How to Shop for Your Size

Now the festive season is over, the January sales offer the perfect opportunity to shop for a new outfit. You may be feeling less than glam at the prospect of tucking your seasonal knitwear and party dresses away for another year, but with Spring around the corner, it’s a good idea to jumpstart your New Year makeover and give your wardrobe a shake-up.

Women come in all shapes and sizes, which is why shopping for new clothes can be stressful and disheartening. High-street stores cater to a variety of different body-types, but when it comes to finding that perfect fit, traditional sizing often lets us down. Whether you’re petite, plus size, tall, or a mixture, here’s how to shop for your size and dress to suit your frame.

Take Your Measurements

Everyone knows the secret to looking your best is feeling confident. However, rocking an outfit is tricky when it doesn’t fit properly. The problem with traditional sizing is that it doesn’t take unique body types into account. It’s possible for one woman to look entirely different as a size 14 than another. It’s also possible for two women to wear a size 10, one of whom is 5”1, the other 5”9. Clearly, a garment in the appropriate size is going to look different on each body type.

Rather than labeling yourself a “size 6” or a “size 16,” focus on clothing measurements instead. To measure yourself for female clothing, take a tape measure to your bust (around nipple height), your waist (the smallest part above your belly and below your rib cage), your hips (the fullest part, including your buttocks) and your in-seam (the distance between the uppermost part of your thigh and your ankle).

When you’re shopping for clothes online, you can check your measurements against the store’s sizing chart. When you start to do this, you will realize that the way measurements correspond with dress sizes is different for every clothing brand. This takes much of the risk out of shopping online, so it’s well worth taking the time to do every few months, especially if your size fluctuates a lot.

Choose Specialty Stores

If you are considered petite, tall or plus size, you may find that clothing from specialty stores offers a better fit than high-street garments. While most stores like ASOS, Topshop and J Crew offer special clothing to cater to different body types, specialty stores tend to have more choice and offer better tailoring.  

If you’re not sure whether you belong in a specialist-clothing category, check the guidelines for your weight and height. Women below 5”4 are considered petite by the fashion industry, which is why clothes in the petite section have shorter sleeves and hems and are designed to make frames look slimmer and taller.

Regular sizing falls between 5”4 and 5”7, so if you fall within this category, you will have the widest selection of shopping choices in clothing outlets. Tall clothing is designed for women who are 5”8 and taller, providing longer sleeves and hems and items are normally designed to shorten the figure.

There is a lot of controversy over what the US fashion world regards as plus size. The modeling industry would have us believe that anything over a US size 8 is plus size, but most people don’t agree. Plus size clothing varies between sizes 10 and 38, with many outlets beginning at a size 14. You can also find wide-fit shoes on most plus size clothing websites, and outlets that provide small shoes for those with size 2 feet and above.

Make Alterations

The secret to looking and feeling your best is finding clothes that fit, but sometimes store sizes just don’t cut it. If you find an item you love that doesn’t fit quite right, you can make small changes to it yourself, so long as you have some slack material and a few basic tools. You can invest in a sewing machine and learn how to make easy alterations at home or find a good tailor who will help your clothing fit your frame better. It may be an added expense, but if you invest in good quality clothing that will serve you for years to come, the payout will be well worth it.

Check Returns Policies

Checking the returns policy of your favorite clothing store is important when you’re shopping in stores as well as online. Although that item of clothing you picked up may seem like an ideal fit in the changing room, you never know how you’re going to feel about it when you get home, so you should always check that you can bring purchases back for a refund or exchange to take some of the risk out of clothes shopping.

Online stores like ASOS offer unlimited free returns to help you get the sizing of your outfit just right. The website also stores your preferences and return details to help you make better purchase choices in the future. Again, it’s always best to check your measurements against online sizing charts before you buy, as sizes can vary from brand to brand.

Don’t Get Hung Up on Sizing

If you’ve ever found that you’re one size in one store, and a completely different dress size in another, you’ll know that size is a relatively arbitrary concept at the best of times, and it can vary wildly between different brands. This is another reason why shopping in specialist clothing stores might be a better option if you fall into the petite, tall, or plus size categories.

Lastly, knowing that the size of a piece of clothing can have a psychological impact, if the number on your clothing labels bothers you, you can cut it out. A size is just a number, and it has no bearing on your overall worth or how great you look in that dress. Designers have even been known to add inches to fabric to clothing items for the sake of vanity sizing, proving that sizing is as much a mindset as it is a physical construction.