland look incredible! I trust we’ll be seeing that here, in good time πŸ™‚

  2. Allison

    Oh Sweet Sal – this post touched my heart on so many levels!

    Your are one, fierce cookie!! I couldn’t love you or this post more!

    Thank you!

  3. Kathleen

    Fascinating! I would have guessed 130 pounds. You must have some great muslce mass!

  4. Sam

    This is really interesting, even just to how I feel my own body compares. I’m basically the same in all sizes, with the exceptions of a longer inseam and I take an 8 in most pants. I’m about 3 inches taller than you and somewhere between 5-10 lbs less, even though the sizes are basically the same. I’m really curious about my measurements, so I’m probably going to do those for my own uses soon! It’s always interesting to see how different proportions can fit the same sizes. My mother is 5’1.5″ and she’s just about into an 8 again after loosing some weight. Such different bodies all within the same range!

  5. Heather

    Actually, we could easily calculate your BMI from the information given, but your right that itKs not always the most valuable tool. πŸ™‚

    Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s nice to remember that we all don’t have to be model skinny to be beautiful!

      • zora

        Oh, wait, I lied: I’m the exact same, except my feet are HUGE (9.5-10) so, I guess I’m the big-footed-triplet :oD

      • Annasaur

        Me too (or four, I suppose)! Clearly we need to establish a clothing swap, yes?

  6. Stacey

    Wow that was fascinating – I find it interesting that women can have similar stats but appear to be so different. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that we are more than just numbers.

    (without spelling and grammar errors) πŸ™‚

  7. K-line

    Terrific post Sally. It always fascinates me that the sum is so much greater (& in this case telltale) than its parts.

  8. Carbon Girl

    Thanks, Sal. This post was really educational. If I had to guess your measurements, I would have been so off. Shows how superficial they really are. Also, is helpful info for evaluating if what looks great on you will work on me. Now if only Audi would do this to get it out of my head that what works on her will work for me. I love her looks but I am too short and too hourglass to pull many of them off.

  9. swissrose

    I thought this was very brave of you to use your own body to illustrate something so important in such detail, thanks. These are exactly the types of things we need to be talking about and realising that we are all unique and it’s the clothes that don’t fit, not our bodies that need adjustment! Everyone’s proportions are different – I bet Linda looks quite different with the same inches; maybe shorter-waisted or a longer rise or whatever. Brilliant.
    As many women, I have measurements of myself at different phases of my life engraved on my brain (stupid but…) and would not have guessed your true measurements correctly at all, so perhaps there is some method in my “comparative” madness after all and I can set my brain right LOL!

  10. Beckee

    Thank you Sal for this post! Your words are so very candid and heartfelt. I really needed this message today! You are a treasure!

  11. Harriet

    Thank you for putting those numbers out there. When I was in high school and reached your weight, I thought I was hopelessly F-A-T. I was about 5’7″. My circumferential measurements were also similar to yours (I think a bit smaller, actually), but I never could wear anything smaller than a size 14 — more often 16 or 18. With vanity sizing, that has stayed about the same even though I weigh more now and am bigger in the same proportion, and I think bone structure has a lot to do with this. I now do not feel fat (unless I compare myself with a model), certainly not “overweight” in terms of health, whatever my BMI (I like to think of it as “bogus measurement index”). I do feel sad that I once suffered so much angst over this and spent so many years feeling bad about myself when I could have felt good.

  12. Angela

    It is interesting how different and the same we all are. I weigh about 5-9 lbs heavier and am 5.5 but I always think I look 20 lbs heavier. I take a large top (38 dd girls) and a size 12 bottom but have to try them on….I always thought you, Sally, were 130 lbs, you are always so slim ….it’s a lesson that maybe I shouldn’t be so critical of myself πŸ™‚

  13. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    We are all so different, even at the same heights and weights! This is a great educational post about knowing our own proportions and working with them. I find that sizes vary so much in new clothing vs thrifted, that I just try things on without looking at the numbers. Usually works for me.

  14. Brittany

    I’m just curious… What’s the difference between a natural and wearing waist?

    • Sal

      Natural waist is above the belly button, generally the smallest part of your torso if you have a defined waist. Wearing waist is slightly below the belly button, where most (non-low-rise) pants would hit.

  15. LNR

    Thanks for this post!

    I didn’t mention it in the post where you wore it last week, but THAT SKIRT. I bought the teal one, coveted the mustard one, and have regretted not buying it for years. Just sayin’. And did you get the 8? Because now that I’ve seen these measurements, I’m aware that you and I have very similar measurements, and I got the skirt in an 8 but it was very gap-py in the waist and I had to take it in some. I find in Anthro skirts I am almost always a 6 for whatever reason.

    In any case, this was a great post. =)

  16. Bubu

    Brava! On all counts – brave, informative, inspiring post. Thank you once again for doing what you do and being who you are.

  17. Lissa

    First of all, although I think it’s really weird that women in society today are made to feel so ashamed about their bodies that they don’t give out their weight, you’ve got some guts (and a very positive body image) to give it out on the internet.
    Second, now that I’ve seen your measurements I honestly think that I might have BDD or something. I’ve always thought that my waist looks HUGE compared to yours, but it is actually significantly smaller (5.5″ smaller).
    I know that you do lots of posts on body image and how to love yourself, but I really don’t know how. It doesn’t help that I was a high level competitive athlete for 10 years, and recently I suffered a horrible injury that means I’ll never be able to compete in any sport ever again (or even do light exercise). Sorry this is kind of off topic, but do you have any suggestions on how I can start to like my body and forgive it for betraying me?

