I’ve been shopping a lot lately (’tis the season to get some deep discounts after the holiday;) and it came to mind that we should really broach the subject of shopping (when you’re a lady) and sizes. A lot of us have this silly idea in our minds that if we’re a medium, or a size 8 in one store, our favorite store, then we must be those sizes in ALL stores. I know I’m not alone on this.
It’s one part pride, one part dread. We never want to think that we’ve gotten bigger. Some women don’t want to go into double digits. Some women don’t want to be a size medium. It’s not just our pants, it’s everything. We celebrate the day we buy a smaller size from a store like Ann Taylor, but will absolutely put something back on the rack if it’s bigger than we think we are. I know I’ve been guilty of it. I know a lot of other women who are, too.
And that’s why I want to write today. I’m writing for a lot of reasons: I’m writing because if you’re reading this and DON’T know the truth about the fashion industry, then you need to know it. I’m writing because we need to disregard the number in our shirts the way we try to disregard the number on the scale. I’m writing this because we need to look good in the right size, rather than terrible in the size that we think we should be/know we are.
And today I’m writing with an example!! If you’re like me, then you’ve found (or are planning to find, hint!) a shop/brand or two that fit you perfectly. To go as far as possible with my example, I’m going to share mine: My go-to shops ALL THE TIME, even though I’m in Europe, are Express, (where I wear a perfect size 6 short jean from Express and ReRock and generally a size xs top… which is ridiculous, btw… I know a ton of women who are much smaller than me, and if I’m already rocking the XS from Express, then that means those girlfriends are SOL), and Victoria’s Secret. I’ve got a few favorites over here as well, but I’m going to get into them in a moment, because they’re a part of the point. So I can buy my stuff online from these two and know exactly what to expect, since they haven’t changed their sizes in a while. Which is excellent.
So last week, my boyfriend and I went with friends to the local outlets, where there is a new SuperDry outlet store. I’m not usually a fan of wearing brand names that advertise who they are on the outside for everyone to see, but I kind of love how soft the SuperDry fabrics are and am willing to make a compromise, since I’ve gone over 15 years without advertising.
Something you should know about SuperDry is that the brand comes from Japan. This is kind of an extreme example, but I think we can all imagine the difference between a guy who was born in Germany to German parents and a guy who was born in Japan to Japanese parents. The size difference is pretty huge. And it’s something you tend to forget when you’re standing in a shop in Germany looking at the clothing. But that’s what happened, and that’s when the idea hit me that I need to write about this.
As you can see here, I bought an excellent, adorable and comfy hoodie that fits me really perfectly. I’m also wearing some fabulous rain boots, but we can talk about them later. As you also know, I’m generally an XS in tops at Express, and tend to be a size small in most other stores. So it would go to consideration, then, that in any store I’d grab the size small to try on. Any store, of course, except the one that originates in Japan. I grabbed a Medium and a Large, to be safe. I fit the medium, it turns out, and I’m ok with that. I also bought a button-down flannel top from the shop, and that was a large. I barely flinched when the medium was too small.
Now let’s talk about a super international store like H+M. Lots of us get lots of stuff from H+M… and their sizes are a bit confusing when you’re in America… the top says it’s a 36, and that in US that would be a 6 or an 8 (depending on the top). That gets really confusing, especially when you stop to think, ‘hey, this is a 36 and it fits me really well… but I thought I was a size XS or 4?’.
Over here in the old world, I wear a 34 or 36 top, and a 38 or 40 bottom. A 40 in Europe translates to a 10 in the USA (and a 12 in the UK!!). But as I mentioned earlier, I’m a 6 at Express. What’s up with that?
This, my friends, is due to something in the US called Vanity Sizing, and a lack of standardized clothing sizing for women in the USA. Have you ever heard of Vanity Sizing? Many companies will deny that they take part in this, but there was a major decision in the fashion industry about 10 years ago to alter the size charts due to the expanding American waistlines. Men’s clothing is standardized due to military uniforms (and the standardization goes WAAAY back), which is why men’s jeans are always waist and length. Women’s clothing? Not so much.
Don’t believe me? The NYT wrote about it a few months ago, and you can read more here about how some companies have their own ‘special sauce’ when it comes to sizing. You can read up on Vanity Sizing here, on the Wiki Page. As noted, many companies won’t admit to doing this, although it’s pretty easy to spot a company that does.
Also, something to consider: it depends on a store’s demographic! You can guarantee that the XS at Forever 21 is way smaller than at New York & Co (I know this, I am technically an XS in NY&Co, and even there the tops are sometimes too big for me. No way in hell that goes at FRVR21).
Vanity Sizing is the reason that your size practically doubles when you try on anything from a European company. It’s the reason we’re all so happy to wear sizes XS and S, even when we know better. Vanity sizing is the reason that the clothing models 50 years ago were size 12s and 14s, and now they’re 0s and 2s.
So now that we know what’s really going on with the clothing sizes, let’s talk about getting out of that nasty psychological habit of making ourselves feel bad when we walk into a store that’s not marketing to US and people OUR SIZE specifically. I think we can all agree that no matter what our size, we need two things:
We need to wear flattering things that look good on us, regardless of what the number or letter on the tag is.
We need to enjoy what we’re wearing and not feel self-conscious about it. If it’s too tight, YOU KNOW IT. Don’t act like you don’t! Even when it’s not too tight, we always think it’s too tight!!
On top of all of this, we need to know our TRUE SIZE. How do you know what your true size is? You measure yourself. With measuring tape. And then when you go to order something online at VS or wherever, read the size chart and choose the appropriate one based on your measurements!! Knowing your true size will save you a load of trips to the fitting room and also a lot of money on shipping, if you tend to shop online a lot like I do.
It would also help if you could find one of those excellent body scanners that are mentioned in the news articles I posted above. They’d be really helpful! If you can’t do this, then you might be well-served to ask someone in the store of your choice how the sizes run… are they truer to size? Smaller? Larger? That’s always helpful, although you can’t really depend on people to give you the right answer if they don’t know themselves!
Don’t be afraid to try something that’s a size or two larger on. Don’t think about the number. Instead, think about how badass you’re going to look in an outfit that fits you well.
Happy shopping!! ❤