Sizing women’s clothing today

January 26, 2017

Not me. Her boobs are too small and she actually has a waistline.

As a woman of Sicilian descent and the corresponding womanly figure, I have noticed a disturbing trend in women’s clothing. It’s a lot smaller than it used to be.

Not only that, but it’s not as well made. Quality control issues abound: too tight (or too long) sleeves, narrow shoulders, blouses that fit everywhere else but won’t button, sizes that fit three sizes different than marked and more.

Sizing women’s clothing is a crapshoot and I blame China.

When mass market clothiers decided the cheap labor offered by China would help the bottom line, they opened a Pandora’s box of problems.

That became crystal clear the other day when I walked into a well-regarded women’s clothing store. I’d say it was moderately priced, not too high and not that low.  I was wearing a top that I’d bought from the store more than a decade before. Maybe even 14 years ago. It fit fine.

But when I tried on some of the current tops in that size, many were too small.  Some weren’t. But some were. The inconsistency is what hinted that this was a quality control issue due to overseas manufacturers.

We women have long decried the inconsistent sizing between brands. You might be a 10 in one store and a 6 in other, but in yet a third you might well be a 14.

Sizing for “the common woman”

The “common woman” is different in every store. Some stores seem to cater to the pear-shaped woman, as if most women were built that way. I am not that woman, so I am not interested in tops that are short, nipped in tightly and narrow in the bust.

But even with that in mind, when I go to a branded store, I expect sizing to be consistent within their brand. Not true today and it’s frustrating.

Of course, I COULD go to a couture house, if I wanted to spend a fortune, which I don’t. But even if I did, couture designers are uninterested in designing for women who do not conform to a clothes hanger. Clothes just don’t look as aesthetically pleasing on real women, they think.

I could deal with that, because I don’t buy couture. But what I can’t deal with is the inconsistency of sizing within a brand. Even in tshirts!

I ordered a tshirt online for the women’s march in January. I am big-busted and I don’t like cling, so I ordered an XL. The shirt that came was MARKED XL but there is no way around the fact that it was a SMALL.  In fact, it probably fit Riley. I don’t think it was an error, either. I just think that’s the way they size today.

Now, that was an extreme case and I did get my money back.

I did buy a heap of clothes at that favorite store, many I intend to bring to France in May. Now, though, thanks to the Whole 60 I’m on, those are pretty big and alterations will be necessary.

Why can’t women’s clothing be sized like men’s?

But still. When a man buys a pair of pants in, say size 34/32, that’s what he gets. No matter where he buys it. 34 inch waist, 32 inch length.  But for a woman, a 10 is not a 10. It could be any size at all.  It’s a gamble, really, to pull clothes even in a brick and mortar store. I normally bring at least two sizes of everything in a dressing room and have pretty much stopped ordering online.

We need our clothing sized the way men’s is. But it’ll never happen.

I’m not sure what can be done about this, either, except to let retailers know that we’re noticing, through reviews and emails.  I can’t begrudge them their desire to cut costs and improve profit margins. But I do fault them when they do so at the expense of the customer.


38 comments on “Sizing women’s clothing today
  1. robin masshole mommy says:

    Ugh it’s crazy. You can’t even go by sizing anymore because each brand is a little different.

  2. Marian says:

    This has been going on for a long time and sizes have “shrunk” while your body has not. I don’t think that there will ever be standard womens’ sizes on the low end because of the “cheap and throwaway” culture. So the trick is to either find a brand that maintains size consistency (Banana is pretty good) or you still need to try stuff on at the store. And then as you say, when you do find inconsistencies, let the retailer/manufacturer know that you’ve noticed.

    • It’s funny. The store I referred to was J Jill and I mentioned it to the salesgirl who was prbably still in diapers when I bought the first top, and she denied any difference–but how would she know?

