Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Why are wedding dress sizes and high street clothing sizes not the same?

Dress sizing - the big debate

The topic of wedding dress sizing comes up in almost every appointment we carry out in our shop.  I get asked why, for example, do you have to go up a size or more in wedding dress sizes? Or why are wedding dresses smaller fitting that high street sizes?

The first thing I usually tell brides is that they shouldn't even go there and get annoyed about numbers on dresses.  I tell them that there won't be a big number printed on the back of their wedding dress so all the guests can gossip about her size  ('Ooohh - she's wearing a size 16 dress - I didn't think she was that size!  I thought she was about a size 12!!) I tell them to leave the size to me, it's only a number, no one will know the number unless you tell them - I can even cut the label out if it makes you feel any better - and the most important thing is that you have a dress that fits and looks good. There's nothing worse that wearing a wedding dress  that is too small just to feel better about the fact that you got into a certain numerical size.  It will feel uncomfortable, it will dig into your skin (the dreaded back-fat!), it will ride up your body as the day goes on and you will feel that it will have spoiled your day to some degree. Wear one that fits and it will flatter your figure, it will look good and it make you feel good about yourself.

I've always been telling people that the reason wedding dresses appear smaller than the 'same sized' clothes on the high street is because they use different size charts.  In fact, even in our shop, we can see a difference in sizing between wedding dress designers.  For example, when we take the bust, waist and hip measurements, a bride may come up a size 14 on one designer's chart, but be closer to a 16 on another designer's chart.  Again, I explain that it's just a number and to not get themselves annoyed about it.

Which brings me on to something which prompted me to write this blog....

I bought a lovely chemise type top last year in town in Wallis.  My current body measurements (which were the same back then)  are 36" bust; 30" waist; 39.5" hips and I find that I can normally wear size 10 items in most shops, but I sometimes need size 12 too.  I have to always try on clothes as I can never tell what will fit.

Anyway - back to the top I was buying.  I lifted the size 10 hanger and took it the changing room and told myself that if it was a little tight, I'd just put it back on the rail and lift the 12 instead.   It had a back zip on it - it wasn't stretchy fabric, so no give in it at all, it fitted beautifully and I bought it.

Now, yesterday I decided to wear it to work, and I turned it inside out to iron it and discovered to my surprise that it was in fact a size 8!!!!!  It would appear that it was on a size 10 hanger the day I bought it and I didn't realise that it was a size 8.  Then there were the high-waisted trousers I had got to go with this top that day. They were bought in another high street store, Next.  The 10 was far too big; they were hanging on me, but they were the smallest they had in stock, so I bought them and took them home to be altered down a full size (not minding too much as they were reduced in the sale and the colour matched perfectly!)  Again, these were non stretchy, tailored trousers.  Now, if anyone knows me, I am NOT a size 8, nor have a been near a size 8 in about 15 years!!!  I used to wear some size 8 clothes when I was one and a half stone lighter than what I am now.  And yet, my outfit was a size 8...

Then I looked at the size charts on their websites.  To my surprise, they were almost identical in both shops.. .. and almost identical to most of my wedding dress and bridesmaid size charts.  A size 8 is 33" bust; 26.5" waist; 36" hips. (Wallis is actually be half an inch smaller again on the bust.) Compare this my measurements above and you'll see that something is badly wrong.  How can my 36" bust fit perfectly into a 32.5" top....... or my 30" waist be wearing trousers which were supposed to be 28" inches, and yet were far too big?

According to the online shopping size charts of 4 very popular high street stores that I buy my clothes from, I'm actually between a size 12/14.  I am exactly the same size as my wedding dress charts say I am.  And yet these very stores are selling clothes that are NOT the size they are supposed to be.  My wardrobe is full of size 10 clothes from these stores (some of which are too big) and some size 12 clothes. At least with wedding dress sizes, the size on the label does equate to actual body measurements, and if we follow these sizes, we will have a dress that will be the size that we need.  I was expecting to see very different size charts for the high street stores in comparison to wedding dress charts - after all, this is what I've been telling my brides for years, but when I sat down and researched it, it seems that I've been wrong all along, and in fact, the shops are simply making clothes that are way bigger that their own size charts.   I even checked out the charts for plus size clothes.  For example in Next, there isn't a huge difference in a size 20 on our most popular wedding dress designer's size chart (it's just a bit more generous on the waist on the high street chart) and yet I have girls come in who are telling me they are wearing size 16 clothes on the high street, and yet their measurements both for wedding dresses and the high street clothing is more of a 20. And I'm not even talking about people who have squeezed into stretchy clothes that are clearly too small for them - I'm talking about people who are wearing clothes that do actually fit them!

My theory is that the high street shops are 'competing for size' amongst themselves.  I always remember a relative of mine got really excited one day that she got into a size 12 pair of jeans in a shop that she normally didn't buy in. She admitted knew that she shouldn't be able to wear a size 12, and in the other shops she needed size 14 jeans.  But can you guess where she bought them?  Yes - she bought the ones in the shop that told her she was a size 12 as it made her feel happier about her size, and I bet they gained a repeat customer.  The winner?  The shop which made their clothing more generous.

Over the years I've noticed my body getting a bit bigger than what it once was, but the sizing of my clothes hasn't changed much.  The clothes I wear now are bigger clothes - no doubt about that!  The label still says a size 10... (or even an 8) but the chart is telling me that a 12 should be too tight on me and that I should find a 14 just a little big! My mum bought me a size 12 dress recently and has to take it in 3 inches in total to get it to fit!! Is it any wonder I hate shopping for clothes?!!!

Ah - I give up!!!!!  The whole size thing is total nonsense if you ask me!!  Why bother have size charts if high street clothing manufacturers are blatantly ignoring them?  Surely there should be some standardised way of sizing clothes so that all clothes use the same sizing and there's no difference in the size of a couture wedding dress and a pair of jeans you buy on the high street?  Would it be so hard?

Until then, I'll just have to keep reminding brides that sizes in general are just random(ish) numbers and re-assure them that bridal designers aren't being mean and horrible and that they aren't the bad guys in the clothing businesse with their smaller size charts.  They just look like the bad guys because of the fact that high street manufacturing has distorted people's views of what a certain size should look like. Men's sizing is so much more simplified.  Measure his neck in inches - or his waist - or inside leg.  Hey presto, there's his size!! Wouldn't that be a much easier way of doing it?