It’s not exactly a revelation that shopping for clothes is an extremely gendered process, with the floors of shops often divided into Children’s clothes, Men’s, and Women’s. But to the many that no longer conform to the traditional binary identifications or those that have transitioned, the systems that companies use to size their products can be a steep learning curve. As such I thought I’d try to compile a guide to the confusing world of clothing sizes so that you can find the clothes you want in a size that fits you! Because only you can decide what you can wear! And maybe your wallet, because let’s face it clothes can be expensive.
Deciphering Gendered Clothing sizes:
Whether you’re dressing to fit the new you, or simply fancy a change of style, the difference in sizing patterns can be jarring. So, to begin, let’s look at the equivalency between Men’s and Women’s sizes.
Throughout this article, I will be explaining what measurements you’ll need to know for each item of clothing and the differences between each type of clothing in menswear and womenswear sizing.
There is no universal standard for women’s clothing sizes so it seems like getting the individual measurements will be more useful than trying to decipher the differences in terms of small, medium, and large. Most clothes were tailor-made for the individual throughout history, so confusing sizes are a bi-product of mass-produced clothing. Menswear sizing is far easier as there appears to be more of a universal standard of sizing, with certain fits also present like tall fit/slim fit etc. Look for whichever fit of clothing suits you best. International clothing sizes also vary, and you will likely need to look into the subtle differences before purchasing, but with this guide as a base you should be fine.
Finally, if you are shopping in person, don’t be afraid to go in and try things on! The staff are there to help you and sell you clothes. And if in an unfortunate case, the staff make you feel uncomfortable for the clothes you wish to wear; you are not in the wrong. They are. And you should make their management aware of it.
With those notes out of the way, let’s start looking at the sizes you will need to know!
Shirts, Skirts, and Dresses:
For shirts, skirts and dresses, you will mainly need to know your chest and waist size. Your waist size will be measured slightly higher for women’s clothing. Most Womenswear clothing lines use the measurement of the ‘natural waist’ for their size guides. To measure your natural waist, measure just below your rib cage but above your belly button. To find your chest size, measure the chest at its widest point near the armpit making sure the measuring tape goes tightly around your chest and under the armpit.
Average women’s dress sizes:
|UK size||Chest size (Inches)||Waist size (Inches)|
T-shirt sizes are usually based on chest size and length, with menswear T-shirts sitting loose and favouring a flat torso. Womenswear T-shirts are designed to be more formfitting and as such will be tighter around the waist. The sleeves of a womenswear shirt are also shorter ending closer to the shoulder compared to the almost elbow length short sleeves of a menswear t-shirt. Finally, womenswear will be slightly wider at the bust and at the bottom near the hips, conforming to the body’s contours. So, while very similar, the type of t-shirt you wear will depend on the overall fit you’re looking for. You should also note that a menswear shirt will have more length to it, so say a man’s medium would be a women’s large, the length of the man’s medium would equate to a womenswear extra-large.
Formal shirts may require you to know your collar size. To measure your collar, just measure around the lowest point of your neck that you can complete a full and level circle with a measuring tape. If you require your sleeve measurement, (usually for shirts and jackets) bend one arm at a right angle and place your hand on your hip. Measure the length from the middle of your back down to your elbow, then from the elbow to your wrist. This is to ensure you are measuring the max length the sleeve will need to be as your arm moves around.
For skirts, use the right waist size for where you want it to sit. Use womenswear natural waist if you want it to sit higher and menswear waist if you want it to sit lower.
For dresses, use chest size as the signifier if you usually go by menswear sizes as the equivalent menswear fit is more likely to be larger in the shoulders and chest than the waist. Also, elasticity always helps as it gives you some wiggle room with sizes.
Trousers, Tights and Leggings – finding your fit!
Much of these items will require your waist sizes as shown in the section above. For Menswear, measure just below the bellybutton at the hip bone. For trousers and jeans, you’ll also need to know your inseam, this is the distance from the inner part of your thigh to your ankle. Make sure to measure from where the inner thigh begins.
Some clothes may also ask for your hip size. To find your hip size, stand with your legs together and measure the widest part of your hips. Elasticity makes tights somewhat easier, so for items like tights and leggings, it’s mainly your height and waist size will need to know as the hip and feet size variation will likely be accounted for by the elasticity.
Finally, there’s shoes. Women’s shoes are wider in the forefoot, and narrower in the heel. They are usually also designed to support larger hips. In contrast, Men’s shoes are generally wider and sized larger. Meaning that the women’s sizes are smaller than the men’s. Unisex styles are in men’s sizing. For the same size in Womenswear, you should size down 1.5 sizes and vice versa. So, for example a men’s size 5 is roughly a women’s size 6.5. Also, a helpful note I have come across is that when wearing heels, the hem of the trouser leg should hit the middle of the heel shaft so it would be best to take another measurement for clothes you’d wear with heels.
From there, most accessories are one size fits all such as bracelets and jewellery. Ring sizes are easy to find and measure, and things like chokers and necklaces will rely on your neck size. From there, the only thing to do is make sure you wear what makes you most comfortable!
The clothes you buy, and wear should depend on what you want to wear, whether it’s achieving which ever aesthetic you are going for, or just the fit that makes you feel right. Once you have found the perfect style, feel free to tag Networthpick’s social media pages so we can see your perfect fit!
Thanks for reading!