Sizing Up Australian Clothing Sizes

What size are you?

That question makes me cringe. Does it make you cringe too? As women we are constantly walking into shops expecting to be one size and finding out we are actually another. Why is this? Are we constantly getting bigger (and smaller) or are the clothes we are buying not based on a regulated industry standard?

To answer these questions, I took a look into some of Australia's leading brands' sizing charts. For interest's sake, I copied the bust, waist and hip measurements of some brand's size 10. Check it out...

Straight away you can see there is a HUGE difference between some of the hip measurements. Supré sits their size 10 hip measurement at 95cm whilst a Dotti size 10 can measure up to 101cm (a huge 6cm bigger).

So what can we learn from this?

Well firstly, Australian sizing standards are NOT consistent!

With such huge inconsistency in sizing, it's sad to think that at some point or another we have all based our own self esteem or body image on the number of our clothing. In 2010, Researcher Tammy Kinley examined the effect of clothing sizes on self esteem. In the study, Kinley broke a group of 149 women into 2 smaller groups and got them to try on a pair of pants. Although all of the women tried on a pair of pants that was guaranteed to fit them, one group were given a size that ran small (meaning the size number on the pants was SMALLER than what they would usually wear) and the other group were given a size that ran big (meaning that the size number was BIGGER than what they would usually wear). The women were asked how they felt about themselves after they had put the pants on. It was found that the women who were given the smaller sized pants felt better about themselves – almost a sense of achievement – due to the smaller size of the pants. Surprisingly, however, the women who were given the larger sized pants didn't show any changes in their self esteem. This study highlights the power that the size of our clothing has on the way we see ourselves. As sad as it is, if we try on a piece of clothing that has a smaller number on it, we are more likely to feel good about ourselves. We are becoming slaves to the small number that sits on our clothing. We are striving to achieve a smaller number. That tiny number seems to have the power to control how we feel about ourselves and our body.

A recent Supré advert

So, how DO clothing brands set their sizes?

Well, interestingly, sizing is very much based on target audience. It makes sense really, considering our satisfaction with the clothes we wear is largely based on the size we are wearing. If we use Supré as an example, you'll notice that their sizing is smaller than the rest of the brands on the list. This is due to the fact that their target market is young teenagers who are smaller and haven't really developed their curves yet. Unfortunately, this means that many of us walk into their store expecting to be one size and actually being a couple of sizes bigger.

So how can we stop focusing on the number so much?

I'm going to be the first to put my hand up and admit that I have DEFINITELY liked a pair of jeans more because I was a size smaller than usual. I am also happy to say that I have left a store before because I couldn't even squeeze into a pair of jeans 2 sizes above my 'normal' size. No one is immune to the effect of this awful little number! In saying this, however, in my experience there are a few little tricks that you can apply in situations where you feel like your clothing size is defining you.

1. Be realistic with yourself! Don't walk into a store and try on your dream size first. If anything, it's a good idea to grab the 3 different sizes so you are guaranteed to find the one that will fit you best.

2. When you are trying on your item, IGNORE the number! This is where grabbing a few different sizes really comes into play. The less you focus on the number, the more you are able to focus on what really matters – how the clothing fits you and shows off your best assets!

3. Always choose clothes that are comfortable and look good on you. If you buy a size too small because it 'just fits' then you are most likely never going to wear that piece of clothing again.

4. Get to know the brands that you shop with. Knowledge is power! If you already know that a brand has clothing that runs large then you are less likely to try on something that is too small by mistake.

Finally, when you are answering the question 'what size are you?' I have a final piece of advice. From a girl whose average outfit is a size 9 pair of jeans, a size 8 top and a size 12 jacket, I can promise you – there is absolutely no right answer. Instead, I like to ask the shop attendant – 'What size do you think I'd be in your clothing?' Remember– size is just a number and the shop attendant will have the best idea of their brand and what will best fit you. Don't let it play with your mind – only you should define how you feel about yourself and only you can define whether you're happy with the actual size of your body.

Source: Kinley TR. The Effect of Clothing Size on Self-Esteem and Body Image. Family & Consumer Science. 2010.

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About the Author : Country Girl