Dress Sizes & Self Esteem

by Arash Mazinani on May 3, 2011

Ok so you’re browsing through the clothes rails looking for something new and exciting, you suddenly find the perfect dress in your size only to find that it won’t zip up. But hold on a minute you think to yourself you’ve not put on any weight and THIS is your size. Sound familiar? For a lot of women finding the right sized clothes has become a bit of a minefield. It’s probably why women with arms full of clothes is a familiar site at the fitting rooms as well as the standard long queue. It is also the reason why retailers experience so many returns and can often mean multiple purchases when ordering online. I know just the other week my girlfriend bought a maxi dress in two sizes because the queue at H&M was ridiculous with the intention of returning one.

 

There really should be some sort of universal sizing system that can be adopted by different brands and retailers to help people find their right size. If you take a look at the photo below you see the difference between sizes from different fashion houses. It’s quite alarming when one size varies so much. I know from my own experience one of the most shocking in terms of sizing was Azzedine Alaia. I remember a girl struggling to squeeze into a size 10 dress that was really a size 6.

You also have the issue of self esteem that can seriously be shattered by the jumping sizes. If you think about the notion of the ‘dress size’ and how a lot of women let it define them. There is a lot of emphasis placed on a figure that as the image above shows is never really absolute in terms of measurement. Think about how many times you’ve heard women say “I want to get down to a… dress size”. Think about the impact the ‘size 0′ fad had on people all wanting to try and fit into that size just so they say they’re a ‘size 0′. There is also the issue of vanity sizing which doesn’t help matters. Some brands have changed their sizes to allow women to fit into smaller clothes to try and make them feel better about themselves. However, it just causes more confusion in the long run as there you end up jumping from size to as you try on different brands.

A good illustration of vanity sizing and how size has been warped for decades is the research done by Alaina Zulli. She looked at dress sizes in vogue advertisements from 1922 onwards. She found, for example, a woman with a 32 inch bust would have been a size 14 in sears from 1937, then in 1967 she would have been a size 8 and then today should be a size 0.

I’d love to hear your experiences of sizing?

Are you ever a dead straight fixed size?

or do sizes drive you up the wall?

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren Nicole May 3, 2011 at 6:48 pm

This is such a great post. I didn’t know there were so many variations to a size. And I agree with your statement where you say that there should be a universal size for fashion houses.

Very true.

Nice blog, just started following you recently.

Front Row Spectator
Twitter @ LaurenNjordan

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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Thanks for your comment Lauren, I’m glad you liked the blog post. Hope to see you again here soon :-)

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Anika May 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Hi Arash, I love that you are dealing with this issue! You know I would hon ;). Personally I have felt ashamed for years because of needing bigger sizes, or not finding the right size at all. Now I have given up on sizes, but not on me. I don`t care anymore what size the stuff I get is, what I care about is does it make me look absolutely fab. And if it doesn`t I will tailor/rework the pieces so that they do. This way I am in control and not offering up my self worth at the altar of sizeism. It is freeing to be able to do this, but I do wish that size wasn`t such an issure. I loved the range H&M did a while back, inspired by Mad Men, where they made the same dresses in a big range of sizes. I would love that to be the future.

Also, I would be very interested in a post from you on how men view this subject for themselves. The challenge of size and attractiveness surely exists for men as well, at least from what I understand from my male friends.

Off to share your interesting post now Arash. Keep up the good work, we all love you!

x Anika
http://byanika.com
@AnikaByAnika
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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Thanks for commenting Anika as always I love to hear your opinion. Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll definitely consider doing something similar for men :-).

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Kirstin Marie May 3, 2011 at 7:38 pm

The variations on sizing is ridiculous. Its refreshing to read your article about it, I have to say. I would have to agree with Anikas’ comment above regarding not caring too much about size anymore. With the wide range of sizing, I shop by measurement, and solely that. I used to go and try on 3 different sizes, that was so frustrating (especially when none of them worked perfect)! With my measurements, I am finding things that fit me the way I am built, and not the way the size listing is. This is an excellent post, and I am definitely sharing it. Great job on this!! :)

xo,

Kirstin Marie

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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Thanks for commenting Kirstin :-)

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Wearitwellguru May 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Hi Arash, great post as many women have at least 3 sizes in their wardrobe. It’s better to find clothes that skim and fit properly rather than worrying about the actual size. Finding shapes and brands that fit properly, will boost self-esteem whatever size!

