This question may appear to be a simple one, but ask any woman this, and you might get a glazed over look followed by a blank stare. If you are like most of us, you might be a size 10 or 12 in a jean, a size 6 or 8 in a skirt, and perhaps even a 12 or 14 in a bathing suit. What IS the deal? Why do we have so much trouble answering such a seemingly simple question?
Let me try and explain why this is such a mystery to most of us. In the world of women’s clothing, each and every manufacturer has it’s own version of what constitutes a size range. In most cases this is a very arbitrary exercise. As the line is being developed, a fit model is used in order to draft the pattern. Generally the fit model is a size 8, and all other sizes are based on this scale. As you might imagine, each fit model is slightly different in her measurements, as each and every woman has slightly different proportions. One season a manufacturer might have a fit model that is long waisted or short waisted, smaller through the hips or fuller in the thighs…well, you get the picture. With different fit models each season, the fit varies from one season to the next. You may fit into a 6 one season, and an 8 the next. It’s totally confounding, and certainly difficult to navigate, especially when trying to figure it all out under the glare of fluorescent lights in an overheated fitting room!
You also may have noticed that despite the fact that we are getting older and the population is getting larger, your size may not be that different from 10 or 15 years ago. How is this possible, you may wonder? Another dirty little secret of the clothing industry is what is referred to as ‘vanity sizing’. This is where the line is designed larger and fuller than a traditional Missy size scale. Why? So that we feel better about ourselves for still fitting into that size 10 or 12 and not a 14! Some manufacturers prey on our fragile self esteem and desire to be smaller than we truly are. Are you starting to get the picture?
Now, let’s take a trip across the pond to Europe. Much like our obsession with large portions compared to our European neighbors, our sizing is much different also. European sizing is much closer to a traditional sizing scale. Although you may see numbers in the 30′s and 40′s on a European garment, there is an American counterpart. The issue comes to light when you try to translate your American size into another language. Go into any boutique that carries Italian, French or English designers, and you will no doubt be surprised at what you see.
European sizing is MUCH smaller that we are accustomed to. If you fit into an 10 here, you will definitely be in a 12 or 14 in a French designer line. Retailer H&M, (due to open in Walnut Creek this May…more on that next time) fits much smaller than it’s American cheap/chic counterparts. I always warn clients not to be too shocked when they are not getting into what they feel is their true size in a store like H&M.
It’s an understatement to say they every line fits differently. What sometimes is hard to understand is why the Men’s clothing lines have such a seamless sizing structure. Men’s clothes sizes are all based on measurements. Your waist measures either a 34, 36, 38, etc. You will never fit in a 34 if you are really a 38. The inseam or pant length is measured also, so you are a 32, 33, 34, etc. A man with a 32”inseam will never look good in a pant with a 30” inseam. It will look ridiculously short and people will wonder how he could have left the house. Men’s dress shirts are also subject to these measurements; the neck and the sleeve length. It all sounds so civilized, doesn’t it? There are times that a male client doesn’t even have to be with me in order for me shop for their clothes. The real difference is that 90-100% of my choices fit!!! Shopping for men can be very quick and easy compared with women.
Why do I tell you all of this??? Should we just throw up our hands and decide that we will no longer strive to look good and stick with our old outdated clothes? Certainly NOT! What I am about to suggest may be shocking at first, but I really think you will get used to it in the long run.
What I tell all my clients is……YOUR SIZE IS WHAT FITS YOU! Get it out of your head that you SHOULD be a certain size. You are what you are, and that’s the perfect size for you. If it makes you feel better, take a scissor to all of the little size tags at the back of your garments. Cut them off, throw them out and never think about them again! Size, like age, is just a number, it’s a starting point. If a size 12 doesn’t fit, try a size 14 for goodness sake!
Refuse to be categorized, and put into a box. Be happy in the body you’re in, and the confidence you project will more than make-up for the extra 5 lbs. you think you need to ditch. Once you’re wiped that look of pure shock off your face, give it some thought …it does make sense.