What's in a size???

I am closing in on having lost 20 pounds since January and have had to revamp my wardrobe- especially bottoms since the majority of my weight loss was from my belly. Even when I was heavier, I had issues with fit because I have a lot of "junk in the trunk" and thighs too but my waist was always on the smaller size- so I would have gaping at the back of my pants if I got ones that fit my rear and thighs.  Now I have even more fit issues because my waist has gotten much smaller but thighs and rear haven't caught up with it.
I spent many hours at various stores trying on shorts and pants only to be unhappy with the gaping waist when my thighs looked like two sausages in casings in almost every pair. In all this time I had found one style that actually fit-- same style as my favorite Levi's jeans only in knee-length shorts. So I bought 2 pairs in blue and one black pair as my summer "uniform." I also found one pair of shorter Levi jean shorts but I don't wear them very often for two reasons- I feel self-conscious in public in the shorter length & I also got tan lines from my workout gear which were very obvious in these shorter shorts. (My workout gear is almost like a uniform because of my fit issues. I have multiple pairs of these longer running tights because normal workout shorts end up riding up my thighs and I actually get chafing from my thighs rubbing together. The workout tights prevent this from happening so I wear them for every workout & thus get tan lines.)
Anyway, my search for bottoms that fit was pretty unsatisfying with only one style really fitting. So I decided that I would sew my own shorts in the future. I also thought it would be a good time to teach DD to sew since she tends to have sizing issues too. She is quite tiny but still has quite the rump and athletic thighs which is even more difficult to fit because it seems like the smaller sizes take way more out of the thighs & rear than waist. So when the local fabric store had patterns on sale I decided I would pick some up and I had my "What's in a size? epiphany."
While looking through the pattern catalogs I became concerned because the patterns didn't come in size 4 & under like DD is in clothing. So I asked the sales lady if there was a brand of pattern that had smaller sizes. She said that anything smaller would be in petite or children but to take actual measurements because pattern sizing is different. A size 4 in the store is NOT the same as a pattern size 4. The pattern sizes have continued to be consistent- I happen to have some old patterns dating from somewhere between 1996 (when I got my sewing machine) and 1998 and the measurement chart is exactly the same as those on todays' patterns. So I thought I'd share a little comparison between pattern sizes & brand sizes.
In most brands, DD wears a size 2 bottom yet according to her measurements, her size in patterns is a whopping 12!! A size 14 in a pattern has a 28 inch waist, 36 inch bust, and 38 inch hip- rather modest measurements- definitely not our idea of size 14 these days.  A size 6 in a pattern has the corresponding measurements of 23 (yes, you read that correctly twenty-THREE) inch waist, 30 1/2 inch bust (do they even make a bra that small?)and 32 1/2 inch hips. Like I said, DD is quite petite by today's standards so I can only imagine how tiny a size 6 pattern is!!
A few weeks after this pattern size epiphany I saw on the news that clothing brands are making mens clothing bigger without changing the size. They even mentioned the Seinfeld episode where Jerry was sewing old (smaller) labels onto his jeans to look like he had a smaller waist. In this story, there were several inches of discrepancy between "waist 32" and actual waist measurement. The clothing labels explained this as the jeans are meant to be worn lower than the waist, so thus the larger than 32" measurements, -not a ploy to make consumers feel good about themselves in being able to fit into smaller jeans. LOL
Obviously there is a discrepancy between sizes today and those of yesterday. Today I can fit into "size" 4 jeans but when I remember back to my HS size, I want to say I wore a "size" 8-10 and that was a pretty normal "size." I was still a bit thinner in HS than I am now, so it does seem like the clothing manufacturers are doing vanity sizing trying to make us feel better (and buy their brand) by making the clothing bigger while making the size smaller.
When I mentioned this to a friend she pointed out how Marilyn Monroe was a size 12, so we think of her being a today's size 12 and not the picture of sex symbol body. So I did a little research. Marilyn's Studio measurements were 37-23-36 and her dressmaker had her as 35-22-35. She did wear a size 12 dress,  size 8 pants and 36D bra. According to her measurements in a pattern- her bust size puts her in a size 12-14, her hips put her in a size 10-12 yet her waist puts her in a size 4- remember these are pattern sizes. In today's clothing her hips would have her in about a size 2 jeans. Her bust size was what put her in a "size 12" and definitely wasn't ever "fat." What could be perceived as fat was that she had an amazingly small waist in comparison to her bust & hips--- she was very curvy.
So it only goes to show you- what's in a size anyway??


  1. wow... speechless... so many different sizes of sizes. I'm kinda lost!

  2. Yeah, it is confusing. As the news story was trying to relay- seems like clothing manufacturers are making clothing larger as a vanity thing for the public. Fitting into a smaller size may encourage someone to buy that brand over a brand that kept sizing the same & made them feel bigger/fatter. We know that people are getting fatter so this ploy seems to trick the public into thinking they haven't gotten any bigger if they can fit into the same size-- when the reality is that they've changed the scale to accommodate the public's vanity. Obviously patterns haven't changed their scale so it's actually a better indicator of size but who wants to be a size 12 when you can be a size 2 in a brand name? Just goes to show you it is all meaningless if you constantly change the scale.

  3. I am lost too.......rofl And I'm not surprised for being so lost since I've never purchased or used a sewing pattern in my life. Somehow I manage without 'em. Great enlightening post though.

  4. Yep, the sizing in clothes are very inconsistent. I wear a Large when I shop at Forever 21 but if I go to Old Navy I'm a size 4. Huh? Now you know why I shop more at Old Navy. lol

    Congrats on losing 20 pounds! That is awesome.

  5. Michelle,
    Wow, I can't believe you've never used a pattern before. I rely on them for my clothing projects! I always wait until the fabric store has them on sale- sometimes as little as 99 cents- and then grab the ones I think I'll use. I got a lot recently since DD has different body type than my own- so got ones to play to her assets.

    LT- I don't even bother shopping at Forever 21- I'm just too busty to even fit into any tops & too much rear/thigh to fit into any of their bottoms. That store is for toothpicks. LOL Even within a brand there are inconsistencies. I ALWAYS try jeans on even if they are the same brand, size, style and cut- you just never know!!

  6. Whoa....so confusing! I've been reading up on sewing patterns and yes, the measurements are extremely confusing.

    I fall somewhere between US 0-2, or UK 4-6, which doesn't really help. Garrrrr....I think I better start learning how to sew and make my own clothes to fit.


  7. Sue,
    You are actually easy to fit in patterns because almost all go down to size 8- Waist of 24" (61 cm) and Hips 33.5" (85 cm) and some that go to size 4 which are waist 22" (56 cm) Hips 31.5" (80 cm) DD is usually size 2 and she's a 12 in patterns- so they actually cater to smaller people. I think it's actually harder to find patterns to accommodate the larger sizes. I am going to teach DD to sew mostly because it's hard to find dresses & skirts in her size (at least ones I think are appropriate--you can find minis in those sizes but not going to let her out of the house like that. LOL) You should definitely look into sewing your own- it's well worth it if you go for classics.