Each country has its own currency and language, but each seems to also have their own system for sizing in clothing and shoes. What might be a size 6 in the US, maybe an 8 in the UK or a 40 in Italy. And to add to the confusion, there seems to be no rhyme or reason why sizing is this way. Even within the US, sizing may differ from brand to brand and you may have noticed being a size 6 at one store and an 8 at another.
This confusion increased with the addition of vanity sizing in the early 1980s, which was a marketing ploy by brands to get more sales. Adding all these variations across brand and country makes shopping for clothing confusing and frustrating!
Brands in the US size differently from each other for a couple of reasons. Each brand has its own unique target customer that they design and produce products for. This customer varies from brand to brand in their size, demographics and shopping preferences, which leads to variations within sizing in the market. In addition, measuring and sizing is subjective.
Each person has his or her own idea of the correct fit and what is comfortable to them, and thus how a given size should feel like. For this reason, each brand has their own definition of a given size. A size small could be right size for two women, but they will have two different opinions about how the garment fits.
So is it true that Marilyn Monroe was a size 12 in the 1960s? Yes, but this is not the size 12 that we see today. Due to a combination of vanity sizing and "size inflation", we saw the increase of measurements for each given size over the course of the last 50 years.
In the 1940s, a model was considered a size 16 and in the 1960s, a model was considered a size 12. This change in sizing even continues to this day. A size zero in 2011 was equal to a size 2 in 2001. Size zero and below did not even exist 20 years ago. So, while Marilyn Monroe was considered a size 12, her measurements correspond to a modern day size 6.
Given all this information, how are we supposed to understand what size we are in any given store, city or country? The best method is to learn how to take your key body measurements by following the below instructions. Compare these measurements to general sizing or size charts provided by brands. There are many luxury plus size fashion brands that have their very own charts. You’ll need to measure carefully in order to get it just right.
To ensure the proper fit, be sure to try on clothing before buying. Due to the nature of apparel production, each garment can fit differently, even if it is the same size. This is due to tolerances set by brands during production, where a garment can measure plus or minus specific measurements and still be acceptable. If you shop online and aren't able to try before you buy, make sure you know the return or exchange policy in case the fit is not to your preference.
How to Properly Take Key Measurements
Bust: Measure at the fullest part of the bust. The measuring tape should be right at the armpits.
Chest: Measure right at the bra line, under the bust.
Waist: Find the natural fold when you bend over to one side. This should sit right above your belly button. Measure all the way around.
Hips: Measure at the widest point of your hips. This might be slightly different at each hip.
Thighs: Measure the fullest part of the thigh, all the way around.
Upper Arm: Measure at the fullest part of the upper arm, all the way around.
Women's Clothing and Shoe Size Guide
When traveling to other countries or shopping online, use the below size chart conversions.
Clothing can be confusing in itself to understand the proper sizing, but shoe sizing also has large variations between countries. For example, UK shoe sizing is about 2 sizes smaller than US shoe sizing. But, most countries use metric sizing for shoes, meaning a size 8 in the US would be 39.5 in Europe.
This might seem confusing to US customers, but it is actually US/UK sizing which is strange. Based off an old-school measurement technique called the 'barleycorn measurement'. This system involves taking the largest shoe size in inches, which is a 12. Then each smaller size is reduced by one barleycorn (1/3 inch) as opposed to 1" as you would think.
The moral of this story is – measure carefully before you click! Or, if you prefer, measure twice and click once!