Campaign for Clearer Clothes Sizing

Here at Retro Chick I’ve talked about clothes sizing a LOT!

If you don’t believe me check here, here and here, not to mention my press page.

When I think back to shopping in my teenage years I had no idea of the measurements of my waist, hips and bust. All I knew was that I was often reduced to tears by my inability to buy trousers that didn’t gape at my waist, that dresses that fit my bust wouldn’t even go over my hips and that therefore I must be an utter freak. I wore a size 8-10, but because in some shops I still had difficulty fitting my hips I was convinced I was fat. I dieted, starved and binged. I ran up and down stairs to work off the calories if I ate an apple. In short, I had a pretty distorted body image.

Of course, I’m a grown up now. Research has proved to me that the reason they don’t fit my hips is because of my waist to hip ratio. So obviously it doesn’t upset me, right? Wrong. Even now I feel like a freak sometimes when shopping. Tight arm holes, narrow shoulders and high waists can all leave it a pretty dispiriting experience.

A quick and immensely unscientific Twitter survey shows that a lot of women feel the same.

Fashion_Dreamer I have anything from a size 6-14 in the wardrobe, majority are 8-10 but agree that sizing is all over the place

ColorForward Yeah, but it feels so awesome to say “Um, can you please get me a smaller size?”

Richendajones me always, it varies from shop to shop. I actually hate all the clothes size vanity.

Aldm it confuses me terribly that in one store (*cough* H&M) I can buy size 12 top that fits perfect but have to buy skirt in a 20

Helenhighwater_ I only ever shop at M&S on the high st! ;D But a lot of their stuff comes up massive.

Lozi90210 I wear about four different sizes depending on which shop I buy from. I now accept it depends on the shop but it did get 2 me

A fractionally more scientific survey by Which? last year revealed that a massive 91% of women take different sizes into the changing room as they are unsure which will fit.

It’s clearly unreasonable to expect retailers to conform to the exact same measurements for each garment. That would only lead to a lack of variety and people like me, who don’t conform to the “normal” body shape, finding it even harder to find clothes that fit. But I believe stores should be clearer about the measurements they use to construct their garments.

The Which? survey also revealed the difference in sizes between High Street stores. In the interests of Science I am now going to reveal my current measurements, as measured this morning with a tape measure!

They are 37.5″ – 29″ – 40.5″ (in cm 95.3 – 73.7 – 102.9)

*note, because I am terribly vain I am also going to say that I am on Weight Watchers and that a year and a half ago you could knock about 1.5″ off all of these ;)

According to the size charts on the Which? website I would need a size 16 in Topshop to fit my hips, but the waist would be a full 10cm too big, and corresponds to a size 12 on their chart. My bust, however, is a size 14. How do I know this when shopping in store? If I want to buy a top I should pick up a 14, a full skirt I should buy a 12 and a pencil skirt? Forget it!

Here I’ve taken a sample size 12 chart from the Which? survey (converted the cm to inches because that’s what most of us use!) and I’ve also, for my own interest, added a column showing the inches difference between the waist and hip measurement.

Obviously Per Una is my shop of choice for Pencil Skirts!

But why isn’t that information on the label? Why do we rely on these mysterious numbers that tell us NOTHING about a garments potential to fit us? I have seen vintage skirts and dresses with those measurements in them, why don’t we see them often now? (Of course vintage sizing was larger, as well. It’s a bit outside the scope of what I’m discussing here but this post on Vintage Bulletin has a vintage pattern size chart that would make the above measurements around a size 18)

So that’s my campaign.

I think clothes stores should be made to put the measurements they use to cut their patterns on the labels of their clothes. They should be made to publish their size charts online in a clearly marked location (not hidden in the customer service section) and have a link to it from every garment they sell. Unhappy, frustrated customers don’t buy clothes. Customers that never go in your store because they don’t know that actually you cut clothes that would fit their non average bodies are a customer lost. So it’s in shops interest to be clearer about their procedures.

Teenage me might not have been so depressed if she could have seen on the label that the hips on that Miss Selfridge skirt were actually nearly 2″ smaller than the one from Per Una, and grown up me would certainly save some of her valuable time and be more inclined to shop online.

by Charlotte Astrid

There is already a system in place for this, though by no means perfect. EN 13402 is a European Standard for clothes labelling that categorises clothing by a range of body measurements it was designed to fit. The EU is also currently carrying out discussions on textile and clothing labelling, so the time is right to push for change!

