The Sizing Conundrum: Why is finding clothes that fit so hard?
You would think that finding your size in clothing would be an easy and straight forward task. Know your number, find your number, wear your number. But apparently the universe just loves to make quite literally everything difficult for plus sized people. In one brand you’re a 20, the next a 28, and you find yourself standing withered in front of the mirror asking yourself, “How could I possibly be so many sizes at once?”.
Why Are Clothes Sizes Not Consistent?
Every fat person will know the light detective work it takes to figure out your size; the several tabs worth of size charts open on your browser, the meticulous devouring of customer reviews, the tape measure clutched in one hand and a phone in the other, notes app at the ready to type out the measurements. You’ve finally figured out which size will fit your lumps and bumps and curves and boom! Into the cart it goes. Cue 3-5 business days of waiting, crossing all your fingers and toes that you chose the right one.
The day comes, the postie’s here, the parcel gets ripped open and, oh no. It doesn’t fit. It’s too long on your legs, it’s clinging to your arms, the zip doesn’t want to zip. How did you get it so wrong? You looked at the size charts, you read the reviews, you measured every curve. Are you the problem? Are you just… too fat? Weirdly shaped? Doomed to wear animal print off the shoulder tops for the rest of your life?
No. You’re not too fat, you’re not weirdly shaped, and you deserve more than the terrible fashion the industry thrusts upon you.
I’m a UK size 22- not exactly the biggest person in the world, and I can still wangle my way into some high street and supermarket brands. Why am I having this issue? Why in some brands do I find their clothes ridiculously baggy, and why in some brands am I having to wear a size 28 just to fasten a button? How are people bigger than me supposed to find clothes that fit them when most brands refuse to recognise that people over a size 18 exist?
I’m at a point in my life where I’m lucky enough to not be affected by it so much anymore. “It’s just a number” is a phrase I repeat to myself often when sending clothes back and, admittedly, sometimes with a hint of humiliation, ordering the next size up. I catch myself wishing I was thinner, wishing I could just pop into any shop I choose and find a perfectly fitting dress, wishing I didn’t have to go through a whole back and forth dance with companies just to find a size that vaguely fits.
I Can Never Find Jeans That Are My 'Size'
My most recent disappointment has been trying to find a decent pair of jeans. Not too big of an ask if I say so myself. I chose a company I’ve had some successes with before, and braced myself for the battle I was about to have with their sizing charts. I ended up going through every size from a 20 to a 28 (in several different styles) and- drum roll please- absolutely none of them fit me! At the end I was left disappointed in them for failing so miserably at making jeans that fit people, upset that my body is apparently too fat for them to dress, and annoyed at all the time and money wasted on nothing.
Having learnt my lesson, when ordering a jumpsuit from the same company I automatically went for a size up from the get go. What a mistake that was! It barely fit around my stomach and bum, my boobs were squished into pancakes, and I quite literally had to choose which arm I wanted in a sleeve while the other dangled miserably outside the jumpsuit.
Having these struggles with fashion so often just makes me wonder how so many companies get away with it. All the love and care gone into making their lovely clothes fizzles away by the time it gets to a size 18. Imagine if someone who was a size 6 had to go up to a size 12 just for it to vaguely fit. Crazy, right?
So many companies, including the one where I battled for jeans and got the ill-fitting jumpsuit from, call themselves inclusive. Proudly plastering ‘for everyone’, ‘all bodies’, ‘we’ll give you the confidence to be you’ all over their website and socials as if they’re not practically allergic to posting a single photo of a fat person in their clothes.
They lure us in with a friendly promise and leave us dismayed when we realise they never actually had anything for us. Why do they bother tempting us in when all they do is slam the door in our face? Is it so they can tick off the ‘body positive’ box on their list without having to actually do the work? Will they ever do the work?
My main question is always why? Why are clothes created with such inconsistency in sizing? Surely it would be easier to follow a standard rather than just making it up as they go along. Is it purely to keep you guessing? To keep you on your toes and in a pure state of confusion you end up buying more as a result? "Vanity sizing" can take some of the blame, where brands label clothes with a smaller size than it is so their customers feel better about themselves. This has been happening for years, with each company trying to one up the other, resulting in the melting pot of crazy sizes we have today.
It could come down to insistence to use arbitrary numbers in sizing, rather than measurements. If you wanted to buy a pair of men's trousers, they're all labelled by waist measurement and leg length. It's that easy. Why can't women's clothes be the same? The Fashion Patriarchy strikes again...
Or, realistically, its probably that these companies are too lazy to care about clothes that actually fit, especially when they're for people larger than a size 18. They don't take the time to actually fit their clothes on people in bigger sizes, they just use maths to grade the clothes up and don't consider there might be differences in different body types. They expect fat people to just be happy whatever they can get, and when it doesn't fit then that's not the brands problem.
Ultimately, until all people of all sizes can wear their clothes, their inclusivity will always fall flat and they’ll leave behind the very people they say they stand for.
By Millie Harrison
You are SO right! … and why is it that supermarket brands often go up to 2XL or 3 XL for men but the women’s sizes stop at 18 (or 20 if you’re very lucky)? In one well-known outdoor shop I have to buy men’s clothing (that are always too long in the sleeve and mainly in sombre colours) because their female clothing stops at 18, or just occasionally 20. So why is it that men are allowed to be large, while women aren’t? Even shops that sell plus sizes for women seldom buy enough in, and by the time I get there with my 18/20/22/24 size, all the ones that might have fit me have long gone, and all that’s left to try on is the token 28 or 30!