I am the first to admit I love clothes shopping and really enjoy seeing each season’s new look displayed dramatically in retail showcases. But if you’re an experienced shopper, you’ve also noticed how apparel on these mannequins is cleverly pinned on the back to narrow the silhouette and show off the item at its best – even though they’re usually a Size 2.
Which begs the question: What percentage of women in the United States can easily and successfully wear a Size 2? My personal opinion is very few. Earlier this week, Bloomberg News also published an article suggesting Retailers Ignore Most of America’s Women because the average U.S. female now wears a Misses size 16-18.
The more important question is: What message does this retail display practice send to the rest of us?
Most women know a Size 2 from an expensive specialty designer is equivalent to a Size 6 in a less expensive clothing line. Couture and high-end designers know their specific audience loves to see a label bearing a smaller size draped on their bodies, but we are all players in the size game.
Every woman knows her normal size. This is the size you reach for on the rack when you’re at (or close to) your normal average weight. Most of us also know our overweight size and post-stomach flu size.
Unfortunately, size does matter to many women when it comes to their clothing. It’s a way of tracking progress or decline and there’s a direct correlation between size and self-esteem. You feel good when you wear a smaller size and feel depressed when you have to move up to a larger one.
Chico’s made one of the smartest maneuvers ever when they started labeling their merchandise Size 0 to Size 3.5. They changed the game by changing perception and women flocked to their stores to purchase pants, jackets, dresses and sweaters in mass quantity.
In addition to offering good designs created from quality fabrics, they’ve also created a simple sizing structure women can easily wrap their heads around (and that avoids comparisons).
When you shop in a Chico’s store, it’s not unusual for the salesperson to suggest you take several sizes into the dressing room. I was encouraged to take in a Size 2 pant made in a stretchy fabric even though I typically wear a Size 3 in this clothing line. I was so thrilled the Size 2 fit perfectly that I bought a pair in each color. Color me happy.
Conversely, when shopping in expensive designer salons, I’ve often had sales specialists who look like their last real meal was weeks ago tell me the largest size those magnificent black pants I lust after comes in is a Size 12 (and a very small Size 12 at that). Translation: A small Size 12 is most likely a very small Size 10. Color me devastated.
I believe most high-end designers have forgotten what real women look like because even their mainstream department store revenue is based on creating annual shows featuring matchstick-thin runway models. They do not spend time in malls across America or at parent-teacher meetings at public schools.
According to a recent Washington Post article, today’s size 8 is roughly equivalent to a 1950’s size 16 – and a size 8 waist measurement can differ by as much as five inches between different designers.
What does this all mean? Nothing. Literally nothing. Those numbers on the tag are completely arbitrary and should not be considered some kind of “beauty score” or indication of your value.
Size only matters if you say it does. Forget about the numbers and buy clothes that fit your fabulous body. Buy the highest quality clothes you can afford – and bring along a friend you trust to tell you the truth.
Only you know what looks good on your unique form and what’s most important is that you feel good in your clothes every single day.