So. What I want you to do is write about this yourself! Tell the world your experiences with vanity sizing, variations in clothing sizes and your shopping frustrations. Be honest about your measurements, if you’re brave enough, and tell the world how you measure up on the shops size charts!

When you’ve had your say, come back here and leave me a link. I want to collate them all in a list under this blog post as a record of the experiences of really “real” women, whatever their size.

I’ve also made a handy badge for you to add to your blog side bar to get others involved.

You can also Tweet this campaign, post the link on Facebook, and generally let everyone you know know about it!

If you’re feeling even more pro-active then you can write to, or email, your MP and your Euro MP. This handy website gives you a convenient search system, plus a form to fill in that will immediately zip off your message to the person concerned. Tell them your concerns and how it affects you, and your desire to spend. Tell them you think the EU and Government should carry out a review of clothing sizing in the UK and Europe and that you think that measurement labelling should be mandatory.

Of course, maybe you think I’m talking a load of old rot? Let me know! Women are embarrassed to admit their dress size, even though the number means nothing. I’ve met people wearing size 10s with the same size waist as me, and people wearing size 18s with smaller hips. Lets be honest about ourselves, and our bodies, and then maybe next time we get stuck in a top in the changing rooms it won’t make us want to cry.

Others Blogs on Clearer Clothes Sizing

The Girl With The Star Spangled Heart
Perditas Pursuits
Shump Diaries
Bonne Vie
Susan’s Diary
Rarely Wears Lipstick
All About the Boys
Helen Highwater
Mon Polka Dot Cheri
Miss Matilda Dreams
My Orange Stilettos
What Katie Did
Sugar and Spice
Verity Vale
Little Bird Fashion
Scriblings of a Brit Girl

43 thoughts on “Campaign for Clearer Clothes Sizing

  1. You know when I really think about it maybe this is what started my vintage clothes buying in my teens, I do remember even in the 80s struggling to find clothes that fit on bust, waist and hips, it just used to make me feel fat. In fact I was a classic hour glass shape, no one told me, I found this out when I started wearing & fitting 50s dresses!

  2. High Street shops should display size charts and provide measuring tapes for people in fitting rooms.

    I think people will increasingly demand this as some online retailers provide clear size charts. I run a shop in my spare time and still do size charts for each and every item I sell, personally measured by me. I just don’t see how somewhere like M&S can have *one* online size chart to cover every item of clothing they sell – it must vary from item to item. In fact, my size 14 cardy from there isn’t far off the size 16 from them I already had. It’s crazy.

  3. I totally agree with this! I’m (on average) a size 10 but I find with dresses that some size 10s can fit me perfectly around the bust and hips but are baggy around the waist or some can fit me perfectly around the waist but are too big around the bust or some others can fit me beautifully all over! This is definitely confusing especially when shopping online or when in a hurry and buying with no time to try on.

  4. I totally agree- measurements would make it SO MUCH easier. I definitely don’t think all shops should be the same (then very curvacious and/or ‘straight’ women would find it even harder)- just tell us.

    It’s not even to do with pricing or target age: I’ve always preferred New Look to Topshop, although both are ‘young’ fashion (mutton dressed as lamb in my case ha ha) – but with different ratios. Just KNOWING that makes me feel a lot better about how trousers from the cheaper option feel so much better (and there I was thinking I was just stingy and loved a bardgain)- in all seriousness it ends up with me asking myself silly questions.

    I notice H&M wasn’t on that WHICH? survey. Perhaps that was because their ratios change on each flippin’ garment (ooh ouch, get me). I have gone from loving them to hating them because of their slapdash attitude to sizing: how difficult can it be to have a set standard for one shop? Grrr. That’s my other real size-dislike.

    I will be writing about the need for clear sizing AND consistent sizing in an outfit post later this week- I’ll let you know when I do.

    Well done on the campaign: it’s such a good idea! All anyone wants is to know what size they are in what shop so they can buy with confidence.

