The size lottery – when did clothes shopping become such a gamble?

why is it so hard to find clothes that fit

by Maria Pierides

Why do clothes hate us?

We don’t like to be dramatic, but we’ve come to the very harsh yet very truthful realisation that clothes don’t fit the way they used to. As self-deprecating women, we’ve unfairly spent years reminiscing back to our youth when everything used to fit like a glove (well almost, we’re still petites living in a 6 foot catwalk model world after all) not quite knowing where we’ve gone wrong. But now we’ve realised that it’s not actually us who have changed, and we need to stop beating ourselves up about our body types.

We may not be teenagers anymore, but we shouldn’t have to feel so disheartened and defeated when shopping for clothes in the modern world. It’s not our figures which are failing us, it’s the clothes. In particular the fashion industry and its completely unreliable and inconsistent women’s sizing. And don’t even get us started on the difference in UK and US sizing and our eternal quest for universal sizing to be introduced.

close up of a clothing rack with wooden hangers showing different clothing size tags

Tell us if this sentence seems familiar: “I’m a 10 in this shop but a 14 in this shop, but if I’m buying jeans I go up a size and if I’m buying a blouse I always go down a size, except in this shop where I just buy three sizes and see which one fits better before taking it to the tailor”. We’re exhausted just writing that! We know that we live in an age where we can buy several sizes of the same item at the click of a button, but why should we have to overspend for the luxury of a well-fitting item? When did clothes that actually fit even become a luxury?

You only have to look up a few different shops to find that the statistics on the waist, bust, hips and legs, for example, are significantly different across every single brand. But how does each brand determine what classifies as an 8, and what classifies as a 10 for example? And this doesn’t even take petite sizes into consideration, as many petites have complained about being humiliated into buying extremely large sizes because of the false impressions that some brands have with petite clothing.

woman with bag looking through clothes in shopping mall

This won’t be the first time that you’ve read something about women calling out high street and even high end stores for their inconsistent sizing. We don’t like to name and shame, but a few journalists have experimented with women’s sizing in an array of different shops, and it was quite common for their sizes to range from an 8 to a 14, if not 16. Some stores have openly admitted to being very generous with their sizing – often referred to as vanity sizing – to attract women into their stores. After all, how many of us would be secretly elated to find out we are three sizes smaller?

To avoid the size lottery that comes with shopping, we tend to stick with brands that we know are made with women’s different body types in mind, or ones which we have tried, tested and accepted as figure-flattering and consistent. Unfortunately, reputable brands that guarantee the perfect fit tend to come with a higher price tag, but it’s the price that some women – in particular petite women – have to pay. We know we aren’t alone either…

“The fact that consumers are willing to spend more on clothes that flatter them highlights just how important it is for retailers to focus on designing clothes that are cut to fit well and use the correct fabric to improve the way a garment falls,” Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel, told The Daily Mail.

seamstress sews clothes and put thread in needle. workplace of tailor - sewing machine, rolls of of thread, fabric, scissors.

Fabric and cut are just two of the important factors that make a well-fitting item of clothing. We’re just perplexed at how in 2018, the fashion industry has failed to keep up with women’s body types and women’s clothing needs, in particular when it comes to sizing and quality. Perhaps it’s because we don’t speak up enough, and just quietly accept that our bodies don’t conform to fashion’s standards and sheepishly head to the tailors – who we are on first name terms with – to try and give us some of our confidence back.

Our job involves speaking to a lot of women, and we’ve been shocked with how many women are going down the bespoke route just to guarantee that perfect fit.

“We see so many women who have access to premium merchandise, but clients are getting more demanding and want a personal connection with their purchases,” Judd Crane, director of womenswear at Selfridges, told The Guardian back in 2013.

Five years later and sizing is no better; in fact it’s more inconsistent and more confusing than ever! How many of us fall into the category of buying clothes that don’t fit and just have them clogging up the wardrobe because we don’t want to part with something we have spent good money on? Until the fashion world does something about its sizing crisis, perhaps going bespoke is one way to save our sanity and our money.

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