Size is only a Number on a Label


Given that there is no standard sizing, we all have garments in our wardrobes that range between 2-4 sizes (or at least have found when trying clothes on that in some stores we are one size and in another we are apparently ‘larger’ or ‘smaller’), so why are we so hung up on that number on the label?

Sometimes I have clients who are so excited about ‘fitting in’ to a certain size, even though they may look like an overstuffed sausage in these clothes.  I wonder how the size can be blinding them to how they appear in the mirror?
Size is just a number, the tag is on the inside of the clothes so that it’ s not advertised to the world.  If you don’t like the number on the tag, then you can always cut the tag out of the clothes.
It’s so much better to wear clothes that fit, that are neither to large nor too small.  This guarantees you will look your best.
Why let some arbitary number affect your happiness and state of mind?


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  • I recently went shopping with a lady who is convinced that she is a size 10 and she purchased hundreds of dollars worth of clothes that were rather snug on her and made her look bigger than she would’ve looked in a 12 or 14!

  • It took me a long time to realize I could be happy where I am instead of hiding and waiting for perfection. I’m anywhere from a 10/12 bottom to a 16/18 top.

    I think more than size it is about learning what looks good on you and makes you happy.

    By the way, I’m enjoying the Essential Style book. I’m slowly working my way through my wardrobe and deciding on keep/toss/work on piles.

  • I hate tight clothing and will happily go up a size or two to get the right fit. There’s one particular brand of jeans I like that is horribly inconsistent with their sizing. So I try on every pair and go by the fit, not the size. The only big brand I’ve found that’s pretty consistent is Banana Republic.

  • Here here! When I was finally able to let go of the idea that I need to be a certain “size,” I felt so free.

  • This is so on topic for me, Imogen! I just took all my measurements (as you know) and I’m amazed to learn that, according to US standard sizing charts, I “should” be a 12 in the top (I actually wear a 6 – 8 or small/medium) and an 8 – 10 in the bottom (I’m a 28/29 in jeans or a 6). I have no idea how all of this comes together. Fortunately, I can look at something and know 90% of the time if it will fit perfectly regardless of the number on the label(years of experience and love of shopping), but when buying online, it gets trickier.

  • I’m usually an 8 or 10, sometimes a 6, but overall a medium (a short medium at almost 5’4″). But last fall I fell in love with a jacket in a shop window, walked in, and found they only had a large and a small left. The style demanded some slouch, and it was meant to be layered, so needed room for a warmer sweater underneath, and I let the SA talk me into trying the Large. It looks great on, so I bought it and wear it all the time. I admit, though, occasionally I think about taking off the sewn-in label telling the world I’m a Size Large (I do manage to keep myself from protesting the truth at every moment 😉
    So far, I haven’t cared quite enough to get the stitch-ripper out though. . .

  • When I worked with our local AICI chapter, they identified the mostcommon mistakes women made:
    #1, they said with confidence, was buying clothes that did not fit.

    #2 was neglecting the right shapewear, and #3 was thinking what looked good 20 years ago still worked.

    Most women are trying to fit into too small, they said, because of vanity about going up a size.

    My other annoyance are brands that think women stop at (US) size 10,like Prada and Etro. Get real.

  • You teach like I do!! This is why I love your blog so much! Authentic and real information that people really need to know. Someone needed to say that out loud, I so agree with you! When I worked in a clothing store when I was in my late teens, I always remember this woman walking out without the pants, she said “I never buy anything larger than a size 12!!”

  • Part of me thinks that regular women are trying to compete with runway women. Since many are such a small size, then many get hung up on being as small as possible (and clothing size confirms that).

    Thinking of clothing size as nothing but a number, is a cool concept. It’s just gonna take time for people to get used to it. It’s just like being ok with the “age is nothing but a number”. Both statements are true, but not everyone is ok with getting older.

    But I like it, we should all embrace it. 🙂

  • Wouldn’t life be simpler if clothes were labelled with measurments rather than fictional sizes that vary so much that they mean nothing in the end!?

  • I’m not worried about the numbers at the back of my clothes, more about the numbers on my scales!!!!Ciao. A.

  • Ok, I was in shock when I bought a maxi dress 2 yrs ago at Walmart in Fl (I live outside the US and only buy RTW when I travel).

    It was black cotton lawn with white dots, about $5 but sized XS. I figured I could always repurpose the fabric for something else.

    Weeellll, it fits and I usually wear Medium so that made no sense to me!

    I have much nostalgia for a store here that used to sell French imports. The clothing tags were a silhouette with bust, waist or hiplines and the body measurements in cm. No sizes, just the numbers. How cool was that?

  • Why do women wear blinders when it comes to sizes and labels?
    I find European clothing to be a more realistic fit for me – size 4. But most clothing made in the USA or Canada use vanity sizing and that means I often am looking for size 0 or 2. How crazy is that!
    I keep my mouth shut when shopping with friends. If it makes them happy to think they are size 8 when they really are size 12, who am I to spoil their happiness. But I wish people would use their eyes and not the label to judge the fit.

