Do sizes on clothing frustrate you? Do you find it difficult or even impossible to purchase clothing online due to discrepancies? It is impossible for me to purchase any clothes without trying them on.
Over the past month, I’ve purchased numerous clothing items, from hiking shorts to a cocktail dress, a work outfit and everyday casual. I’ve gained weight, so once again needed some new clothes to fit. Although my size has changed since last summer, my size and shape did not change at all between purchasing these newest additions to my wardrobe. However, the sizes certainly did. I realise fit, fabric and style affect sizing, so realistically would expect a variation of a size or two. But no, amongst my newest clothes is a size 12, a size 20 and something in every size in between. Surely, that is beyond ridiculous?!
Why is sizing so arbitrary? What effect does it have on people?
Although I strive not to be defined by my size or indeed the numbers on my clothing labels, it does affect me. When a sales assistant handed me a size 20 cocktail dress to try on, I was devastated. I knew I’d gained weight; after all, that was why I needed a new cocktail dress. But surely not THAT much?! She quickly assured me it was ‘small Asian sizing’ and that ‘everyone went up at least two sizes with this brand’. That’s all very well, but my ego still felt deflated. It fitted and I bought it, but I still didn’t feel good about the sizing. This ‘small Asian sizing’ theory doesn’t even work consistently. I received a Christmas dress ordered online from China this week with the purpose of giving my students a bit of a laugh. I went up two sizes, expecting small sizing and ended up with a dress which swims on me and will need to be altered to be wearable.
I love the sensory aspect of clothes shopping and am especially attracted to fabrics with interesting prints or which feel amazing to touch. Usually I stick to natural blends with high percentages of cotton, bamboo, wool or silk but there are some amazing synthetics out there nowadays too. I simply can’t stand clothing stores which discourage touching and feeling clothes prior to fitting on. If the fabric doesn’t feel great to touch, I don’t want it on my body. Recently I spotted a lovely print blouse from across the shop floor. Making a b line for it, I realised it was in the plus size section and felt disappointed. I don’t usually shop in the plus size section in this store. Then, a thought struck me. Sizing is arbitrary and often not accurate. You never know, maybe this size 18 blouse would fit me. It was meant to be loose, after all. So, I tried it on. And you know what? It fitted, as did another blouse in size 12 and a third in size 14, all at the exact same store. I bought, have worn and had compliments on all three of them.
Maybe you’re wondering what my point is.
My point is simple, don’t let a label or a size define you in any way.
Easy to say, difficult to do, isn’t it? How many times have you heard people celebrate going down a size? That’s great, but it’s not an accurate measure of body change, as sizing has such huge variation.
I have been every size from a 10 way back in my teens and early twenties to anything up to a 20 now. I have felt beautiful and empowered at all these sizes but I have also felt ugly and worthless at them all too. It’s not about the size. It’s about the mindset. To a lesser extent, it’s about wearing clothing which makes you feel comfortable, confident and ready to show up in the world to make a difference.
Here’s a few shopping tips it’s taken me too long to realise to help overcome sizing sorrows:
- Dress for yourself, not others. If you love something and it makes you feel good to wear, that’s all that matters. Not what the label says and not what anyone else says either.
- Ignore the number on the label. Go to the extreme of cutting it out if it continues to hurt your feelings.
- If you like the look of a fabric or a style but it’s not in your size, give it a go anyway. You never know your luck. I’ve often ended up with a smaller or larger size this way that still fits and feels great.