Living Large

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I don’t know if it’s the size of my breasts or the increase of vanity sizing, but I have been a size Large my entire adult life. I remember it clearly, September 1997, I walked into Express to turn in a job application. I was 135 pounds (though at the time thought I needed to lose 25), a size 7/8, and was wearing a size Large black tank, size Large brown peasant skirt, and a size Large brown studded hip-slung belt. All fit perfectly well (and yes, I got the job!).

I remember a few months later, I won a top sales award for the company and was invited to the regional meeting. I decided to buy a pair of pants in a larger size – 9/10 to get the slouchy menswear effect. With it, I wore a size Large blouse and a size Large jacket, and I have to say, I did look pretty fantastic.

For over a decade after this, I have been a size Large. Be it Banana Republic, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Target, Boden, Lands End Canvas or a fancier designer or boutique brand, I knew I was pretty safe if I chose a size Large. Sometimes it didn’t fit the breasts, but it usually fit everywhere else.

Then I got pregnant, and had a baby but kept much of the baby weight. I was no longer a Large, but too petite for XL to fit me properly. Dressing this new non-Large body was confusing and frustrating.

Over the past couple of years I have lost the baby weight and then a little bit more, and have returned to fitting quite nicely into size Large. Be it a hat, a structured shirt, a knit dress, a belt, Large seems my size.

Until recently.

First, I bought a pair of yoga pants from Old Navy in Large, of course. They fit, but were too long, sagged in the rear, and slid down with wear. I figured Old Navy changed their fit of their pants until my brilliant husband suggested, “Why don’t you just get them in the smaller size?” Wait, a MEDIUM? I’m not a medium! But I tried a Medium and it fit perfectly.

Then this weekend, I went to Nordstrom Rack and found the most adorable red patent skinny belt with a bow detail (seen here). It was from the brand Another Line who also made my black leather obi belt, which I purchased in Large. I quickly wrapped the belt around my body over my dress to see if it fit, and in my head I was thinking more about whether I would need to size up to XL. Seemed to work, dropped it in my basket (by the way, Nordstrom Rack has the coolest baskets with a pull-out handle and wheels so you can roll it around like luggage through the store).

Tuesday I went to wear the belt… and it was loose on the very last hole. If I lose ten pounds, I will either have to give the belt away or go at it with an ice pick to make a new hole. I really should have purchased a Medium.

What’s the point of this story? It’s not to show off that I have lost weight or anything, but to remind you to not judge a garment (or a belt) by the size on the tag.

When I bought those 9/10 pants back in 1997, I actually removed the tag in fear that someone would see that *gasp* I was wearing double digits. Now, I am automatically purchasing a size without really taking into account this new shape.

These two experiences were so eye-opening to me. Now, I properly try on garments instead of assuming they will fit. Even with retailers I feel are made for my body (hello Ann Taylor), I try on instead of grabbing and heading to the register because not every size Large fits the same. Sometimes I need a Regular, sometimes I need a Petite… and sometimes I need a smaller size.

Who cares if the tag says XS or XL, 6 or 16. Does it fit? Does it flatter? Do you need it? Do you love it? If so, then and only then should you purchase it. If it makes you sleep better at night, you too can cut out the tag. But don’t rule out a brand, a store, or a size because you assume it won’t fit you. You never know until you try.

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  1. Sighs…please no ice pick or knife holes. It shows. Almost any shoe repair guy will punch a hole in your belt – takes them five seconds and they will mostly do it for free. I have never, ever been asked to pay for it. Although I always offer. It looks nicer, and is a cleaner hole and the professionally punched hole is less likely to tear over time. Shoe repair guys are amazing like that.

  2. Somehow I’ve just now found your blog (via The Dashing Eccentric) and think it, and you, are just fabulous.
    In regards to the above post, I am usually a large, but sometimes I’m an XL, but more often I’m
    between the two.  If something fits my thighs, it doesn’t fit my waist
    and vice versa.  I usually just make sure I try everything on, taking a
    lot of sizes into the dressing room when I go.

  3. Belts have gotten bigger.  I used to wear a large and lately I’ve been taking a medium.   I have not gotten smaller.
    I think it’s a way to lock customers into their brand.  If you get familiar with a clothing brands’ sizing then you can buy rapidly without trying on.  I won’t buy “new” brands over the internet because I can’t outnt on the sixing.  However, I can swing into Target and throw a couple of shirts into my cart with no thought because I’m so familiar with the sizing of their Merona (I take a medium there) brand.

    Have you ever noticed that women who’re featured in weight loss articles in magazines like Shape or Self ALWAYS wear a size 8? If I look at their height/weight they often quite close to my own stat and I’ve NEVER worn a size 8.  I think they must pick the biggest sized clothes they can find and stuff the woman into it so they can say she wears a size 8. 

  4. I completely feel you on this post. That was one of my growing frustrations with Lane Bryant. Their sizing is definitely not true to size. I’m an 18/20 but anytime I try something on I’m going up to a 22/24…sometimes 24/26 just to get the right fit. That can mess with one’s self esteem. So I’ve stopped looking at the size label. That’s why I find myself shopping at straight sized stores because I’m now aware of what material and fit would work best with for body.

