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Does It Fit?

Does It Fit?

I know I am not alone in my struggle to understand the different sizing that brands use. Even when we’re in a store, the size labels can be confusing. A reader named Vicki asked a very interesting question over in the AWSL Facebook group this week which got me reflecting on how these sizes are literally “labeling” us.

“Is a woman who mostly wears a size 8 – sometimes a 10, a plus-size woman or a medium-sized woman? Are the size charts correct in determining whether women are small, medium, or large? Articles I have read leave me confused. Is it any wonder many of us struggle with body image and perception.”

Many of us have had the following scenario play out as we try on clothes: We’re browsing in a clothing store we grab a couple of nice items we like the look of, select our usual size and set them aside for the dressing room. When we go to try them on, they don’t fit. Maybe they’re too small, maybe they’re too large, and either way, it can feel unsettling or upsetting. Our expectation at that moment of what our size should be does not match the reality from the rack.

It’s not uncommon to zero in on size as an indicator of how our body looks or feels in clothes. And yet, I think focusing on the number can be a really misleading and unhelpful indicator. On the one hand, every brand has a different “fit model” that they use to assign their sizing numbers. You’ll find in some brands. your size ranges, by a little or by a lot. Some brands mark their sizes much smaller than others (typically referred to as “vanity sizing” – what a horrible term!)  with the idea being that women will feel more confident if the number on the tag is smaller than what she’s used to.

I am a big proponent of NOT focusing on the number on the tag. I feel like they’re an arbitrary number assigned by designers in the fashion industry, and most certainly not a measure of your value or your worth. And how dare those tiny pieces of fabric sewn into the backs of our clothes attempt to wield power over how we feel about our bodies and our style!

Wear what fits your body, regardless of the size. Rip out the tag if it makes you feel better! The fact is you’ll like the way you look if the clothes you choose match your style and they fit you well. You’ll feel confident if you feel comfortable.

I know it can be an uncomfortable topic, and I really do appreciate the supportive and respectful dialogue that we have created in this community.

Here are a few weekly sale updates:

Banana Republic – the Labor Day Sale is on with 40% off your purchase, no code needed plus free 2-3 days shipping over $150 with the code BRSHIP.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Ann Taylor – 50% off your purchase

Saks – up to 75% off plus free shipping with code FREESHIP. I have four pair of these stretch crepe pants and I absolutely love them. I never travel without them and always pick up new colors when they go on dale, like now.

J. Crew – their bye bye summer sale is on with 40% off your purchase including new arrivals with the code BYESUMMER.

Soft Surroundings – end of summer sale with 40% off new sale plus 50% off all other sale with the code BYEBYE.

Great pieces to wear going forward into cooler weather

Thanks for reading ladies and remember to wear what makes you feel confident.

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37 Comments

  1. Maggie Morris
    September 3, 2020 / 8:47 am

    Another issue I have read about is the way clothes are manufactured. They take a stack of material to cut, say pants, and when that happens the top ones are the closest to the ideal “cut” size, while the shifting of the stack can cause distortions in other areas of the stack. That is why the same jeans can be inches in difference. Happens more with cheaper clothes.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      September 3, 2020 / 4:54 pm

      I’ve read about that too.

  2. Karen McB
    September 2, 2020 / 3:31 pm

    Ditto whoever said to try on a couple of items of the same size if possible. There can be a big variation in fit depending on where in the cutting stack a particular garment was (I guess that’s the cause), but I’ve had shoulders of the same model vest vary by almost three inches. I’ve been trying to buy men’s jeans that I can reorder as needed, and even those can have enough variation that one pair or order are more comfortable than another. Seems to be inevitable, but so frustrating when you can’t get to stores to try them!

  3. Kay
    September 2, 2020 / 2:08 pm

    Sizing is largely a marketing tool. More expensive clothing will tend to have smaller numbers than chain-store bargain items. I think I fall somewhere between a petite zero and a tall 4X, but precisely where can be a puzzle. My solution is to figure out what size fits me in what brand and stick to those (although that isn’t fool-proof.) Some retailers will give you the exact measurement of a garment so you can gauge for yourself. (Garnet Hill is good about that.) I agree about the EF crepe pants. They are perfect for travel (something I used to do, I think, way back in the distant past, like 2019.)