  • I do not care what the number is. I pick out something that looks big enough and we go from there.
    I have to say – I have seen many a shop assistant sell a woman a top or dress that is waaay too small for her and yes there was the next two sizes up she could have tried on and bought.

  • Mervat – and I bet she’ll never be really happy with those clothes as they’ll be uncomfortable!

    Rachael – so true! Me too.

    Modest Mum – thanks so much for the feedback – glad you’re enjoying, and most importantly, finding useful, Your Essential Style Guide.

    Deja – you will look so much better in your clothes for going with this principle.

    Sal – Very true! Let’s all be free.

  • K.Line – Last time I was in the US and bought a heap of clothes (1997) I was a US size 10 (which at that time was an Australian size 12, and UK size 14), there was no size 0 then, size 6 was the smallest. Now there is a size 0, so it must be the old size 10 is now a size 6 (that’s just me guessing).

    I’m sure that women can’t have shrunk that much that we need 3 extra small sizes, they’ve just changed the labels!

  • Mater – good on you for ignoring the label!

    Duchesse – tell me more about what you were doing with the AICI chapter?

    A very true list too. Given that most Australian designers stop at a size 14, I’m guessing that this must be equivalent to your size 10!

  • Colour Me Happy – are you mean like me and only give them the primary colours and black and white?

    Do you also try and trick them into trying to paint a cool orange (I love this one, makes them think!)

    Hopefully that deluded woman has since learned better!

  • Lory – great comment – I think that the media (and those girls from Friends) have done a great disservice to the average woman, to make her think that that body shape and size is natural, rather than being the EXCEPTION and incredibly hard to maintain unless you’re naturally that way inclined and have very small bones.

    I was an Australian size 8 for about a minute of my life after I’d had pneumonia and looked so think people started asking if I had anorexia as all my bones were sticking out. I am broad and strong, there is NOTHING wrong with this body shape, I just don’t fit into the ‘celebrity media’ mould.

    Embrace the concept!

  • Ingrid – yes, many wish to delude themselves. Maybe they should change from numbers to:

    Calista Flockhart (on the edge of death)

    Kate Moss (skinny)

    etc…. to

    Marilyn Monroe (real woman)

    Charlotte – so many women don’t want to know their measurements either – that’s what they do on men’s clothing and it would probably be too confrontational for women!

    Antonella – true – worry about your health not your size!

    Arielle – see it’s so arbitary.

    La Belette – and you look way more gorgeous wearing the right size I’m sure!

    Lady Jicky – there are shops here that do serious vanity sizing – and it works. There is a high end shop here where the average size 18 is labelled as a size 12! So when these women try on a size ’12’ pant they’re happy to shell out $500 for them!

  • This is such a good point, especially given that with “vanity sizing” and variation between brands, you may have a huge variation in what your “size” is. In my closet (clothes that actually fit me) I have everywhere from US size 6-10 or M-XL in tops, and when I bought a bridesmaid’s dress I was a size 14 (granted, it will have to be taken in a tiny bit, but I was pretty close to that size.)

    It took me a long time to learn that fit is the most important thing, and I’m way more excited when old pants start fitting nicely again than I am if I only drop a few pounds from the scale.

    That being said, it is kind of a blow to the ego when you are sized out of a certain brand/retailer because you are too large or too small to be within range of their clothes.

    By the way, Imogen – thanks for stopping by my blog and checking to see how the hair drying technique is going. I definitely got a lot more volume than I usually do, but I somehow managed to flip my ends out rather than slightly curling them under the way you did in your demo video. I’ll keep working on it (or keep using the flat-iron on ends after I blow dry.) Again, thanks for the tips!

  • I hear you, but it still doesn’t explain why, in jeans, I am a 28 or 29 (definitely not a size 10) – and why, when I measured my waist – it was a 29.5 and I still fit a 28… It seems there is not consistency, even in measurements. I mean, are they lying about the 28? (I guess I could measure the jeans…)

  • I spend a good chunk of time online at, and I am always astonished by the number of newbies who are totally freaked out by the sizing on commercial sewing patterns. The sizing runs 2-3 sizes larger than most ready to wear lines – but if they would just TAKE THEIR DARN MEASUREMENTS AND COMPARE THEM TO THE ONES ON THE PATTERN, they’d do just fine. Still. you hear a constant refrain “But I *know* I’m a size ____!” (insert smaller RTW size here), and then they complain when nothing turns out right.

    I don’t really know (or care) what size I wear, as I typically have to alter a (size 12? 14?) pattern extensively to achieve a proper fit – adding five inches through the front bust width, two inches to pant lengths, 1.5″ to the waist, shorten the shoulder-to-waist area by 1/2″, lengthen my sleeves by 2″, and so on. When I’m done, my clothing is simply MY SIZE.

    When I *do* shop for clothing (mostly thrift stores, I hate paying retail for things that “kinda-but-don’t-quite” fit, but sometimes I just have to go shopping!), I will try on everything from a size S to an XL (about an 8 to a 14/16) to try and get a decent fit.

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