    • Molly


      I’ve been chronically ill and angry with my body too. What has helped me most is remembering that my body isn’t a separate part of me that’s making my mind suffer, it’s in pain too and with the added burden of having me blame it for our problems. As an athlete, you may have been used to your body as a loyal, hardworking servant, but now you have to go through life together, bad and good, as one whole. I wish you all the best in staying physically and emotionally healthy!

  18. Budget Chic

    Diva, I have not been on your site in a hot minute. I see that you cut your hair. I LOVE IT! Also feeling those color in this outfit. Looking good!

  19. Miss T

    I also have almost the same measurements, as well — a little bigger on top, though, and I’m shorter. Which invariably puts me in the large/xl category, because I have to go with the largest measurement in dresses and tops in order to fit (i.e., bust measurement, in my case).

    Speaking of BMI, though, I had a very odd experience with my SON and BMI recently, that still angers me. He’s just 5 years old, very tall for his age, and very slender. In fact, at his last checkup, he was in the 98th percentile for height and the 90th percentile for weight. That means he’s taller and heavier than 98% and 90% of boys his age, respectively (he’s 5, but the height of a 7 year old, and quite slender). The pediatrician was commenting on how great he looked, getting so tall, well developed, etc. A few minutes later, while fiddling on her laptop, she said, uh-oh, come here and look at this. So I go over and she has that f-ing BMI chart up and his height and weight fall in the “red zone” — i.e., on the verge of “obesity”. I looked at her and said, you’ve got to be kidding — look at him, he’s a bean pole! She was quiet for a moment and then said, you really need to cut back on his calories, he gained a lot of weight since his last visit, his BMI is too high. I said, but he GREW 5 inches since his last visit! She said nothing, and the conversation was over. There was nothing “wrong” with my son’s weight just 5 minutes before, everything was great until the doctor succumbed to the tyranny of the BMI chart. I just don’t understand why this BMI thing has become a surrogate for common sense. People always comment on how slender my son is – he’s nowhere near “obese”, except on paper. Interestingly, my son and I eat the same things and I LOST 11 lbs over the past year on the same diet he grew very tall on. My son is a “light” eater, and very active. Obviously, none of us, even 5-year-olds, are allowed to be what we naturally are (in my son’s case, very tall, and slender). “Normal” has become medicalized, and parents aren’t allowed to decide what’s normal for their child anymore. I am still fuming about this.

    • Sal

      That’s just plain crazy, Miss T. Seriously. What is up with BMI being the end-all, be-all of health?

      • Miss T

        I don’t know, but I think what got me is that the pediatrician was fine with his height/weight but the BMI made her second-guess her own clinical judgement and experience (and her EYES). Which then made me second-guess my own judgment as a parent (i.e., the nutrition I provide him, etc.). That tells me that BMI is probably misused most of the time, even by doctors.

        • Aya

          If it helps, I’ve only ever heard BMI touted as a guideline, and that there are a lot of factors that can be misleading about it. For example, being athletic means you’ll be heavier at the same height, and being a competitive athlete can easily bump your BMI into heavy/obese. In addition, there’s a different chart for children, teens, different ethnicities, and so on.

          I’m very glad that you looked at your son and cheerfully discarded the odd number out of hand. I too am healthy, exercise and eat well, but due to build and athletics am never out of the “Danger Will Robinson” BMI zone. πŸ˜€ It entertains me.

        • LisaZ

          Miss T, that experience borders on abusive, IMO. Unless you really love this doctor for other reasons, I’d change to one with more common sense! That is just a sad, ridiculous story.

          • pope suburban

            I agree. A friend is in the process of switching pediatricians because her old one called her small daughter (I think it was her four year-old, maybe her seven year-old) fat right in front of her. Her kids are all healthy, they eat right, they go out and play every day, but because of a slight difference in the stupid curve, it’s “Welp, your daughter’s fat,” and with the kid right in the room. That was the last time she dealt with that doctor and I say right on.

        • Robin

          Miss T, BMI is only one way of measuring health, and while it’s often wildly inaccurate (athletes often measure in the obese category because it doesn’t account for muscle mass) its the most commonly used measurement because it’s easy to calculate. Your son sounds perfectly health πŸ™‚

        • bubu

          Miss T,
          I have had almost the exact same experiences at the pediatrician. My older son is 7, a beanpole with literally not an ounce of fat on his body. He runs all the time, does karate and is just LEAN. But somehow his weight was viewed as near-problematic BMI – and I swear those charts do nothing to account for muscle mass. If my son flexes his arm, you see a bicep. His belly is rock hard. But none of that seems to factor in, it’s crazy!