  5. Well said, no wonder so many have body issues….as |I said in my twitter reply to you, I only go by my measurements. I think women should all have a tape measure in their bags and stand there measuring before taking anything into the changing rooms.
    I am so used to going by my actual body measurements now!

    Also, bring back the customer orientated sales lady who can at a glance look at you and select the right size off the rack, these “chain” shops need to go back to being more customer focused and believe me if they were women would stampede to them for assistance. I have a thing about sales and service which is sadly lacking on the UK high street, but that’s a whole new blog!

  6. Excellently put Gemma! I was an extremely unhappy verging on depressed teen struggling with sizing and went through a lot of my life hating my appearance, calling myself fat and too frightened to go into clothing shops because of these stupid numbers. Look at how many girls and women have distorted body image and develop eating disorders these days. These numbers cause genuine damage to people’s self esteem and it’s about time they were ditched in favour of measurements.

  7. Hi there just wanted to say im glad some one has brought the issue up coz i hate clothes shopping its soooo frustrating.
    My middle is a little rounder than the rest of me so its really hard to find anything. I have posted you little badge on my blog x

    clotheskays.blogspot.com

  8. What a great post! I just had to do my own response right away! Here it is: http://star-spangledheart.blogspot.com/2011/05/campaign-for-clearer-clothes-sizing.html

    It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who deals with this!

  9. I agree that something needs to be done so I’ll happily join in. I have to say that there is significantly more consistency in the UK than over here. If you find the UK difficult don’t ever come over to the US. They don’t even use consistent sizing terms over here let alone consistent sizing measurements. It’s hell. However, by the by, i’ll go away and write a post. Lottie -x-

  10. I am off to work on my post now!!!! This is such an incredibly inspired post and campaign! Love it – thank you for starting it :)

  11. Fantastic stuff! As soon as my guest blogger week is over, I shall write about this for my site and send you the link.

  12. Urgh completely agree, shopping on the high street has being ruined for me. I actually write down my typical size in each shop, it just takes the fun out of it.

  13. I add my own agreements! – I am 34″-27″-36″ – not only am I inbetween sizes, I have an odd number waist measurement I dont have a single piece of non custom clothing that has not been altered in some way. If it fits on the waist, it rides up the thighs, if it fits on the thighs, gapes over the waist. I buy the bigger size and spend a fortune having waists taken in, got to the point that high street shopping is pointless as i’d have to add £5 per garment for it to fit me! does anyone else seem to think sizes have been getting gradually smaller as well? I have a size 8 dress from topshop that is 6 years old and fits perfectly, I cant even get a modern size 8 round my leg now! seems to be happening with shoes as well, I had 2 pairs of the same style shoes from office in different colours that ive has for 2 years – both size 4 – recently replaced the black ones and had to get a 5 and the 4 were far too small – and the original red ones at size 4 still fit!

  14. Mango really depresses me. I was trying on jeans the other day and couldn’t even zip up the 16. Then I hear the shop assistant responding to a sizing query from another customer. She asked what size the large was and the shop assistant replied, “it’s a 12″. If a 12 is a large then there’s no hope of me feeling fabulous while shopping there. It’s a confidence killer for us curvy gals and retailers should wake up and recognise that it does nothing but lose them sales and the chance of repeat business. Before I left Mango I tried on a trench coat in desperation, picking up the large and it swamped me. I officially give up!

  15. I’m very lucky in that I can buy off the rack most of the time and the ratio is perfect, even the length as I’m a very average 5’5″. My issue has been the fact that I have had to get clothing altered because the smallest size has been too big. Thankfully I have filled out a little over the last year so that’s not as much an issue, but it was an added expense that was a direct result of vanity sizing. I was 5’5″, 115 pounds (small, yes, but hardly skeletal) and an XS was too big. Now I am 120 and things are better!

    • Vanity sizing isn’t about making clothing smaller but accurately measuring.

      Which shops have you had issues in? I ask this because up until a year or two back I was under 115 and small framed- some shops (M&S for example) were a no-no, whereas others had things that went down to a 6 or even a 4 (European chains like H&M, Blanco, Zara etc’). It also seems to be an age issue: my best fit clothes were never things I could wear as a 30-something professional as they seem to assume only/all teenagers are slender and only/all adult women are curvy. How odd.

