Does size really matter?

by Sylvia

Women's clothing sizing - Does size matter? | 40plusstyle.com

I have been wanting to write an article about women’s clothing size for a while and Suzanne kicked me right into action. (yes this lady continues to inspire me; if you’re not yet reading her blog, you should do so right now!).

In her latest article she talks about how she got seduced by a smaller size. She knew it was was a size too small, but she tried it anyway and was able to able to squeeze herself into the skirt and promptly bought it. She actually felt pretty good about herself, knowing that she was now slim enough to fit into this smaller size.

Of course when she came home she realised that that was a lie. She may have been able to close the zipper and squeeze herself into the skirt, it did not actually FIT.

I know her story is not unique. I have known quite a few women that obsess over sizing and would check other women’s sizes when no one was looking.

Today I’m here to tell you that the size on the label is really but a number and in most cases it’s a big fat lie!

I’ve been lucky enough to have had pretty much the same weight since I was 20. My body has changed of course as it’s not as tight and toned as it once was, but overall the shape and weight has not changed.

Funnily enough my size has. I often used to be a size 40 (8) in my 20s. That gradually changed to 38 (6) which has basically been my go-to size. Lately I have found that I often need a 36 (4). Clearly this is NOT because I have lost weight or got slimmer, because I definitely have not.

Overall sizes for my particular weight and shape have just gone down.

And brands do this all the time! They know that from a psychological point of view you will buy more clothes if the size is smaller since you will feel better about yourself. They are basically playing a psychological mind game.

I believe this is especially true in the US where I’m now often a size 4, XS or even a size 0 in some brands. If I’m a size 0, where does that leave all the ladies that are smaller than me? Here in Singapore almost every lady would have a smaller size than me. What would their size be? -4? How is that even possible? How is it even possible to have a size 0? I think that sizing has become rather ridiculous. Every body has a size.

So why should it even matter what size is on the label?

Style is definitely not a clothing size!

The only way you will look good in your clothes is when you let yourself be guided by FIT. Sizes provide the guidelines for that. But since every country and brand seems to have their own standards, you will just need to grab 3 sizes (1 bigger and 1 smaller than your usual size) before you step into the fitting room. On every online site you purchase you should study their sizing charts. Know your measurements and write them down so you will always have them handy and check your actual size.

Once you have picked your 3 sizes, completely ignore the size on the label but trust the mirror and determine which of the 3 has the better fit. Often it is even better to go for a bigger size for a more fluid fit that is so popular now.

Don’t let a size have any influence on how you feel about yourself. All said and done, you can only really trust the mirror for that or a measuring tape.

If you like to get more insight into sizing, Sally posted a really good in-depth article on this topic this week where she discusses the pros and cons of standardized sizing.

How much do you let yourself be guided by sizes? Have you ever downsized for vanity reasons?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn Lucy

Sizing is so frustrating, since I can be a different size in every brand. But maybe that’s okay, since I can’t get too focused on a number, since it’s always changing anyways!
OXOX
Dawn Lucy
http://fashionshouldbefun.blogspot.com

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Sylvia

Yes, it keeps us flexible…

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lkla

The issue of sizing makes me feel crazy. Currently, my size in U.S. chain (that’s all we have here in my town at reasonable prices) stores ranges wildly from an 8 to a 14. Which makes online shopping really tricky, BTW. On top of that, I’m a petite, and have discovered that stores like Ann Taylor, Talbots, and Banana Republic, all of whom carry petites, make a size 8 petite the same in the waist and hip as a size 6 regular. And don’t get me started on boutiques, who rarely have anything for the petite woman.

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Sylvia

Yes shopping is not easy… We need to keep notes which shop runs small or large and which is good for petites!

