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What's In a Size?

I mentioned last week that I hate clothes shopping, and I got reminded of why recently when someone asked me what should be a simple question: What size do you wear?

The problem is, there is no easy way to answer that question, because clothing size for women is ridiculously complicated by the fact that there are no clear standards. Unlike with men's clothes, simply knowing my measurements doesn't much help.

For instance, this past spring I had to buy some new pants when old ones wore out. I wanted to get the same kind of pants as the old ones, since I liked them a lot, and they were a size 8. I found the same style at the store, but the size 8, in petites, didn't fit. The size 8 of the regular length did, though, except the length.

I did discover that the size 10 in petite fit, including length, but found myself tempted to get the size 8, regular, simply for the psychological comfort of having a size 8 versus 10. Then I realized how ridiculous that was and got the size 10 petite.

But the fact that I even had to think about it gives me pause. It reminds me of how excited I was at my lowest weight when I wore a size 6 dress as a bridesmaid, and all I could think of was how Julia Roberts's character was a size 6 in Pretty Woman.

But she might not be be today. This chart clearly shows how sizes have changed over the years. As if that weren’t bad enough, different styles and designers run very different sizes - consider this other graphic to figure out which size 8 you're wearing. It's astonishing how widely this varies.

Knowing this makes it all the more galling that women are so often judged on our clothes size. It’s also a useful reminder to me not to get too caught up in the numbers associated with what I’m wearing.

Instead I’ll try to focus on the things that really matter about my what I’m wearing - do I like it and is it comfortable and flattering? If the answers are yes, then l really don't care what size it is – or so I’ll keep telling myself until I’m convinced.

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