Why are clothing sizes so stupid?

next clothing

I bought a new top from Next recently – it was an impulse purchase, one of those, “It’s a blogging event tomorrow, I have nothing clean, this looks okay.” 

It was a nice top – green, plain, detailing on the sleeves.

So nice, in fact, I decided to buy the same top in blue. I wanted to wear it Friday night when I was taking Flea and her bestie to see The Vamps in concert.

Small problem, though – I could hardly get it over my shoulders.

“Really shouldn’t have eaten pizza this weekend,” I grunted, before giving up the top as a bad idea.

Then I had the bright idea of comparing the two tops.

Same top. Same design. Same store. Same size (according to the label). But as you can see from the photo above – ENTIRELY different sizes.

It’s not just Next (although this is possibly the worst and most frustrating example I’ve seen in a while). In Gap I bought a great pair of jeans last summer in a size 16. They were so great, I bought them in a slightly different shade. They don’t fit. In Fat Face, a pair of size 14 jeans are loose around the middle, unless I’m wearing a belt, but in Boden I need to buy a size 18 unless I don’t plan on breathing all day.

And don’t even get me started on the depressing act of finding a pair of “cropped” jeans in a store’s petite range and finding they STILL sit somewhere around your ankle. Grrr.

Why is it SO hard for clothing stores to decide on what a size 10 or 14 or 18 looks like – and stick with it?


And it’s not just adult sizes. We recently got Flea a new summer wardrobe and it’s a nightmare – we have to try on everything because you never can guess from the label what will, and won’t fit.

In Gap, the boys’ jeans in age 9 are a perfect fit, but the girls’ jeans need to be an age 10.

In John Lewis, Flea can still happily wear shorts in an age 7, but her Gap shorts from last summer (age 10) are too small.

In Fat Face, Flea usually wears an age 9-10 in the tops, but the jackets she needs a size 12.  The cotton top she’s wearing here is an age 11-12.

How can one, fairly average sized child vary from an age 7 to an age 12 depending on where we shop?

Is it just me? Or is the retail world on a mission to make shopping like a great big, annoying game of chance?




Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 11th May 2015 / 12:43 pm

    It drives me mad. I would love to do more clothes shopping online, but I don’t have the confidence that anything I buy without trying on first will actually fit. It always used to be that once you knew your size in a particular store you could buy anything in that size knowing it would fit, but these days there is quite a variance in the same store, as your photo shows. I do wonder if there has been a labeling error in that particular case for there to be so much variance in the same style top.

    My 7-year-old daughter doesn’t wear jeans (which is good as we have never found a pair that fits her properly), but she’s in age 9-10 leggings and age 8-9 dresses. And my almost-5-year-old son has just started fitting into age 3-4 trousers but only if they have an adjustable waist so that I can tighten them up to stop them falling down!
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    • Sally
      11th May 2015 / 3:01 pm

      You’re right – it’s the variation within a single store that makes shopping so complex, even within a single item/style, which suggests there’s an issue in manufacturing to me, if they can’t get different batches to be consistent. Annoying as anything, isn’t it?

  2. 11th May 2015 / 1:24 pm

    Yea you are so right…my daughter is about to turn 7 years and this size problem is carrying on since she was 3. I remember I bought a princess dress for her when she turned 4 and it was for 3-6 age group but it didn’t fit… Same goes for next where I have to buy 9 year size jeans and shirts 9-10 size for her
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    • Sally
      11th May 2015 / 3:00 pm

      It’s so ridiculous, and time-consuming.

  3. 11th May 2015 / 2:20 pm

    It’s so ridiculous, and definitely not new although I’ve never known such difference within the same store and style before – did you take the top back and check if it had been incorrectly labelled?
    I’ve found this tool to be invaluable for comparing high street sizes. http://sizes.darkgreener.com/ Not sure what to suggest for kids’ sizing, though.
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    • Sally
      11th May 2015 / 3:00 pm

      Nah, I just bought another top. What, lazy? Moi?

