Thought For A Sunday: Why Size Doesn’t Matter…

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I popped into Zara this week as I was on the hunt for a dress I could wear at home in the day.  In the past, I have found a few pretty and inexpensive frocks in the Zara sales (I’m much more a dress than a jeans kinda girl).

My shopping experience was going OK until I realised that nothing in Zara fit me unless it had a label marked ‘XL’ inside.  ‘XL’, presumably meaning ‘extra large’.

Extra Large?!?!?

Last time I checked, I was an average, healthy, UK size 12. Surely, this isn’t what most people would refer to as ‘extra large’……?!Sizing on Labels - it's all wrong!

Silly Zara I thought, as I cast my thoughts aside for all eternity and made my way to leave the shop.

I then felt a wave of annoyance as I considered the number of impressionable young adults, teenagers, children in fact who must make purchases from this trend-setting, high-street store – a brand that has been endorsed in the past by the likes of the mighty Miss Moss (adored by millions) and who makes catwalk style fashion price accessible to the masses.

Is it any wonder that these young minds are sent into a state of body dysmorphia, if they, like myself, a regular UK size 12, are lead to believe they are ‘extra large’?

From here on, I’m going to take the advice I recall giving to my Mother recently and that I shall be drumming into the minds of my two young Daughters as they grow up: Ignore what it says on the label.

Simply hold the item of clothing up in front of you, and if it looks like it might fit, try it on.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to care less and less for what the label says.  I’ve clothes ranging from size 12 to size 16, though according to UK sizing guides, I am in fact a 12.  But in my humble opinion, sizing on labels mean aboslutely nothing.

Experience tells me it’s all about the cut of the cloth and structure of the garment.  Get these two right, and it matters not a stitch what the size label says – you will have a wardrobe of well-fitting garments with a flattering cut to suit your body shape.  This doesn’t mean having to spend a fortune by the way.  In my view, it just means learning to train your eye, and being honest with yourself about what flatters your natural form.

And ladies, wear what flatters you most with confidence and pride! …be you a size 6 or a size 24 or more.

The size on the label really doesn’t matter



Image via Shadphotos on Flickr


Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.

40 thoughts on “Thought For A Sunday: Why Size Doesn’t Matter…

  1. fantastic post and I couldn’t agree more!! I’m a size 10/12 and have walked into stores and been a bit upset by the fact I need to buy a size L or XL. The fashion industry do indeed need a shake up, and I’m pleased to see changes are happening at last….. slowly. Although, I will never get my head around why a size 10/12 model is classed as plus sized.

  2. Annabel, this is a matter close to my heart. I used to weigh sixteen stone. There I said it. Now I weigh nine. Sometimes a bit more. Sometimes a bit less. Couple of pounds. It’s hard and I spend my life at the gym.
    Now I’m wedding dress shopping. In my heart I know that dresses (particularly those at the cheaper end) are cut small, yes I know it’s about the label and about how it fits. But that still didn’t stop me crying in a changing room when they said ‘this is a fourteen and fits’.
    I ended up going to a designers boutique and having it made. Firstly, the way they did that corset up made me an eight on the bottom even though I’d been measured for the same dress in a regional boutique and they’d said to make it a TWELVE.

  3. I have little girls in my class who are six years old and already concerned about “getting fat” and talk about dieting. It really is a worry when they are size concious at such a young age.
    What hope is there for them in the future if fashion retailers deem you as extra large when you most certainly aren’t !
    Why don’t men have the same problem?

  4. Here Here! I am so sick of going into shops and leaving feeling overweight and much bigger than average. i am a 12 too! It’s ridiculous. I know a skinny model looks great sashaying down the catwalk, but these women do not represent REAL women – they starve themselves and in most cases have very unhealthy diets to maintain their unrealistically low weights. When is the fashion industry going to wake up. A clever designer would put real women down the catwalk, I’m sure it’s been done before.