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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Thanks for commenting ;-)

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SACRAMENTO May 3, 2011 at 7:55 pm

There was a project in Spain to equal sizing by measure women of all ages, sizes and body types.
Everybody thought it was a brilliant idea, but after a while it die off and nobody know why it came to nothing.
When I buy on line I always by by measurements.
It would be fantastic if we came to agree on sizes.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:15 pm

It’s a shame that it died off, like you said it would have been fantastic!

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Katharine May 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I have never been a “straight” fixed size. However, during the five years I was severely underweight, my sizes were pretty consistent; 0-2 in mallwear, 6 in slightly higher-end mallwear and low-end designer.

Now? It’s all over the map, and certainly doesn’t affect my self esteem, since I sew and therefore know how big *I* am. The frustration comes in ordering clothing, especially as a Canadian; I’m still waiting for a refund for nearly a hundred dollars in customs charges from an online order from a company whose “size chart” turned out to be a complete lie, including measurements, and whose (expensive!) clothes when I ordered them slithered happily right off my body, they were so big. And I’ll never get back the shipping charges from sending that whole box back. Measurements do no one any good if they are also inaccurate, or not consistent EVEN ACROSS ONE BRAND.

I will say, from my experience in regaining the weight, that the inconsistency gets much larger the bigger you are, presumably from a combination of sloppy pattern grading and vanity sizing. The sloppy pattern grading also leads to things like pants that — surely — fit NO ONE because of their bizarre rise or waistband, or really odd things going on with necklines, or sleeves that are impossibly tight — all problems that I never had as a stick figure, despite the fact that even too thin, my figure retained its skeletal peculiarities, including a very short rise and extremely broad back and shoulders. I am MUCH more likely now to find that NOTHING in a particular style will fit me, no matter where I go in the size range. (I currently hang at around a size 10-12 in mallwear, with outliers as small as size 6 and as large as 14.)

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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for such an awesome comment, I really appreciate it :-)

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Joy May 3, 2011 at 8:44 pm

This is a fascinating topic, Arash. I too agree with Anika.

It’s sort of bizarre how in the past (when I was a size 6 US for most of my adult life) I wouldn’t even try on jeans or a skirt or whatever, over a size 10! Not surprisingly, my self-esteem was seriously messed up.
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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Thanks for your comment Joy:-)

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Fashion Limbo May 3, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Fistly thanks so much for leaving such an interesting comment in my site, I love that you added some info to my post, really enjoyed reading what you had to say.

Secondly, this is a great post. Have read some articles on it, but it needs to be written about more as retaliers are definitively not catching our drift. Just last week, picture me in Zara. As much as I love fashion, a pet hate is trying on trousers, which means that as much as i LOVE wearing them, I hardly buy them, why? because of what happened there. I tried on two different kind of trousers, a pair of chinos and a pair of pedal pusher type of pant. I’m normally a UK size 6 at the top but I’m pear shaped and have a size 8 for the bottom part of my body. The first ones a uk 6 was too big ???!!! they were also the smallest size they came in, so no luck there. Then tried on the other pair, which were sized as S-M-L. An S was too small, I had to go up a size…. absolute madness. And yes, you have to be made of stone for it not to affect you in some way.
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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm

No worries, I thought it was interesting you picked All Saints.

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Mode Plus May 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Interesting debate: I’ve stopped letting size labels determine what I can or cannot wear long time ago. Even when I was a size 8, I couldn’t get into a size because of my body shape (then hourglass). I quickly learned that shopping meant also searching. After years of practice I know which brands size up and which size down. I know that Italian/French brands normally run small, but Scandinavian on the other hand are more ample. I don’t know why that is. It is sad to me that many women feel ‘trapped’ within this system.
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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Yeah I completely agree, Thanks for commenting :-).

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Kim May 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Since sizes do vary so much depending on which store or brand you’re dealing with, I really don’t let it bother me. I have no problem whatsoever buying a top in a large or something, as long as you know that your body didn’t change (I’m assuming that women who are fixated on the sizing will also know their weight) what is there to worry about? :)

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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm

thanks for commenting :-)

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Bonnie May 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Sizing is so screwed up. I am a friggin’ 0 for some designers, a 3 in others, and a 5 in a couple. I really wish there was a universal sizing chart, but I don’t see that as a viable possibility in the near future. I don’t let the size on the labels bother me because I know I’m hot. Nobody knows what size I am unless I tell them. It really isn’t a big deal. I don’t think that people should let the size define how they feel about themselves. If you feel hot as Hell, then you are hot as Hell. Screw everybody else.

http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
Twitter: @GlamKitten88
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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm

ha ha I love your confidence, thanks for commenting.

