Making sense of sizes

Where to measure

Sizing. It’s probably the most important thing for us to know, but at the same time the most difficult to understand.

So how do you go about getting it right?

Well, you’d be amongst distinguished company if you used the “trial-and-error” method, but that can get a bit tiresome.  It will make things easier if you know your measurements before you go shopping.

I’ll save the inexperienced amongst you a bit of bother:  the sizing advice, while helpful, will only give you a general idea of sizing.

You see, for some reason, apart from bras, women’s clothes sizes don’t seem to be as rigid as men’s, and they do vary quite dramatically between the major stores.

I’ll give you an example:  I normally shop in Marks & Spencer and I know that I’m a size 18 in their skirts, however I recently went into Next to browse and ended up buying a skirt in size 18.  I got home and tried it on only to find it was too small (by a good 2 or 3 inches).

Measuring yourself

First thing you need is to buy yourself a decent tape measure – don’t use the metal retractable tape from your toolbox!  You want to find a cloth version – a quick search found these on and

Bra size:  this is made easy with this handy little Bra Size Calculator.  Results are given according to various international sizing conventions including UK, US, Europe and Australia.

Alternatively, if you’re in the UK and are on the lookout for breastforms then visit Three Steps to an Hourglass Figure.  This is a simpler bra size calculator that only requires one measurement, you then punch in your bra size in the form calculator and it will give you a recommended size for four makes.

Waist:  Measure around the smallest part of your waistline.  Your measurments should be made while you are wearing the appropriate foundation garments.  The waist size is the most important measure when purchasing skirts.

Hips: Measure approximately 7 to 8 inches below your waist.

Height: Most women’s sizes are made for ladies that are between 5’4″ and 5’7″ in height.  If you are taller than 5’7″, look for styles “Tall” sizes which feature longer sleeves on blouses, longer seams in trousers and longer body lengths in blouses and dresses.

As I said above, you will more than likely end up doing the “trial-and-error” thing anyway, simply because most stores have their own sizing standards.  But at least you’ll know your proper sizes – plus you’ll have a nicely-fitting bra and filled with the perfect sized breastforms.

Not to mention all the fun you’ll have trying on all those clothes in different stores to find your “size” in their clothes.  Being the helpful person that I am I have put up a new page, with sizes for the more popular UK stores, just so that you can see the differences.

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