Finding the right size clothes is often a very mysterious and painstaking process. Today, a woman who always used to fit into size 8 clothing will probably find clothes that fit and are labeled from sizes 6-10.

My clients often ask – how does this happen? Well, chaos ensued in 1983 when the 25-year-old sizing standard created by the National Bureau of Standards flew out the window.

It all began with industry and innovation. In the pre-industrial age, women either made their own or purchased custom made clothing from a tailor. Fit was never an issue because, basically, every item was custom tailored to the client. When Industrialized production methods created the means to manufacture clothing on an affordable basis, women embraced the idea of purchasing fashion-forward and read-to-wear fashions.

At this point, the Mail Order Association of America requested a sizing standard from the National Bureau of Standards. From 1949-1952, the NSB proceeded to conduct a comprehensive study of women’s measurements.

This must have bee a hilarious endeavor to witness as statistical engineers and mathematicians suddenly found themselves immersed in discussions concerning previously unmentionable matters. Here is a report from one website states:

“Suddenly NBS statistical engineers found themselves thinking in terms of “abdominal extension” and “bust point to bust point” measurements. NBS personnel attended meetings with representatives of organizations such as the Underwear Institute and the Corset and Brassiere Association of America. At these meetings, delicate matters were breached such as, to quote from minutes of an October 21, 1949 meeting, “the subject of ‘chubby’ sizes…” Other concerns were wrestled with, such as whether to use a one-hip, three-bust or a one-bust, three-hip system.” *

After years of research, this standard made measurements consistent with size. Unfortunately this standard was discontinued throughout the clothing industry because it was decided that it no longer fit  (no pun intended) the actual sizes of the average consumer. My feeling is that it probably occurred because, unfortunately, we now weigh more on the average than we ever have before!

Once the sizing standard was withdrawn from the playing field, almost every apparel company began employing a different fit model anddeveloped its own size charts. Designers began sizing their clothes at whim, often tagging larger sized clothing with smaller sizes to appeal to their weight conscious client. After all, doesn’t it feel better to purchase size 10 jeans than a size 14? This technique is considered vanity sizing and this is why size is no longer important when you buy clothes.

Just to add to the total confusion in the marketplace. Chico’s and other stores have gone one step crazier and now only carry sizes 0-3. with 3.5 being the equivalent give or take, of a size 18. Wow!

The only way to play this new sizing game as a consumer is to find a designer that you find fits you consistently and keep checking back on their new product line. For instance, I have really long legs and finding slacks with a 34” inseam is very difficult. I know that Jones NY slacks always fit perfectly and never run short. Whose rack do you think I head to first when I need a new pair of dress slacks? The only challenge with this technique is that it tends to make you stuck in the rut.

So this is what I recommend to all of my clients. When you find an outfit that you really love, take 3 sizes into the dressing room. The first is the size you think you night be along with a plus and a minus size as well.

If you hate to shop and this all feels too overwhelming, hire an image consultant. We love the thrill of the chase and will find exactly what you need in your perfect size! You will also save a lot of money because you will no longer buy clothes that hibernate on your closet and never see the light of day. The clothes we pick for you will actually make you look and feel fabulous so you will wear them frequently with enthusiasm and confidence!

Remember – it’s all about finding the perfect fit. Don’t get hung up on the size, because it no longer relates to your actual body size! Isn’t this a relief?