The fit of a garment is more than ease. Ease allows a woman to move comfortably in her clothes without looking as if she’s a little girl who has been playing in mother’s closet. Ease is part of fit, but fit is so much more.
We’ve all seen girls with muffin tops above their jeans. Sometimes, the jeans are too small:
Sometimes, the fit is okay everywhere except at the waist:
Some of us (me!) suffer from muffin tops in front and sides even when there’s a big gap in the back.
Most women believe they are a particular size. In fact, Wikipedia will tell you standard sizes fit most people. Except they don’t and most women know that. Yet we still reach for a size 8 or 12 or 16 and expect what we’ve chosen will fit. We’re disappointed when it doesn’t and when the “size” we buy at one shop is so much bigger or smaller at another.
Size is a myth.
I am a curious person who reads everything. As part of the team that developed Ann Taylor: LOFT I found a file containing the specifications for Ann Taylor and LOFT garments. LOFT is a division of Ann Taylor yet, the specifications for LOFT garments were 1/2″ to 3/4″ smaller. When I briefly worked at Liz Claiborne, I discovered their specifications were larger than Ann Taylor’s. Liz Claiborne appeals to a more traditional audience but many of their customers also shop at Ann Taylor. Those customer’s measurements don’t change simply because they’ve walked into a different shop.
Each company does use fit models before a design is approved for production. But fit models don’t necessarily have any other woman’s body shape. Once at LOFT, we were given free dresses and told to wear them to work and review them. Mine was too big on top and couldn’t be pulled down over my hips. I gave it back 15 minutes later. Others, with smaller hips, couldn’t get the zipper closed. It simply didn’t fit and, it didn’t sell.
But.. But… But.. What about the models in those gorgeous advertisements? They have different body shapes. Shouldn’t we be able to buy jeans or trousers or a skirt or anything else that a woman with hips that curve like ours or with a bust that is like ours can wear? Sorry. Those models are tiny. Each photo shoot prep meeting includes a seamstress (and a tailor, if necessary). That seamstress stitches size 8 clothing to fit tiny models. If a garment will be shot from more than one angle, the seamstress simply makes two versions. It’s all sleight of hand, trompe d’oeil, fake. The clothing changes. Our bodies are fine. (And we’re not crazy.)
Unless you sew or can afford a dressmaker,
there are only two things you can do to get clothing that fits,
1) use size as a guideline and only a guideline
2) shop at a variety of stores
Sometimes, you may need to go up a size or two or three. Sometimes, a smaller size will fit. (Do keep in mind that two different pairs of jeans in the same shop will fit differently.) Sometimes, it’s necessary to leave the shop and go somewhere else. And sometimes, you’ll need to be willing to have something altered.* (It can be worth it.)
Very few people will grab you and look at your tags to be certain you’re always wearing your “size.” As long as alterations are well-done, very few people will point to a skit that fits your waist and hips and say with malevolent glee, “I know you had it altered!” We judge ourselves and tell ourselves nothing will fit because our favourite or usual shops have nothing that fits. We decide not to buy clothing until we’ve dieted and exercised ourselves into the shape that will fit those jeans, that top, that skirt. Then, when our efforts don’t produce the results we imagined, we buy whatever we can get into and assure ourselves, shopping is hopeless because nothing fits us.
The truth is, if we look, if we try on many different garments, if we focus on fit rather than size, we can find all sorts of clothing whether in the most expensive shop in town or the cheapest thrift store. We can have clothing that fits like this:
We can have jeans that fit like this:
*More on alterations later.