What size should I buy?
Revision 0, Jan 25, 2005, by You can call me
One of the perpetual difficulties in shopping for clothes is in knowing
the right size to buy. When it comes to women's clothing, there is no
easy answer to that question: one might take a Medium in one garment,
but require an Extra-Large (1XL) in another slightly different garment from
the same manufacturer.
Here are a few sizing and shopping tips, from the perspective of
someone who is slightly above average in height and weight (6 foot,
Tops Pants & Skirts
Tops, Shirts, & Blouses
Camis (shorter camisoles), polyester knit tops, and most clingy
poly-rayon tops intended to cover the complete midriff, in women's
Medium through Extra-Large (1XL), will usually
leave a 6 foot person
with 1" - 3" of extra length to tuck in. This will seem to be long
enough at first, but will not be usually not be long enough in
practice. Stretchy material may have a tendancy to roll-up at the
bottom; and normal movement of the arms, such as to don a jacket, will
often be enough to pull several inches of cloth out at the bottom.
Tucking the bottom of the garment into the top of pantihose will
increase the arm movement range possible before the garment becomes
A Medium may fit a 6 foot tall person well across the
will commonly have sleeves that are a little too short or a little
too tight. A Medium may be large enough for a shorter-sleeved T-shirt,
blouse or camisole, especially if you will not be tucking it in.
An Extra-Large (1XL) top may be as little as 1" longer than
the same top in Medium. The Extra-Large (1XL) will usually
provide about 2" longer sleeves, but will mostly be intended for a
consistantly larger girth. If a top fits well but is too short, the next
one or two sizes up will likely be too short as well.
Close-fitting tops of average length will not usually be designed to
allow for a pot belly, even in an Extra-Large (1XL). If you can,
try on these clothes before buying, and check in a mirror: a stretch top may
noticably accentuate the "little something extra" at the waist.
Tops are relatively easy to fit. If you have access to the closet
of an average-sized woman then you may find that a third to a half
of the tops fit you easily.
Be careful trying on pull-on tops that do not have much stretch. A
top might fall into place easily over your upraised arms with a gravity
assist, and might fit comfortably, and yet might not have enough
stretch for you to be able to do the usual arms-crossed pull-off
without straining the seams. The result may prove embarrassing.
Check the fabric and washing instructions before buying! A blouse
which is thin and vibrantly coloured will usually have a noticable
amount of plastic in it, such as Rayon, and may be
Dry Clean Only.
A luxary fabric such as silk or velvet or mohair may be
Hand Wash Only or Dry Clean Only.
Pants, & Skirts
Pants may be much more difficult to fit than tops. Unless you have
thin legs, you may find that you literally cannot get your leg into the
jeans of a woman whose tops fit you more often than not. An average
man's size 34 waist is near the top end of women's Large pants;
by size 36, only a few of the looser cuts of Large are likely to fit.
You may need to go to Plus Sizes to find comfortable non-stretch
Skirts vary considerably. A stretch skirt as small as a women's size
6 may fit, while a skirt with no stretch at all may require up to size
14/15 to be comfortable to someone who takes a size 36 men's.
With a little bit of wiggle, you can often fit into and zip up
noticably smaller skirts than you might expect.
Your shoulders may be narrower than your waist, so if a skirt is a
bit too small to pull up from below, try putting it on over your head.
A non-stretch skirt that is quite comfortable while standing may turn
out to be a little uncomfortable if you are sitting still over time, if
you have a bit of a pot belly. Wear the right skirt for the occasion.
Skirts can be surprisingly comfortable, and are warmer than you might
expect. If, though, there is a nasty windchill, then unless you are
wearing a winter skirt or full petticoat, the bottom of your legs will
feel the cold. A full slip will not help much in this situation, as a
full slip is usually knee-high.
Bra sizing varies even between styles from the same manufacturer, so
there will not be just one bra size that is comfortable. If your chest
is not built up (muscles) and you are not noticably plump, then
comfortable bras will usually be about the same size as your waist
measurement. If you follow the official bra sizing rules of taking
your chest diameter and adding 4" or 5", then the result will likely be
too large and the bra straps will likely slip down.
Your "natural" bra cup size is AA (A- in European
sizing) if you are thin enough to see your ribs, to A if
you a bit overweight; it may
be larger if you are carrying many extra pounds in your upper body.
Add a cup gel pads will usually bring you to the upper end of
A, not to a full B cup. Most bras are only available in
an A cup up to size
36: you will have to look carefully to find a 38A,
and a size 40 or larger in an A cup may have
to be special ordered. It is not uncommon
in bra styles to offer A through D cups in sizes
34 and 36, but to offer
only C and D starting at size 38, but
you should be able to find a
selection of 38Bs.
If you find the "right" bra but it is too tight, then you can
buy a bra extender, which is a piece of fabric with a pair of
bra hooks on one side, and a set of hook eyes on the other. Each
extender adds up to about 3 inches. Few stores will have these on
display; you can ask for them, or you can get a packet of them
at Sears (Polo Park).
Your greatest difficulty in finding a bra may be in finding one
with sufficiently long bra straps. You may wish to use strapless bras,
or convertable bras without the straps. Convertable bras have the
advantage of not requiring ripping apart a seem in order to install
longer straps. Caution: different convertable bras use different
sized fabric loops on the bras, and different styles of hooks on the
bra straps. If you use the wrong set of straps with a convertable
bra, the strap hooks may slip out quite easily, or the straps may be
very difficult to remove. Be warned that you will make mistakes in
connecting the straps on convertable bras... usually just when you
have no time to wrestle with recalcitrant strap hooks.
If you are trying to give the impression of a bust extending out
a noticable distance, then you will seldom find anything larger than
a firm-shelled B cup. C cup and larger bras are not
often firm enough to retain their shape against the natural inward pressure
of the fabric of a blouse; A cup is the largest that is routinely
available with a firm cup.
Most C and D cup bras are not firm at all: they
are designed only to support large breasts. Sears has a brand of
large semi-firm bras available in C thru DD;
when worn under clothes, the C does not extend any further
out from the chest than a firm B cup bra does, but it does extend
noticably further vertically and to the sides, such as for breasts
that are much bigger around but not longer than for a B cup. The
proportions implied by these bras may look unnatural on many.