Shop By Fit, NOT By Size

Learn why YOUR size may not fit

shop by fitBeen clothes shopping lately?

I have, and as always, I continue to be annoyed by the lack of standardized sizing in women’s clothes. After nearly two hundred years of cranking out ready-to-wear clothing, you’d think this multi-billion-dollar industry would have arrived at a more exacting way to size their merchandise. Unfortunately, they haven’t.

Which can make shopping very stressful if you don’t know that going in.

Have you ever noticed that men’s clothing uses a different sizing method than women’s? While there are small, medium, and large sizes in men’s casual shirts, sweaters, and outer wear, they don’t pussyfoot around when it comes to getting a correct fit on pants, dress shirts, and jackets: they do it by measurement.

Thus, in the United States, a man with a 34-inch waist and a 32-inch inseam can pretty much find a close fit with any pair of 34×32 pants he picks up, regardless of the manufacturer. Same with dress shirts, which go by neck size and sleeve length, and suit jackets, which go by shoulder width and sleeve length. The only men who generally have difficulty with this system are those who are either oddly shaped, or those who are in denial about their true measurements – kind of like those guys who are in denial about balding, thinking the old comb over trick is fooling anyone.

Anyway, this no-nonsense approach is why men’s clothing was the first to be mass produced ready-to-wear, starting in the early 1800’s. Men have always hated to clothes shop, as a rule, so merchants learned early on that if they made it easy for their customers to get in and find what they needed quickly without a lot of fuss, they’d come back again the next time they needed something.

Contrast this by-the-measurement method to the ambiguous approach that women use: size 10-12-14, etc. How about small, medium, and large? What do those sizes REALLY translate to? And who came up with them anyway?

Someone who wanted to mess with the female psyche, no doubt.

Because for many women, clothing size plays a prominent role in their self esteem. This was particularly true for my mother’s generation, when many women often included their measurements and/or dress size when describing themselves.

Allow me to shatter a myth for you: there are no “perfect” sizes when it comes to ready-to-wear apparel. Only approximations.

So stop beating yourself up, thinking there’s something wrong with your body when you don’t fit into a size that you normally wear. It could be the clothes – and not your waistline – that’s to blame.

With that knowledge firmly in mind, here are some things to consider as you head into the dressing room:

  1. Not all sizes are created equal. One manufacturer’s size 12 is another’s size 14. One company’s large is another’s medium. So if you find something in a store that you like well enough to try on, pick out the size you normally wear, hold it next to your body to see if it’s going to run large or small, and grab the same item in the next size up or down so you have two sizes to choose from in the dressing room.
  2. Just because you can get it zipped doesn’t mean that it fits. If you have to “suck it in” to get it closed or if you “runneth over” once it’s on, try the next size up. Put vanity aside and opt for proper fit over the number on a tag. If you’re having trouble getting it on when it’s new, you’ll never make it fit once it’s washed.
  3. Reject anything that doesn’t fit properly. If it cuts at the crotch, strains across the bust, or limits your normal movement in any way, forget it.Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your money. You’ll wear it once, hate the fit, and banish it to the back of your closet.
  4. If your body is different sizes on the top and bottom, opt for separates over one- piece garments.Otherwise, you’ll only have fit on part of your body while the rest looks sloppy and unkempt.
  5. If you have a non-standard body feature (long-waist, short legs, extra-long arms, etc.) and find a good fit with a particular label, stick with them. A little loyalty can go a long way in saving you hours of frustration. I know women who only buy certain garments from certain manufacturers because of the fit. Want to save yourself a lot of headaches?Do the same.

Want a final reason to push the size issue to the back of your mind and opt for fit over a number on a label?

Since there are no regulated size standards in the industry, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to switch labels on garments to fill orders. Need 5,000 large blue tops but have 5,000 medium blue tops in inventory? No problem! Pull the “M” labels out, put the “L” labels in, get them out the door, and cash the check.

No, it’s not ethical. But it does happen – more often than you think. Sweatshops are notorious for tramping on human rights; switching a few size tags every now and again is petty stuff in the grand scheme of things.

Just where are the fashion police when you need them?

So what’s the secret to finding your correct size?

Shop by fit, NOT just by size.

Who cares if you have four different sizes in your closet, so long as your clothes fit and you look good?

Don’t be a slave to a number. Insist on fit and let the numbers fall where they may.

About Diana Pemberton-Sikes

Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at Fashion For Real Women. Need some tips and tricks? Pick up a copy of Wardrobe Magic. Visit her site for more information.

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