What the Fit?! Sizing up clothing standards

What the Fit?! Sizing up clothing standards

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried on a pair of skinny jeans and couldn’t get them past my calves. Shock! Horror! I am not an overweight person, who are these clothes for?! Fairies?! It seems all too common these days that I find something I love, only to be grossly disappointed by the fit. A UK size 6 fit me last week – did I eat too many brownies since then?! Help!!

I am a petite person, standing tall at 5ft1″ 🙂 I have a small torso and slightly larger lower body. I can never find pants that are the correct length and I can never fill out shirts that have detailing around the bust – it is insanely frustrating! I alter 90% of my clothes to make sure it fits me, most of the time it is a quick fix but sometimes it can be costly to have an item tailored properly.

So what is the deal here? Is it a question of beauty standards, fueled by the media and supplied and driven by the clothing industry? Perhaps. The debate could go on for days and include many opinions. Why are clothing standards not in line with the modern female body? Or are they? Who decides what the standard measurements are? How can it be changed? Surely a 32 inch waist is a 32 inch waist across the globe? Argh…enough to make my head spin.

I think the situation is two-fold; on the one hand, manufacturers create clothing based on a so-called standard to save costs (aka one size fits all) and also to fulfill a buyers need for the latest fashion demands. Factors such as manufacturing in foreign countries with language barriers, mislabeling and manufacturing faults can play a role in deviating sizes. Different fabrics have different amounts of elastane (stretchy stuff) in them so a bigger size might be required to get a garment made of a non-stretch fabric over your head or over your hips.

The reality is that there are many variables to consider when manufacturing and purchasing clothing that the everyday consumer might not be aware of. There is light at the end of the tunnel however; there are an increasing number of retailers offering clothing in plus, petite or tall lines.

Whether you prefer to shop in-store or online, the challenges remain the same but there is hope. I love shopping as much as the next girl, so to take the pain out of ‘fit failures’, I shop with the following in mind:

Can I alter it?

If I find something I love and can’t bear to part with it, I take a look at the garment’s seams. Seams or pleats = tailoring possibilities. Clothing can be altered at the seams so if the arm hole, for example, is too big or the sleeve too long, it can be adjusted easily.

Should I invest in it?

Pricier items tend to be more tailored and require less effort to get the right fit. I like to determine the use value of an item to decide if I will purchase it or not: A pair of jeans costing R1000 (approximately $80) can be worn for 5 years if it’s taken care of. If I wear these jeans once a week for 5 years, they cost me around R3.85 (or $0.30) per week. For this reason, I tend to shop for classic wardrobe items rather than trendy ones. The classics have far more value in the long run. If I happen to like a certain trend, I will purchase a less expensive item as I am likely to get rid of it within a season.

How can I be sure of fit when shopping online?

Well, you really can’t be 100% sure. Check the site’s return policy in case your order doesn’t fit you (that’s if you can’t alter it!). You can use the size guides provided as a starting point but I have found these aren’t always accurate. I also like to stick with brands that I know – that way I can expect similar sizing in the future.

So on your next shopping trip, remember that just because an item of clothing might not fit properly or a size 8 in one store fits more like a 10 in the next, does not mean you can’t find clothes that are really great for you! Your body is by no means the problem! Silence your inner critic and throw the clothing size out the door! Take a friend with you for support – friends are invaluable for trying new things and also telling the truth.

Take time to find items that are right for you and I can guarantee you’ll receive compliments and feel better about yourself – “Because you’re worth it” (L’oréal Paris).

Happy shopping!



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