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Sarah

I too am approximately the same size as I was when I was a teenager but in my case it has taken hard work over the decades, including running and (HEAVY) weight training etc. I simply do not allow myself to get bigger: I weigh myself regularly and if the weight is creeping up I cut out grains and sugar and starchy vegetables and bring my portion size back down to that of meals on flights, and increase my exercise a bit, until I am back to normal. When I was pregnant I gained 60lbs, so believe me I had to work to get back to normal. As I get older it takes more conscious effort because most people move less as they get older. If you give in to age and move less while eating the same you will gain weight. But wherever you are, weightwise, you can do something about it. There are hundreds of apps and internet video series dedicated to bringing people from couch potato to very fit, and the old advice of cutting out starch and sugar (and not eating too much fat either) works. My father lost 45lbs by following my advice and said he feels better and has more energy than he had 40 years ago! I think that making the mistake of buying something because you like the fact that you can get into that smaller size is a sign that you are not happy with your actual size, and thus, that you should do something about it so that you will feel better and not fall for vanity sizing in future.

These days I take a mini tape measure shopping with me and I measure anything that needs to be a certain measurement to be right. I can’t shop online for most things because they never give the actual measurements of items (tip for retailers – add measurement tables of actual measurements for each size of each item). But in any case, now that oversized stuff is in fashion I am as likely to buy a size 20 top (huge) as a size 6 (tiny).

When I go shopping in charity shops and discount shops, I often find things that fit whose stated size is way out relative to other instances of the same item. If you are looking for things that look as though they might fit, instead of being hung up on the label size, you can often find bargains – items incorrectly labelled relative to other instances of that same item.

I agree – forget about sizes – don’t even look at the stated size. Take a tape measure and measure things instead.

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Sylvia

Thanks for your great feedback Sarah. Yes knowing your sizes and taking a measuring tape is a good idea!

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Suzanne

Thanks for the shout-out Syliva : )

Of course I agree that size, like age is only a number. Sometimes though I need a strong tap on the shoulder to remind me.

It is a psychological game that the marketing managers play with our vanity. Never mind that it makes it impossible to shop (especially online) correctly.

I often think about the women that are a zero or worse….a double zero. It can’t be fun being called a double zero.

That said I am a sticker for not buying something that is slightly large on myself. I know that subconsciously my body will try to fill that empty space with more body. I gain weight just by looking at food and having loose clothing enables me to ignore a few extra pounds which can quickly morph into an extra 10 lbs. Well fitted clothing ensures I’m keeping my eyes on it at all times.

bisous
Suzanne

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Sylvia

It’s good to know that about yourself and if fitted clothing give you a incentive to maintain your weight then that’s perfectly fine!

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Rita Atkins

Great article and very aound advice! I was just in a store yesterday in which I bought a pull over sweater (jumper) in an XSmall, and it was still slightly large. I average around a US 6-8, but depending on the brand, a 4 or 10 may be the right fit. Men’s sizing is so much easier….everything is measured in actual inches/centimeters. No wonder I would rather shop for shoes!!

I will always pick the larger size if I am between sizes, or if the smaller size seems unforgiving. I prefer to be comfortable and also allow for slight shrinking that may happen
as the garment is cleaned over time.

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Sylvia

Yes I tend to do the same although I sometimes get it wrong as some stretchy fabrics actually go wider instead of smaller…..

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Heidi // Frantic But Fabulous

Sadly, it’s happening in men’s sizes now, too! My husband was always a standard 30×30 in jeans, and lately he’s had to look for 29 or even 28 for the same fit, and he hasn’t changed an ounce.

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Lorraine

I too got seduced into buying a skirt in the sale that was too small last year. The trouble is that being an hourglass I can never decide whether to go for hip or waist fit and I really wanted this skirt. I should have got the larger size and had the waist adjusted.
What really brought the sizing debacle home to me was when I lent my petite (UK 8 or 10) friend my mother’s early 70s paisley print shift dress. It fit perfectly and yet the label stated it was a 14.
It does make me feel fed up if I have to buy a 14 instead of a 12 though and I went for a time not buying clothes because I didn’t like the label. Thankfully I lost some weight.

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Sylvia

I buy too small too sometimes but that’s only because they don’t have a bigger size! The size honestly never bothers me so hopefully you can feel independent about that too. It really does not mean anything. Just cut it out the garment if it bothers you 🙂

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Lisa

I know I feel better about a shopping trip if the clothes that fit end up being the smaller size. Sometimes I won’t buy something I like because it is big size and of course I’m going to lose weight.

Probably one of the reasons I don’t buy vintage is the reason you name. The number on the label would probably be about 3 or 4 sizes bigger and I wouldn’t like that!

