Ramble: I am a 35 year old woman and do not understand women’s clothing sizes

I have recently lost a lot of weight because I had to make changes to my diet and lifestyle due to health problems. Because of this my clothing became way too large seemingly overnight. I have shopped in the plus size section for over 10 years. Because of this I feel like I have some understanding of what plus size means and how women’s sizes can “appear” in different stores. Because of the clothes I own that I fit me all over again I’m still in plus sizes….. as far as I can tell. (Side note: Plus sizes are often 2xl and up and/or start at size 18. In the last few years manufacturers have started making plus sizes 1, 2, 3 and 4.)

Some of my recent clothes purchases have involved Old Navy because their clothing is cheap – and also because they have a lot of solid color shirts. I bought online because that is where the plus sizes are. I had to look at lots of size charts and basically do research to buy clothes. I ended up not buying plus size but I wouldn’t have figured that out going into the store either. I had to go into the store to return shirts that turned out to be too big in that order and while I was there I figured I’d do some shopping. Keep in mind that Old Navy does not have plus sizes in the store. If you ask an employee that is what they will tell you.

I found 2xl shirts. I found jeans in size 18 and size 20. I even liked the different styles in jeans Old Navy offers. Curvy vs. straight and three jean lengths: regular, short, and tall. (By the way, I’m 5’8”.) I figured I’d fit into the size 18 since it’s not plus size. Especially, considering, that I just recently started fitting into a pair of size 18 women’s jeans I bought from JC Penney a few years ago. That clearly must mean I should start with size 18 and that should be just what I need? NOPE. Never go to the fitting room with one size of any pair of pants unless you are absolutely certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that the size is correct for you. No buts. Don’t do it. The size 18 jeans were huge. I had room to hide another pair of jeans in the butt and hips. They were baggy through my legs. The only thing that worked was the length. I check the tag. Short. SHORT? I’m not short. SHORT? Ok then.

Two more trips to the jeans section at the front of the store and I’m tired but on my third try I finally had what I wanted. The size 16 curvy regular short looked like skinny jeans. The size 14s were definitely too small but that was fine. There’s no universe where I can fit into a size 14 – yet. I ended up with size 16 curvy bootcut short length. Some parts of the jeans were a little snug, including around my knees but I know I will lose a little more weight so I wasn’t concerned. Let me repeat that. Size 16 curvy bootcut short length jeans. Please, please, for the love of all that is or isn’t holy can we stop with all the ridiculous sizing before it gets worse? I can imagine 50 years from now that would be size 16 moderately curvy, moderately bootcut (as compared to bootcut flares), tall short length jeans (tall because DAMMIT I AM FIVE FOOT 8). I’m still stuck on the short part. I’m 5 foot 8 inches tall and bought “short” jeans. Size 16 purchased in the store means I’m not in plus size anymore – at least in Old Navy world. Side note: I also spent less money because I wasn’t buying “plus sizes.”

Based on my experience in the Old Navy store, I could have purchased clothing from an Old Navy store not considered plus size while I was still in the plus size range in every other store I’ve had experience with. (Or just keep buying more cheap sweatpants at walmart.) On the way out of the store, I had this crazy idea that I decided was a conspiracy theory. Plus sizes for women are always segregated. They are often not available in a brick and mortar store and you must shop online. (Or there is virtually no selection in store and you still have to go online.) Because of the segregation, women won’t look at or try on clothes of a smaller size and end up “stuck” in plus sizes. Furthermore plus size vary even more widely than regular women’s sizes. Separating out sizes like this doesn’t help. If brands are going to sell plus size clothes they should consider comparing their sizes to a competitive brand and they should most definitely offer a selection of clothing in a store. In reality, I’ll probably continue to be confused and frustrated by the state of women’s clothing. I really need to practice my sewing!

Author: Histamine Queen

Nerd, wife, knitter, writer, cat mom, and comic book reader w/masters of science in Applied Sociology. I have histamine intolerance, lots of food allergies and sensitivities - including gluten. And I have multiple sclerosis fibromyalgia, asthma, drug allergies, and migraines. Basically, I have a collection of invisible chronic health problems. I don't just survive these things, but sometimes I do hate them because I see doctors so often that keeping healthy and staying full time employed is currently impossible.

1 thought on “Ramble: I am a 35 year old woman and do not understand women’s clothing sizes”

  1. What a wonderful siker lining to that cloud!! Im in the exact same situation!!! I’ve lost 50 lbs since the beginning if august. I have no idea what size I will ‘end up’ being, but right now I’ve gone from a cosy 4x to a comfortable 2x….depending on the brand.
    It used to be that plus size stores differentiated by the ‘shape’ of clthes- Addition-elle was for those who were younger, less stomach, more breasts and bums, pennington’s was for the older lady, or those with a large stomach, but very little bum, Reitmans had career wear, etc etc. Now all the stores are they are trying to do everything, and IMHO, not doing a great job at anything.
    Good luck shopping! It’ll definitely be Old Navy for me this time- since I have NO idea how long I will be this size.

    For the moment, I shall have to live with my baggy clothes. I might buy one or two things that fit right now. I think a new pair of shoes is in order, too. I lost my arches in both feet this year, and my feet are both about 1/4 of an inch longer. The only shoes that I have that fit comfortably are my Birkenstocks. Vancouver+ Birkenstocks + November = Miserable toes.

    I don’t understand sizing, either. The size can be wildly different from one garment to the next. I have tops that fit, that are XL, 1x, 2x, 3x, and 4x. Of course, I have lots that dont fit, either. So frustrating!

    I get the length thing, too. I’m 5’6″, and I often buy petite jeans- because I’m short waisted. Otherwise the jens end up under my cleavage- not a great look…

    By the way- both LL Bean and Lands End do plus suze clothes- and a size 20 is jusr a bigger size 10- they’re properly tailored. They’re much better quality than Old Navy or Layne Bryant. Quite ‘preppy’ though- nay not be your style.

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