          • Miss T

            I think the real horror for me was realizing that it would have been SO easy to cave into “authority” of BMI. Then I realized that if I did anything to modify his diet (which is great, actually) I would be sowing the seeds of an eating disorder, maybe even an eating-disorder-by-proxy, since I’d have to change my diet in some nonsensical way, too. Something else, too: I think we are all aware that the pressure on women and girls to be “thin” is extremely pervasive in our society. And everyone agrees it’s a dangerous and unhealthy thing. However, instead of just chucking it as a mandate, our society has somehow decided that we should just make EVERYONE a slave to it, including little boys. It’s like the pendulum has to swing to the opposite extreme before we can all feel comfortable just disconnecting the damn pendulum. Also interesting to me is that the doctor didn’t even bother to explain to me what BMI is — she knows that EVERYONE knows what it means. Or they think they do. It’s crept into the public’s consciousness and when that happens, it’s almost certain that it’s been stripped of its meaning and accuracy.

  20. MLC

    Wow, this is one seriously educational and inspirational post. Thanks!!

  21. Oksana

    I am, like the other women above, rather surprised by your weight. I am 5’5 as well, and weigh about 150 right now (maybe a few pounds less), but I thought that you were MUCH skinnier than me, by a few sizes. I need to reevaluate my shape I guess. And measure the rest of me, just to see.
    On another note, how can you be a B cup with 3 inch difference between bust and underbust?

    Anyway, thanks for your posts in general, and this post in particular

    • Sal

      Don’t know, but I’ve been professionally fitted within the past four months and that’s my size!

  22. LisaZ

    This is a great post to help so many of us accept our own “sizes”. Thank you so much for sharing. I am very similar in size to you–but one inch shorter, ten pounds less, about two inches smaller in waist and hips, and a little bigger in bust and I wear size 6 or 8 and sometimes 10. On one hand, I think YOU always look awesome and thin and beautiful. On the other hand, when I see photos of myself I think I look too fat. I think this is mostly because I’m comparing my current size to what I was oh, ten to 15 years ago. I don’t think I look like “me” in my current size! But the fact is, I am still me and I really need to get over this. Your blog and posts like this help so much, as does learning to dress for who I am now and not some past or future wish of who I should be. THANK YOU, Sally!

  23. Anne

    Sally, thank you so much for your brave post. I’ve now shared it with about a dozen of my friends. Numbers on their own might have very little meaning but you are certainly a beautiful context for yours.

  24. Autumn

    Sally, goshdarnit, you’ve done it again! I’m usually wary of “what I weigh” posts even as I wish I could come down on the side of radical transparency. And this post was done in such a way that I feel as though I can. Because you’re right: We know the stats, but we don’t know the story.

  25. Apple A Day

    Ha! I love that you posted this because you and I have almost the EXACT same measurements, except my boobs are a little bigger. I have such a hard time finding pants that fit because according to most size charts my hip size is a full size larger than my natural wist so am always having to choose between fits in the hips/swimming in the waist. DO you have this problem too?

    I spent many, many years crying in the dressing room while jeans shopping until I decided to wear more skirts and dresses. Now I’m so much happier. I like they way they look better, I never have to fuss with size and in the winter it’s easier to layer under them so I am actually warmer in skirts! HA!

    I’m also happy you put your weight. It is so easy for me to feel like I MUST be some HUGE BLOB because I weigh 150 pounds because I have it in my head that it’s too much for a fit woman of my height to weigh. I actually don’t like admitting to my weight at all. Then I look at you looking fit and not remotely blob like and I realize hey, yeah, I look pretty good too.

    Speaking of BMI, as my personal trainer would say, “BMI is one indicator but it isn’t the only indicator. Plenty of professional athletes have high BMIs because they have such high muscle content.” Tell THAT to your doctor next time they give you a hard time.

    • Kris

      Fit your hips and tailor to your waist. It seems like a horrible expense, and a huge hassle, but for me it has meant that I actually feel comfortable wearing pants. I’m lucky that I can do it myself, but for years I was scared to “ruin” my pants, until I got a pair professionally taken in, and then just copied their method. πŸ™‚

    • pope suburban

      I’ve got to give a shout-out to Gap’s Long and Lean jeans. Normally, I have the same problem with pants, because I have the same waist/hip thing going on. These lovelies, on the other hand, fit like gloves. They last forever too. If you ever want jeans, I suggest checking them out. If not, then rock on with your skirts and stay warm!

  26. Patience

    Such an interesting post, and I bet that Etsy vendor was grateful to you for your thoroughness! I once had to supply my brother’s measurements to a tuxedo place before my wedding. My brother lived 1,000 miles away from me and was not forthcoming with his measurements so I called the tuxedo place and gave them my best estimate of what I thought his measurements were and the guy immediately said, “You made those up.” Then he told me I had to call my brother and MAKE him measure himself, which I did and called the guy back a few minutes later, with measurements that were only slightly different from my made up ones, but that the tailor could tell were authentic. How he knew, I will never guess.

    As far as body image/weights/measurements are concerned, I’ve spent my whole life unhappily obsessed with my weight and body shape, even though, except for a brief period in high school and other brief periods after childbirth, I have never been overweight. I’m a nurse and when I was doing patient care, I was always struck by the wide discrepancy between a patient’s actual weight and what I might have assumed they weighed. People almost always weighed more than what I would have guessed. Not that I go around judging, but it did help me realize that the number on the scale doesn’t dictate whether or not a person looks good.