  4. Judy Miller
    September 2, 2020 / 1:36 pm

    Also, I find that 2 identical sized pieces can fit very differently!
    If I can I take 2 size 10s in the fitting room

  5. Carole from QB
    September 2, 2020 / 1:11 pm

    As always, a great post. Sizing has always been a problem. As an aside, could you give me the date of a post which included Gin and Raisins and Fever Tree Tonic.
    Glad you are enjoying your visit with your daughter. Now you are out an about Vancouver is a great place to be.
    Stay safe, Carole

  6. beth byrd
    September 2, 2020 / 10:53 am

    Due to the pandemic and quarantining at home, many brands are offering leisure wear … soft fabrics, elastic waistbands, sweatpant garments, etc. While these pieces are comfortable to wear at home, I think it’s caused many people to move from comfort to laziness — which has lead to weight gain.

    I hope the virus ends soon, but I hope this clothing trend ends soon too (or at least slows down).

  7. jmp
    September 2, 2020 / 10:40 am

    I can get caught up in this “size” thing so easily! It’s frustrating. Since shopping on line more now, I find I stick with the stores and brands that I know how their sizing usually runs. It keeps me (hopefully) from returning too many things. The down side is, I’m not as willing to take a risk on something I like, but don’t know the store or brand.

  8. Catherine
    September 2, 2020 / 9:09 am

    I have let go of numbers. I am a 10 in some brands and a 14 in others. Is it true in Europe they have standardized sizes based on measurements?

    I am struggling with “does this fit right” for the style it is. For example boyfriend and girl friend jeans. How do we know it’s a good fit? They both feel sloppy compared to the skinny jeans we got use to. If a blazer fits perfectly on the shoulders but doesn’t quite button due to a large bust line should you size up? Altering shoulders is expensive and I don’t button my blazers. The more I think about this the more I realize this might need to be a series of posts!

    • Jennifer
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 12:09 pm

      I always buy a blazer for the shoulders because it’s an expensive proposition to alter. I seldom button blazers or denim jackets but still like them to come close to closing. That said, if it’s only close and I love it I will buy it.

      • Eve
        September 2, 2020 / 5:53 pm

        I have this same problem with shirts but a shirt has to button so almost won’t work.LOL

  9. Phyllis Hughes
    September 2, 2020 / 8:39 am

    This is one of the distinct advantages of sewing your own clothes. The sizing for the Big Four pattern companies (Vogue, McCall, Simplicity and Butterick) is consistent and has not changed since the early 1970’s. However, Independent Pattern Companies have sizing all over the place. In learning to fit patterns I have learned that my body is not one size, but several sizes. As I age, my weight might not change, but the distribution of my weight changes on my body. I choose my pattern size by my upper bust measurement (measured just under my arms) for a top or dress and by my largest hip measurement for pants or skirts. I adjust the pattern from there. The hardest part of a pattern to adjust is the shoulders and upper chest area which is why that is where I determine my pattern size. Fitting patterns has taught me a lot about my body, thus I no longer worry about size. I start with a pattern and then adjust it to fit my body. We should not allow numbers to rule our lives

    • Sharon
      September 2, 2020 / 9:36 am

      Phyllis,

      Very interesting!

    • Lynn F
      September 2, 2020 / 11:30 am

      Thank you for sharing this Phyllis. I have been thinking of sewing my clothes again and wondering what pattern size to use now. Using the upper bust measurement makes sense and will make looking for a pattern easier for me.

    • Jennifer
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 12:07 pm

      My weight distribution has shifted too.

  10. Fran
    September 2, 2020 / 8:17 am

    Shopping for clothes is definitely more frustrating when you are trying on different sizes to see what works for your body. I used to actually enjoy shopping. I’ve limited the stores I visit now because the large ones have arranged the merchandise all over the store and I find that a time waster. I”m petite with a large bust so purchase tops in the regular section as well as petites.
    Speaking of taking out the labels, how about the scratchy materials and threads used? OUCH. Even high end, the labels are uncomfortable and annoying.
    I lost weight and now regained about half of it back. I loved putting on clothes and having the fit and look good with checking all angles. My weight gain tends to make lots of “road bumps” above the waist. 😉 So now I’m working on losing those additional pounds which will make me feel more confident again.

  11. MRSBEN2
    September 2, 2020 / 7:57 am

    I miss ‘the good old days’ when sizing also came in 5, 7, 9’s etc. Anyone remember those? From a sewer’s point of view they were far more accurate IMO and at least gave an reasonable option in choosing, rather than being forced to go up or down a FULL size. With that said; normally I can eyeball what will fit me based on cut ‘n style thus do have a range of 10’s to 4’s in my closet so speaking namely for myself it is the reason why I seldom order online. Also I don’t mind tweaking of a garment but to have to tear it apart, forget it as it ain’t going to happen … ☺.