  3. And what is with the waistlines? I wrote my pants rant a long time ago but it hasn’t gotten any less true!

    OK, actually a textile expert friend of mine actually answered that question, and the answer just pissed me off more, it’s also fit-related – apparently if pants are designed to sit low, the same pair of pants will fit a wider range of women. That really doesn’t help you if you just don’t like the low-rider look!

  4. Sandy KS says:

    I have these same issues. I am a bigger breasted woman. Sometimes have a stomach, other times I do not, depending on the swelling. It drives me crazy when I order online. I am not sure if i should order a larger size or not. Sometimes i have to order two sizes bigger to find the item is still to small. It feels like a crop shoot.

  5. Sizing has always been perplexing to me! At 105 pounds in junior high, I wore the equivalent of size 12 in Levi’s jeans and cords (the fashion statement of the early 70s, LOL). In spite of 40 years and many pounds later, I still wear a size 12 (now a 10 in some brands with recent weight loss). This is a result of vanity sizing. A little in the reverse of what you are describing, Carol. As Westerners get bigger, the sizes accommodate to some degree. Makes it difficult to shop online, like you say. Using the men’s sizing methods would be very helpful.

  6. M Robinson says:

    It’s impossible! According to clothing manufacturers, my shape doesn’t even exist. Apparently, I’m malformed and misshapen. I can’t find anything that fits well. And tiny is right. And low. Who wants to be compromised when the sit or bend?! I’ve been mailing ordering a lot and often buy two different sizes and two different cuts. And I successfully find an item that fits about half the time. As often as not, I return the whole lot. Frustrating!

  7. Couldn’t agree more ladies…but, and I haven’t done this, but some of my friends have tried that StitchFix and have found that the clothes fit them well. I guess you give them your measurements or something and then they find the clothes and proportions that work for you. It may be worth a try as they send OUTFITS, so things that work together. Anyway, I doubt there’s an easy answer. Even women with the same waist size, like men are a 32,are different in the hips so much that it seems like it would not be the same. And by the way, I find it in shoes, too!

  8. tara pittman says:

    This is so true! At one store the small is too big on me and another too tight. I dont buy clothes online for this reason

  9. I agree. But I would buy a lot more clothes if it wasn’t such a pain to find ones that fit! I get so frustrated shopping, that I never go for very long! And I’m like you – take at least 2 sizes in the dressing room. I’ve resorted to a lot of mail order…so I can try on a little at a time in my own home.

  10. I would love to have our clothes sized right. I hate to buy new clothes because I get discouraged shopping at how they fit.

  11. My problem is generally the length. I am very petite, so often jackets and shirts are too long in the sleeves. I find the petite section a bit frumpy, but the junior clothes are too small for me. That’s probably why I go “binge shopping” when I finally do find something I like!

  12. This has happened to me so many times. You can’t trust labels. And it can take forever to try every thing on. I hate that. They should be standardized.

  13. Elizabeth O. says:

    I would have to agree. Most would sell small sizes! It’s tough to shop for family or friends because every clothing store has a different standard. A lot has changed and you can see that in the clothes too.

  14. Joely Smith says:

    It IS due to outsourcing to China. Back when I did thousands of Amazon reviews many sellers (from China) would ask me for help on their sizing issues. To be fair, some of these sellers had it right from the get go, and others fixed their issues thankfully, but even clothing you buy in the store, or online via name brands get it wrong often. I too have a larger chest and just stopped trying to buy tops that button up. Forget about it.
    As for quality LOL yeah I have clothes form the 80’s especially a few nice sweaters that are still like new yet 80 dollar sweaters bought at name brand anchor stores I bought a few years ago are a waste and all ratty.
    Good post! I agree!

  15. I was surprised to see a mannequin with a beer belly, just last week and I was really amazed that clothing lines are already considering to make clothes for the plus sign men and maybe for women too. This is a good vision for all of us.