  16. Emily-Jane says:

    I grew up in blissful ignorance of all this drama, as my mother sewed most of my clothes to fit me. Definitely I have a lot to be thankful for — I was quite a well-dressed adolescent — but I think maybe the best part was that in my teen years I never suffered through the anguish of trying to buy off-the-rack clothes that were cut for someone of different proportions than me.

    My mother also taught me to sew, but I don’t actually do it as much as I’d like, and there are some complicated projects I’m just not up for tackling. Like, I’m probably never going to sew my own bluejeans. And so as an adult, I have tried on probably a thousand pairs that gapped at the waist or absolutely wouldn’t fit over my butt and thighs. Or that were too short, since I’m just tall enough to be between the regular and “tall” inseam lengths. Sigh.

    The really frustrating part is that to look at me, you’d probably think I was pretty close to a standard size. My measurements are 35-28-40″, and let me tell you, those few extra inches in the hip make all the difference. Most of the time, if I find my place on a size chart by my waist measurement, I’ll end up with clothes that are cut for a 36-28-37 figure, which just doesn’t fit, unless it’s a dress with a nice full skirt.

    So, thanks for standing tall for better, clearer sizing, and for clothes that make women feel and look fabulous! I’m definitely with you.

  17. Hi Gemma, well done for getting the ball rolling on this. About time someone stood up and tried to make the system a bit clearer for us shoppers! I have now given up on trying to buy anything with a waistband and started sewing again. When did the natural waistline drop three inches? Or is mine in a strange place? And how come my bust and hips are a size 12-14 (depending on the shop) but my middle is a 14-16???? I look as if I have a waist, and no-ones ever said anything about me looking like a beach ball, I blame it on the ratio! X

  18. I’m an American living in the UK, and I do find that my size varies a bit less here than it does in the US. The US is diabolical, sizing wise. Some places (I’m looking at you, Old Navy) run so much larger than everyone else that you can’t help but think they’re just trying to make you feel better. I can recall a size 4 over there hanging off of me when I was a 7/8 pretty much everywhere else. But WOW would measurements on labels ever help. Anyway, I’m pimping this idea out to my three followers (It’s a new blog, and I haven’t really been promoting it, as I’ve been RL busy, lately). http://shumpdiaries.blogspot.com/2011/05/campaign-for-clearer-sizing.html

  19. Thanks for the inspiration Gemma, will be writing about this ;)

  20. Well said, something definately needs to be done, I can buy anything for a size 8-12 in varieties of shops, I think the measurement guides would be great because I have bigger hips and a tiny waist. I don’t like trying clothes on in changing rooms because of unflattering mirrors and lighting so hate having to take clothes back that are sized ridiculously.

    I will definately be supporting this sweets
    x

  21. You’re missing something here (aside from the fact that there are far, far more important things to campaign on that clothes sizes, ffs). You seem to think all of these shops sell the same things, aimed at the same people and age groups, who have the same body shapes. No. Vanity sizing? Maybe, but who CARES? Have a look at the target markets for each shop and you may start to comprehend – but you obviously don’t, or you wouldn’t have lumped H&M (which covers everything from “young” – stingy sizes as they have less in the way of hips and bust – to womenswear – not so stingy) into one.

    But hey, carry on bleating about clothes sizes. That’s totally more important than any other issue.

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. It’s just a shame you didn’t actually *read* the article first.

      I didn’t mention H&M once in the article, apart from in a quote from someone else.

      I would also like to draw your attention to this paragraph

      “It’s clearly unreasonable to expect retailers to conform to the exact same measurements for each garment. That would only lead to a lack of variety and people like me, who don’t conform to the “normal” body shape, finding it even harder to find clothes that fit. But I believe stores should be clearer about the measurements they use to construct their garments.”

      And, indeed, the title, which states CLEARER Clothes Sizing, not STANDARD Clothes Sizing.

      You are, however, quite right. There are far more important things going on in the world than the fact I don’t know where I can buy a skirt that fits. That doesn’t really matter though does it? Once you’ve finished personally bringing about World Peace, maybe you’ll have time to come back and look at clothes labelling.