    • susan m
      September 2, 2020 / 6:42 pm

      Check the junior department. You can still find 5, 7, 9 etc. sizing.

  12. Linda
    September 2, 2020 / 7:31 am

    I DO tip out the size tags if there is one. I wear what feels best on me no matter what the label claims it is. I know my body measurements and that is what is important. Not a size tag claiming small, medium, large or extra large!

  13. Lauren
    September 2, 2020 / 7:18 am

    There is a “size” label sewn into every garment to make it legal to sell (also needs fibre content, cleaning instructions, etc.) It is actually irrelevant to the body that it fits. Although Size Charts are helpful they often do not take into account whether the garment is intended to be a loose fit or very fitted. So, YES you must try on a number of sizes until you get a general idea of how each manufacturer sizes their clothing…..at least then you have fighting chance of getting it right when you order. Comments/product reviews can be helpful but they are subjective and often leave out information that allows me to know why the person said what they said about the item…..if you can discern the issue sometimes the comment is even laughable because the person’s expectations were WAY out of line for the item. Because sizing is a “crap shoot” it is irrelevant and I ignore it. I buy clothing that fits and looks good and laugh at the stupidity of how it was sized. I certainly am not going to allow a size tag to dictate how I feel about myself.

  14. Cathy
    September 2, 2020 / 6:59 am

    Sizing has always been a problem for me. I only order online from brands I know. The problem has always been we’re all different but fashions don’t take it into consideration. Since retiring I wear mostly jeans, shorts and tees, I don’t follow trends I wear classics. I have my outfits for church, lunch with friends or family gatherings.

  15. Rose
    September 2, 2020 / 6:37 am

    I just haven’t been buying clothes during Covid. You can’t try on anything and you just never know sizes on line. So frustrating! I used to be able to go into a store and find a petite department. Now they mix petites with everything so you have to walk the whole store. I just don’t enjoy shopping like I used to.

  16. Kathy
    September 2, 2020 / 6:16 am

    Sizes today are so unreliable. Unless I know the brand well, I always order 2 sizes. I wish manufacturers were more consistent. My wedding dress 40 years ago was a size 6. Now, at 68 years old, and 15 pounds heavier, I wear a 2-4. That’s “vanity” sizing. It doesn’t matter to me what size I wear but I wish sizes were consistent!

    • Jennifer
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 7:31 am

      Consistency would be amazing but I’m not guessing we will ever get it across the board. I hate it when sizing within a brand is inconsistent.

  17. Eileen
    September 2, 2020 / 5:47 am

    The biggest problem with online shopping is sizing. I believe the “size chart” is outdated. A few companies are measuring the garment flat instead, this is actually more helpful to me. I can decide how much “ease” I need and order accordingly. Last I read the “average” woman is 5’4”, and wears a size 14-16. If the mannequins were realistically portrayed, I wonder what would happen, interesting thought. I haven’t bought as much recently, I think ordering two sizes is getting tiresome. And closed dressing rooms aren’t helping.

  18. Shari
    September 2, 2020 / 5:11 am

    Interesting comments. What we seem to forget is what is our BMI, Cholesterol ( LDL, HDL, Triglycerides) ? Are you exercising 5x/week?
    Too much obesity out there. Covid and obesity bad. Alzheimers as well. As an RN, ever notice the obesity of many of our health care providers. Please, everyone put HEALTH first!

    • Shirley
      September 2, 2020 / 6:00 am

      Interesting that you said that about health care providers. I know they are wonderful, hard working people – human just like the rest of us. But when I’m sitting in my cardiologists’ office and the overweight nurses (all 3 of them – one was certainly obese) that are in and out of the room for various reasons tell me I need to lose weight and follow the DASH diet and I’m smaller than all of them…hmmmm. Of course, I never, ever would make a comment to them, that would be just rude and tacky, not to mention unkind. – I DO need to lose some weight for my blood pressure, but I wondered about that. And another thing that puzzles me is Chico’s sizing. They have beautiful clothes, but the sizes are annoying. That 0, .5, 1, 2, 3 stresses me out. I agree – the sizing should not define how we feel about ourselves – I can wear an XL, 0X, 1X and an occasional 2X, depending on how it’s made. I DO get annoyed when I shop online and the model is a zero – how is that going to help me determine anything about the garment? Oh well! It was nice talking about something besides COVID for a change! Have a great day, everyone! 🙂

