The Campaign for Clearer Clothing Sizes - (archived)

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Forgive me for constantly banging on about dress sizes and sticking up headless photos all the time, but when I saw the campaign that Gemma at Retro Chick had set up, I knew it was something I had to get behind. As well as sharing a first name, Gemma and I share very similar views when it comes to UK clothing sizes. We’re fed up of the huge variations, vanity sizing, and obsession with numbers. And what is even worse than obsessing over the label in your clothes is walking into a shop and having absolutely no idea which size to try on in the first place.

I’m pretty sure all of us have a variety of sizes in our wardrobes. That’s just how it goes. Different shops cut in different ways. We’ve all been in the fitting rooms, trying on our usual size only to find it either hangs off our body or won’t even get close to zipping up. And the guesswork that comes with buying clothing drives me mad. It makes shopping online a virtual lottery. Will that size 14 fit? Does the size chart actually represent the measurements of the finished garment?

I’ve tried to illustrate this above with a few of the dresses I’ve featured on this site before. I weigh pretty much the same in all the photos above, give or the odd pound here or there. I think of myself as about a size 14, but I have everything from a 10 to a 16. I know that Peacocks, New Look and Debenhams cut big, I know that in H&M I should try the 16 first and work down from there. But I go into a new or unfamiliar shop, and I often have no idea where to begin.

The sizing charts for the major high street stores show that one size can vary by up to a couple of inches depending on which shop you’re in. As a rule, younger stores size down, more ‘mature’ stores size up (both for reasons of vanity sizing). Gemma’s campaign is for clearer clothing sizes on the high street. Not so much for a ‘one size everywhere’ policy, which is probably a bit too much to ask.

But pushing brands to actually stick to their sizing charts, and publish them on clothing labels rather than just on their websites so we have something to go on, is a good start.

She’s also encouraging bloggers to ‘fess up, share their exact measurements, and talk about their struggles with finding the perfect fit. So, on that note…

My current measurements are 37.5 – 29.5 – 39 inches. This makes me a size 14 in most shops, according to size charts. But I’ve recently found that, due to vanity sizing, size 12s often fit me better, especially in shops prone to adding ease. I own one size 10, from the ridiculously generous Pearl Lowe collection at Peacocks. How any woman more than an inch or two smaller than me manages to find anything from that range to fit them is beyond me. Talk about adding ease!

There is nothing wrong with shops cutting their clothes to cater to a specific audience. I realise, for example, that though I get angry with H&M sizing, there are plenty of A-cup girls who absolutely love the fact they can go in there and buy something that doesn’t feel baggy up top like in every other shop. But I agree with Gemma that there needs to be some clarity. Nobody should be wearing three different sizes from the same shop, which has happened to me in the past.

So, to high street stores we say this: establish some rules, let your suppliers and factories know exactly what size chart they’re working to and what ease they should be adding. Stick to these rules so the consumer knows where she stands. And stop making one range big and one range small within the same store.

In short, throw us a frickin’ bone!

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  • Reply Sciencegeekchic June 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I totally agree with the sizing in H&M being appauling! I once left with a size 8, 10 and 14! Yet I normally buy a 12!!

  • Reply shoegalfi June 3, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I have tops in 3 sizes from, yep, you guessed it, good old H&M! 
    I have a vintage skirt from M&S from the 1970s that is labelled an 18 but also have the waist and hip measurements on the label.  They used to do it, why can’t the do it now?

  • Reply Lauren June 3, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Oh god, I am so into this campaign! I think vanity sizing has got to be the biggest load of crap, ever. And I have things ranging from 16 to 26 in my wardrobe, it’s absolutely ridiculous! x

  • Reply Rebecca June 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Completely agree, Gemma! I’m a size 10- 16 too (or a 13 taking the average). I think the problem is getting worse- I’m sure I used to enjoy shopping for clothes, now I absolutely hate it.  I mentioned this problem on my blog a few weeks ago so I’m really glad its not just me:


  • Reply jess e June 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Ouch, know the feeling. I bought a load of stuff from New Look sale online last week – all size 12 – all fit perfectly except one item I can barely get over my head let alone shoulders. Most odd, but suppose it says a lot about where our clothes are being made… 

  • Reply Poe June 6, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Totally agree. I consider myself a size 12-14, but recently bought a skirt from White Stuff in a size 8. That’s right, size EIGHT. I was truly a size 8 when I was a teenager and I know for a fact that I am not anywhere near that size now. I don’t understand the need for vanity sizing and find it counter-productive at the best of times

  • Reply Gemma June 6, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Thanks for all your comments, guys. It really is frustrating to never quite know which size to buy. I guess on the plus size, we have benefited in that blogs and online reviews have become so useful – you can see someone else’s comments about fit, size and so on before making a decision, especially when buying online. So shops being rubbish at sizing does help us as bloggers to get traffic 😉

  • Reply SarVeg June 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    H&M sizing is based on the Swedish body shape –  with a cut that doesn’t take account of hips, hence the sizing issue.  Not built for British boobs and bums!

  • Reply Chattermonkey June 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I could not agree more! My recent post is a prime example of how wrong sizing should be! Personally, I will buy something to fit regardless of whether its a size 20 or size 30 but it would be nice to know that no matter what shop you are in (or online for) you know that you can buy size X and it will fit you. 

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