  5. Sizing is the bugbear of so many ladies. The fashion industry could do something about it, but they won’t because it’s not in their interest too. The problem is that we live in a size/weight obsessed society and to lots of women it does matter. I also think it will continue to matter as magazines continue to air brush models/actresses etc to ridiculous proportions and many of us buy in that a size 0, 2 or 4 is some sort of ideal. Good luck in your endeavour to teach your daughters that the labels don’t matter. Peer pressure v a loving mother – I wonder who will win?

  6. You are not wrong! I was shocked when I was looking around New Look with my then 7 yr old little girl. She is perfectly slim and in nearly every shop fitted age 7 clothes. A shirt caught her eye that she thought was like what Hannah Montanna would wear, but I explained that the clothes only started at age 9 and probably wouldn’t fit her. She asked to try and how wrong I was! She struggled to get even the age 12 done up around the tummy! We also tried a little t-shirt and settled on an age 11. For a minute, I even considered the possibility that she had become “big for her age” without me noticing such is that little unconscious tendency to accept size labels as law. She is 8 now and neither of those tops still fit her but the rest of her clothes remain reflective of her age and on the wii fit her weight is at the lower end of the healthy weight range (not that I let her weigh herself much). If this is indicative of how the clothes fit “Tweens” I dread to think what effect it is having on their self image at such an impressionable age.

  7. yeah that is crazy! I have been away from Australia for 5 years and in that time I have had two kids and put on 20 k. Now, when I left in 2005 I was a 16, and we have just moved back and I am still a 16! Go figure!! I found discrepencies with my little girls clothes too tho, in one store she was a size 3 and in another size 3 was way too big for her which would follow size guides as here the number matches thier age, so she should really be a size 2! CRA-ZY!
    size zero is not healthy, i don’t even reckon for someone who is petite and short. There should be WAYYYY more focus on health, esp for young girls!! but for all the other mamas of girls, take courage and know that your positive attitude to weight nd body image is THE most powerful influence on them!

  8. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this makes me mad as a size 18-20, when I see “XL” in shops and then realise what they actually mean is a size 12-14. Um…fat people like clothes too.

  9. I have been astounded recently that high street retailers have started classing a size 10 as a large. A LARGE!
    If you are a size 10 you have a healthy BMI, anyone who needs a size 2,4 or 6 would most likely have a BMI that a doctor would tell you is too low.
    I don’t know anyone who is a small size that has a healthy diet. Shops should not be sizing normal size clothes (8,10,12,14) as medium-large. It’s not only ridiculous it’s dangerous.
    I did prepare myself that my wedding dress would be a larger size than normal (it was a 14) to get over my boobs but I get it altered so it fitted properly as I’m a bit of a funny shape. Most brides don’t have a designer dress budget (I certainly didn’t) so when you go dress shopping do as Annabel says and don’t even look at the label, all that matters is the dress fits you not the size on the label.
    As far as the high street goes, I have found the shops that suit my shape and I tend to stick them and avoid those ones with irresponsible labelling policies.

  10. I’ve sort of given up with sizes. I think there is so much disparity between one shop and the next and don’t even get me started on the transatlantic shift. Quite frankly I don’t know why stores bother going to the trouble of putting labels in anymore – they mean nothing.
    Incidentally, I worked for LK Bennett one summer. I spent a lot of time having to tell people that a) the clothes came up about a size bigger than you would expect and b) no, they couldn’t buy what I was wearing as it wasn’t from the shop because they didn’t make clothes small enough for me. That was pretty embarrassing and a waste of my time.

  11. Great article. I am also a size 10/12 and depending on the shop an 8 or 14! It is demoralising when you have to go up a size or two from one shop to the next and although i know i shouldn’t, i still feel a small buzz when i fit into a smaller size when in actuality all my clothes are exactly the same size (obviously if they’re all fitting the same frame) and, like you say, the label is irrelevant. I’ve also, like you, starting ignoring the label and buying what fits regardless of what size it claims to be, although it would be good for all shops to show consistency.

