The Truth About Women’s Clothing Sizes – And What To Do About It

Racerback workout top by Always For Me, available in women's plus sizes; click the photo to go to the link!

So, what’s the deal with women’s sizes? You’re one size at one store, and another size at another store. Sometimes you’re petite. Other times you’re plus. Meanwhile, men’s sizes seem completely reasonable: a waist size plus a length plus an inseam. How did things get this way?

To understand this, we have to look at some history. In the 1940’s, mass-produced clothing went to a standard-sizing system. That system lasted for approximately forty years, until the 1980’s, when “vanity sizing” came into fashion. Vanity sizing is the practise of giving smaller numbers to larger measurements, so that a size 6 from twenty years ago fits differently from a size 6 today. Further, there’s a difference between standard and catalog sizes.

Add to this the difference between different fits in major chain stores. Boot cut, boyfriend cut, straight leg, curve fit, modern fit, skinny jeans — and those are just the pants. Even finding the right bra size is difficult, with 80% of women wearing the wrong size. And bra fits are different too: t-shirt bras, push-up bras, bandeaus — it’s a jungle out there.

It’s spring, so you might need to add a few pieces to your wardrobe to deal with the change in weather. But as you establish an exercise routine over time, the shape of your body will change. But it won’t change all at once, and different parts of your body will change shape at different rates depending on how fast your specific muscle groups grow. That makes buying clothes — and saving money — really difficult.

So, what do you do? One option is to frequent major chain stores that have regular sales and a wide range of sizes, like Target or Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Another option is to shop on consignment. Consignment shops are different from thrift stores, in that they often feature designer clothes bought from estate sales by stylists and buyers with careers in fashion and design. So while your investment is small, you’ll still be in high style at a variety of sizes.

And luckily, plus-size fashion has evolved. This is in no small part due to the plus-size fashion blog movement, and sites like Curvy Canadian.

So if you’re lost in that retail jungle, don’t blame yourself for feeling confused or at loose ends. Take a breath. Take a moment. Remember that the fitting room is not the real world. Remember that your body is changing, and changing in a unique way that’s a little bit different from everyone else’s. And that’s what makes it special.