Last week we discussed getting out the measuring tape and recording those numbers that really come in handy when shopping for clothes online. You need to know your measurements when looking at size charts. But women's clothing sizes are inconsistent (plus sizes even moreso), so we also need to know how to interpret those size charts.
Does the size chart show the size of the clothes or the size of the wearer?
It depends. If a size chart displays a range for each size, then those are the wearer's measurements. If there's only one number for each size (like we do it in the Vikki Vi size chart), the number refers to the garment itself.
How does ease fit in?
Ease refers to how much wiggle room a garment gives you. Something skin tight has zero ease or negative ease. Most clothes have a couple of inches of ease. If a style is relaxed and drapy, 3 or 4 inches of ease is fine or even desirable. But if a style is tailored or fitted, 2 inches of ease will give you a comfortable fit.
As plus size women, we can get so focused on finding something that fits that we end up buying clothes with too much ease. But that can make our clothing look sloppy and baggy.
What if you wear different sizes on the top and bottom?
Your best bet is to buy separates. For example, you could wear a Straight Maxi Skirt and Sleeveless Shell in the appropriate sizes and get the same look as the Maxi Tank Dress. Since the Maxi Tank Dress has a straight silhouette, it will be either too big or too small in spots.
However, some dress styles are naturally shaped for women who wear a larger size on the bottom than top. Dresses with an A-line silhouette (like the T-Shirt Style Dress and 3/4 Sleeve A Line Maxi Dress) are great for pear shaped women for exactly this reason. For those dresses, pick the size that fits your bust.
Which size chart is correct?
Brands don't necessarily use the same size chart as the retailers that carry their clothing. And many retailers don't bother to let you know this. For in-house brands, follow the retailer's size chart. For example, Plus by Design's in-house brand is Vikki Vi. If you scroll down to the bottom of any page and click on Size Chart, you'll get the sizing chart for all Vikki Vi clothing.
But Plus by Design carries other brands like Foxcroft, Caribe, and LaCera. In general, other brands run smaller than Vikki Vi. On the product page, look for the brand's size chart along with the photos. Other retailers may handle it the same way, or they might have sizing information in the product description. When they don't (or they do it in a way that doesn't inspire confidence), search online for "[brand name] size chart".
Every piece of clothing we sell comes from our on-site warehouse, so we can always measure a garment for you before you order.
Why is this so complicated?!
The women's clothing industry isn't trying to make your life difficult. The sizing standards we're working with are over 100 years old, which is why brands create their own standards. There are rumblings about coming up with new standards, but that'll take a while. In the meantime, we just have to figure out how to work within the flawed system we have now.