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Bella Q May 4, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Brilliant post, Arash, and yet another pertinent topic you cover in your blog. I DETEST the fashion industries sizing practices for women’s wear- it’s schizophrenic and senseless. Basically size now means nothing- currently I am a 16, 14, 12, 10 and sometimes 8. But never a 0, lol. So ordering online is frightful because I never know if/how the fit will be. I wish we could just lose the nonsense and use direct measurements. A 28 inch waist skirt for instance would be easier to guess if it fits than a nebulous 6, 4, 10, M/L label.
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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for your comment Bella, it’s always a pleasure to read.

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Angeline May 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

This is such a well-written and thoughtful post! I really hope women don’t let sizes affect their self-esteem. I’m pretty consistently a size 2, but I’ve gotten much better at eye-balling the right size rather than relying on a number (especially at clothing swaps where sometimes the clothes don’t have labels). I have tops in my closet ranging from xs to l (all supposedly womens sizes, not kids or juniors). I often grab two or three of the same item in different sizes to try on. I stopped letting sizes affect my self esteem in college, when I bought a pair of size 9 jeans that fit me perfectly, even though I was smaller back then (5’4, 110 lbs) than I am now. I know my body is healthy and beautiful–the number on the (inside) of my clothes means nothing.
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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Thanks for commenting and welcome to the blog :-).

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Madison May 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Interesting and very excellent post Arash! I have never been a fixed sized at any store really,especially when purchasing items from UK/Europe/US/companies it varies completely. Mostly because I’m tall, yet short waisted. Most jackets when I used to buy them I ‘d have to let out because I have long arms, (I think possibly this was the real reason I wanted to get into fashion so much) which is why I learned how to modify/design clothing.
In some brands I may be a Small, 4, 6, or 2, but in actuality a 4 is normally in the range that I am, despite marketing tactics. There are many brands that I can buy and wear now with ease, but still takes a bit of time finding the right items that I want. I tend to ignore the numerical labels these days… Shopping takes patience and for me it’s so worth the 3+/- hours if I find something that I love and it actually fits well. Great post!

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Arash Mazinani May 4, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Yeah I think I’d encourage most people to find a good seamstress who can rework your clothes if need be as we have all discovered sizes can be a nightmare.

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Clarke May 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Glad to see your site has a mobile version now dude. Loving this article. The diagram is so shocking. I remember seeing this girl who was a size 6 with a D cup bust meant she had to wear a size 8 or pop out of her dress.

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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Glad you liked the mobile friendly site, just recently got the plugin installed on the site.

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Anne @ The Frump Factor May 5, 2011 at 11:22 am

I have mixed feelings. Yes, it’s frustrating when sizes vary so much (I don’t know how anybody orders clothes online). But at the same time, since our body types are all so different, it’s nice to have a range of different fits. If all clothes were universally sized, most of us would probably have to get everything tailored, unless we happen to be shaped like the universal mold. As it is now, you can try a range of different designers and try to find items that fit without alterations.
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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm

The thing is the universal sizing would cover a wider spread. So your traditional sizes 6, 8, 10 etc would all have specific measurements.. then you could have additional sizes to cover the in betweens.

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THE-LOUDMOUTH May 5, 2011 at 6:09 pm

This is an AMAZING post! So great!!! I’m going to share this with everyone I know. It’s 100% true. Working at Ann Taylor, I see women all the time who think they’re a size 10, but at OUR store they’re a size 6. I, personally, have sizes 6/8/10 in my closet! I also have sizes XS-XL! It really just depends on where you shop and what the item is. CRAZYNESS.
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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Certainly is crazy!

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Angga Heinrich May 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm

This is such a great post!!! I know that my size is varied so much, as I’m usually wear size 2-4 in Forever 21, Topshop, H&M..etc and all other street style store, whenever I splurge on my designer items, I have to go down at least 2 sizes and especially if its a US designer, for example I bought a skirt from Kate Spade via Newman Marcus and I got size 4, apparently it was so big that I have to bring it over to alteration place.
The point is, I dont think no matter what size you are, it will always differ from stores to stores, the most important thing is be fit and healthy.
<3
http://reserveradefashion.blogspot.com
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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Thanks for your comment Angga

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Amielle May 6, 2011 at 8:31 am

I more than agree with the idea that there should be a blanket sizing system that covers all the fashion houses. It would make people more prone to shop/try on clothing/etc if they knew what size they would be and not have to mess around with having to go back several times to find the pants/shirt/etc that fits them properly. It creates longer lines which creates more wait time and with that, people have less patience. I think, for everyone involved, it would make the process so much more rewarding.