  27. Rebekah

    “Our bodies are so much more than they appear. And they are ever so much more than the numbers that describe them. Those numbers can be helpful in certain contexts, but they will never provide a complete picture. So don’t ever let stats turn you against your body.”

    -thunderous applause- Sing it, Sal!

  28. Louise

    My measurements are exactly the same as yours, to the inch, to the pound. Exactly. And yet I wear a dress size 12 or 14. How does that happens? Who knows?

    • Rebecca

      If you’re talking sewing pattern sizes, that sounds pretty accurate to me. I wear an 8 or sometimes even a 6 in a full-skirted dress, but the measurements on dress patterns are FAR less generous. I often cut from an 8 or 10 at the top out to a 12 or 14 in the skirt.

  29. Claudia

    Great post and message. Thank you.

    Relating to body image: I remember during my teen years, during the 1970’s, reading a fashion magazine that stated that a female’s ideal weight was 100 lbs for the first 5 feet of height, then 5 lbs for each additional inch over five feet. That bit of “information” which I took to heart dogged me and haunted my self perception for way too many years; decades in fact. I am 5′ 9″ and a little voice inside my head told me I was fat and overweight unless I was at or below 145 lbs based on that static, statistical formula of measuring my body read in some thoughtless, superficial magazine.

    I mentally felt powerful at 135 lbs because I had a 10 lb buffer zone from being “fat,” even if I was constantly hungry, weak and preoccupied with food. Reaching 125 lbs was even better and safer in this sick world I allowed to define my attractiveness and self worth. How F–ed Up is that? What a damaging, inaccurate and completely false burden to have carried for most of my life.

    Yeah, just numbers. That is all. It was never who I really was. Thanks again, Sally.

    • LisaZ

      Claudia, I have that EXACT same guideline in my head, from the 70s or 80s when I was a child/teen. With that, at 5′ 5″ I should weigh 125 lbs. and since I’m closer to 140 I always feel I should lose at least 10 lbs. Now, seeing Sally confident at 150 lbs., I am going to rethink that entire stupid “standard”.

      • malevolent andrea

        Same. I spent my entire teenage and young adult life thinking I was fat because at 5’2, I was “supposed” to weigh 110, not the 115-120 I did weigh. Also, thanks to 70s fashion magazines and their pencil test, I was convinced my boobs were too droopy from about age 14 onward. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I figured out that no one over a B cup passes the pencil test. Grrr.

        • Claudia

          I remember the pencil test, too. Which I also failed. In my mind that meant I had saggy breasts (as a teen!).

          Do you also remember the Special K cereal commercial “Can you pinch an inch?” and if you could — you needed to lose weight. Ugh.

          Nobody told me all this was crap, so I learned I was defective, not the ideal, at a tender age when my body was changing into a women’s.

  30. Colleen

    Sally, thank you for this. I’ve been struggling with the last 20 lbs. of a 60 lb. loss – losing them then regaining them – and right now I am at the high end of my normal range and feeling “fat.” I see you as a slim, athletic person. It is messing with my mind (in a good way) to see that basically we are about the same size – if you subtract two inches from your waist measurement and slap them onto the hips instead, voila, that’s me :). Of course I’m also shorter and have fleshier limbs, which does make me look more voluptuous, but I feel like I have a visual anchor now to remind me that while yes I have gained 20 lbs. from where I was a year ago, I’ve also lost 40 lbs. from where I was 4 years ago, and I am not a fat girl anymore. You seriously just cured the minor body dysmorphia I’ve been battling!

  31. Rebecca

    Sal, thank you for this post! As someone who’s weighed a lot more than I do now, and also some less, I know I have trouble seeing my body realistically. Your blog has helped me this past summer to make friends with a body that had been really fit, but due to various stressors had gotten softer and fluffier. Paying attention to dressing myself nicely, and sewing some clothes that fit and flattered me as I was, helped me to be ready to go back to the gym and give up the ice cream again. That’s all been great!

    But even more important is the next step in the process of making friends with my body–being aware of the little part of my mind that, no matter how strong or fit I am, still waits for me to look like someone else, someone without big hips and a generous butt, someone who’s not going to be curvy at any weight. Currently I’m just aware, but I think the process of building a wardrobe that feels joyful and powerful, sewing and tailoring clothes that really fit me, and more, I think it will help to quiet that part of my mind. I am so grateful to you for your blog and for helping me to start on the way to the next level of self-love.

    Last, it’s a revelation that you, so trim and lovely and well-proportioned, have almost the same measurements as me! I’ve been inspired by you to belt higher, and boy howdy it makes a big difference.

    So, all in all, a huge THANK YOU!

  32. Kat

    Hah! One of the reasons I started reading your blog was that I thought you looked a lot like me–the same kind of figure, that can do strong and healthy and fit but is never going to look willowy or gamine, unlike most magazine models and a lot of popular style bloggers. (Well, I have a quite large bust–enough that I give up on button-downs, or on non-stretch wovens–but otherwise similar.) Somehow I’ve gotten the idea that “oh, really she must be much smaller than me, that’s why that works on her.” Actually, we could probably share pants.