      • Personally I think any issue that affects body image is worth campaiging about. Well done you. x

      • Steph (@mrs_sock) says:

        I’d like to add to Gemma’s comment – as a teenager I was never lacking in the hips or bust department. As a size 10 waist I had size 12 hips and a 14/16 top. At the tender age of 14. I’m you classic hourglass so just as you can’t generalise clothes, you can’t generalise people.

    • There’s more important things going on in the world than leaving anonymous, bitchy comments on well-intentioned blogs.

      And if you read the comments left on here, you’ll see that the issue of clothes sizing does, in some cases, lead to psychological stress. It probably aids eating disorders and body image issues. And that, I would say, is pretty damn important, you massive plonker.

    • I’m guessing your young enough to assume that every woman hits- let’s see- 25 then suddenly turns into mama-curvy-and-frumpy? Women tend to retain their body type throughout life regardless of age and size- hence the ratios. For example, at the age of 14 I had a large bust and still do; girls start to develop from the age of 11 or so. H&M is marketing to a body type uncommon in the UK, but more common in their base country.

      I’ve just thought of a worthy issue you COULD look at if you don’t fancy this one… how the assumption that size is directly linked to age (thin = young) is both inaccurate and potentially damaging.

      Take off the blinkers and look into the street: you’ll see busty 16 year olds and lean 65 year olds. But it doesn’t fit the stereotype, does it.

    • Moomin, a tad touchy, perhaps because Gemma is getting press attention?

      Am peeing my pants at “target markets” spoken like a true industry insider.
      We are THE CUSTOMERS and we don’t give a flying fig about target markets,
      we want our clothing clearly labelled with MEASUREMENTS.

  22. Such a great campaign, and long overdue! They list things in chest/waist sizes for men, so why can’t they do it for women? Come on high street, buck your ideas up!!

  23. Deary me,

    After reading one of these comments I just feel like such a shallow, vacuous, disgrace of a human being for being stupid enough to wish clothes would fit me better. I mean, yes, I’ve had more stomach surgery than I would care to remember, and my skin comes off if clothes rub me, but how *dare* I write about how that affects my body image?

    Sorry to disappoint you, Moomin, but I’m going to be terrible person and talk about it anyway!

    Because I can’t eat properly (internal blistering, botched surgery etc), I am a bit on the spindly side of things – very narrow hips, flat chest, legs like bits of liquorice! But my stomach is really distended, and makes buying tops and dresses really difficult. What I find ludicrous is that in some stores, I can buy a fitted shirt in a size 10, and it will fit me fine. In others, I’ll need a 12, and somewhere else, an 8 will fit me. But a while ago, when I was in my scruffy student phase, I saw a hoody I liked, and decided to try it on. I had to go up to a size 16 to get it to zip up, and even then it was straining across my stomach. Firetrap – shame on you!

    There should be more regulation of sizes, because of top of seeing airbrushed models and celebrities all over the media, these vast differences in sizes do give girls and women distorted views of their bodies. I have said in the past “I’m NOT buying a *** size!”. Now, I understand the discrepancy and don’t care, but it can have a negative impact on body image.

    No, shops cannot provide designs cut for each body shape, as we are all unique, but they can have universal measurements, in inches and/or centimetres, for each clothing size. Why not ask an independent expert, like an experienced seamstress, or a panel of people, to make the decision? We have set shoes sizes! I know each type of will act differently, but the baseline should be there. Nor would it hurt to have a little note on labels such as “wear this loose/floaty” or “this is meant to be worn fitted”.

    It would also help women who can’t try clothes on in dressing rooms, whether they’re busy, have children with them, or are disabled. If we knew our measurements, and knew those of each size of clothing, it would make buying without trying so much easier!

    Apologies for rambling, but I do feel this is something that needs to change, and I will fully support your campaign, Gemma. I’ll have to learn to live with being a horrible person :) xx

  24. I would just like to say to Moomin, if there are more important issues than ‘bleating on about clothes sizes’ then why bother wasting your time commenting, why aren’t you using it campaigning about something obviously more worthy of your time. How about not coming on to a blog specifically dedicated to fashion and style and complaining when, shock horror, the post is related to fashion. Go and write a letter to your MP about global warming or something.

