Size matters

size chart,, © Huffygirl 2014Aha. You thought this was going to be about something else, didn’t you? But, alas, it is indeed about another very important issue of dissatisfaction for women: clothing sizes. Most women, at least in the states, have grappled at some time with the inaccuracies and frustrations of women’s clothing sizing. Unlike men, who will find their sizes fit true in almost any store, catalog or online retailer, women are constantly guessing at sizes, trying on items in every store, and mailing online purchases back because what you thought would be a size medium turned out to really be sized like a small. Sigh. There probably are a few perfect size zero women out there who don’t have to deal with this, but I expect most women know exactly what I’m talking about.

Then, there is the sizing secret code terminology. Men have it easy. Sizes are clearly described as regular, tall, short, portly (a diplomatic code word for overweight), and slim. But for women? Nooooo. I clearly remember the day I explained what women’s clothing terminology actually means to my sons. Misses or missy is code for average or regular, and uses even numbers such as 2, 4, 6, 8 etc. . Juniors is for average height but slim build, and uses odd numbers – 3, 5, 7 etc.  Petite is for short women 5′ 3″‘ and under, but of small to average build, and uses even numbers. Half-sizes, probably the most confusing of all, is for short women of stocky/overweight build, and uses even numbers with half added.  And women’s, which one might think is actually what should be for all women, is in fact, for average to tall height and stocky/overweight build. Whew. My kids stared open-mouthed at the end of this explanation, and said “nuhuh.” I concur.

Sizes such as small, medium, large, extra-large, are especially problematic. If I buy a regular T-shirt, I can probably get a small or medium. But if it is a fitted tee, I would have to get a large or extra-large. But generally fitted tees don’t come larger than large, so if the large, which actually fits more like a medium or small, is too small, I am out of luck. Case in point: The size chart above is for a pair of ladies exercise compression shorts. I had bought them before so I knew to skip the trying on and go right to my size. This can sometimes be dangerous though, as I’ve often discovered that I can wear a certain size at one store, but come back another day, still the same height and weight, and find that size no longer fits. And my size in these shorts? Large. Yep, large. According to the chart, for my 5’ 2″ height and weight, I should easily fit into a small, or maybe a medium if I want them to be a little more roomy. According to the table, size large starts for women at 5’7″ and 190 pounds, through 5’11” and 170 pounds. Most of the time I know better than to even pay any attention to size charts, but I found this one especially vexing and just had to share. Meanwhile, while I’m going through all this work to find a few things that fit, my husband can walk into any store, pick up a size 32 waist pants, and will find they fit perfectly 99.9% of the time. And I forgot to mention that all sizes change according to the quality of the store. A small in Talbot’s or Macy’s would probably be a medium or large in Wal-Mart or K-Mart. And often two identical items of the same brand and size will fit differently. I could go on and on.

So why are women’s clothing sizes so random? Part of it lies in the way clothes are made. If the fabric is at the end of the roll and the cutter is cutting out mediums, the last couple shirts will be cut a little smaller to get more product from the fabric, but still are labeled “medium.” Part of it comes from appealing to women’s vanity. I might feel better about myself if I’m buying a small instead of a medium, unless I start thinking about how my small would really be a medium or large in a less expensive store. Then, it just becomes depressing. Probably many people remember the recent brouhaha over remarks made by Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. Jeffries asserted that A & F only carries female clothing up to size 10 (which is really a 6 or 8 in other stores) because “…we only want cool, thin people wearing our clothes…” And that about sums up the problems of women’s clothing industry.

Huffygirl in her size large shorts.

Huffygirl in her size large shorts.

© Huffygirl 2014


21 thoughts on “Size matters

  1. I wouldn’t care if they called my size “gargantuan”, as long as the fit was consistent from store to store and brand to brand.

    • Maybe instead of small, medium, large, they should be gargantuan, extra gargantuan, and extra-extra gargantuan, or G, XG and XXG. Might take the clothing industry in a whole new direction.

  2. I always figure that the sizes are smaller than we need them because they are made by much slimmer, smaller women in the Far East – so they think all women are the same size as them! 😉

  3. I’ve noticed this too- and in shoes too. A 7 isn’t always a 7. Sports clothes usually run smaller. Very tough. My husband can order everything online, not so for me. I even returned a pair of medium sized gloves that were enormous. And I don’t have tiny hands.

  4. Thanks for telling me about the end of the bolt thing. Never knew that. I hate clothes shopping for myself because I have to try everything on. As far as Abercrombie my kids are way over them and I am glad.

    • Me too.I never liked supporting them but I did let the kids get some clothes there when they were in high school. The bad thing about the end of the bolt clothes is that you can’t tell if your item was cut from the end, unless you are trying on two identical items, and one is smaller than the other.

  5. I knew a long time ago that I could never be a woman. The insanity of clothing, the maniacal insanity of shoes, and I won’t even go into the physical stuff! I wouldn’t blame y’all if you went around in men’s T-shirts and sweatpants. But I will say that I am grateful (for several reasons) that you don’t. And God bless y’all for it! 😀

      • And a darn fine job you’re doing, young lady! (I’ve decided to fully own my age. This way, I’m not a pervert, I’m just that old guy you smile at and say “Oh, you!”. 😉 )

      • Why thanks John. Although, you have not seen the latest version of me, or you might not say that. And I’m glad to know that you are THAT old guy and not the other one.

  6. It’s the same in Canada, HG, although I will admit that much of our clothing is from the States. For me the insanity is double since I also tend to change size because of weight loss and some regain. This has been going on for a couple of years, during which I have lost nearly 100 lbs. and regained over that period about 25 lbs. back. I have no idea what size I am from one week to the next so the idiotic sizing of the manufacturers just adds to my own personal trauma. I’m glad you put it into words.

    • Thanks Sandra.

      so you say your clothes are from the states, but a lot, or most of our clothes in the states are made in countries like India, China and Bangladesh, so I guess yours are too then?

  7. This is so interesting, and does answer a lot of questions, but certainly doesn’t solve the ongoing problem. I get so frustrated by the variation in sizes between brands of clothing. Sometimes I’m a 4 pants, and other times a 6, whereas in jeans, I can be anything from a 28 to a 32, whatever that means. I’m quite slim, but often can’t get into a small or even medium top. In China, I bought a leather jacket which was XXL, and it was still a bit on the tight side. 😯 Don’t even get me started on bra sizing!!!

  8. I know exactly what you mean. Our society tends to prefer “women” to be the “body beautiful” and the women’s clothing industry, mainly the designers only want their clothes worn by the body beautiful females!!! And, many designers won’t create clothes for shorter women because they want only the tall, leggy and preferably slender women to wear them!!!!!!!!!!

    Definitely frustrating.

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