Comment: the sizing conundrum

The sizing conundrumFashion Bust columnist Margaret Kennedy lets off steam about the problem of sizing when Christmas shopping.

It seemed so simple. My daughter-in-law wanted thermal underwear for Christmas. There is plenty to choose from these days, with many brands and retailers offering their own technologies and styles, so finding something stylish and effective should be no problem. A quick look online was all I thought it would take, and that would be one present done and dusted. How wrong can you be?

The problem was sizing, as it so often is with gifting any item of clothing. But I thought that thermal underwear at least would not present a problem here. After all, the request was quite clear – tops should be size 10. Easy, right? Not at all. Because a size 10 does not mean the same thing for every brand, and to make matters more confusing, garments such as thermals seem to mostly come in multi size options, and this presents a problem. Or at least it did for me.

Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but I’m buying my daughter-in-law a gift and I would like it to fit her, and so I was frustrated when I couldn’t easily determine the size I should buy in the ranges I looked at. Yes, she asked for a 10, but not only do you have to contend with different definitions of a 10 – just a cursory check of sizing guides came up with size 10s that ranged from a bust of 32 to 34 inches – but what do you do when the sizes on offer are simply small, medium and large?

I am a size 10. At just over 5′ tall and under 8 stone I always try the size 10 first. However, I do wear a 34″ DD bra so tops can sometimes be difficult. If I were buying this underwear for myself, a size 10 at 32 inches would surely not fit. And what about my daughter-in-law. She’s certainly not smaller than me – would this garment fit her? I don’t think so. But buying a size 12 when a 10 is requested is a tricky thing to pull off and risks giving offence along with the gift.

And what about the ranges that only offer small, medium or large? Small was usually, but not invariably, 8-10, with medium at 12-14. I would put myself at the top end of 10 for a thermal vest so I think a garment sized 8-10 is going to be a tight fit. However, the alternative, a 12-14, would be voluminous. If the range is not going to offer individual sizes then what I need is one that is 10-12 and I think that goes for my daughter-in-law as well.

I suppose the answer is that you have to check the sizing chart of every brand before you buy and make generous use of the tape measure. Fine in your own home but not straightforward when you are buying for someone else.

But why does it have to be so complicated? Why can’t there be a standard measurement for these sizes that all brands adhere to? One brand I found classified small as 10-12 while medium was 14-16. How confusing is that? Check the sizing guide and you find that for this particular brand a size 12 was 34 inches – a size that many brands classify as a 10.

Am I alone in finding this deeply frustrating? I do understand that when you are dealing with complicated garments – and that includes bras – individual fits will vary and brands will each have their own particular style. But there is nothing complicated, other perhaps than the technology, about a thermal vest. It should be quite straightforward.

For the record, with some misgivings, I bought myself an 8-10 thermal vest from John Lewis and I am wearing it as I write – and I can confirm that it is a very snug fit on me. I hope that when my daughter-in-law opens her parcels on Christmas Day she is going to be able to squeeze into hers.

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