For my birthday, I was given three t-shirts. They are all the same fit, cut and material (as can be evidenced by putting them back to back), although in different colours and with different humorous designs on the front.
One is size “M”, one is size “L”, and one is… get this… size “XXL”.
Men, I hope you have just keeled over in shock at this disparity in female clothing sizes! Yes, all three shirts are exactly the same size, and all three are labelled very differently. Please, pick yourselves up off the floor, and explain to the ladies how it is with men’s clothes. With men’s clothing, they often give a number. The number is high, because it is the actual measurement of the item in inches. Sometimes they also fall back on the old “S”, “M” and “L”, but these letters likewise tend to correspond to an actual measurement.
Let me put it like this: if you are a man, you can order a pair of trousers online, and know beyond doubt that they will fit you, because the labels on the clothing actually correspond to the length of your legs and width of your hips.
Now I think it is the ladies reeling in shock at this revelation! Clothing is not always arbitrarily assigned some letters, numerals, or combination thereof, which bears no objective relevance it’s actual size. For women, each manufacturer has it’s own idea of what “S” means, or what a size 16 is. I have had a size 16 top from one manufacturer, and a size 8 dress from another – both fit me equally well.
There is even a lack of conformity within the same manufacturing lines! I used to purchase my jeans from a certain shop, because I knew that the size 12 they carried was a good fit for me… until a few years ago, when someone apparently told them that women don’t actually have hips, and they should change the cut. It’s sad – the jeans they used to carry really were both comfortable and flattering. I still haven’t found a better option.
What is even more absurd, is that it feels somewhat shameful to admit to wearing a larger size. We have it in our heads that anything above an 8 is on the heavy side – what?! And certainly, to admit that I wear, on a frequent basis, a size 16 – surely my readers must think me verging on obese! In actual fact the 16 is a very nice fit, and shows me to be of genuinely healthy proportions. So do my size S pyjamas. When there is an insane disparity between clothing sizes, why do we attribute any meaning to them at all?
To their credit, some online stores now carry an interpretation of what their sizes mean, with a page that translates them into inches – although it still doesn’t provide great help, some of their “inches” are in practice rather generous, and others quite frugal. I have taken to measuring tops I already own in order to try to determine if new ones will fit me, or sticking to a clothing line I already have items from – although that sometimes backfires too. My “M”-sized birthday tee was originally ordered for me in an “S”, because I own a ladies hoody from the same manufacturer, which fits me nicely in “S”. Apparently their ladies t-shirts are cut to a different model?
As someone mostly bedbound, I can’t just pop out to the shops to try things on. If I can’t order things online, I pretty much can’t get them. The UK’s meaningless clothing sizes are frankly, just ridiculous.