Size Zero, my ass

This skirt is a UK size 6, which, for the benefit of my transatlantic readers, roughly corresponds to a US size 0:

green 60s style mini skirt

I say “roughly”.  The size charts will normally equate US0 to a UK4 (which is a largely mythical dress size, usually only found in petite ranges, and even then, in such tiny quantities that it’s like finding the Holy Grail, seriously).  That may well have been the case at some point in the past, but as someone who shops a lot in both countries, and who also regularly orders online from the US-based Shopbop, (who, in the interests of disclosure, are sponsors of Shoeperwoman and TheFashionPolice) my experience has always been that size 0= UK6. This is why it always annoys me when the UK media bangs on about “size 0″: it leads people who don’t know a lot about sizing differences between countries to believe that this is some terrifyingly-unnatural size which is THREE FULL SIZES smaller than a UK6. It’s not. Seriously.)

But I digress. This skirt is a UK size 6:

Man in a skirt
That’s Terry wearing it.

(Yes, he IS a good sport, isn’t he? Also, I’m trying to convince him to start a personal style blog:  he already knows how to WORK IT, after all.)

THIS IS WHAT YOUR “SIZE ZERO” LOOKS LIKE, UK FASHION MEDIA.

Or at least, it does at La Redoute, which is where I ordered this skirt from last week, along with a bunch of sweaters which would also have fit Terry, but which wouldn’t have been nearly as amusing on him. Sorry, Terry.

(And yes, I double and triple-checked the label and dispatch notice to make sure they’d sent me the correct size, and they had. I guess there’s a chance it could’ve been wrongly labelled in the factory, but I’ve had to send back items in the past for the same reason, so I suspect it’s simply a case of vanity-sizing gone mad.)

What does this tell us? Other than that Terry should totally have a fashion blog, and that green is SO his colour, obviously? Well, it tells us that vanity sizing is OUT. OF. CONTROL. with some brands. It also helps illustrate how totally random clothes sizing is these days.  Because if the “Tall” ranges are  too short even  for a petite woman, and the smallest dress sizes available will fit a 6ft tall MAN, where on earth are people supposed to shop? Not all of us are handy with a sewing machine (or have the time to alter everything, even if we are), and it’s so frustrating to constantly order clothes and find that they’re not just a little bit larger or smaller than you’d expect, but are actually a completely different size altogether. And will fit your husband.

(It also hopefully tells us that some of the skinny-bashing comments I’m forced to read on The Fashion Police every day, telling me that “no one should be that size!”  because “It’s not healthy!” are even more misguided than I’ve always thought they were, given that I now have a “size 0″ husband.  But perhaps it’s better not to open that particular can of worms…)

Of course, these issues aren’t just confined to the petites: every woman I have ever met seems to struggle to find clothes that fit properly, and while I understand that it’s impossible for brands to please everyone with their sizing, as we’re all so different, just a little bit of consistency would go a long way, I think.

Still, at least Terry gets a new skirt. Every cloud, people, every cloud…

(P.S. I feel I have to point out here that this photo was actually Terry’s idea, as was posting it on the Internets. I ask a lot of that man sometimes, but posing in a skirt for my blawg was a line even I had hesitated to cross!)

(P.P.S. For some reason, WordPress is currently sending about 50% of my comments straight to spam, for no reason whatsoever. I’m releasing them as quickly as I can, but if your comment hasn’t appeared yet, don’t worry, it’s nothing personal: it’s doing it to my own comments, too!)


37 Comments

  • Lauren says:

    ARGH how annoying! I have long been an advocate of introducing a standardised sizing, and this just pushes the point home. That said, even within shops you get absurd variety, I can buy two items in tow totally different sizes despite the fact I don’t think I grew (or shrank) that much on the journey from one side of the shop the other!

