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Discuss: Crazy Eights

Last week, I won the opportunity to buy a $2 dress at The Outnet’s birthday sale.  Because designer sizes are very different from retail sizes, I purchased a Valentino dress in an Italian 44.  Technically, that’s a size 8.  So imagine my surprise when it was just a hair too snug over my J.Crew size 4 hips.  Blast.

So when a reader sent me the link to a New York Time’s article about the vast differences between a designer size, a retail size and a vanity size, it really resonated.  But even more interesting than the article (found here) was this graphic which shows how the waist measurements for a size 8 garment vary widely between the brands.

Chico’s is the most forgiving (?) providing their customers with a 31 inch waist, while teenage retailer Delia’s cuts a less generous 27 inch waist.  The disparity there is just mind boggling.  But even more shocking is the differences that exist even within the same fashion house.  

Look at the chart near bottom right, and consider that a size 8 hip at Banana Republic is a size 2 hip at the Gap.  Wow.  (I don’t feel quite so good about my size 2 Gap Long and Leans now, but, oh well.)

These charts are precisely why I tell women that the number on the tag does not matter.  You need to focus on fit and stop thinking about yourself in terms of 4, 8 or 10.  If it helps, you can always pull a Seinfeld and sew the tags from a size 2 into your size 10s.  


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  1. a says:

    Thank you for posting this. Fascinating and very useful.

    April 29, 2011/Reply
  2. Rachel says:

    What dress did you snag from The Outnet? Would love a link/pic!

    April 29, 2011/Reply
  3. Shannon says:

    But it's also important to remember the difference between a waist measurement and the actual length of a waistline. Patterns are often developed from slopers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattern_(sewing)), which are basically simplified templates. So a pair of low-rise jeans might be drafted from a sloper with a 28-inch waist (your natural waist can most easily be located by bending to the side and finding where the skin folds), with the lines continuing way up above where the waistline will actually sit, which is low on the hips. There's no way I could get a pair of low-rise jeans buttoned up if the waist band was 28″ long, but I could certainly get a pair of high-rise jeans that sit at my natural waist, zipped up. Those low-risers are called 28″ not because that's the length of the waistband, but because that's the size of the natural waist that this is designed to fit. Now, are you designing for curvy ladies who have hips and a butt, or are you designing for someone with a more boyish figure? What happens below that natural waist? They both might have a 28″ natural waist, but man do they have different hip measurements. That's the flaw — H&M caters to a slim European body type, but I'd say that Chico's favors the curvy gals.

    That said, vanity sizing totally happens, as we all know, and women's clothing sizes make no sense. But it's important to remember the difference between “circumference of the natural waist,” “waist band length,” and “hip measurement.”

    April 29, 2011/Reply
  4. Govvie says:

    Retailers should recognize that their online sales would increase if sizes were more standardized, because women could more more confidently purchase clothes without trying them on.

    May 2, 2011/Reply