The Weighting Game Pt. 2: Adventures in Sizing

Why in God’s name do women’s clothes suck so much at sizing?

On the heels of my recent weight loss, I’ve discovered an unpleasant side effect of losing 15+ pounds: I have no clue which of my clothes fit me anymore, and limited funds to buy new ones. The “good” news is that as my waistline has fluctuated over the years, I’ve acquired an assemblage of clothes in sizes 8-12, so you’d think there would be a smooth progression. I move from the 12s to the 10s to the 8s… right? Wrong. Instead, I’m now wearing a crazy patchwork of whatever I grab on any given day that isn’t: a) falling off me or; b) cutting off circulation. It turns out that women’s sizing, much like the pirate code, is less like a rule and more like a set of guidelines.


A year or two ago, in an attempt to achieve consistent sizing, I had the brilliant idea that I was going to pick one or two brands and, once I figured out what size worked well, I’d stick with them. That should have meant “problem solved,” but it didn’t. For a while, I had Levi’s. A size 10 regular was pretty comfortable on me, I wore one pair until the wore out, then I went back to the store at Christmas to try on a new pair and–surprise surprise–it turned out I now needed something like a 12 short. Umm, when did I become short? But it’s not just Levi’s to blame. Lucky Brand jeans is another label that I’ve been into for a while. I’ve actually bought three pair of their jeans in size 10/30 in the past couple years (deeply discounted, if you were wondering), and all of those were fine. Then, last fall, I went a little wild in an online clearance sale and decided to buy two pair of their capri pants for about $15 each. In the same size. Shouldn’t be an issue, right? Well, it turns out that both of the size 10 capris were significantly smaller than the size 10 jeans. I was stuck with them since they were final sale, but here’s the kicker: Now at my current weight, one of the pairs of capri pants I can wear and they are loose on me, the other is still snug! WTF? And how is it that I can now wear an old size 8 jean from J. Crew, and I struggle to get into size 10 capri pants from Lucky Brand? As for dress pants… don’t even get me started on that debacle. I need to just give up and go for elastic waistbands.

With the clothing industry popping out ads like this, it’s no surprise that they don’t seem to have a clue. It turns out that women (and men) are getting larger. To keep up with the times, many retailers are clearly engaging in vanity sizing. The difference between a size L top I bought at New York & Co. seven years ago and a size L I bought last year is clear. The later fits, the former still feels like it’s binding my chest. But vanity sizing doesn’t help anything, especially not when some retailers are doing it, some are doing it less, and others aren’t doing it at all. Is it any wonder I’m wearing three different sizes right now? Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

I can only imagine how much more awkward this all would be for women who are not average height, whose body does not fit the archetypal “white girl shape,” or the plus size women whose selection is limited to begin with. Why isn’t there a better approach to sizing? This New York Times story from last year offers some insight and some hope. If companies refuse to work together and standardize sizing, offering some conversion guide like the Me-Ality scanner (evidently the new name of the MyBestFit scanner) would seem to be the next best thing. So why aren’t more stores doing this? Is it because stores just loooove having women try on armloads of clothes? Is it because women looove doing this? I doubt that can be the case. Everyone involved should want happy shoppers in, happy shoppers out, with a minimum of labor involved in the process. The only thing that’s lacking, it seems, is the demand from consumers to make these changes.

I bought a new pair of Lucky Brand Jeans today. On sale, in a size 29. I feel like I’m taking a big risk here. I wonder if men have these problems. And, once again, when did I become short?