    • Amber says:

      Totally. I know there have been talks about introducing European sizing in the UK, and I’m all for it… I mean, Terry’s waist is at least 10″ larger than a standard size 6 should be: I can understand a little bit of variation either way, but that’s just ridiculous!

  • Roisin says:

    Man, Terry knows how to POSE. He should definitely have his own blawg. I’d read it. I’d recommend it to my friends!!

    And yes – vanity sizing and inconsistent sizing – on the face of it, it might seem like a small issue. But it isn’t, at all – because everyone has to buy clothes and get dressed in the morning! In one brand (I won’t name it, but it forms a significant proportion of my wardrobe) I have garments ranging from an 8 to a 12. Not even just different garments either – size 8 dresses and size 12 dresses fit me the same, and size 8 coats and size 12 coats. In one brand – what is up with that?! It’s partly a problem with shopping online, but it’s really no better going in store because it’s stressful and annoying to have to bring about 4 different sizes of each garment into the fitting room with you.

    I tell you, it’s not much better if you’re able to sew. In one range of US patterns, I’m fairly standard between a US4 and US6. In another, I have to cut at least a US12. Now in this case it’s partly to do with the amount of wearing ease each company drafts into their patterns – but ease doesn’t account for a 5 size difference!

    I often think how difficult it must be for slimmer people. If I can get comfortably into a size 8 in somewhere like Dorothy Perkins, and they only go down to a 6 or a 4 – how does anyone smaller find anything to fit? I mean, I’m not a big girl by any means, but a few years ago I was usually buying a 10 or a 12 on the highstreet, and that’s when I was at university and definitely thinner. I know my measurements, but even that doesn’t help – because when you compare the measurements on a company’s size chart (which is not consistent across manufacturers AT. ALL) it often doesn’t correspond to the measurements of the actual garment.

    So, in short. I feels ya.

    • Amber says:

      He just instantly went into this pose, too: It was like he’d been doing it all his life! (OMG, maybe he has?! Maybe he has a secret anonymous fashion blog I don’t know about?!)

      I didn’t think about that with the patterns, but yes, I bet that’s frustrating: and I know that with vintage patterns it can be totally off too, because sizing has changed so much over time. At least you have the ability to alter existing things, though: I have to take almost every dress I buy to my poor mum to have it altered – every time we step into their house now, my mum just instantly asks what I’ve brought THIS time. (Note to self: learn how to use sewing machine…)

  • Chloe says:

    I am usually a size 12-14. I have a UK8 skirt from gap which fits me fine, when I tried on jeans a UK14 didn’t even come close to doing up. In their s/m/l clothes I am s or m.

    • Amber says:

      I find the worst culprit for this is H&M… Their tops are fairly consistent, but in dresses/trousers etc it’s so random I always just take a bunch of different sizes into the changing room with me – I never know which one will be the magic number!

  • Jemma says:

    Here here! Not only does it drive me nuts that American sizes compared to English sizes are always miscalculated, but also because I am 5 feet tall and a size 8. I’m not amazingly skinny, I’m just the right sort of size for my height. With clothes sizes getting bigger and bigger then they’re supposed to be I’m finding it impossible to find clothes to fit. Vanity sizing is out of control; much is made of Marilyn Monroe having been a size 16….. yet translated to today’s sizing she’d be an 8/10. End rant!

    By the way Terry looks fabulous, loving the burka/mini-skirt look ;-)

    • Amber says:

      Exactly! It absolutely infuriates me when people assume that small sizes are automatically “unhealthy” and a sign that the person wearing them must be starving herself. For petite women, those sizes are proportionate to our height/builds and not in the least bit unnatural, and the fact that they seem to be constantly getting bigger just means that small people are sized out of the market.

      Also, we actually saw Marilyn Monroe’s famous white dress on display in LA this year, and it was too small to fit the mannequin they’d put it on: from what I could see, I would say she was no larger than one of today’s actresses. Sizing has changed so much in a fairly short period of time: I can only just squeeze into my mum’s wedding dress from the 70s, and it’s labelled as two sizes larger than my usual dress size!

