Wednesday, 16 November 2011

What's in dress size?

I popped into HandM the other day to buy some socks for my son when I spotted this funky looking mini skirt. Having been quite frugal in the clothes shopping department for a while now, I thought I'd treat myself and invest a whopping £19.99. I grabbed a size 12 and ran into the changing room just to make sure.

I unzipped the skirt, wrapped it around my waist and then burst out laughing when I realised that I would have needed at least another 6 inches of material to be able to close the zip. The skirt was so teeny that I probably would have been just about able to squeeze myself into a size 16. Seeing as I was in a rush, and in all honesty don't really need a faux leather mini skirt, I left it in the changing room and hurried back out to pay for the socks and go home.

In the car on the way home it struck me that this experience, which I find quite amusing today would have been anything but just a few years ago. If the same thing had happened to me back then I would have been completely devastated. It wouldn't have occurred to me to question HandM and wonder if maybe they'd made a mistake with that particular skirt or had just gone completely nuts with their sizing in general. I would have assumed, against all logic, that I had managed to put on 2 dress sizes literally overnight. I would immediately have gone into a spiral of self criticism and disgust for being so 'fat'. I would have reached straight for the diet books, vowing to myself to eat less and lose weight, chastising myself for being so out of control, hating my body. I would have been down in the dumps, irritable, my confidence crushed. And of course, I would have had a mega binge to shut out the horror of being so horribly huge.

And then I thought about all the women to whom this happens every day, about all those young girls out there who shop in places like HandM and allow themselves to be defined by the little numbers on the label. Women and girls who truly believe they are unaccetable: too big, too fat.

I don't think that HandM made a mistake with the skirt, I think that their sizing is just plain crazy and that many women buy a size 16 skirt and then compare themselves miserably to the size zero "celebs" and models parading on television and pasted across the billboards. 

Ooooh, I can feel a letter to the people at HandM coming on. Watch this space


  1. Dear Chocolate Fairy, do not forget that designer shops where celebrities shop do the exactly opposite trick: size 12 skirt would be an 8 there. Just to make celebs buy the expensive item, good feel about themselves and come back for these feelings again!

  2. You are right Mymble! And that's the point - the whole sizing issue makes no sense and yet so many women allow the size of their clothes to define the size of their lives!

  3. Really brilliant reminder that sizing is nonsensical.

  4. I remember those days! Now I just have a look at the item, take a couple of sizes into the changing room and buy the one that fits best. It doesn't matter to me anymore what size it is. If I find it getting to me I just cut the size label out.

  5. It bugs me that sizing can be inconsistent even within the same store, never mind between stores :(

    If someone asks me what size I am it's completely impossible to answer them, because it all depends on whose measurements I should go with!

  6. I am currently the largest I have ever been and, following Beyond Chocolate principles of wearing nice clothes that fit me properly, tried on the size 16 cardi I thought I would need at H&M. In the end the one that fitted perfectly was an 8. What can I say??!!

  7. Sizing nowadays has surely gone off kilter. When I was a teenager/young adult in the 80's a very slim girl would be a size 10. I remember a friend of mine was a commercial model and she was a 12, slim but tall. I only knew of one girl who took an 8 and she was oriental and a tiny, tiny build. She was lucky because she got lots of stuff in the sales because there were loads of 8 left because no-one took an 8 very much! Sizes did NOT go below an 8 (no size 6,4,2 or zerothese did not exist!) if you did you had to shop in the childrens department probably because you were just that... a CHILD! Well they tell us that nowadays people are fatter than ever so what has happened to our sizing???

  8. If it fits, it's my size - that's what I tell myself now. I have clothes ranging from 10 to 18 in my wardrobe and some of the 'larger' sizes if laid out next to the 'smaller' sizes are definitely not bigger. It's time clothing manufacturers got their house in order.

  9. I moaned in H&M when a size 14 shirt was clearly MILES bigger than a size 16 and the sales assistant just said "oh, that's what you get with mass production". Clearly all in a day's work for her.

    While I'd question this premise (after all, every high street shop relies on mass production, and they aren't all this bad) it made me think, as I have in the past tried on one size and then given up (they didn't have the next size, or I was trying the biggest or even sometimes smallest available). Perhaps I should just randomly grab items off the racks without looking at the size on the label??!

  10. I am very pleased to say that after Beyond Chocolate-ing for a few years now I am more or less in the same frame of mind and really don't care about size labels - my most flattering pair of jeans (and probably smallest if I took a tape measure to them) are a size 18 but I also have a pair of size 12s I wear for lounging around the house...

    I was talking to a colleague about this. She has been a very healthy size and shape for the 2 years I have known her and generally seems very sensible (does a lot of exercise that she enjoys - cycling, climbing; seems to eat a balanced diet but happy to have a slice of cake etc) but apparently there is no way on earth she would buy a pair of jeans bigger than a size 12 as it would make her feel so terrible. She is a Weight Watchers gold member (and has been for several years - one of the few to maintain a loss) but this means she still sees food as 'good' or 'bad' and still counts points!! Even though I do occasionally wish I was as fit and energetic as she is, I am SO pleased not to have all that food-and-clothes-related emotional baggage any more.

  11. I've had this with H and M! Once I bought three long jersey dresses for holiday in slightly different style and different colours. For the same person (me) on the same day they were: size 16, size 12 and size 'S"!!!!

    Recently, I bought a pair of tailored trousers from in there - size 18. Because I'm BC I bought them because they looked nice and the size wasn't important. Because I'm human, when I got them home I held them up against the smallest size 14 trousers in my wardrobe... they were smaller!

    I might write to them too - surely they lose business from this? In the past I wouldn't have bought the '18'.


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