A rant about sizing

Last weekend, Nat and I went shopping. We don’t often hit the high street, instead preferring to spend our shopping time together rifling through charity shops for elusive bargains. But on this occasion I needed tights, having worn all of mine to bobbly, snaggy messes, and Nat had convinced me that it might be worth trying a pair of leggings instead of layering 70 denier tights for warmth from now on… So we nipped into H&M.

H&M had rails and rails of sales stuff. I quickly unearthed a fabulous floral mini prom dress in a 14 (£10) and a pencil skirt in a 16 (£3), both of which looked roughly the right size – which in H&M is the ONLY way to choose clothes, as their sizing even within the brand is SO ERRATIC. Nat picked up a skirt, and we headed excitedly for the fitting rooms.

None of the items we had selected fit. The dress, though a size 14, fit as if it had been tailored across my bust, waist and hips… but didn’t actually cover my bum cheeks. Which, as I’m a very average 5 ft 6, worries me a little… The skirt, meanwhile was SKIN TIGHT in a way only Girls Aloud can really carry off. Nat’s skirt too was on the small side.

Nat and I are both bang on average UK sized. We have the same measurements (excepting that her boobs are bigger), though we struggle to share clothes as she is a few inches taller than me and therefore has different overall proportions. I wear a Dorothy Perkins size 16 (I tend to find Dorothy Perkins offer decent middle-ground sizing; M&S too) – which is very different to Laura Ashley, where a size 16 DROWNS me, or Topshop, where a size 16 skirt won’t actually fit over one of my thighs…

I know I’m not the only one who hates the diversity of sizing on the high street. It makes buying clothes online an exercise in gambling, and accepting clothes as gifts without having tried them on first an often embarrassing trial (except when it comes to gifts sent to me by my lovely blogging friends, who seem to have an eye for exactly what size I am!). It also makes every single shopping trip a chore, as I take two of everything into the dressing room, unsure which will fit.

And, as I was reminded on Saturday, the complete lack of standard sizing is the reason I stopped shopping at H&M, despite the great designs on offer there.

As an aside, I did buy leggings, which I’ve yet to try… But ended up buying my tights from trusty Topshop. Their clothes may be flimsy, badly made and distinctly on the skimpy side, but their tights are velvet-soft, long-lasting and surprisingly generous in the body. At £6 for an 80 denier pair (or £3 in the sale 🙂 ) they may seem expensive, but these babies go the distance!


16 thoughts on “A rant about sizing

  1. Great post! I have the same problems with sizing, and shopping in Topshop can be incredibly depressing when your usual size refuses to zip up.

    Saying that, I wouldn’t want every single shop to have exactly the same measurements. A size 14 apple shape is fairly different to a size 14 pear or hourglass shape, who usually require a smaller waist. In my experience, a lot of stores (particularly River Island) only tend to stock clothes that suit those with hourglass proportions, whereas I tend to find Miss Selfridge and New Look have more on offer for Apples like me 🙂

    It is annoying though when you buy from an online store and it’s so far from the size stated that you need to double check the label!

    • You’re right about shapes vs sizes, but I think that’s a bit more difficult to get right. With shape it tends to be the style that makes a difference to fit rather than the sizing…

      I can’t wear anything from River Island – they’re cut, as far as I’m concerned, entirely for modern teenager shapes, not for more womanly forms. And I cannot get jeans that fit my waist AND my ample rear to save my life! Every pair I try gapes around the belt. :S

      I guess everyone has their own problems with fit… but that doesn’t mean sizing couldn’t be a little more standardised! 😀

      • Ah maybe it’s not just me at River Island then! The only thing that fits me in there are the shoes 🙂

        That’s a good point about sizing and shapes and the styles to go for. I guess standardising would mean we could pick up a 14 in any shop, and know that if it doesn’t fit, it’s probably down to the style rather than the size! 😀

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this, especially in relation to H&M! I bought a floral dress in their sale last weekend – I’m actually wondering if it’s the same one you’re talking about? They had three sizes left: 6, 8 and 14. Now, I wear a size 6 in other stores, but have been having to get an 8 in H&M recently, so I took the 6 and 8 into the dressing room. As far as I could tell, the two sizes were IDENTICAL. I could zip them both up, but the bodice on both of them stopped short of my boobs, so basically the dress (which was strapless) would have looked much like a high-waisted skirt (I’m 5″3, so not exactly tall.) and if I’d tried to wear it as a dress, I’d have been arrested.

    But I really loved it, so I grabbed the 14, thinking maybe it could be altered and… it fit me! Not perfectly: the waist is a little big, and the bust is STILL quite short (How on earth does that work?!) so will need straps, but still: it fit! I bought it, but I was really amazed by the sizing: there was very little difference between the size 14 and the size 6, and I just don’t believe that I’ve somehow managed to go up FOUR DRESS SIZES without noticing. I could accept them being one size out, say, but FOUR?

    Wow, sorry, that was a long rant. Still: lovely dress!

    • See, that’s just plain ridiculous!! But somehow not surprising…

      That dress – I almost wrote about the fact that the only way it would cover my bum was if I flashed my nipples instead! Strapless, short in the bust, floral, very short… did it have two layers of skirt? If so I think it likely was the same one.

      Which goes to prove my point, because there’s no way a size 14 should fit BOTH of US!!!

