A lady called Anna Powell Smith could become your new best friend ladies. We all know a size 12 is not a standard size 12 on the high street. We are all familiar with lugging armfuls of dresses into a fitting room, only to find the size that fitted you in the last shop no longer makes it over your hips! The joys.
Every single retailer has their own interpretation of a size 12. There is a survey carried out in the UK called the the ‘National Sizing Survey’. This allows retailers to understand the size and shape profile of women, aka, their customers, in order to improve their sizing and fit. Many don’t use it wisely and use what is termed ‘vanity sizing’ where they apply their own logic to try and improve sales. For example what was a size 14 in certain shops 10 years ago might now be called a size 10 so women feel better when trying on and realising they are closer to a ten than a 14. I kid you not!
Many websites now do try their best to help shoppers make better informed decisions. Websites like Asos.com and Boohoo.com include information about the models height for items like denim so you know if they will work for you. However, with 91% of women saying they bring in more than two sizes of the same Item into the fitting room, clearly we have a big problem! From doing research, very few other shops or websites do anything at all.
Help is hopefully at hand after one shopper became so fed up with confusion in the fitting room that she devised a website, which tells women what size will fit them in each shop. Anna Powell Smith created What Size Am I after reading an article which criticised shops for their misleading labelling. You simply enter your bust, waist & hip measurements and this programme calculates what dress size you should go for in a range of retailers including Marks & Spencers, Next & Zara. It will also tell you what your top three shops are in terms of best fit. Her research found that Next had the smallest sizes on the high street (which surprised me) while a size 10 in Whistles, Zara or Reiss were bigger than a size 10 in Asos, Monsoon and Marks & Spencers. A typical size 12 in Reiss is around 2 inchs bigger on the bust, waist & hips than at Next.
The data also revealed that M&S and Karen Millen offer clothes more suited to the pear shape customer while Topshop & Oasis are more suited for the boyish (no curves) figure.
The BSI introduced standardised clothing sizes in 1982, which allow leeway of up to an inch and a half, but shops are not compelled to follow these guidelines (and clearly have not!). Five years ago, an EU committee was set up to look into the possibility of forcing retailers to use standard measurements by law, but so far no plans have been announced. Until they are ladies, this could be your best bet. Anna, we owe you one.