      • Jemma says:

        I watched the changing of sizes happen first-hand. When I was a teen I worked in Miss Selfridge. I was a size 6 at the time so was super excited when Miss S announced they’d be bringing their clothes out in a 6. I was so disappointed when the clothes arrived and were actually a size 8 and the size 8s (and all those above) had all just been sized up!

        • Amber says:

          Ha, yes, and now Miss S do a size 4 in some items, and… it’s pretty much what the size 6 used to be! Dorothy Perkins did this too – I was so excited when they brought out a size 6, but they just bumped everything up one, and their 6 is really an 8!

          I’ve also noticed this with trouser lengths, too… I always used to buy River Island’s jeans in “short”, which was the perfect length on me. About a year ago, I ordered some jeans from there in my usual size, and couldn’t understand why they were too long, until I looked at the website and found that their “short” is now 30″, whereas it used to be 29″. (That one inch doesn’t sound like much, but it makes all the difference!) Mind you, this week I discovered that Topshop’s petite length, which is sold as 28″, and used to be too short on me, now fits perfectly, so at least I still have one option, albeit the petite range is so limited it’s not that much use!

  • Alex says:

    Seriously, why are we not selling clothes by measurements? I mean, I know from Ashley’s trouser shopping that it’s not TOTALLY perfect (especially as he’s somewhere between a 30″ and 32″ waist), but it’s got to be a lot more accurate. You can’t vanity-size inches THAT much.

    Ridiculous.

    Love, Woman With Everything From 12-18 In Her Wardrobe

    • Amber says:

      There was a campaign a couple of years ago to do it by measurements… I’ll have to have a Google and see what happened about it: It would make so much more sense!

  • Alison says:

    Have to concur with all the posts above, especially to wag a finger at H&M.

    As a short girl with hips and a bust I have a nightmare getting dresses that fit off the peg as they are always too long and the waist is anywhere but where is should be. Trousers are the worst though – where are these giraffe-like women who can wear trousers from Zara for example? I could remove about 8-10cms off each leg which ruins the line. It would actually be easier for me to find men’s trousers to fit than women’s which given I am 5’2 is patently ridiculous. I also agree on the vanity sizing – invariably I am going down a size these days (up to two in maternity clothes – go figure) but the inconsistency is the killer. Grrrrrrr!

    • Amber says:

      Oh God, don’t get me started! Zara is my favourite shop, and I generally find their sizing pretty good, but the legs! I think their standard inseam is something like 36″, which is WAY longer than most other stores: I always have to have what feels like half of the leg chopped off too, if I want to wear them! (Although, I’ve found that if I buy their “cropped” trousers, they fit perfectly as regular-length. They should make more of those…)

      Mango is the same with the leg length: Spanish women must all be gazelles!

      • Mona says:

        I like Zara pants exactly because they are insanely long. I wear an 32″ inseam with flats, so most pants look too short in heels. Admittedly Zara pants still need to be shortened so I can wear them with normal heels, but some are ok as is for me. Maybe Zara expects everyone to be 5’9″ and wear their 5″ heels? It would be good if they offered reg/tall/petite, but it is the only pants store I can recommend for tall women in the US that actually want to try on the tall lengths in store.

        • From talking to a friend who lived in spain about this, I think it’s because it’s the norm to get clothes tailored to fit you over there, especially where it comes to the length of trousers, so they make them that long on purpose.

  • Sheena says:

    I have so many different sizes of clothing in my wardrobe – from a US4 right up to my wedding dress which I had to order in a UK size 16 (which is nuts as I am roughly a 10). I have clothes which I bought years ago in the same sizes that I buy now (from the same shops too) which are now too small so there has definitely been a shift somewhere.

    I can’t comfortably go into any shop and know what size to choose which makes it very difficult when shopping online and, as Roisin mentioned, you have to take multiple sizes of each garment into the fitting room with you.

