The problem of how clothing sizes differ from shop to shop has been the scourge of consumers for decades. While a female shopper might be a perfect UK size 10 in one fashion retail store, she might struggle to fit into a 12 in the next.
This leads to extreme frustration; with people unsure what size they really are. The annoyance of taking a beautiful outfit, seemingly in your size, into the changing room, only to find the zip won’t fasten, is something most women will have experienced.
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A familiar scenario is when you need a new pair of jeans, for example. You pop out to the shops during your lunch break, as you know your size and think it shouldn’t take long, but to your dismay, you find the first few pairs you try on don’t fit!
Don’t worry, you haven’t suddenly gained weight! The dramatically different sizes, depending on which store you visit, are commonplace and something that the fashion industry recognises. Some shops have generous sizes, while others don’t.
Apart from the problem of wasting hours of your time trying clothes on that are never going to fit, sizing discrepancies can affect your self-esteem. Continually being unable to fasten a zip, or seeing buttons bulging in a size that should fit, can give you a negative body image.
Industry experts say companies use sizes as a marketing tool, targeting various demographics, depending on the brand. It means that sizes can vary even within brands owned by the same company! For example, your size at Banana Republic may be different at Gap.
According to Lynn Boorady, associate professor of fashion and textile technology at Buffalo State College in New York, the phenomenon is common throughout the fashion industry, so she advises shoppers not to get upset if clothes don’t fit.
She says it’s not women’s bodies that are the problem, adding, “We’re fine the way we are,” – so never feel bad about having to go up a size in some stores.
A photograph published on Twitter in March 2019 by 18-year-old Chloe Martin showed seven pairs of jeans, all labelled size 12. Yet there were obvious discrepancies in the sizes, as some of them looked a good two inches bigger on the waist and hips than the others. Her plea for more uniform sizing obviously struck a chord, as the photo was retweeted around 100,000 times in the space of a few days!
Consumers responding to the post said the problems with different sizes were affecting their shopping habits, as they weren’t shopping online as much as they would like to. They were having to go to physical shops so they could try on clothes before buying.
Dr Simeon Gill, a lecturer in Fashion Technology at the University of Manchester, said the variations were “frustrating”, and he believes sizing should be improved. He said there was no standardisation of UK sizing. Unless retailers aligned their practices, variations would occur.
However, Dr Gill felt some variations were necessary because even if people shared the same size, there would be differences in their actual body shape. In the case of jeans, there are different styles and rises – the depth from the waist to the crotch.
He feels a better way of sizing women’s jeans and trousers would be to measure them in the same way as we do men’s, so the waist size and inside leg are clearly displayed on the label.
In an effort to help customers who are dissatisfied with sizing variations, leading fashion brand Next has rolled out a range of jeans that come in half sizes to give people more choice. The jeans, retailing at £22, come in the regular sizes, but also in extra sizes 11, 13, 15 and 17.
The trial of the scheme began with jeans in April 2019 and has received such a positive response so far from customers that Next is considering extending the trial to chino-style trousers and creating an even bigger range of sizes. There has been nothing but positive feedback for the idea on social media and Next bosses say they hope it will help make shopping a more pleasurable experience.
You should never feel bad about having to go up a size to find the perfect fit. The size is just a number on a tag, as the discrepancies in the fit have proved. Clothes should make people feel confident and happy – so don’t let the size tag affect your morale.
Which brands have you found to be the best fit – and which ones seem particularly tiny or large? Let other shoppers know all about your experiences on Psydro’s consumer reviews platform.
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