  33. Dianne

    Thank-you for sharing. You are closer to my size than I would have imagined, although, with my smaller (lack thereof) booty, I am more of a rectangle. I think what plays into this too, is the vertical proportions. I am 5’5.5″, and about 130 lbs., but with a very short torso (length from neck-to-waist of 14.5″, 1.5″ from top of hip-bone to lower rib, short rise), so, when clothed, it appears that I have no real waist at all. The shirt-dresses that I love on you, and others, just hang like a sack on me, or they are too tight in the bust. And my under-bust measurement of 32″ makes bra-buying difficult (32DD) and expensive (I did not buy the $135.00 one last week, although it was the only one in the shop that fit). On the other hand, I have long, slender legs, which I love, but which also means that many boots (which I also love) are either too wide in the calf, of the width of the calf is too low for my leg-shape. This post just makes one realize how garment manufacturers can take a ‘standard’ set of body measurements and create ‘standard’ sizes, and not have those fit many of us.

  34. Anat

    Truth time.

    What striked me in this post was my instant urge to compare myself to you. Reading through the comments, I see this urge is shared by many, many others. And that raises a lot of questions in my mind. I have to admit that “learning your stats” satisfied a deep and dark desire of mine, to pit myself against you. It makes me feel terrible, as does admitting this here.

    But I think this has a lot to do with how difficult it is for us to see ourselves objectively in the mirror, so we have to compare ourselves to other women to be sure we are “ok” – if she looks good, and weighs more than I do, than I must look good as well – just becase we can’t trust our own eyes.

    How can women who are perceptive and intelligent in many other ways be so dumb and obtuse when it comes evaluating their own bodies?

    (Ok, posting and hope I won’t regret it later).

    • Sal

      I can completely understand, Anat, and this is one of the only times I’ve ever encouraged body comparison. You folks see my body nearly every day, and see how my clothes fit me, and do some comparing just by instinct. Here, though, my hope isn’t that my measurements and stats will be any sort of a ruler for “acceptability,” but instead a point of perspective. A few women have piped up to say they’ve got my stats and are shaped like me, but even more have said that we overlap and look nothing alike. I know this post could certainly satisfy other curiosities and prompt MANY other responses, but my hope is it’ll remind us all that absolutely every body is unique, and none of them can be confined by their measurements.

      I’m glad you spoke up. I’m sure others are feeling similarly.

      • Trish

        Hey, Sal!
        Thank you for posting this. I echo what Anat said. So many women cannot help but compare themselves to other women just to check if they are ‘ok’. My group of girlfriends like to compare their waist measurements. This annoyed the hell out of me. Then I realized I’m doing nothing to change it :-(.

    • Frankincensy

      But I think this has a lot to do with how difficult it is for us to see ourselves objectively in the mirror, so we have to compare ourselves to other women to be sure we are β€œok” – if she looks good, and weighs more than I do, than I must look good as well – just becase we can’t trust our own eyes.

      YES. So much.

    • Cynthia

      I think it’s good to be able to make the comparison and I’ve always been pretty transparent about body size and weight on my blog. Why? Because, we can be objective about other people. I can look at Sal and see she looks awesome without any distortion. Someone with my same measurements who looks at my photos every day can say “but Cynthia looks good, and we’re the same”. The excellent thing about style blogging and posting a photo every day is that it has given me some of that same objectivity about myself. I’m desensitized to my own image and have forgotten what I thought my flaws ever were.

  35. T.

    Am I the only one not surprised by your numbers? I always thought you and I were very similar in height, weight, and shape, and by golly we are. Now I need to go through your photos again to see if you have a pencil skirt that fits you, because that is one thing sadly lacking in my wardrobe–I cannot find one that fits me! (My hips are the same size as yours, but my waist is a few inches narrower. You can imagine how much trouble I have finding pants and straight skirts that work for me.)

    • zora

      Over on the blog corporette, a cult has arisen in worship of a Halogen pencil skirt that all agree is perfect for pear shaped women. If you go to Nordstrom it is called the Halogen Seamed Pencil Skirt. It is a very thick but stretchy material, and comes in a MILLION colors, which is so much fun! And it looks fantastic on, even me, who definitely has had trouble finding pencil skirts.

      FYI, it does run on the larger side, which is odd. Basically, I am the same measurements as Sal, so I usually have to get a 10 in skirts/pants, but in this skirt the 8 was just perfect for me.

      Also, though, as a fellow-hips-and-waist-are-two-different-sizes person, you really should consider getting skirts altered. Maybe buying slightly higher-quality pencil or straight skirts and knowing you’ll need to alter them, too. Even the Halogen skirt, you might want to get so that it fits your hip and then get the waist taken in a bit till its perfect. That’s something else I love about Sal, she helped me realize that the best bet for my shape is to look for dresses/skirts with a free hip, so it’s not so difficult.

      • Sal

        Oooh, Zora, I’m intrigued. I wasn’t aware of the Halogen Seamed Pencil Skirt worship … will have to investigate!

      • T.

        Thank you for that info! I’m not even waiting for the sale. My order is already placed!

        • zora

          haha!! which color?! also, you can get a price adjustment later, if they go on sale. So, keep an eye on the website and contact customer service if they drop the price. ;o)

          glad to pass on the wonder of THE skirt!! i love my purple amethyst one So. Much.!

          • T.