      • Arna
        September 3, 2020 / 5:09 am

        Trying to imagine how something would look on a “normal” person, not a size zero model, is so frustrating. Then I discovered a few fashion bloggers, in their 40’s and up, and that really helped me. Even if they are smaller or different proportions than I am, I can at least get an idea of how a garment looks on someone closer to my age (I am 66). And they give very honest and detailed information about the fit which is so helpful.
        I even complained to Nordstrom a few years ago that having 20 something models styling mother of the bride dresses was not helpful at all. They “thanked” me for my suggestion…
        I wish I could figure out Chico’s sizing. I have not ordered anything from them. Even before Covid, I hated shopping in stores, well, I hate shopping in any form so I do most of my shopping online. If a store has free return shipping, I often order 2 sizes and return the one that doesn’t work.

  19. Linda V
    September 2, 2020 / 5:04 am

    Buying clothes on line is fraught with hit or miss because sizes vary so much! I stick to brands that I know will fit me. I always have a lot of trouble with Chicos because their sizing is all over the place! I try not to focus on the size of items. The only time to focus is if you go to a bigger size because of weight gain (I have been there) and you can use that insight in order to lose the weight if you want to.

  20. Jan
    September 2, 2020 / 5:04 am

    When I would walk into a department store, I knew that I needed to determine the area that stocked my size clothing. There and then, I was once again a certain “number”. So then too, everyone else in that area was that certain number also. I also have struggled shopping at a high end retailer, not knowing for sure if they even stocked my “number”. It was easier to avoid that shop than to be told that our sizing does not include your “number”.
    I am so past the games that “brands” like to play around with their “numbers”. I feel that I can deal with some of these issues you pointed out today. But, I worry very much about my granddaughters!

  21. Yvonne
    September 2, 2020 / 4:55 am

    Years ago when I was in the fashion industry and most brands were manufactured domestically, sizing was more consistent. And if we were buying American brands, we knew to go down one size from Canadian brands. That doesn’t apply anymore, and makes it much more difficult to shop. I always take 2 sizes with me into the fitting rooms, but I have a very difficult time shopping online as I don’t want to place orders I know most of which will be returned. The only reason I keep size tags on the garments is for reference if I’m purchasing that brand and a similar item.

  22. Lorna G Espenshade Long
    September 2, 2020 / 4:52 am

    I think that the fashion industry has fostered women’s insecurities. Beautiful women are made to feel unworthy because they are not a size 0. Very little progress has been made to have more inclusive sizes. We should support stores like Talbots that actually have plus sizes in their stores! On a hopeful note QVC has designers that have extended sizes. Ladies, we are all strong, vibrant women no matter what our size!

    • Jennifer
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 12:14 pm

      Yes, yes, yes! Many brands are catching on and offering clothes in petite, plus and tall now. We all deserve great clothes.

  23. Lidia
    September 2, 2020 / 4:38 am

    I learned this lesson the first time I lost a considerable amount of weight. Plus sizes seem to always be generously sized so it wasn’t a big issue. But at my thinnest, although most of my clothes were 8/10, I could wear anything from a size 4 (sweater) to a size 12 (jeans). Frustrating for sure, especially when you really liked the item and had to get re-dressed to go get the smaller/larger size. I didn’t want to bring 2 of the same item to the dressing room just because I was guessing sizes.
    i’m going to be 64 this year and I’ve finally begun to make peace with my body…not focus on “style” or a number but what looks good on me and more importantly – makes me feel good.

  24. Sue
    September 2, 2020 / 4:34 am

    In your second paragraph, are you saying that if a woman wears a size 10 she’s now plus size? The average size woman in the US wears a size 16. This is getting ridiculous.

  25. Shari
    September 2, 2020 / 4:34 am

    We were ruined as girls by the fashion images. I just browsed thought The NY Times fashion magazines, anorexic is the code there! Models look like waifs so there’s been no move toward healthy bodies as a norm. I remember reading that Marilyn Monroe wore a 14! What does THAT mean ??
    I admit to still thinking better of myself for fitting into a smaller size! At 70 you’d think we could “get over it”!
    I say just try on and get out and enjoy….time to shed the egos about size??

  26. Janet
    September 2, 2020 / 4:17 am

    I absolutely agree, but I must admit, that’s hard to make the mental shift after years of focusing on yourself as a number!

    I did buy a pair of pants a size larger than my normal size a couple of months ago. When I put them on a couple of days ago I heard my inner voice whisper “Those are your fat clothes.”

    As confident as I am in most areas of my life, body image is still a struggle for me.

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