  12. Some great discussion on here. I work with young people aged 12-25 years old and I hear and see some really scary things. We’re all bombarded with media messages about how we should look and negotiating all that pressure is hard enough as an adult. Children shouldn’t be worrying about these things, they should be enjoying being children!
    I was a bridesmaid a couple of years ago and had a very awkward experience when getting measured – “aww pet lamb your chest size isn’t even on the chart, aww bless you, we’ll have to take it in”. Thanks!!! I’m having my dress made for my own wedding and thankfully I can now joke about my lack of chest!
    Whatever your size, there always seem to be challenges or jokes to overcome. Annabel has the best advice – appreciate what you have, know what clothes suit you and definitely ignore the label!

  13. Amen! I really need to try to ignore sizes as they have such an impact on me which is RIDICULOUS! Thanks for writing this, it’s really given me something to think about. Jen xxxxxxxxxx

  14. Same for me – I am a size 12, and can never get clothes to fit… I could walk into somewhere cheap like New Look and have trouble getting a pair of 16 jeans on, then go into a department store more expensive boutique and get into an 8 – which I defo am not either! So general rule for me is hold the clothes up and see, I also prefer dresses and leggings or black tights, so you can get away with smaller sizes, but jeans shopping is a nightmare and it is upsetting to be classed as extra large when you are just average sized!

  15. Great article, sizes vary so much yet so much emphasis is placed on what dress size you are. I’ve learnt what shops I can and can’t shop in, I know I’m not a standard shape but even I get distressed some days when the size varies so much even within the same shop, I hate to think what younger more impressionable girls are thinking. My 12 year old niece asked me recently if she looked fat. I had to plot her weight on a bmi scale to show her she was perfectly healthy!! I always recommend brides know their measurements and not get hung up on the label size as it really is nothing more then a guide. I wrote about this on my blog too

  16. poignant article – i wonder how many people don’t buy something because its in a larger size than normal? I am the same in my wardrobe – everything from 12 – 18, but i am probably a size 13 (if they made that size) but i find shopping frustrating and often demoralising when it should be fun, frivalous and enjoyable!

  17. So true. It seems half the shops have tiny sizes, the other half come up gaping at the back of the waist… and even between different items in the same shop! The only high street place where I trust the sizing nowadays is Debenhams.
    I find the proportions must frustrating. A shop that markets itself at ladies under 25 will have a size 10-12 with no bust or bottom (so if it fits on the waist it’s tight elsewhere- or if it flatters the bust it bags at the waist)… and yet in a store that wants to flatter the more mature lady a size 8 will bag around my (slightly on the ample size) boobs. How frustrating!!
    As shops no longer have any consistency with sizing, I tend to ignore the labels and try things on!
    The worst thing is, it’s happening to SHOES now, too! One store’s size 6 is another’s size 7!! 🙁

  18. so very well written love my dress. who CARES about what it says on the label? why as a nation are we obsessed with this?!?!? it makes no sense at all. i like many others blame the media – glossy mags with their traditional idea of what is beautiful. it’s ridiculous and makes me so cross!!!!!!!

  19. Thanks for this post!
    I found a wedding dress i loved and after having a baby, went back to order the dress but as they only stocked size 10s in the shop wasn’t able to actually try it on.
    I was measured and despite my wedding being a year away they refused to order anything smaller unless i signed a waiver. I managed to persuade them not to order me a size 20, the smallest they would go was a size 16 although i was a 12 pre pregnancy and despite me saying i would have shed the 2.5 stone before the wedding. It was a very depressing experience.. but luckily with 7 months to go i’ve already lost 20 Ibs. So there Morgan Davies of Hitchin!!!! LOL!

