/ Shopping

Does clothes sizing have to be a lottery?

Clothes shopping

Clothes sizes seem to mean nothing. From shop to shop sizes vary significantly, leaving me wondering whether there’s a need for standardised sizing, or maybe a re-think of clothes sizing altogether…

Last week, a frustrated shopper took to Facebook to complain about clothes sizing in H&M. Lowri Byrne found that despite being a size 12, she couldn’t fit into a size 16 dress in H&M’s Plymouth store.

And I couldn’t help but empathise.

Clothes size lottery

Commenting on my shape, an outdoor pursuits instructor in the Austrian Alps once charmingly told me: ‘We have no wetsuits to fit you. The thing is, you have, as we say in Austria, too much wood at the front of your house’, so I also find it a real struggle to find clothes that fit properly.

With tops, they’re either that little bit too tight or so baggy they would need taking in. And I find that dresses that fit my top half often look like I’m wearing a tent on my bottom half.

Frustratingly, sizes are rarely consistent from brand to brand. In one shop, I’ll be more or less a 14 on top; 12 on bottom. In another, I could be a 16 or even an 18. Then in those that are more generous with their sizes, I’ll come out with size 10 bottoms or size 12 tops/dresses.

If I haven’t bought clothes from a shop before, I’ll find myself taking in at least two sizes into the changing room, just to get something that vaguely fits.

And I’ve all but given up online clothes shopping because it gets expensive when you have to order multiples of everything.

Standard sizing

A spokesperson from H&M responded to Lowri’s plea, stating:

‘It is only ever our intention to design and make clothes that make our customers feel good about themselves, any other outcome is neither intended nor desired.

‘H&M’s sizes are global and the sizes offered in the UK are the same in all the 66 markets in which we operate in and online. As there is no global mandatory sizing standard, sizes will differ between brands and different markets.

‘Our dedicated, in-house sizing department works according to an average of the sizes and measurements suggested by the markets we operate in. H&M sizes are continually reviewed by our in-house sizing department.’

Now, I realise these brands have probably determined sizes to suit their customer base, but surely it makes more sense if a size 12 in one shop is also a size 12 in another?

Once sizing is standardised, why not introduce in-between sizes? For example, instead of the too-tight size 14 and too-baggy size 16, you’d have a size 15 that was just right. Or, for men, have odd sizes, such as 35, 37, 39, etc.

I definitely appreciate the half sizes you get in some shoe shops (I’m a 4.5), so I reckon there must be loads of in-betweeners like me who aren’t catered for.

Failing that, more stores could offer free tailoring. That way, you could have those tailor’s tacks put in without having to spend a fortune on alterations, or even waste your evenings and weekends altering clothes yourself.

Do you struggle to find clothes that fit properly? Should sizes be standardised? Would you find in-between sizes useful? Or do you have another solution?


It seems to be an eternal problem. Getting a Tutu the right colour is hard enough, but I always have a problem squeezing into one. And does no one make size 15 ballet pointe shoes any more? Just because I’m 6’3″ this shouldn’t be an issue. It’s a hard life for us ex-wrestlers, that’s for sure.




Ian, you need to shop when Monty Python got their clothes (cf John Cleese). I think that where you look for items can be important, so I bet you in Manhattan you’d easily find something that fits given their wonderful drag culture.

Similarly, Melanie, the Austrian Alps may not have been the best place to look for a wet suit (unless it was a joke?), though I know that diving in mountain and other lakes can be of interest. It may be easier to find what you need where there is a big deep sea diving, surfing, wind-surfing community.

Pret-a-porter is a great thing, but it has its limits. We’re all of different sizes, but our shapes also vary wildly. I do agree, however, that sizes at least should be standardised throughout as far as possible. How? What they consider small in the US of A is probably seen as large here. (But we’re catching up. Another matter.)

Pity tailor-made clothes are so expensive. Open more tailoring schools, set up more tailoring businesses? Maybe there’s an opening there somewhere, with a lot of unemployment out there.


Ha ha – definitely not a joke, Sophie. We were going canyoning, which largely involves scrambling through a gorge, jumping off rocks into glacial pools and abseiling down waterfalls, so it can get a bit cold. I got one on in the end, though. It was baggier than it should have been but did an OK-ish job.


Wow! I was just thinking too narrowly, Melanie! :0)

Good you got something kind of OK. It may still be worth checking out diving etc stores next time you’re near the sea and there is this community I was talking about. You never know. It still doesn’t solve our general sizing problems. We haven’t even broached the bra subject yet… Ian, any tips?


“We haven’t even broached the bra subject yet… Ian, any tips?”

I thought Ian had claimed to be an ex-wrestler, not a lumberjack 🙂 🙂 🙂


If you want help with bras, just contact customer support, Sophie.


They don’t seem to do X sizes in Bras…


As a mere male , I wear an old pair of jeans ( I know even at my age ) and an old comfy pair of shoes , very happy and if someone doesn’t approve then they judge people by the snobbish way of dress rather than intellect. But this country is renowned for “dressing correctly ” its so ingrained I went to several US large international business websites dealing in US/British interactions, these were government level websites, “when meeting the British etc ” I had to start laughing , the Americans were actually being taught in simple terms how to dress for occasions , greet people , talk to Brits etc etc it was done in Primary school lists of do,s and dont,s . It was like a clash of cultures<