  4. 11th May 2015 / 2:57 pm

    I know that standard sizes everywhere have got larger for the same number since we were teenagers. This is because women are generally larger but psychologically, a 14 still sounds ok whereas a 16+ is definitey overweight. Unfortunately younger shoppers already know that a 14 and even a 12 may be for overweight women and they are striving for sizes with numbers like 4 and 6. 4 and 6 didn’t even exist back then. I think each store decides for itself depending on the averge size and age of its clients.
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    • Sally
      11th May 2015 / 3:00 pm

      I get all of that over-time stuff, for sure – I know that I’m a smaller size in Fat Face than Gap, for example, because Gap considers me too old and porky to bother with while Fat Face wants to flatter me 😉

      But… increasingly I’m finding I’m 3 different sizes in the same store. And that – if you ask me – is down to shoddy manufacturing and supply chain processes. Grrr. There’s no excuse for the same item of clothing to be – what – 25% smaller depending on what day you buy it.

  5. 11th May 2015 / 8:21 pm

    Its infuriating isn’t it! I tend to know which size they are in which brand but I know shopping for myself is a complete pain – especially as I’m losing weight. Different shops, styles, fabrics etc etc. Pain in the rear end.
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  6. 11th May 2015 / 8:47 pm

    THIS. I’m usually a size 10 but still haven’t lost the baby weight so am a size 12 in some shops and a size 14 in others. My baby is 7 months old and wearing size 3-6 months from some and 9-12 months in others. My oldest daughter is nearly 5 and still fits some of her 3-4 years clothes but in some shops age 5-6 is too small. ARGH. It makes buying stuff online bloody impossible. For the kids it’s less of an issue because if it’s too big I just think they’ll grow into them, but for me it’s a pain. I don’t have time to go shopping and try stuff on – and even if I did I’d have a baby in tow who would likely crawl under the door of the changing room soon as I got my clothes off! That said, I’ve managed to rope my mum into coming shopping with me tomorrow so I can finally find a pair of jeans that actually fit properly.
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  7. 12th May 2015 / 11:17 am

    It’s insane. I am really struggling with my little boy who is 6, but can only get 5-6 trousers which are too small and 7-8 which are huge. Why are there no age 6? And yes they are all different sizes depending on where you shop. It’s no wonder as why get older we worry about weight in teens, etc. One shop you’re a size 10 the next a 14. One size and stick with it. x
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  8. 12th May 2015 / 2:51 pm

    I have this same issue and it drives me insane – especially if I’m trying to order online. I’ve even been in dressing rooms with a stack of jeans (all the same size supposedly) in different cuts and styles and found only a couple actually fit me. Bloody ridiculous. Standardise the sizing, please, someone, anyone!
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  9. 12th May 2015 / 3:03 pm

    I wrote about something similar recently (the whole ‘nothing fits the boobs’ issue) and lots of friends who aren’t as ‘blessed’ commented they have just as many issues because clothes manufacturers just haven’t got a clue how to make clothes that fit these days! As for Dexter … he’s in men’s medium sized clothes. He’s 10. *sigh*

  10. 13th May 2015 / 12:56 pm

    I think this is an issues which bugs most of us but those tops from Next really are an extreme example! Interestingly, my husband doesn’t find the same problem with men’s clothes – He can seemingly chuck on a size 32″ waist from any store! I wish they would sort it out for us girls xx
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  11. 18th May 2015 / 10:02 am

    I recently had the same issue- 2 pairs of jeans, same brand and same size. Bought them to take home and try them on in comfort and to ask husband which suited me better. One pair fit perfectly the other pair I couldn’t even get them past my thighs!
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  12. Shaina Braun
    19th May 2015 / 11:36 pm

    So funny! I was just writing about clothing sizes for babies on my blog. Basically the three major brands here in the US all fit differently even for the same age group. I always buy a few things from each brand to make them fit. Great article and very nice blog! Please check out our blog as well if you’d like and leave a comment.

    Smiles from California,

  13. 23rd May 2015 / 1:23 am

    I know exactly what you mean. The best thing to do I think ( which might sound silly ) is try every single piece of clothing you buy. I know, buying the same style, same brand, same size sounds pretty simple, but honestly, unless you want to bring it back again, what can you do? ( by the way, I also buy the same piece in different colors, I love it)
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    • Sally
      26th May 2015 / 11:41 am

      It really is, though – shopping online is a big no-no for me.

  14. Keith
    2nd December 2016 / 4:41 pm

    Online shopping for clothes ????????? hahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahaha. Not for me until all the manufacturers get their brainless heads together and come up with standardized sizing across the whole of the clothing industry. Postage is too dear to be sending stuff backwards and forwards.