Monday, April 2, 2012

When Size Really Does Matter

You’d think that the answer to the question “What dress size are you?” would be straightforward. Most of us know what sizes to grab off the rails when shopping for a new outfit, so why is it that the same size can vary so much from store to store?

We’re All Getting Bigger

In the last 50 years, the shape of British women has changed beyond all recognition and these changes are mainly due to better diets and better access to healthcare. We’re taller than ever, and the average waist size has expanded too. In the 1960s the average waist size was 27.5 inches and it’s now 34 inches. There have been similar increases in the sizes of bust and hip measurements. It’s an often quoted fact that the average British woman is now a size 16, and many clothing manufacturers have started producing larger clothes to take account of this fact.

Just to Make You Feel Good?

Stores know that we women like the adrenaline rush and good feeling that we get when we squeeze ourselves into a size smaller than we thought we needed. Some stores have been changing their standard sizing to reflect this. For example, the waist measurement on a size 12 skirt can vary between 28.4 inches and 30 inches, depending on where you shop. An outfit in a size 14 which fits perfectly in one store may be far too big or too tight in another.

Getting the perfect fit

This discrepancy in measurements makes shopping on the high street difficult, and on the internet far harder. At least in a high street store you usually have the option of going into the fitting room and trying something on. It’s a particular issue when you are trying to buy jeans. Say for example you are looking to buy jeans which are slim fitting. If the store sizing is on the generous side, your slim fit jeans will appear baggy. The huge variation in cuts and sizing between brands and stores means that the only way to buy jeans is to know exactly what your measurements are and either try the jeans on in the store or compare them against the manufacturer’s measurements on the website before buying.

The Annoyance factor

Despite stores’ attempts to make their customers feel better about themselves, the average shopper is not stupid and has realized quickly that some stores have more generous sizing than others. Many women find the whole sizing issue confusing and annoying, and stick to a few tried and trusted brands which they know will fit them. It also makes them more reluctant to shop online as they are never quite sure whether or not the items they purchase will fit, and the hassle of having to return things is annoying too. There is call for EU wide legislation to standardize clothing sizes throughout Europe, but clothing manufacturers and retailers are reluctant to make this change. Perhaps if customers expressed their annoyance to retailers things would become easier on the high street for everyone?