Today, I’d just like to say a bit about sizing. First of all, let me give you the inside scoop on a dirty little secret of the fashion industry. Ready to wear clothing is made for people in the middle–so the average size for a given height and weight. For years, they have been doing something called vanity sizing. Some call vanity sizing a myth, because they argue that clothing just isn’t made well anymore or we are getting fatter as a population. Call it what you will, but clothing off the rack won’t fit everyone perfectly, and if we are sizing up our patterns, regardless of the reason behind it, it still presents a problem when we go to clothe ourselves off the racks. How a pattern is graded and then the garment cut from that pattern has everything to do with how it fits.
So, before our discussion on vanity sizing or “why this or that size doesn’t fit me” ensues, here is a bit of info on sizing in general:
First of all, sizes are relative. The company who cuts and sews the clothing chooses how they want it to fit. The company chooses the “body” that their ready made garments are meant to fit–and one size rarely fits all. So, your size can vary from company to company.
Secondly, most of our clothing these days is made from stretchy, knit fabrics that are easier to fit a wide range of people. A knit stretches and is more comfortable than a constructed, woven fabric. Usually they are also more wrinkle free–because we all have this aversion to using an iron these days.
Thirdly, because fashions change so much from season to season, it is easier to size with “average sizes” (like XS, S, M, L, XL etc.) and they don’t fit everyone. It is quite possible for you to be between an average size. It is also possible that not all size “S” are the same. There are some brands where size “S” means size “6-8” and others where it means “2-4.” You never know until you try it on.
Finally, the sizing system in the US is based on…well, who knows. It is a random set of numbers that has lost its correlation to actual sizes. In European sizes, it refers to measurements in centimeters–which is very helpful. However, with our aversion to true numbers in sizing, we simply can’t handle the truth! So over the years the industry has randomly adopted numbers that refer to someone’s set of measurements that don’t even correlate to the population at large.
Here is an example: One of the things most said about Marilyn Monroe was that “she was a size 14 and look how beautiful we considered her.” Consider this, in 1962 when she died, the dress measurements for a size 14 were more or less as follows: bust-36″, waist-28″, hip-38″. If she was a dress size 14 then, Marilyn Monroe would probably be a size 8 now. Incidentally, the measurements for a size 14 now are as follows: bust-40″, waist-33″, hip-43″, so back in the day that would have been about a size 22. This idea that there are no actual fixed points on which our clothing sizing is based brings us to the idea of VANITY SIZING!
The nitty gritty of the whole issue is that people will buy more clothing if they feel like they are buying a smaller size than what they expected to buy. To be completely honest, this is a tactic that has often worked with me personally too. I was usually a size 10 at the Gap. I had been a size 10 for years, and then a few years back I went in to finally buy a new pair of jeans. I tried the size 10s on, and to my delight, they were way too big. So I went for the size 8s. They were too big too! So, I bounced over to the size 6s, and found a pair that fit perfectly well! I was so thrilled by the idea that I could wear a size 6, I bought 3 pairs instead of just 1! The funny part is, when I got home, the pair I had purchased 7 years earlier is the same size when they are laid on top of each other. So, what happened? I weigh the same, and actually even have the same measurements–but the size on the tag is different! This is what we mean by vanity sizing!
The sad flip side of this scenario is that if we shop regularly at places like Old Navy, Gap, or Walmart, you will encounter vanity sized products. So if you try to shop at a boutique, you may not encounter the same fit if you are only shopping for size. So often I see customer discouraged by this fact. We need to be realistic and push past the label! An article a few months ago in a major fashion magazine talked about the psychology of it all. Vanity sizing works to sell more products, and that keeps retailers in business. So, you just need to shop for what fits and flatters, and be above the label.
So, shop to fit your body–not your “size.”
In our shop, we carry a variety of brands from fashion houses the world over, as well as some clothing we make ourselves. That is why our sizing is not always consistent. It isn’t us, it is because of the boutique nature of what we are doing. We are currently working on our own system of sizing to help customers navigate the difficulties they face when shopping and not knowing what is going to fit, so stay posted for that.
In the meantime, don’t get discouraged! Shop for what fits you and not what you think should fit you. No one ever sees the label, but they will see you squished into clothing that doesn’t fit, or swimming in something that is too big. Fit matters, sizes don’t.
It’s not you, it’s them.