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The Misconception of Size Matters

Size Labels in Clothes Mean NOTHING!

tapemeasure, measurements, sizes
The power of the tape measure.

It's TRUE! Size labels mean absolutely nothing as to how the garment fits the body. Its more a lose guide. Size labels may as well only be used for stock taking, as the range of varying measurements that make up a size is broad and in no way consistent across all labels and companies.

The Confusing Body

bodies - women-bodysizes
No two bodies are the same, yet many where the same size clothing.

We're talking bodies as a whole, not parts of the body.

Having my background in the rag trade and fashion industry for most of my life, being the right size in an industry all about image is something I never was able to conform to, as much as I felt I should. Let's be honest, genes don't help. Height is something I have always been grateful for.. and being able to walk in heels!

How sizes have changed over the decades. How a size label doesn't mean a thing! Well, certainly not a standard of all size 12's being equal.

A size label is just to screw with the head and self confidence or the wearer. A label of body insecurity. I see his loud and clear now. After years of working for different companies, who have different consumer markets, each of which come with different sized people and expectations of size. It's taken a long time, a life time, but I really don't care what size or shape I am. A size 10, perhaps in a shoe, but that'd be it. Perhaps if I was as passionate about the great outdoors as I am about groping fabric, shapes may be different. It is what it is.

Style with accessories, not size labels.

I dress in garments that are adaptable and have features I feel suit the shape I have. Black is also my favourite colour. The number one receeding colour of choice. Coloured ccessories can do amazing things. It's about styling, not sizing. Who cares what size your dress is when you have such enviable accessories.


Each workroom has their own 'standard' of sizes.

My Experiences With Sizes

Back in the days of fashion school, pattern blocks were made to, what seemed like, Barbie Doll sizes. Size 10 blocks, 65 cm waist.

fitting garments. waist

One company I worked for back in the late 1990's, had strict size measurements. The companuy sold their clothes in both N.Z. and Aussie, so on the size labels, there were two sizes. Our Kiwi size 12, was an Aussie size 11. A size 11 had a 27" (67.5cm) waist.

Another company, in a high end fashion market, had 'The ladies who lunch' type of clients. One client only ever had size 8 labels put in her clothes, no matter her waist size.

Another company I did time with, made a number of labels crossing ages from 18-80. The range I worked on was aimed at 18-25. The mens side was much more standard and logical for measurements, but the womens, a whole different story. Club and street wear was not high fashion and not the 'mum' market. The considerations were different. Hemlines were above the knee, but still well below the bum and waist lines got heaps lower.. what started as an 18cm fly zip in the 90s, ended as a 12 cm fly zip in the early 2000's. The last zip I remember ordering was about 8cm.. Alexander McQueen's 'Bumster' pants were a decade before! For the Kiwi shape, brought up on a lot of dairy... don't go there. IT was time to move on to new pastures. Yet looking back, those waists, necklines and hemlines were pretty tame compared to the same target market of fashion today. Tasteful was still safely commercial.

After moving on from commercial companies and going into Made-to Measure for nearly 20 years, I made clothes for a large variety of different shaped women. No two the same size, and amazingly, never one who was completely happy with their body. It was enlightening. I realised holding a tape measure was sadly powerful and potentially intimidating. The most important thing was to tell clients, their measurements meant nothing to anyone except me for patternmaking purposes, so please don't worry.

So many women beating themselves up over the size label they weren't comfortable with. Whose fault is this? Who or what makes us think because we are not a socially percieved, desired size, our body is not good enough or 'right'. If all the bits of your body are working and organs and limbs etc, are in the expected place, then your body IS right. Size labels just play with your mind and any body insecurities. They're like a big highlighter to say you don't fit society's mold of 'Right'.

Well people, it's all bollocks! And, I'll prove it!


Sizes have changed over time and decades.

Are there such things standard sizes?

So much could be said about this area. A picture paints a thousand words. I found some stats and a graph.... and then came across the terms, 'Vanity Sizing' and the lesser kind, 'Size Inflation'. A medical practicioner in the U.K. suggested that the term vanity sizing has contributed to the normalisation of obesity in society... that's getting a bit deep.