I love the diagram you used, by the way. Definitely helped hit home what you were saying. :)

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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Yeah I found that from the NY Times website it is really useful to highlight the differences.

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chouchou May 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm

looking for the right sizes is not an easy thing to do! however, i mostly don’t look at the numbers, i go with my instinct…some clothes are cut very small, and some very big. generally i go with the bigger one, since i don’t like if the shirts are too tight. and if i need a size 40 for my shirt, i try to abandon the next cake ;)
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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm

lol yeah that’s a good point about the cake.

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heather May 7, 2011 at 1:21 am

YES! I read this in the NY Times. It’s amazing how there isn’t a same size rule. Its so annoying that even in H&M I can range from anywhere from a size 6 to a size 10. I always have to take in racks of clothing to the dressing room because I’m never sure what size I am. Give me a universal size and stick with it man!!! lol
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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Ha ha thanks for commenting Heather.

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Casee Marie May 7, 2011 at 3:10 am

Bravo, Arash! I was so animated reading this, nodding along with everything. Definitely one of the most interesting posts I’ve read lately, great job.

I think it would be great if designers all had the same measurement standards when it comes to sizing. In American the whole “dress size” issue is definitely out of control. I can’t really understand the mentality of forcing yourself into a dress size just because it’s smaller; it does nothing good for a woman’s figure! Sometimes we have to look our best in order to feel our best, and nobody feels good walking around in clothes that don’t really fit even if they can say it’s a certain size.

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Arash Mazinani May 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Yeah certainly agree, thanks for commenting Casee Marie!

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Fabienne Jach May 8, 2011 at 8:46 am

It drives me nuts, actually. Then, when you consider the cut and fit, that throws everything out the window. It isn’t unusual for me to take my pants in at the waist to accomodate my curves. Worse yet, it feels apologetic that I should be referring to my body shapes as “my curves”. We’re all shaped differently for better, for worse, or for neither. It just is. Sometimes, it’s a miracle we’re not all just wearing stretch pants full time. Aack!

I, too, am guilty of buying items in several sizes for the same reason as your girlfriend. We find workarounds and make it happen:)
xo, f
The House in the Clouds

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Arash Mazinani May 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Yeah I understand the reason people buy multiple sizes, especially when their is a huge queue for the fitting room.

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fuyume May 8, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Dress sizes don’t really bother me these days. I mostly veer from a size 8 to a size 12 but mostlly a ten. My problem is more with the length of things as i’m so tall.
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Jamillah May 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I don’t know a woman who hasn’t gone through this. Gawsh there was this amazingly awesome video of a girl trying on jeans at Levi’s that showed within the same store the jeans had terrible discrepancies in the size. I actually would prefer a universal sizing system even if that would mean my vanity would suffer just for the ease of shopping online without having to order 2/3 sizes in order find my right one.

I like Anika’s point…do men have this problem? And are they as effected as we are?

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Arash Mazinani May 11, 2011 at 8:04 pm

I’d love to see that video I think it would be quite interesting, thanks for commenting.

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Krystle May 11, 2011 at 3:49 am

this is a really great post! I actually posted in this awhile ago. For some women, this is a really big problem I know myself, personally, I used to define myself by size as well. I think there should certainly be a universal sizing system!! The one area I can usually depend on sizing to be consistent is with designer jeans. They don’t size with 0, 2, 4, 6… etc. they size 24, 25, 26, etc. which is supposed to reflect waist sizes. Whether or not it’s the true waist size in inches, I find that I can almost always depend on grabbing a 25 or 26 and fitting perfect, but still it’s a 25 OR 26. :)

Krys
Fierce|Fabulous|Fit
@FierceFabFit
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Arash Mazinani May 11, 2011 at 8:11 pm

That’s quite good that you can rely on a size in jeans, just a shame it can’t be the case for everything else.

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Lauren Hughes (@laurenhughes87) January 10, 2012 at 11:28 am

different dress size in every shop… http://t.co/gM35HqOR

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