  20. Never a truer word spoke, it’s all so ridiculous sizing these days and yet we are all still so obsessed by it. It’s wrong!
    Love your blog by the way Annabel 😉
    Fleur x

  21. Very true! I’m around a 12, but have worn everything from a size 6 through at size 14, depending on how the manufacturer is feeling. Some try to make you feel ‘better’ by making a 12 with a size 6 label, some make you feel terrible with XL on a size 12. Just try it on and see if it fits! Besides, with my hips, things that are the ‘right’ size might not fit at all, anyway!

  22. Well put Annabel – my wardobe is full of clothes labelled a size 10 which I buy becuase it makes me feel better to buy that size whereas in reality the next size up (or sometimes more) looks better on me. Size is just a number and I’m taking your tip from here on in! A friend of mine cuts the labels out once she’s bought them so she’s not reminded what size clothes she has, just a wardobe of lovely things. x

  23. Just wanted to add that when I first got engaged my goal was to buy a dress in a size 10 – I have just bought my dress and it’s a 12 and the lady in the shop has implored me not to go on a drastic diet and lose weight as she says I have a fantastic hourglass figure which the high street labels just don’t seem to appreciate x

  24. I actually saw an article (I can’t remember where now) where the writer was exploring the same thing about size variation in shops and found out that different shops fiddle with their sizing to meet their target shopper. So for example Topshop tries to attract young, teenage to early 20 somethings who they expect to be thin so make their sizes small and for people with no hips. Hobbs expect middle age – older women so give more room in their sizes expecting them to have had children and a womanly figure etc etc. I was horrified that this is perfectly acceptable to these companies. When a man shops it’s his neck size, waist size and chest size, all in straightforward, accountable inches. When women shop it’s a lottery whether the abstract number on the label is anything to do with your actual size. It’s wrong.

  25. I’m so glad that it’s not just me that struggles beyond imagination with clothes sizes. I save most of My dress shopping for Bravissimo since they cater for busty gals like my goodself. I have always battled with my weight and fluctuate between a 12-14 and 16-18. However, even at my slimest I’ve never been able to shop comfortably in River Island, H&M, Zara, or Next if I’m totally honest. I don’t even bother with these places now, since I find the whole experience depressing. It’s not a joy. M&S, Debenhams, Monsoon, Phase eight, Wallis, Principles and BRAVISSIMO are the only places that I’ll even bother to walk around; but – if I feel poop shopping and not even managing to get into a XL at size 14, then ever likely young girls become fixated with their size. It also makes trying on a pain in the ass when you take what you’d normally wear into the changing room only to find it’s miles smaller than the dress size you bought from another shop that fit like a glove. Is is sizing that’s wrong or our own ability to see past the sizes.?

  26. Fantastic post Annabel and its so true. The high street really needs to sort its sizing out, or you could adopt the same attitude as the lady below:-
    I was working in the BBC and was in the wardrobe dept when a very well known more mature actress who was being measured for her costume was told her dress size was an 18. A fantastic reply ‘that’s not my dress size darling, that’s the age of latest husband’
    I loved her attitude xx

  27. Great post Annabel. I had a similar experience at American Apparel, tried a denim skirt on and as a size 8/10 was not expecting to be an XL. I walked out in disgust and thought there must be some pretty odd shaped women out there who would fit into a small or XS.
    Size ain’t nothing but a number, or is that age, either way it doesn’t matter

  28. Hi Everyone,
    Thanks for your responses – I guess its heartening to know I’m not alone!
    If there’s one thing I hope this post achieves, its that you care a little bit less about what the label says, and feel happy just a little bit more with your body shape, regardless of what ‘size’ you are! 🙂
    Much love everyone 🙂

  29. A very important point but just perfectly LMD! Well done for making this an issue on your blog. I am a size 12 also but according to Primark (grimaces) I’m an 18. In Next I’m a 14, in Zara I’m an X/L, in Monsoon, I’m a 14, in M&S I’m a 12…..?!?!?
    We need to develop a healthy attitude to our natural sizes and what fits us regardless of what the bloody label says!

