Dress sizes are inextricably linked to our relationship with our bodies. The media consistently uses them to illustrate the weight of the nation, but this is only meaningful if they are consistent between brands and over time. There is a British Standard for the size designation of women’s wear which has a range for bust and hip measurements (NB not the waist), and which there is no obligation for manufacturers to adhere to.
CARROTS, or Clothes Acquired Rashly, Requiring Owners To Slim have become commonplace. As women benchmark their weight loss success in dress sizes, their incentives are also measured this way. I have known successful slimmers loose 1 size on the bust and 3 on the hips, or vice-versa. We are all different, especially at times of change and this approach does not work, leading to deflated confidence and an average of 22 unwearable garments in each woman’s wardrobe. More work for The Dress Doctor!
Rod Collins writes about his experiences as a consumer, of buying clothes after weight loss and his experience of labels vs actual measurements. Kathleen Fasanella, an American pattern cutter writes from the industry perspective on fit and sizing entropy and debunks the myth of vanity sizing. Vanity sizing is the practice of putting a smaller size on a larger garment to flatter the consumer into buying it. I could give several examples from experience, especially of niche UK brands aimed at the well heeled market, who are generous when cutting and labeling goods. Fasanella does not deny that garments manufactured as certain sizes have swollen over time, in fact she explains why this has happened – and shows that it is for a myriad of reasons, and that vanity is not one of them.
My feeling is that numbered sizes should be within the British Standard, and manufacturers should be held accountable within the Trade Descriptions Act. The Small/ Medium/ Large sizing system is more flexible, with sizes being cut relative to others in the range, and should continue to be discretionary.
A Call to Action
Take control of your garment purchasing, freeing yourself from the tyranny of labels and use a tape measure. Educate yourself about your body. Knowing your true size rather than your dress size will not change your shape, but it will give you the knowledge required to look your best. When shopping measure garments rather than looking at sizes and you’ll find the number you take to the fitting room much reduced, whilst the success rate increases exponentially.
If a garment is a little snug, buy a larger size, it will hang much better when worn. And remember, many clothes have a margin built in for shrinkage which occurs to varying degrees with cotton, linen and wool fabrics. If you don’t like the larger size on the label, cut it out or change it! Those actresses and celebrities you envy in the media will have had their labels manipulated in the past by costumiers and stylists desperate to get the right piece on stage, and have appealed to their vanity to do so!