How the fashion industry decides your size

Have you ever wondered why you easily fit into trousers in one store and can’t squeeze into the same size in another? With so many different body shapes to cater for, how do designers decide the sizing fit of a collection?

Here are three ways the fashion industry decides your size:

  1. Fit models: the fashion industry use what we call fit models, not because they are sporty, but because they try on clothes to test the fit. The clothes tried on are normally tailor made to fit this one person perfectly. The fit model then gives feedback on comfort and movability in the garment. So, if you are a different body shape to this person the collection is not going to suit you.
  2. Vanity sizing: in some fashion collections you’ll find it is a squeeze to get into one size, while in another collection you are swimming around in the same size. And we can’t help ourselves, it feels so much better to buy the size 12. Some fashion houses use that feeling to sell clothes. But, of course, we should never buy clothes based on the label size, why? Because you should only buy clothes to fit your biggest area and, if you are not a standard shape, the rest can be taken in.

    Always take into account that in fast fashion, sizing can vary greatly even though the label size says the same and the style is the same. The speed that garments are made at means that tolerances are included to allow for differences of nearly half a size, which can make a big difference to the fit. So be aware of trying something on, liking it and picking up a nicely folded one from the shelf because it might not fit as well as the one you tried on.
  3. Most designers make for themselves: well what is the point in creating a full collection if you can’t wear it yourself? If you find a designer who has a similar body shape to you, then try something on, you might be surprised. Most smaller scale designers will try things on themselves instead of paying for a fit model. I have seen fashion collections that have grown with their customers in more ways than one!

Something I like to remember when I’m buying my clothes is the task I was given in one of my first fashion industry jobs. I had to change all the measurement charts from a 27” waist to a 28” waist. That was 20 years ago. If I was given the same job today, I’d be changing the waist size to 29”!

What is your experience of trying to buy a size that fits you? I’d love to hear.

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Written by: Siobhan O'Brien-Selway

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