  25. I agree, measurements instead of various numbers would make shopping much easier. I featured your blog, here´s my extended answer :-)
    http://susansdiaryvintagestylemeets.blogspot.com/2011/05/campaign-for-clearer-clothes-sizing-odd.html

    Susan

  26. I featured your campaign in this post: http://bonne-vie.net/index.php/2011/campaign-for-clearer-sizing/

    I wrote a piece about how vanity sizing is awful, but I’m failing to find it at the moment…

  27. I LOVE THIS. I would actually completely be behind a more disclosure even if my ego is pinched a bit, I don’t have a very ratio friendly measurements as I have a very very short torso, healthy hips, a 34d bra size, and am 5 feet, but are all limbs. So I always bring multiples into the fitting room and often order more than one size online. STRUGGLE!

    Totally tweeting this.

  28. Honor Claire says:

    I would also like to add, that manufacturers should also consider including the details of the length of an article. What is their standard inside leg in a pair of trousers? H&M, way too short. M&S Long in any size, works for me!. But its not just trousers, skirt, dress and sleeve lengths can all be a problem. I don’t intend to demand every single measurement, but if you want to for example buy a skirt to sit below the knee, you need to know how long it is, so it can sit below YOUR knees.

  29. I shall be adding your badge to my blog! X

  30. So very true I am never the same size store to store and can be wearing an 8 on top and 12 on the bottom at the same time.

    I’ve wrote my story about the campaign here
    http://www.monpolkadotcheri.co.uk/2011/06/retro-chicks-campaign-for-clearer.html

  31. I’ve just given up. I drag a measuring tape everywhere with me so I don’t have to drag a bunch of clothes into the dressing room. Like you I have a curvy figure (40″ – 32″ – 45″) which makes me an American size 10 or 12 on top, and a 14 or 16 on the bottom. If it fits the hips it will swim at the waist. Dresses are a joke unless they’ve got a full skirt. At this point I’ve started sewing all my clothes myself. The patterns have the same problems, but at least the measurements are listed and I can alter the pattern to fit me!

    Great post!

    Heather
    http://thestyleconfessions.com/

  32. Drafted a post on my blog, which will be live later today.

    Forget the tape measure in the bag. For tops, take hold of it where the armholes meet the body. Hold it up across your chest. If your fingers end up right under your armpits, it’ll fit. Do the same against your waist for waistbands. Hips are the impossible one because of the waist/hip ratio – it’ll depend on the cut.

  33. Tonya Renee says:

    YES TO STANDARD SIZING!

    Oh, this is such a pet peeve of mine and makes me want to pull my hair out. I have clothes in my closet from “size 8″ to “size 14,” from “medium” to “extra large.” Men’s pants and dress shirts are made and labeled according to their measurements, why can’t ours? And why can’t women’s clothes be designed to fit someone other than the small model they measured for, with a small bust, hips, and rear end? Extrapolating that one measurement to produce the larger sizes doesn’t work. Absolutely I know my measurements and ignore the sizes. I can compare the clothing against myself without trying them on with a near perfect record of knowing it will fit. And I’ve become very familiar with the brands that I know will fit correctly, though some of them these days are letting vanity sizing creep into their lines. Having a good tailor and being able to make certain pieces yourself is a godsend. I don’t often get that chance, but I seize it whenever available. It’s a battlefield out there.

  34. This post was recommended to me by a fellow Twitterer – I would like to say a big THANKYOU! I have been, over the years, between 9 and 15 stones, and yet, not once in any of the different weights along the way have I ever felt like a ‘standard size’ (At 18, I had FF cup boobs and a 23.5 inch waist. Not so fun when you’re awkward as Hell and don’t know how to dress). I agree that to force shops to make everything to the same ratio would make things a thousand times worse, but some extra info on exactly what the ratios are in each shop would make for a much more pleasant shopping experience on the High St. And let’s face it – if you’re trying on things which fit and look good, you’re going to buy them… Sort it out High St shops! :-) x

  35. This is why I sought out making my own clothes or re-cycling close that were larger. I am a true petite in my main body measurements, however I am a true petite with a medium bone structure and a large bosom. Nothing ever fit right and when I was in high school my body dis-morphia was at its worst, I plunged down close to 90 lbs. I will be 30, have to kids, and now understand my body more than ever. Do I still feel that tug of anxiety over fitting… you bet I do.