    Neither wonder shopping can easily become a chore, especially when you are looking for something you ‘need’ rather than just something you want.

    • Amber says:

      Neither wonder shopping can easily become a chore, especially when you are looking for something you ‘need’ rather than just something you want.

      So true! And I wonder if this is why a lot of people are reluctant to order online, knowing that there’s a good change the thing will have to be returned anyway because it’s so hard to know what size you’ll need? Actually, last month I ordered a couple of skirts from Topshop, and I decided to order two sizes in each, because I wasn’t sure which one would be best. It was the same skirt, in two different colours, and in one colour, the two sizes were almost identical – I had to check the label to see which was which, because I couldn’t tell just by trying them on – and in the other, there was a more noticeable different, but definitely not a huge one. So confusing!

  • Leigh says:

    As someone who shops the other end of the size range I can assure you it’s not any better when you’re a uk 16. Some stores run a 16 but it’s in reality a size 14 with a different label. If you lay one on top of the other, they are exactly the same. I also take exception to a size 14 being xl. What the hell does that make me? Average size for the uk is still a 14 I believe so just above average shouldn’t really be xxl. Just because you are made petite or curvy and don’t fall right in the middle, it really shouldn’t be this hard! L x

    • Amber says:

      I know, that’s absolutely ridiculous: I always think that, too, when the media starts on about “plus size models”, and the models in question are size 12 or 14: no WAY is that “plus sized”! Dress size is all so relative, too: you could be a size 14 and be underweight for your height and build, and you could be a size 8 and be technically overweight – the number on your clothes really tell you absolutely nothing!

    • Amber says:

      Also: hello, you – just realised which Leigh you were!

    • Steffi says:

      Yes. I agree so much on all of this.

  • Jennifer says:

    This phenomena is why I refuse to buy clothes online. I absolutely have to try clothes on before I buy them because the few times I’ve bought clothes online, I’ve had to return them every time. I am at the short of end of tall (five foot nineish) and have realized that I have to try the normal jeans on at the store and then buy the tall version from the website. The fact that stores do not carry every range of clothing they sell in the stores themselves is the part that infuriates me the most, especially when they all seem to have arbitrarily picked their own way of sizing their various offerings. You’d think we’d have come to an international sizing standard by now, but I guess that is something that might not ever happen.

  • Ana says:

    Out or curiosity, why UK clothes starts at size 6?? Wouldn’t be easier just to call it 0 if it’s the smallest one available?
    Do you know what is even more annoying than the size charts not always match our sizes? Having the same shirt with different colors fitting you differently!
    That happens a lot with me when I shop at GAP. One time I tried a pink tank top and decided to take the white one home instead. When I decided to wear it, I ripped the tag first and when I put it on, it was way too big. I double checked the tag and the size was the same as the pink one. I end up going back and arguing that I hadn’t used the top yet etc. in order to exchange. The same thing happened again a few months later with another top. You would think I learned the lesson, but nope, I ripped the tag again before putting the top with different color and had to argue again in order to exchange. Now I always the clothes on the color I want to take home. Or at least, I only rip the tag after I’m sure it fits properly.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Please be sure to tell us when Terry launches his new style blog.

    And yes, clothing sizes suck. My wardrobe ranges between 8 and 12. it’s nonsense.

  • diTaykan says:

    Terry. Dude. You look *good*. Though I have to question the disguise, does he not realize that his wife’s blog already knows what he looks like?

    I’m all for some kind of standardized global sizing system, but we can’t even get that with knitting needles so I’m not holding my breath. There’s one brand (Style & Co) that I consistently know my size in, and so that is the only brand I wear. Sad, but I’m not going to torture myself trying on twelve different outfits only to find that the legs work but the hips don’t, the arms are too long but the chest fits, or that I can’t get the darn thing off. Which is also why brick and mortar stores are an insistance.