            I ordered it in black (which is still full price), and it came very quickly. I ordered both an 8 and a 10 (since both shipping and return shipping are free). The 8 fits, but makes me look like I need to lose 10 lbs. The 10 is perfect!! I am so thrilled! It needs no alterations whatsoever. Thank you, Zora! You made my day! (And my wardrobe!)

  36. SK

    Hi there,
    Been stalking this blog for the past few days, since my new interest in fashion style and the works. I had a baby 5 months ago and since then have been struggling to make peace with my new body and having to buy a whole new wardrobe for it.
    I believe you and I are the same age but I admire the maturity you possess. :–) Love all your body image posts.

    • Jen

      I’m 15 months post partum and I just updated my wardrobe. With all 3 kids it took me this long for my body to snap back to size.

  37. Sarah

    Thanks for this. I was feeling a bit bummed yesterday as i was browsing the TItle 9 website – loving the dresses, then looking at the size charts and realizing that none of them would actually fit me. At all. I am short – 5’0″ – with a 29″ waist, 38″ hips, and 42″ bustline. My shoulders are proportionate to my height, which means they’re usually less broad than most shirts and dresses are tailored for. While I’m handy with the alterations, there’s not a thing I can do about shoulder width – so even if I ordered an XL and took in the waist and hip, they still wouldn’t fit. Somehow, clothing for “athletic” women assumes that “athletic” women have no boobs, and that’s really disappointing and makes me feel like no matter how fit I am, I’m never going to “look” fit unless I get the girls reduced.

    • Sara

      Have to respond to this. I am so frustrated with Title 9 and Athleta’s clothing. A pretty athletic woman, I have almost the same measurements as Sally but with larger, muscular thighs I am guessing. The clothing from those catalogs never fits me. It only seems to look good on the straight-up-and-down models.

  38. Diana

    I agree that having a specific set of measurements is super useful, especially if you buy a lot of clothes online. I knit garments for myself quite often, so I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that it’s really important to make sure the things you’re spending hours knitting will actually fit your body!

    Also, you are like my body double. Seriously. You’ve got a couple of inches of height on me and a couple of the measurements diverge by an inch or two, but otherwise… it’s creepily similar.

  39. Elissa

    Sally, this was such a brave and awesome post! Your blog has done so much for my own body image and my comfort with the numbers that measure but do not define me.

  40. GingerR

    Are you sure you’re a 34B?

    A 3 inch different between your underbust bandwidth and the fullest part of your bust would make you, according to a standard fitting chart, a C-cup.

    A lot depends on what brand of bra you buy because sizing is variable.

      • Eternal*Voyageur (Venusian*Glow)

        I was thinking exactly the same thing as GingerR. Are you gathering everything in? Try gathering tissue from the back and underarms into the bra cups with your palms. Do this while bending forward at the waist. Most people have escaped breast tissue there.

        • Sal

          Yes, I am, and have been professionally fitted within the past four months. Believe me, ladies, I’m in the right size.

          • Anne

            Hey gals, speaking as a former manager and buyer for a lingerie department, those are fitting guidelines, not hard and and fast rules. Bra manufacturers, like the rest of the clothing industry, cut their bras differently. I am in various bras a 32C, 32B, 34B,and a 34A. Also we all have breast tissue distributed differently and that will affect your cup size as well. As long as the girls are up off your hips and facing forward and your band is at your mid-back, and your straps are comfy, your fine.

          • Tara

            Just have to say that I find it hilarious that other ladies are second guessing your knowledge of your own bra size. I’m going to go out on a limb and trust that you know what size bra YOU wear.

    • Laurie Olson Williams

      But the underbust bandwidth has a different relationship to your actual measurement than most folks assume. πŸ™‚ Seriously — you are supposed to *add* inches to your underbust measurement, and then the difference between that and your full bust is your cup size.

      It’s ridiculously confusing if you haven’t been let in on that little secret. And different bra companies then go ahead and determine what *their* “B-cup” is going to be like through their use of fitting models. Which is why Victoria’s Secret bra tend to run (IMO) just a smidge small in the cup compared to other brands.

      • Eternal*Voyageur (Venusian*Glow)

        Laurie, you are NOT supposed to add anything. How can a band that is bigger than your chest support anything? That rule held decades ago, when bands were not stretchy, nowadays bands stretch up to 20 cm. Half of my blog is about bra fitting, if you are curious do check it out.

  41. lisa

    Bravo for a courageous and candid post, Sal. It’s heartening to see how, in your post and in comments left by your readers, a human body is so much more than a numbers game.

  42. Eleanorjane

    Awesome post – you’re on a roll at the moment!

    Unlike those trying to learn that they’re okay where they are, what I’m trying to learn at the mo. is that my size 12-14 (US), 180ish pound self was actually overweight. I’ve lost 9 pounds on MyFitnessPal so I’m now 170ish – aiming for another 9 pounds or so.

    I’m looking around at people on MFP and websites where real people of different sizes post their pics and slowly re-learning what a more comfortable weight for me would be. I still don’t want to be super skinny or become a gym bunny, but I think I can manage to avoid that! πŸ™‚

  43. Holly

    I haven’t ever taken body measurements, but I know the measurements of my clothes. I’m a vintage clothing dealer and a lot of the clothes I buy are vintage. Most of us who sell online post measurements of the garments themselves, not the body they’re meant to fit.

