I remember when I was 16 years old in a boutique trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. The first 2 pairs I tried wouldn’t go any further than my knees. The third pair I managed to pull on, but only to my butt. There was no way I was going to get them any further. At this point, all I wanted to do was leave the store and cry – but the jeans had other ideas. If I thought getting them on was hard work, wriggling around in a 1.5 square metre box with a flimsy curtain for a door trying to get them off was no easy feat either. In fact, it was such a struggle that I tumbled out of the fitting room completely, with the jeans at my knees and my dignity and pride on the floor.
Each pair of jeans I had tried on that day were a size 14, the size I generally wore. Or more importantly, the size they were meant to be…
In Australia, a standard sizing guideline does not exist. Over time, retailers have evolved their sizing to represent their ideal core customer. What this means for those of us who don’t fit a brand’s mould is that we shop hoping something will fit, rather than being confident in our purchase. In fact, it’s estimated that 40% of returned purchases are due to incorrect sizing.
As someone who is categorised as plus-sized but absolutely loves fashion, I find it incredibly demoralising to go into a store and try on a garment in a size 16 only to have it be too small. For many of us, seeing that number climb on the size tag is like your Grandmother asking at another family event why you’re still single. It starts to make you believe there is something wrong with you.
When my clients share their frustrations around sizing inconsistencies, I tell them, ‘Sizing is a mental game.’ But it shouldn’t have to be. When the average Australian woman is a size 16, why on earth is it so hard to find something that fits in that size? And this issue doesn’t just affect those deemed to be plus-size in the fashion industry, it’s rife across all sizes.
So, how do we overcome this?
What I’ve learnt as a Personal Stylist is that at the end of the day, there are so many other components that should determine if a garment is right for us or not. Such as fit, quality, colour, sustainability, budget and of course the million-dollar question – does it go with the items already in your wardrobe and work for your lifestyle? When we stop putting so much emphasis on size, we start to look out for the things that really matter. This way of thinking ensures our purchases give us that return on investment, as we continue wearing garments time and time again because we feel great in them.
I remember a client saying that one of her favourite parts of shopping with me was that she never once looked at a size tag. She just trusted that our outcome for her session was more important than being in a size 12 or size 18.
I often say to people that no one but you really knows what size you’re wearing. We aren’t in the habit of peeking down the back of people’s tops or trousers, and regardless we don’t determine if they’re good people based on their size tag. So why should we let the number control us and determine our worth?
While the conversation in the fashion industry around inclusivity, diversity and sizing is getting louder, there is still a way to go. But I’m hopeful that change is on the horizon. We are seeing more brands offer inclusive sizing as well as showcasing their garments in their marketing across different shapes and sizes to give consumers an insight into how it might look on them. It’s going to be a process for everyone to come to the party but for now, when you shop, remember that fashion is for everyone – but not every garment is. So keep the focus on if the piece fits and makes you feel amazing. It’s far more rewarding to leave the store in a ‘Pretty Woman’ moment knowing you found items you love over items that are numbered a certain way.
By Claire Jensen
Personal Stylist and ASI National Trainer
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