Is That My Size? The Drama / Trauma in the Dressing Room

Trying on clothes.  Not a favorite activity for many, stressful and traumatic for some. You think you know your size, right? Well, not really –   it depends on the manufacturer’s internal sizing guidelines to a large degree.  And let’s face it, there are garments that no one gets excited about trying on – swimsuits being close to the top of the list.  Beyond that seasonal trauma, just shopping for a dress or suit can be as traumatic because of this inconsistent sizing.  How did this come to be?

Many years ago, most garments were made at home. Patterns were adjusted or made to fit the person.  Enter the federal government.  In 1939, the USDA studied 15,000 women and developed the Women’s Measurements for Garment and Pattern Construction (quite a lofty undertaking).  Unfortunately, most of the sample group were from the same socio-economic background.  However, the study persisted and the original 58 measurement points (can you believe there were that many?) were pared down to just five – weight, height, chest, waist, and hips.  The weight measure was removed from the list, so four remained.  But, wait, they weren’t done yet.  In the 1940s the Bureau of Statistics joined in and added another group of women; the additional sample group were military women who were generally very fit and as a result of training tended to be slim.  After a few decades the standard was again revised in the 1970s; however, by 1983 the standards were disregarded and here we are today with the same numbered sizes fitting so many different body types. Factor in the fact that, as a whole, the population has shifted to a generally heavier weight, and there you have it.

Back to the dressing room where we left you – bless your heart!  If you’re trying on swimwear, be prepared and take someone along to pick up different styles and sizes once you’re in the dressing room.  Otherwise, you’re in for quite a day of dressing and re-dressing to get options to try on.  If the store has a limit on how many garments you can take in with you, then you are definitely in need of a shopping buddy.  You may not need to go to the gym after an afternoon of pulling and tugging to get swimsuits on and off; it’s an ordeal at best.  This is an example of Spandex at its finest; squishing all your parts into place while still allowing you to breathe comfortably.  Some garment engineer spent hours creating that suit just for you!  Once you finally find one that covers enough and hides what you don’t want to share, although this is at odds with the fact that it is a swimsuit of a limited amount of fabric, but perhaps those tucks and pleats are what makes the difference; don’t put it down until you have it safely paid for and in your shopping bag. You don’t want to go through this again (at least not this year)!

And what about day-to-day clothes?  Some manufacturers use European sizing so a size 2 might be your size in that line, but a 16 in an American sizing.  And for those who are height challenged, trying on jeans is no fun when you end up standing on five or six inches of extra fabric. One tip is to look for capris; they might fit most just below the knee, but hit at the ankle for the shorter folks.  No need to pay extra to have them hemmed – that’s a good thing.

Bottom-line, if it fits, it fits, right?  Just forget about the size and go with what feels good to you.  Being comfortable and feeling good about what you wear is the key.  Dressed up or casual, you’re special in your own right!


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