    Basically, I measure something I have that has a comfortable fit that’s similar to whatever I’m looking at online. Then, I compare those measurements to what’s offered online. I seldom get it wrong because I tend to wear vintage that’s fairly fitted (typically 50s dresses) and I know enough about vintage to know where fit issues might lay. For example, armholes in 60s/70s clothes are often cut fairly high. The shoulder to natural waist seams on a 50s dress is sometimes on the short side. Center back length on 50s/60s sweaters and blouses tend to be a little shorter, too, so I pay attention to that so that I don’t have midriff baring tops.

    Someone said something about standardized sizes in today’s industry. I can wear anywhere from an 8 to a 12. With vintage–it’s all just measurement based and so much easier.

  44. Mollie @ Jennings Brae Bank Farm

    Thank you Sal. This was a much-needed post for me (and from the looks of it, many others). I’ve been reading you for a while now, but recently started looking for a blog with someone with closer proportions to my own. Turns out, we’re pretty darn close. Therefore, maybe it’s time to start rethinking my own body image. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  45. Stephanie

    Interesting. I sew for myself so I stay pretty up to date on my measurements. I remember though on of the first things I made for myself was a wrap skirt from a tutorial. The first thing listed on the supplies list was the courage to face ones own measurements. At the time I think it took me about a week to get there. Now I whip the tape out almost every time I make something.

  46. Anonymous

    This is interesting to me, because I have always perceived you as being much smaller than me, even though we are fairly similar in measurement sizes. I guess that goes to show that perception is much different than reality.

  47. Anonymous

    I heard that arm span is usually very close to height. But here, your arm span is listed as 52” = 4′ 4”.

  48. Jen

    Wow. We have almost the exact same measurements, excepting the bust. I probably COULD send you lots of second-hand gifties, if they weren’t already promised to my sister. Or wait….I have this gorgeous Anthropologie lime green with magenta flowers pencil skirt that neither my sister or I can wear….interested?

    Like you said, we have very similar measurements, even height and weight, but when I read your blog, I’m always envious of your figure! I see women that might have 10-15 pounds on me and I think they look incredible. It’s funny how we can be so hard on ourselves….

    • Sal

      Hahaha. Sure, Jen, I’ll take that off your hands! But feel free to find it another home if that’s easier.

  49. Sarah

    Our measurements are nearly identical – except that I am 5’3″
    Also, I run about a size or two larger than you do. What gives? Bodies are funny things, I guess. Thanks for encouraging your readers to appreciate themselves as they are.

  50. Tracey

    This is a really interesting post. I also share most of your measurements, with the exception of being a couple of inches smaller underbust and hips and weighing about seven pounds less. I always think what a lovely figure you have and would have guessed at you being smaller than me. Just shows that what we see in the mirror can be completely different that what everyone else sees.

  51. Lain

    This is eye-opening. We have almost identical measurements, however, I wear a size 12-16. I am extremely athletic and weigh 30 pounds more than you, with only 24% body fat. I could not squeeze into a size 8 to save my life, but my hips are actually smaller than yours. Go figure.

    Thank you for posting. We naturally compare outselves to others and this did help!

  52. Jen

    Hi Sal!

    I absolutely love your blog, especially as it relates to body image. I’m a high school guidance counselor, and work with a lot of young women dealing with their own body issues. When I see a beautiful girl sitting across from me and hear her say how much she hates herself because she had get a (gasp) “0” instead of a “00”, it just makes me sick. I love that your blog promotes loving the body you have, whatever that might be. I’ve struggled with that myself, and working around young women makes that difficult somedays. Especially when you throw some health issues in, loving a body that doesn’t always treat me great can be difficult. It’s hard not to compare, especially when what I “see” in the mirror isn’t always what others see. So thank you so much for helping me gain some perspective on what I see on your blog.

    I’m a 28 year old, 5’3″, 190lbs, size 14/16, L/XL, 38F woman who’s too tall for petite, too short for regular, too small for plus, and too busty/curvy for misses. And I’m so much more than those numbers (bout time I started seeing THAT in the mirror). Thanks again Sal! As so many others have said, this post hit close to home and was definitely something I needed to read and reflect on. Thanks as always for opening my eyes! Hope your day is great!

  53. Heidi/Closet Coach

    Such good stuff, I don’t know where to begin. I recently wrote a post about the various sizes I wear–between parts of my body, between clothing labels–and I’ve written before about body acceptance, but this is a fantastic synthesis of all of those things together.

    You’re encouraging me to feel brave, so here goes:

    I’m 41, 5’7″ and range from 125-130 pounds. Hips: 38″, Natural waist: 30″, Underbust: 29″, Bust: 32″ (and yet this makes me a 34A, go figure), Underarm: 32″. Shoe size: 7, sometimes 6 1/2.

    Which means I wear anything from a 2 to an 8 in tops and 6 to 10 in bottoms. Try buying a two-piece suit (of any kind, from swim to corporate) with that range!

  54. Roberta

    Sally, you are so completely awesome. Like others in the comments I was surprised to find my measurements so close to yours. I thought I had a pretty good body image, but I realized I was thinking, “Oh, I could never wear that, Sally is so much smaller than I am.” We are a couple of inches and fifteen pounds apart – and I’m a bit taller!