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Rita

I know what you mean, Lorraine. There is a point when too many things I try on are a size larger and I start to think that is a bad trend, and I don’t buy anymore until I’ve gotten my weight back in check. For example, if I start to see too many 10’s (US sizing) fitting the best. My general rule is I try to keep the size in single digits.

In generic sizing, I’m almost always a medium, so when I had to go to an XSmall on the pullover I mentioned, I thought the sizing in this store is a bit off!

On men’s sizes being smaller, I wonder if they are measuring at a different spot these days.

Some fabrics, Sylvia, also give overtime and become wider/shorter, etc. My favorite LLBean t-shirts are that way. After some amount of time they get relegated to the “work around the house” pile after they get shorter and wider. I’m trying to find nice fitting tee’s that are not clingy but don’t get too short and boxy over time.

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Lorraine

I found I was buying too many UK14s and that, and then not buying clothes at all, went on for a while until the penny dropped and I went to Weight Watchers – losing 23.5 pounds. So I guess that labels are useful… Now I weigh myself regularly and if clothes start to feel tight I do something about it, hence recently dropping a few pounds again.
I do urge you to consider getting items altered though. It seems to me that pretty much everything I buy, I adjust in some way!

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Sally

Thanks for the shout-out, my dear! And I SO agree: Fit trumps size. Period.

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Sylvia

You’re welcome Sally. Your article deserved it. I had already written mine before I saw yours. Always funny to see that other bloggers think about the same thing at the same time (or perhaps you were also inspired by Suzanne’s earlier article)

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Joey

Of course size does not matter! The ONLY thing that matters is how well somethings fits YOU. I have bought anything from an extra small to a large, size 0 – 14, and I don’t give a stuff for what the label says, I only give attention to what the mirror shows.
For those affected by the label, my advice is if it bothers you use an unpicker and remove it.

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Sylvia

Yes very good advice Joey!

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Greetje Kamminga

I definitely go by the right fit. I don’t care about the size or the label. Last month I bought a dress a size bigger because I could not lift my arms in it. When I took my arms down again, most part of the dress happily stayed above my bosom. A larger size did not have that problem. I did have to take it to the seamstress though, to take it in at the sides. But it fits perfectly now.

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Sylvia

Very wise Greetje. As we get older dresses become harder to fit as we are usually a different size on top as on the bottom so having a dress altered is absolutely the way to go. Have I seen the dress already?

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Greetje

Nope…

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Lisa

My husband knows his waist and inseam and can go into any store and get pants that basically fit — some flatter more than others, but they basically fit. Why can’t women’s clothing do that — bust, arm length, waist, hips, inseam. It doesn’t mean every item will look fabulous, but it means we’re dragging things into dressing rooms based on real numbers!

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Rita

Amen!!

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kate

My tailor had to tell me a dress was too small. I thought it needed to be taken up at the shoulders! Mainly, though, I am at peace with being a size bigger after menopause than I was for the 30 years before. I have had to change my preferred silhouette to suit, since I used to add curves and now come with them, but I think women after 40 should rethink their style anyway — *not* because we are too old for certain styles but because we can look funky and approachable without losing our credibility. I used to need a fairly buttoned up style to signal professionalism; now I don’t.

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Sylvia

You make such a great point here Kate. Often women think that we need to go more elegant or conservative but the opposite can be true also. Our age automatically means we look more professional and our clothes can get funkier!

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Heidi // Frantic But Fabulous

So true! I once wrote a post called “What size(s) are you?” because not only have standardized sizes crept downward, our bodies not always the same size from head to toe, and sizing *between* brands is wildly varying.

Like you, I often grab 3 sizes of anything (what I think I am plus one up and one below) and it’s a total crap shoot which one will be the “right” size.

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Lori

I just use the size as a guideline on where to start when I’m clothing shopping. I’m considered a plus size, so it’s hard for me to find clothes in the first place that don’t look like old lady granny clothes, so when I find a store I like I tend to stick with it.

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Claudia

Sylvia, what a relief!
I am so happy that you point this out!
We are conned by the mesures that the brands impose on us.
And we feel terrible every time we cannot struggle ourselves in a 40 or 42, we feel ugly and we feel guilty. But it is the brand that makes us guilty!
Claudia

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