What's going on with clothing sizes?

Picture this - you walk into your favourite clothing store and see an incredible dress that you adore. You pick up your size and head to the changing room. Once you're in there you go to put on the dress only to find it doesn't zip up at all. You try breathing in and standing up super straight but the zip won't budge.

You instantly feel a wave of guilt and shame flow over you. You can't help but feel a bit embarrassed. Your size doesn't fit you anymore. You assume your body is too blame and you feel your confidence take a hit. 

Girls, it's time to talk about clothing sizes

If you can relate to the situation above then you're not alone. Trying to find clothes that are the perfect fit is a complete mission - and it can feel like every single time we shop we change sizes.

After one too many experiences like this myself, I decided to investigate further. I wanted to know whether it was in fact me that was changing sizes or whether the sizes I was trying on weren't as consistent as I thought.

To do this, I took a look into some leading brands' sizing charts. To make it fair, I copied the bust, waist and hip measurements of a size 10 AUS (6 US)

A comparison on sizes

Bust (cm) 
Waist (cm) 
Hip (cm) 
Forever 21 91-94 71-74 96-102
Valley Girl 
70 93.5
87 69 94

Straight away you can see there is a HUGE difference between some of the hip measurements. ASOS sits their size 10 hip measurement at just 93.5cm whilst a Forever 21 size 10 can measure up to 102cm (pretty crazy when you consider they're meant to be the same size). 

So what can we learn from this?

1. Clothing sizes are not consistent!

Every single brand has the power to set their sizing measurements basically however they want. This means that when we walk into a store we cannot expect that the size we think we are is going to be the size that we actually are.

So, how do clothing brands set their sizes?

Well, interestingly, sizing is very much based on target audience. If we use Boohoo as an example, you'll notice that their sizing is smaller than the rest of the brands on the list. This is due to the fact that their target market is younger girls who haven't really developed their curves yet. Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that other girls might have to go up 1 or 2 sizes to fit the clothing which can be super frustrating.

Top tip: When you're shopping with a brand for the first time, try on the same item in 2-3 sizes to work out which one is best for you. If you're shopping online - be sure to check out the sizing chart and know your measurements!

2. It's time to stop worrying about the number!

With such huge inconsistency in sizing, it's sad to think that at some point or another we have all based our own self esteem or body image on the number of our clothing.

In 2010, Researcher Tammy Kinley examined the effect of clothing sizes on self esteem. In the study, Kinley broke a group of 149 women into 2 smaller groups and got them to try on a pair of pants. Although all of the women tried on a pair of pants that was guaranteed to fit them, one group were given a size that ran small (meaning the size number on the pants was SMALLER than what they would usually wear) and the other group were given a size that ran big (meaning that the size number was BIGGER than what they would usually wear). The women were asked how they felt about themselves after they had put the pants on. It was found that the women who were given the smaller sized pants felt better about themselves – almost a sense of achievement – due to the smaller size of the pants. Surprisingly, however, the women who were given the larger sized pants didn't show any changes in their self esteem.

This study highlights the power that the size of our clothing has on the way we see ourselves. As sad as it is, if we try on a piece of clothing that has a smaller number on it, we are more likely to feel better about our body.

So how can we stop focusing on the number so much?

I'm going to be the first to put my hand up and admit that I have DEFINITELY liked a pair of jeans more because I was a size smaller than usual. I am also happy to say that I have left a store before because I couldn't event squeeze into a pair of jeans 2 sizes above my 'normal' size. No one is immune to the effect of this awful little number! In saying this, however, in my experience there are a few little tricks that you can apply in situations where you feel like your clothing size is defining you.   

Top tips:

  • When you are trying on your item, IGNORE the number! This is where grabbing a few different sizes really comes into play. The less you focus on the number, the more you are able to focus on what really matters – how the clothing fits you and shows off your best assets!

  • Always choose clothes that are comfortable and look good on you. If you buy a size too small because it 'just fits' then you are most likely never going to wear that piece of clothing again.  

  • Get to know the brands that you shop with. Knowledge is power! If you already know that a brand has clothing that runs large then you are less likely to try on something that is too small or too big by mistake. 

Remember– size is just a number and at the end of the day - no one knows except you what size your jeans are - they will only see how they fit on you (and of course how incredile you look in them).  So, don't let it play with your mind – love your body and put yourself in clothes that love your body too!

Reference: Kinley TR. The Effect of Clothing Size on Self-Esteem and Body Image. Family & Consumer Science. 2010. 

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