  16. Hra says:

    This is so true!! I think all women have the sema problem 🙂

  17. Kelly Reci says:

    exactly!! I can buy clothes online for my hubby but whenever i order online for my size it is either too big or too fit! lol

  18. AMANDA says:

    Ugh. I hate this!! It would soooo be nice if they had our clothes like mens! It would really take out the guessing game! One pair of pants is too short, one is too long, one doesn’t fit in the waist. Ugh. I hate shopping lol

  19. Same experience and the main reason I do not order clothes online. Even for children’s clothes, it is the same! I think the sizes are marked that way for more profit? If I am a size 10, I would need to get a 12 or 14 which would be tagged at a higher price. Or maybe the size charts are meant for Asian women who have smaller frames. I wish something should be done about this. It is frustrating!

  20. Anne Yedlin says:

    This is such a great post and so very true. I can never find anything that fits me right. They may fit in one area but be too small in another. And the sizing is ridiculous.

  21. Amber Myers says:

    I so agree. I HATE women’s sizes so much. I can never find something that fits me properly.

  22. Azlin Bloor says:

    A very interesting rant! I have certainly noticed the difference from store to store and it makes buying online ( a favourite pastime!) very difficult.

  23. Lisa says:

    I DO applaud online retailers who post easy to,give size guides and helpful. Omments on how true to size it is. This helped me order at a red Dress Boutique an item I would have passed on due to it “only” being A Large. Otherwise, I’m right there in the thick of the discontent and confusion.

  24. Anosa says:

    It is so annoying trying to buy clothe that fit us women correctly. I always have bust and waist issues all the time

  25. Diane says:

    I’m built like a guy. No hips. No butt. No waist. So pants have never been a problem. I just buy men’s jeans. But if I want to look like a woman? I’m telling you here and now that there are very few clothes in the guys section that enhance one’s femininity. Or maybe I’m shopping at the wrong stores? Help!

  26. Eileen Kelly says:

    You are so right! I was not given an hour glass figure. not too many curves and its so hard to get clothes. I cannot order on-line -I have to try everything on

  27. Misty Dawn Nelson says:

    This is so interesting post, I gain weight too much and now I can find my sizes at men’s clothing now I like the size of men’s

  28. I agree, I would love knowing what I size I am and have it be the same size everywhere, But I guess they do this because women supposedly will buy more if they see they’re buying a smaller size than they really are.

  29. Hate it, hate it, hate it! I sometimes shop in the men’s side when I’m buying T-shirts. It’s a lot less confusing.

  30. Victoria Heckstall says:

    I am much comfortable wearing men’s shirt, plus its easy to choose from, it is only in one shape and its either round neck, v-neck or polo! HAHA lol

  31. A.L.C Dress says:

    Amazing!!! I am really grateful for your post. A.L.C Dress

  32. Sue says:

    Oh you have hit a sore spot with me! I find in Australia the sizing is totally inconsistent. It does my head in!

  33. Silly MUmmy says:

    Yes, I agree it’s very annoying. I do agree with Terri though too – clothes sizes have actually got bigger over the years as a vanity thing. So I know what we here call a size 12 (your size 8 I think) is 30 inch on waist now, but it used to be 28 inch or even less if you looked at sizing in the 50s or 60s. They’ve increased the measurements of each size as people have got bigger on average. Nonetheless, there is still massive inconsistency between brands and even items within brands, so whatever they have done to the sizes, none of us know what size we actually are!

  34. Linda Hobden says:

    I have different sizes in my wardrobe from different brands that all fit – nightmare!

  35. Anna Palmer says:

    It would be great to have a waist measurement a hip measurement and a length. I saw an ad for a pants company that does this and I ordered through them. It was still too small on me…but I saw that the curve would have been right. Can’t remember the company.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Sizing women’s clothing today"
  1. […] Why can’t women’s clothing be sized like men’s? I’m totally frustrated with the sizing of women’s clothing and am sharing my aggravation with others–who have commented about their own clothing fit challenges in the retail arena, here. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.