    Thank you so much for, again, opening my eyes to . . . what? The possibilities we all have in front of us? The recognition that I am not “fat”, whatever that means to me? We see ourselves through a mirror, darkly!

    And I own that Halogen skirt in Yellow. Eeps.

    this is why you are the first blog I read over breakfast.

  55. Kookoo

    Ahhhh! Love the truth and the relief it brings. You give a great service to those who seek to live in appreciation of great clothes and the fun of fashion. Keep it up. This is very impactful.

  56. Sara

    I found this post to be such a wonderful reflection on how measurements and weight do not necessarily go hand-in-hand with what size we feel we “should” wear as opposed to what we “do” wear. From the comments, I gather I am not the only one who sometimes struggles with this. Thank you for this post, Sal. It was illuminating.

  57. Justine

    I just wanted to let you know that I think this was a wonderful post! I have been struggling with my shape/size these last couple of years after I had my second child. I didn’t have the hips that I have and my chest wasn’t as large. I am trying to get back in shape but the hips aren’t going anywhere! I am 5’3″ and 141 lbs, my hips are 42″, I have a 34DD chest and a 28 1/2″ waist.

    Thank you for helping me to look in the mirror at my body and accept that I’m not the same shape/size I used to be, but that is okay!

  58. Laurie Olson Williams

    As a professional seamstress/dressmaker, may I just say: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!! for measuring your natural waist and pointing out where it is, as well as your “wearing waist”. (What a great term! I’m gonna steal it, ok?) There is a difference, and so many people don’t seem to know that difference any more, and it can make my job difficult when I’m trying to measure people *and* educate at the same time.

    Thank you also for your stance on body fat percentage and BMI, and….oh, the many, many other wonderful things you wrote. You are a woman after my own heart. Different senses of style, but very similar hearts. Thank you.

  59. Jess

    This is such a great post! I feel like a lot of anxiety about weight and size could be dispelled if women talked openly about their weight and measurements. I remember several years back having an illuminating conversation with three or four friends, who all wear around the same size in terms of clothes (UK 14-16 – so I guess a US 12-14), and within a couple of inches of each other in height (5’6 – 5’8), but there was quite literally about 60lb variation in terms of weight (!!!) and because of our proportions we all looked very different in our clothes. It really brought home to me quite how rough a measure BMI is, and was a significant moment in terms of my own body acceptance!

  60. Emily

    Sally, I can’t tell you what a helpful, shaking-up, and obviously brave post this was. I’ve been reading you for a few months and thinking more and more often, “Oh, well, she can wear that with her tiny waist and breasts.” Shame on me. Thank you for reminding me that the whole point of your blog, well, one of them, is how to dress for your own body, which requires you respect that body, just as it is. I’d like to do that more, a year after the birth of my second baby, in a size I’ve never yet been. I’d like to respect this body, own it, feel in control of it as much as I can, pamper it with pretty clothes that fit it! Got to stop hiding it!

  61. Cel

    Woa, woa woa woa. Hold the horses. Wait one minute. I’m sitting here staring at your measurements and thinking to myself “Impossible! Sal cannot possibly weigh that much, she cannot possibly measure the same as I do in many respects.” I guess I always assumed you were smaller. Hm, methinks I’m discovering a weird connection between how I see myself and how others may see me…

  62. Caitlin

    This post is fabulous. Seriously. We put so much stock into these numbers, as if they actually mean something about our attractiveness and our health, and they cause so much needless hurt and anxiety. I suspect that the secrecy with which so many women regard their measurements only adds to this, because we don’t have a realistic measure to view ourselves.

    BTW can I just say that I LOVE that tattoo on your leg? It’s beautiful and classy and you make it look very sophisticated. I like that. πŸ™‚

  63. Erin

    Love this post – so much in line with our philosophy in the “How Much Do You Weigh?” photo project – your image looks startlingly like those in our book – and the sum total of all of the women pictured with the number that is their weight illustrates once and for all that those numbers are not a measurement of anything meaningful in our lives, though we constantly give them that kind of power.
    Erin, author of “How Much Do You Weigh?”

  64. Debbi@SheAccessorizesWell

    Sal, I just now saw this post. Thank you so much for sharing. I think that it is so important for us to all know that we are normal and that our weight is not our value in this world. Great, great post.

  65. Cathy

    I can’t express how this post has helped me. I am shocked that I am so close to you in measurements. I have been reading your blog for a while now and thought you were so little, that I really couldn’ relate being as big as I am. I love the way you dress and admire your great figure. You have helped me to think about myself in a whole new way. thank you, thank you, thank you. Your blog is awesome and is helping me so much.

    • Sal

      Cathy, I’m SO GLAD! Thank you for reaching out to tell me, and I’m delighted to hear that this post might’ve changed how you saw your own body just a little bit.

  66. Erika

    WOW Sal – I’ve been reading your blog for a while but hadn’t seen this post till today (was directed here randomly). This has really helped me! I think when we met, you said, “Our figures couldn’t be more different.” And you’re right…but our weights, heights, measurements and sizes are very similar. It makes me ponder. I can’t help but compare as most have said, but it’s also eye-opening how hard I and most of us are on our own figures while so open-minded for others. If I think you look so great, how could I be so mean to myself?

    Thank you again for everything!