Our feet don't change size from shop to shop so why should our clothes?

It can feel so frustrating to know that you're one clothes size in one store and a totally different one in another. I often take three sizes of the same garment in to a changing room because I can't guarantee which will fit. It's boring and time consuming. Sali Hughes asked brands in her recent article on The Pool to, "please all meet up for a coffee and chat". And sure, wouldn't it be simpler for us all if they could decide on a standard and stick to it? Unfortunately it's not that easy.
I worked as a designer in the UK High Street for years so have seen behind the scenes how the process works so I hope I can shed a little light on it for you.

You'll likely know friends who are the same size as you, but do you have exactly the same body? Maybe one of you is taller, one has slightly bigger boobs, or droopier ones, or wider shoulders, or a shorter body. Perhaps one of you has longer arms, or wider calves. But you both fit a size 10 the best, despite your physical differences.
And when you look at larger sizes like a 20 then the disparity within that size can be more obvious. Some women carry weight on their arms and hips, some around their middle etc. There just isn't a one size fits all equation for how our bodies are. And this is the reason why sizes change from store to store.

A brand will decide on their perfect measurements for a fit model (often a 12 or 10 with most High Street stores) that reflects their ideal customer. This isn't a model who appears in campaigns and on Instagram, but someone who is in fit meetings with the buyer, designer and garment technologist at the prototype stage. The measurements of this person will be determined by who the brand is targeting as their core customer. For example what is the age of the target customer, is she someone who likes to wear form fitting clothes or does she prefer a little more room, does she exercise, does she worry about bingo wings or is she toned, does she like to show off certain areas of her body more than others, is she worried about things being too low cut etc.?

And then from this ideal shape, blocks and guides are made for teams to follow for their prototype. This prototype size is then adapted using ratios, to create size charts for smaller and larger sizes. And as a result there is fluctuation from brand to brand.

As an example, I bought wide leg trousers recently from Boden in a size 14 and from River Island in a size 16. This is because River Island have a different (likely younger) target customer than Boden and so their bodies, and how they want to dress them, is slightly different.

There are of course examples of sizes being erratic within the same store. This recent article about a size 12 woman who couldn't get in to a size 16 dress is a good one.  From my experience I would say though this happens more with fast fashion brands, who endlessly churn out new styles. Less time is spent perfecting the fit, and therefore mistakes are made. 

The good news is that some brands are wising up to these frustrations and helping to suggest the correct size for us based on previous sales. For example I recently bought something from ASOS and was offered the opportunity to "find out what size people like you bought". I entered in my height, weight, and my preference for a loose or tight fit. I was then asked to mention another brand I'd recently bought from and what size worked for me. I was then presented with the stat,  "80% of customers like you bought a size 14 and didn't return it". Super useful.

It's not a perfect solution but short of being able to afford tailor made clothes I don't think there is one. All I know is I'm happy enough to have a wardrobe that a mixture of size 12, 14, 16, L and XL. As long as I feel confident and comfortable in the clothes, that's what matters.

Thanks for reading, I'd love it if you'd leave a comment below with any thoughts.



PS. If you enjoyed this post then please head here, where I discuss why I decided to start an illustrated blog that features diverse models. It's getting lots of hits and I'm getting some great feedback on Twitter. And if you have a spare 5 minutes then head to this post and read the comments - they have made me SO happy. Seems like I'm on to something......