Why clothes sizes are meaningless


IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THEM If the clothes don’t fit, don’t sweat it – the brand’s sizing is probably off.

Maggie Gibbons

Why are we so obsessed with clothes sizing? Sure, the media bombards us with messages that indicate ‘skinny’ means beautiful, but they’re not solely to blame.
All this obsessing with the perfect body and/or face is leading to a very screwed up culture. Instagrammers know exactly how to enhance a photo, skimming off a bit of fat here and there, chiselling their facial features, and all this to appear more beautiful.
The sad thing is, they all look the same. Have you looked at Love Island at all? I rest my case.
I fondly remember a wonderful bunch of women I worked with in the ’70s, who all had their own individual look, and dressed solely to suit themselves. We’re all friends to this day and besides the wrinkles and bits of flab, we’re all still wholly ourselves, and each one of them will happily say the only thing that’s truly important is good health. Anyway, I digress!

‘Vanity sizing’
There are no standard clothing sizes. Women’s sizing is so poorly defined that you could have three different size jeans (or dresses or tops) in your wardrobe, each of which all fit perfectly. Think of someone you know who wears the same size as you, yet is a completely different shape. How in the name of God can it be a ‘one size fits all’, when every woman is a different shape?
As shopping has shifted more towards online since lockdown, the problem has worsened. Size and fit are among the top reasons for returns. In fact, quite a few retailers have told me returns have become a nightmare!
Clothes sizing began in the early ’50s, after the war, and was updated frequently until the 80s, when sizing became quite inflated. In fact, an American size 8 today was a size 16 in the 1950s.
Why did this all happen? Well, the term ‘vanity sizing’ hasn’t served us well. This is simply a matter of applying sizes to garments to make us feel smaller than we are, in the hope of making us feel better.
Why should it even matter what size is on the label? The only way you will look good in your clothes is when they fit you well. Having said all that, there’s a certain buzz when we fit into a small size.

Online’s out of line
I’m totally frustrated with clothing sizes, especially online. So much so, that I swore recently I would never buy online again! A bit extreme maybe, but when I bought a medium and large size in Zara, and the medium fitted, but the large was too small I was brain fried! Actually, I find Zara impossibly bad with their sizing, and I don’t know what they base it on. In fact I’d go as far as saying their concept of sizing is totally skewed!
Sizing guides vary from one manufacturer to another, and they typically provide their own size charts. If you’re buying online, always check to see if they provide one (in fairness, Zara does have one – but that can’t help if a large size is smaller than a medium!). A size chart can prove to be an invaluable tool, as it will recommend the size to buy, based on your particular measurements. It even asks you what way you like clothes to fit, body skimming or more relaxed.
A good idea would be to take your bust, waist and hip measurement and keep it on your phone or somewhere close, to assist better when shopping.
Some sites, like the Dunnes Stores website, will tell you the height of the model, if there is one, and what size she is wearing. This can be handy, especially for judging, say, how long a dress will be. But there can still be anomalies.

Fashion fail
Since my 50s, my body shape changed, and any weight gain just sat around my middle, refusing to shift. Dressing rooms became a challenge, especially if I was on my own, with no one around to get me a bigger/smaller size.
I stopped worrying about the size and concentrated instead on how it looked and fitted. However, a friend of mine will purchase purely on size, only buying a size she’s happy with, rather than how it looks. We’re all individual, and that I guess is what makes life interesting.
There is nothing wrong with your body, fashion is failing you. Yes, I’m just as confused as you are!

Maggie Gibbons is an Image/Style Consultant based in Louisburgh. She can be contacted at living@mayonews.ie.