  5. Ooh the Gap Long and Leans…ridiculous! I have worn four different sizes in those crazy jeans and while I LOVE the way they fit, it’s so frustrating to see them change their sizes all the time.

    I recently tried on pants at the Gap and in each of the different styles I was a different size. I mean, I realize the cut is different but really? How is a 14 too tight in some styles but a 12 is far too big in others in the SAME STORE? Bizarro.

    I’m a pear shape and typically find that a M or L is my best shirt/dress size. Except when it’s not. I recently bought a size S cardigan the Lands End Canvas because it fit best. It makes online shopping frustrating, but I try not to take any of it too seriously. A size is just a number and when I have everything from size 6 to size 16 in my closet, I just can’t get too bent out of shape.

  6. II recently bought 3 new tops, one was an XS (ridiculous), one was S and one was M. They all fit and look great on me. Mind you I’ve always been a petite medium, after I gained weight I’ve now been trying to loose, I switched to L but now I’m slowly back in my comfort zone of M.
    Then of course there are those stores where I couldn’t fit into an XL no matter what.

  7. Lack of consistant sizing and an inability to find clothes that fit are what drove me to refashioning clothing.  My whole life is changing because I’m finally refusing to be led around bythe fashion industry’s ‘ring in my nose’.

  8. So very true and so frustrating.  This summer alone, I’ve been wearing clothing in sizes 8,10,12 and 14 and my weight hasn’t changed.  One brand’s 8 is another’s 14?  So frustrating.  Same with tops.  I have small, medium and large, all of which fit well.  Why can’t we have standardized sizing like mens’ where a size 32 is a 32 inch waist.  So simple.

  9. Sizing is insane.  Although my weight and figure has stayed pretty much exactly the same for the past 10 years, I have gotten sized out of stores or can only find my size online.  Sometimes I try on petite items, even though I’m not petite, in an attempt to find something that fits.

  10. I agree with you about size.  It’s really about the fit. Sizing is so inconsistent these days, I have items in many different sizes hanging in my closet and they all fit. Trying on is a must for me. I remember the days of cutting out tags. Now I don’t worry. I think the real win is that I’m happy with myself no matter my size. Isn’t that the real victory?

  11. I wish clothes were sized like shoes and not loosely interpreted by each brand.  Even some store in which I knew my size are inching up on me.  I have maintained my same weight my whole adult life and think it is funny that now in some stores I’m and XS.  I wish they would get real. 

  12. I totally agree with this. As an avid thrifter, I learned long ago not to pay attention to the tag – since the average thrift store carries a multitude of brands, it becomes obvious very quickly that sizes are a nebulous guidline at best.
    A while ago I took a good friend thrifting for the first time, and she was surprised to find that everything from a XS to a M fit her.

  13. It’s most likely vanity sizing, but I’ve been a size 10 since high school even though my weight is up, everything’s shifted south, and I’ve birthed two kids.  It was embarrassing to me to wear that size back then, but I guess I’ve had 20 years to get over it. 😉

  14. You can buy belt hole punchers really cheaply (I got mine for about £10 on Amazon – it’s a Drapers one and it’s awesome quality) and it will become your best friend whilst you are losing weight.  You won’t have to toss out all your favourite belts either, and you can use it to transform a hip length/jeans belt into a waist one.

  15. A big reason this happens is because companies save money by making big stacks of fabric to be cut at once for patterns. Think how if you cut two pieces of paper at the same time they are relatively the same size, but if you cut 8 pieces at the same time the scissor ends up on a diagonal and each piece is different. This is how irrelgulars happen… and how one size 12 can be two sizes larger than a different size 12 from the same company. Also it could be made in a different factory. I remember when I worked at Express I only liked their Metro Tees from the Mariana Islands because though they had the same cut and same fabric content, they fit better, washed better, and had a different feel to the fabric. So frustrating!
    This is a big reason why expensive clothes are expensive – they make fewer pieces at a time so you are more likely to get a consistent fit.

  16. Last year I bought a pair of navy pants at Macy’s.  They were petite 12’s.  They fit perfectly.  A week or two later I went back to get the khaki color because I loved the way they fit. I bought them without trying on.  They fit totally different than the first pair I bought and I had to return them.  It’s so frustrating when the same brand does this.

  17. I’ve noticed the same.  It is really lousy for me – I was a small to XS before, and now my size just doesn’t exist in many places.  Even some stores with petite sections aren’t carrying below what is now a size 4.  I’m stuck going to a few select places that carry small petite sizes, and even their petite sections are typically smaller and more limited in styles than the regular sections. 

    My weight has fluctuated by about 20lbs over the years, and I’m fine with that.  Like everyone else here, I really don’t care about the number on the tag.

  18. It really is more about the fabric and silhouette than the size on the tag. And why do these mass retailers keep messing with their sizes? How does this help their sales when their loyal customers get frustrated in the fitting room? 🙁

  19. It’s quite possible that vanity sizing is at play. It is difficult to believe that sizes have stayed consistent over such a long period of time

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