  • Louise says:

    Today a size 12 dress in Laura Ashley fit me (I should point out that my regular size, if there’s any such thing, is a 16) what is that about? That was some sleep that lost me 2 dress sizes overnight!

  • Amy says:

    Vanity sizing the in the US over the course of two years allowed me to gain 15 pounds and still buy the same size at my usual stores. I own three pairs of J. Crew wool (so woven, not stretch) winter trousers in similar cuts which are all US4, and each is larger than the next. I’m now back to my original size (I was never overweight, just in flux) and it’s difficult to navigate the sizing especially when ordering online. It’s my habit in stores to grab three sizes – the one I “usually” wear, and one above and one below. That’s just not practical when ordering online, and often size charts even within one company are inaccurate.
    The creeping hemlines are really getting to me – I’m considered an average height for the US (5′ 6″ – aprox 168 cm) but my legs are much longer than my torso. So, many dresses hit only a few inches below my butt – it’s getting out of control. Though, I will say that trouser and sleeve lengths have gotten much longer than they were when I first reached this height, and that makes me a little confused. Most jeans are TOO long for me, and many trousers, though most sleeves are finally long enough. And don’t get me started on jackets and suits – why aren’t women’s jackets and blazers sold with raw hems (as men’s are)? Almost all jackets are still too short in the sleees and I’m sure they are too long for others, it would be easier to have a raw hem for a tailor to alter – and I never know if letting out a hem is going to leave a fold mark from the old cuff. ARG! If we were in charge everything would be perfect, right?!

  • One of the reasons I don’t buy clothes on-line is because the sizing is so inconsistent. I’ve noticed that an English size 14 is about a 10 or a 12 American, which rather goes along with an American 0 being an English 6. I find the best thing to do is to find a brand you like that fits well and shop that brand as often as possible and of course try your clothes on before you buy.

    Congrats on making links a la mode!

  • PepperReed says:

    Isn’t it ridiculous!!?? I really wish that they would size by measurement or that the size # was based on a standard (hip/waist ratio, etc.) that didn’t ‘move’ so much. It’s amazing how the perception of that number on the tag influences so much. But, it’s the same as it ever was… A US size 0 today was approx a size 8 back in the 80’s (when I wore that size, tho’ not a size 0 today!) and all that static about Marilyn being a size 14/16 was back in the 50s when that size was a 32/34 bust (I have loads of vintage patterns and clothing). As another poster said above, she was TINY but curvaceous!

  • Fashnlvr says:

    Hi! I’m a new visitor to your blog and I love the fact that your husband posed in your skirt for a photo! That is so fun. My hubby would never do that, but my stuff probably wouldn’t fit him either. I wear a US0 now but I still have skirts from the 80’s and they are either a 6 or an 8 and still fit. So yes, sizing has definitely changed even if my a$$ has not!
    I really enjoyed all the commentary on this post. What great readers you have!

  • Fabi says:

    Terry IS such a good sport, but nevermind him: are those your shoes?! AMAZING!

    As for sizes, I guess each brand has their own “standard measurements” depending on their customer target. It’s SO confusing, though. I could never stick to a brand (mostly because I’m broke AND I live in a third world country where options are limited anyway) so I learned basic sewing…

    But, oh , what a pain what a pain…

  • Great article. Luckily I have never been obsessed with sizes as I know that I have a different size for every label I buy. What I find disturbing is that there exists a size 0 in us at all. How can anybody be a size 0? Surely you must have some kind of size? You have a body right? Was it created to make people feel good about themselves for having a small size? If that skirt is a size 0, then then they will need to come up with some minus sizes shortly……

  • Yeah, also annoying how in one thing you can be one size (usually a 36 European in dresses for instance) and a totally different size for something else (I recently bought size 42 trousers). I don’t think this is an actual reflection of my body size at all!

    Very chuckly article, I loved it!

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