I couldn't find any history of New Zealand having standard sizing, but did read that America and the U.K. abandoned their standard sizing guide in 1983. Mentions of size incocnsistenceys have been documented since 1937

In Sears's 1937 catalog, a size 14 dress had a bust size of 32 inches (81 cm). In 1967, the same bust size was a size 8. In 2011, it was a size 0. Some argue that vanity sizing is designed to satisfy wearers' wishes to appear thin and feel better about themselves. This works by adhering to the theory of compensatory self-enhancement, as vanity sizing promotes a more positive self-image of one upon seeing a smaller label.

Clifford, Stephanie (24 April 2011). "One Size Fits Nobody: Seeking a Steady 4 or a 10". New York Times



I've been doing some interesting reserarch of current size charts from well known Kiwi brands.

From chain stores to high fashion labels. You may be surprised, and hopefully give your self less grief about what 'size' label you feel you must buy..

I've picked a cross section of New Zealand women's clothing brands. From each braand's size charts on their websites, I've noted down their Size12 measurements. I've then ranked them by waist size, from smallest to largest. I won't name the brands, instead will label them by a target market; Younger (16-25), Everyone (18-65), High End Fashion, Chain Store (has a number of brands, this is a "Mum" brand). The 'Everyone' and 'Chain Store' labels have a minimum and maximum size range, as they say their Size 12 garments will measure over a range of body measurements min-max.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe posing for the 3rd U.S.Infantry Division, 02/17/1954. (National Archives Identifier 531435)

For comparison to show how much body size measurements have changed, you'll see the first four rows are not stores. The hour-glass shape of movie star, Marilyn Monroe, (who was said to be a size 16 in today's terms! These were her model portfolio mesurements taken in 1945) along with three common sewing pattern brands who still sell patterns today, using measurements from their1960s and 1970s patterns. Size years range from 1945 - 2022.

size measurements
Size 12 body measurements. 2022

Yep! Betwen the 1960s Simplicity Pattern and today's High Fashion Brand D, there are nearly three size differences which are all classed as a Size12in their day.

High Fashion Kiwi Brands

How interesting is this, or just confusing. All of these measurements were taken from each brand's size chart's, Size 12. No two 12's are the same.

In patternmaking and grading terms. Grading is making patterns bigger and smaller, ie, making a size 12 into a size 14. Traditionally, there is 5cm increase between size measurements between one size and the next. This should be consistent over the measurement points, Bust, Waist, Hip. Now look at the 'Size 12' measurements below (and above) to see how they wildly vary.

All brands are 'Size 12'.

Brand C's size 12 is their L or Large, while Brand D, has their size 12 as a M, or medium.

Looking at the measurements below, you can see just how much variation there is.

Between Brand A & Brand D, there is a 10 cm difference in waist size. That's like saying Brand A is a 10 and Brand D is a 14, that is how much a 10 cm waist difference is., yet, these are Size12's. The hip measurements for Brand D are two and a half sizes bigger than Brand A.

Chic and glamorous 1950s fashion.

Important Lesson

I hope people have made it this far, without being completely confused. I really hope from this bit of reading and looking, you'll understand, size labels mean bugger-all. The variation between each brand can be little or, as illustrated here, A LOT.

Which is the best fit, not what is the desired size label.

So next time you go and try on clothes, don't feel you need to squeeze into a 'Small', because thats the size you have always been, when the size 'Medium' sits so much better on your body. The little bit of extra length or width can make all the difference. If a style is fitted, often this will trip up the fit. It's ok if you need the next size up for the garment to look right. Besides, the size label isn't on public display on the outside of the garment. So what does it matter what size the label says.

With a boxy shapeless garment, you might find the next size down is better - yeah, no matter what I say here, buying a smaller size is still great for the head health.

Important lesson, If all your body bits are in the places they most commonly are, if you're above ground, then your body IS the right body!

So, you don't like bits about your body shape, meh, you're not unique.

I can't stress enough how important it is to wear the size of garment that fits the body best, and not to be mentally dictated by the size label.

So much about dressing is the power of illusion... but that's for another time.

Overdue to grope some pretty fabric.

Until next time, share your comments of size experience and confusion.

Do subscribe to get a wee bit of escapism every now and then with the Escapist Journey of Lola & Alice..



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