Sizes Ain’t Sizes….

I recently bought a blouse I really liked that demonstrated, again, that the way clothes fit is stupidly connected (or not at all connected!) to the label inside.

I like the blouse so much that the next day I went back to the same store and bought another, the same size, in a different colour, without trying it on. I was NOT happy when I got it home and realised it was really tight across my back and around my elbows (yes I know, strange place to be tight ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

I should have known better, I really should! You’ve probably been caught out the same way. I’ve even been caught out when I tried on a size that didn’t fit, so I picked up the next size on the way out of the shop, thinking it would fit – and when I got home, it still didn’t fit!

Thing is, I had some early training in pattern making and dressmaking that taught me WHY this would happen (it was work that helped support me when I was at University).

It Depends Where It’s Made

I learned in my pattern making course that each country has their own standard set of measurements for bodies.

And that those measurements are for a highly-variable average height and size of woman.

And that a good dressmaker would adapt any pattern to the size and shape and height of her client so the clothes fit that woman’s body.

Just like women did for thousands of years, when they made their own clothes, or had them made by their local dressmaker to fit their own unique body size and shape.

It was only in the early 1900s that mass market clothing became common – underwear and outer wear had emerged with the American Civil War, which equipped soldiers with standard sized clothing.

As the mass-producing factories ramped up, dressmakers became fashion designers making unique clothing, and standardising their designs for mass-market production.

Different Shapes Cos We’re Different Folks


Trinny and Susannah’s ‘Cornet’ Shape

You may be aware that British style mavens Trinny and Susannah funded a huge research project in 2007 which identified that there are 12 different female body shapes – not the three (apple, pear, hourglass) that we used to think!

Do manufacturers adapt their designs to make a version for each body shape?

Of course they don’t, that would send them broke! I’d love it, you’d love it if they did but clearly they’d never consider it.

Is it any less ridiculous to think that women should instead “work on their bodies” so that they fit a designer’s idea of a “perfect” body, so they can wear that designer’s clothing?

Yet for most women, if they can’t fit something that has a particular size label on it, they get depressed, miserable, think they’re somehow deficient as a human being – and go on another diet.

When the fact is, the designer was probably designing for a different body shape in the first place, adding what’s called ‘design ease’ to suit their vision of the garment they’re making, and who knows if there is any woman other than the model the designer had in mind who would actually have that particular shape?

What I’m saying is, the designer is God when it comes to their own pattern blocks and while of course they’re trying to make a product that will actually sell, YOU might not be their market.

That doesn’t mean there’s a single thing wrong with you, or your body!

What can you do?

  • Keep looking for a retailer who stocks clothing designed by a designer who is working with your shape
  • Find a good dressmaker, or
  • Learn to sew your own custom-made clothing.
  • Remember that you’re already good enough.


Tell us what you think - you know you want to ;)