  30. Fantastic article. As a VERY curvy lady myself I get really saddended when Extra Large is classed as 12-14. I dont usally worry about what size label I have in my clothes but I would love more clothes shops to sell 18+ ranges. I want to dress well too!

  31. Do you know…this is exactly why we set up House of Mooshki…. this has got to be one of the topics that really gets my soap box out !! drives me insane…. I suffer like most other ladies… My top half is a 16 to get my boobs in … my bottom half is a 12… how in gods name to you find a frock to wear !! The high street I feel has gone completely bonkers and I very rarely now go shopping. To read earlier of girls crying in the changing rooms and bridal shops not allowing them to try dresses on aarrrrgggghhhhhhh !! and breathe !!!
    I agree with Annabel, dont look at the label, it just depresses you. Wear what you want to wear and wear it with pride. Confidence is always a more sexy outfit to wear than any designer dress.
    and girls… having your wedding gown made is not as expensive as you may think !! Ours are the same prices usually as an off the peg.

  32. This article has really made me stop and think how stupid I am to be concerned what the labels say – depending where I shop I can be 12/14/16 but would never buy an 18 because that would depress me ! I am going to get my head in gear and do as you say – if it looks good buy it, wear it, feel great and forget about the rest as life is just too short. xx

  33. Oh for heaven’s sake ladies!
    A size label means nothing. Seriously! The clothes you’re wearing are not going to make you any fatter or thinner (although wearing something that doesn’t fit just because you like the label might).

  34. You go girl! Size doesn’t really matter! Although I think Zara is just trying to cater to more market – international. When that happens American size becomes a bit bigger while the Asians falls on the extra small category. So I guess it’s just fine as long as you know in your heart that you are healthy, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

  35. This is a great article!
    I’ve been dieting since the new year and reckon I have dropped 2 or even 3 sizes. Every week I drop my daughter off at a club she goes to and I go into the local M & S to see what now fits! It’s strange how the measurement on the scales does not reflect what I can wear!
    I’ve not bought anything much yet – I’m waiting a month or 2 more, but it does encourage me much more than the scales. I’ve actually found things I feel nice in – which hasn’t happened for years!
    However, there are clothes I know will fit and flatter and others that I know won’t, no matter how much I like them. I think that this will be the case whatever I weigh.

  36. I completely agree that nobody should ever, EVER be shamed because of their body. Bodies are amazing and beautiful and brilliant things. And clothing sizes should never make anyone feel upset about who they are.

    That being said, I’m getting a bit tired of the narrative that you’re only “healthy” if you’re a size 10-12. Even in some of the comments of this article, I was surprised to see some people saying skinny models don’t represent “real women” (what are they, fake women?), and that an only an odd shaped woman must fit into an american apparel size xs (…that my size there).

    I’m a UK size 2, depending on the brand (which makes it practically impossible for me to find clothes here, as most brands start with a six; I’ve lived in the UK for two years and can count on one hand how many articles of clothing I’ve bought). I eat, I exercise a tiny bit, but I’m just naturally small. 5’1″ and about 105 pounds. I can’t tell you how many times, starting from around the time I was 13, people have accused me of being anorexic or bulimic; how many times I get told to “go eat a sandwich;” people who like to make jokes about my lack of a chest or other curves; the boys who broke up with me in uni because I wasn’t “womanly;” how I’m apparently not a “normal, healthy” weight (I believe my GP would tell me if I was unhealthy); or, my personal favourite insult–“you look like an 11 year old boy.”

    Basically, women just have it rough no matter what. We can’t win. We have to support each other and build each other up because who else is going to if we don’t?

    1. (also, I realise this article is several years old, but I was directed here by a friend who shared it in the midst of the H&M sizing debacle 🙂 )

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