      • Ah, this one hits about mid-thigh, although of course, that might just be because I’m short! It’s black with blue flowers and yes, a two-layered skirt: and oh God, SO short in the bust! I’ve been told I have a longer than average torso (some people get endless legs, I get an endless torso: figures!), but even so I honestly can’t imagine the body shape it would’ve worked on.

        As for the length issue, I think you’re right about leggings and the wrongs they’ve brought to the world! I actually like leggings and wear them quite often (although only with things that cover my butt!), but I think they’ve opened the door for people to wear almost NOTHING. I’ve seen so many girls now wearing butt-skimming tunic tops (that are so obviously TOPS, not dresses) with sheer-ish tights – it just looks so horrible! I will wear short skirts too, but I have to feel comfortable in them – most of the stuff I’ve tried on lately would force me to walk around clutching my skirt for fear of flashing everyone!

  3. Ooh, also: in New Look, I tried on four dresses, all of which were absolutely gorgeous – and all of which stopped just short of my butt. Leaning forward even slightly would reveal my knickers to the entire world. I’m guessing this is possibly just an age thing, but I’ve noticed this in no many places now, and like I said, I’m only 5’3″ so surely it shouldn’t be THAT hard to find a skirt/dress that’s not obscene?

    • It’s not an age thing – I wear “short”. On the shopping trip in question I was wearing my red mini skirt, came out of the shopping trip and said to Nat: “This dress? Makes my skirt look long.”

      I blame leggings. And Lindsay Lohan. Because people like LiLo started wearing leggings with tops and now suddenly everyone thinks that skirts don’t NEED to cover your crotch any more – cos LiLo’s got hers out!!

  4. The skirt I tried on, although stating, and looking like a 14, had a zip clearly designed for a size 2! I am embarrassed to say it wouldn’t even do up!! This is one of the reasons I begun to detest clothes shopping – charity shop mooching becomes more fun because you almost expect the sizes to be a little off. A couple of weeks ago I was looking for a party dress and in Debenhams was able to try on size 12 dresses!!! Now a 5’9″, size 14, 36D should NOT be able to do that!!!!!

    No matter, I still had fun my love!


    • Ok, then I guess we’re not the same size! If I’m a 16-sometimes-14 and you’re a 14-sometimes-12… but I guess you have lost weight since you’ve been working from home.

      I had fun too! xxx

  5. H&M sizing is awful! I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago when I bought my blue faux leather jacket. They size down for a start – a EUR42 is a 14 most places, in H&M it’s a 16. And like you say, 2 size 14s in the same garment will most likely fit completely differently. You’d expect that somewhere like Primark that is really cheap, but H&M is not actually that cheap for a lot of stuff.


  6. Oh I could go on for hours about this subject. I get so frustrated biut I now try not to worry about the actual size and I buy what fits, if the number on the label offends me I cut it out!!
    Since having my last baby my chest has all but disappeared but my belly has expanded , I am a size 12, sometimes 10 on top, and a 14 bottom…16 round the middle…I actually hate clothes shopping as nothing is made for my shape…and I am yet to find a pair of leggings that stay up!!
    I have a shift dress from H&M and its labelled a 38… I have no idea what this is in real money but it fits lovely (if not a little short but with good thick tights I can just about get away with it!!) but at the same time as buying this dress after trying on, I bought a top off the sale rail – a 38 too – without trying on and it drowns me!
    Zara is my least favourite shop these days..they label something a L and its barely a 12..very depressing.
    New Look varies so greatly I wonder if there are tape measures in the factories!!! I tried on a pair of size 16 jeans and couldn’t get them up my legs…the 14 was too big???
    Oh and shoes..my feet are a wide 7..so sometimes I go to an 8..but I wish there was consistency with what a 41 and 42 are..in Next a 41 is a 7..but some places mark the 41’s as 8’s…

  7. I agree too – I have lost count of the number of H&M items that have languished in my wardobe after they have been bought because although they fit…they are too small when I try them on at home! (my own fault!)

    Fi is right – they do size down…I am an 18 but always have to go for a 20 in H&M which is very depressing!

    For the lady who is a size 14 wearing a 36 bra – come see me at Bravissimo…I think your bra is too big around the body 😉


  8. Even when I was in Lisbon I wouldn’t shop much at H&M, I know people who could ind nice things there but I was never one of them.But sizing in europe is very crazy. You have to try everything and it can be very frustrating.
    The idea that some stores have of what is a Large makes me wanna cry.
    I think Emma is right, some brands have expectations of what the human body should look like. For me it’s always the shoulders, just because I have broad shoulders doesn’t mean that I have a big bust.
    Sizng makes us all go a little crazy 🙂

  9. I have been trying comment on this all day. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off most of the day has prevented it.
    Anyway…my point is, replace your store name of H&M with Forever21 and I think you’ll understand what I was trying to relay via Twitter. I have no idea what you’d have to pay for shipping only to find out if it even fit or not. The sizing is extremely erratic. I hate shopping in the stores because it makes me feel like a fat old lady (which I know I am not). Also, their quality is not the best and their return policy is not good either (only store credit & I think no returns on sale items).

    OK, so I think I’ll sign off now and give up any chance of becoming the next PR person for F21, ha!

  10. the one thing I bought at H&M years ago was so ill-fitting I never went back. It was a skirt that seemed like the seams where twisted in a sort of spiraling motion from hips to knees. I may have given it away which was probably mean now that I look back. I should have used it as a dust rag.

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