Fit vs Size

“Let me get you Another Size”

All my life I have had difficulty finding clothes that ‘fit’. In my teens in outback Australia in the 70s, before the days of boot-cut, relaxed fit and the myriad options available today, I suffered (greatly) to wear jeans.  If they fit around my bottom and thighs they were HUGE in the waist, and wearing them without a belt wasn’t an option.  If I wore I belt, they would be too tight in the crotch,  they would cut in and I would be in agony by the end of the day.

On countless occasions when I was younger, in my teens, twenties and thirties,  when I tried on a dress, a top, or a pair of jeans, I had a variation of the following conversation with shop assistants:

“How is it?  Do you need me to get your another size?”
“Well, no.  It doesn’t fit.”
“Well, what size is it?  Let me get you another size.”
“Another size won’t help.  It just doesn’t fit.”
Then there was some expression of disbelief, something along the lines of “I don’t understand,” or “Let me see”, or “I know if you show me I’ll be able to get you another size which will fit.”

At which point, I would pull back the curtain and show them what it looked like.

A common response was “Oh!”  Often they would get that face-falling look.

The item of clothing obviously didn’t fit, and it was obvious that a larger or smaller size wasn’t going to solve the problems, only compound one of them.

What I found frustrating beyond all else was that these shop assistants didn’t seem to understand the concept of “fit”.  That a different size was not the answer to my problem.   Surely I wasn’t the only person they had encountered in their life as a shop assistant with this problem?

Fitting Issues

My fitting issues weren’t limited to jeans.  Tops were too tight around the bust but gaping in the armhole, too big in the neck.  They were uncomfortable in the shoulder area and if wearing strappy dresses, I would be hunching my shoulders all day to stop the straps falling down.  I could never buy a straight skirt or a dress with straight skirt.  Straight skirts would ride up until the waist was under my bust. Even A-line skirts were problematic, with the front waist dropping down and the back riding up, with a similar thing happening to the hem. To get a dress with a straight skirt to fit my hips (read “thighs”), it would be enormous in the bust and armhole area, too wide in the shoulders… and problems went on and on.

Undies were the worst! Through my teenage years, my twenties and my early thirties – I tried every style and size but I couldn’t find any that fit well.  They were annoying at the best, tortuous at the worst. More often tortuous.   It wasn’t until the early 2000’s, when the hipster g-string came out, that I finally could be comfortable.  I have heard many people say that g-strings are uncomfortable and look dreadful, but to them I say… for some body shapes (like mine!) they are the most wonderful thing ever. They are so comfortable I don’t give a damn what they look like!  A huge thanks to Kim, who recommended them. I was dubious at first, having tried the high-cut g-strings which were just as bad as other undies.  But Kim had a similar body shape to mine and similar history of a tortuous time with undies, and she was insistent they were the best thing that ever happened to her.  So, thanks again Kim.

Learning to Live With It & Changes in Fashion

Over time I got to know what kind of things I should avoid and what I should look for if I wanted things that fitted well and looked flattering.  Avoid straight skirts, well actually …. avoid skirts completely.  Dresses were good if they had an A-line skirt, in certain styles.  It was good I lived in Alice Springs in my 20’s, I wore dresses most of the year.  Stretch was a life saver, and in winter I wore lots of stretch, but I also wore painful jeans and pants and just put up with it.

When curvy jeans that sat on the hip appeared I was in heaven… I finally find jeans that were comfortable.   However, it’s still hard (instead of impossible) to find jeans that fit well.  Once upon a time I’d try 30 jeans on and buy the least uncomfortable ones that were flattering.  Now I still try on 30 pairs of jeans but end up with a comfortable pair in the end.

In the last 10-15 years, it has become easier (not to say easy) to find jeans that fit.  There are Curvy jeans available, but they don’t always fit well. Actually, very seldom do they fit well.  I still have to try on 20 pairs of jeans in 5 or 6 shops to find one that fits satisfactorily.  Sometimes I search for weeks and can’t find one that fit.  Sometimes I come across a pair of jeans that miraculously do fit well, so I buy 4 or 5 pairs and go back as often as I can to buy a few more pairs.  Then the brand stops making those jeans and I have to start looking again

Yes, I know I’m not the Only One…..

I know I’m not the only one who has problems getting ready to wear clothing that fits well.  I have spoken to many women who have one problem or another, even if it’s only a matter of length. I have sometimes had people get annoyed when I talked about my fitting issues; their attitude (or even words) were to the effect, “Everyone has that problem. You’re not special.  Get over it.”

Well, for me it was SUCH as problem that I decided to learn to make my own patterns so that I could get clothes to fit.  (I tried sewing with Commercial Patterns, but the differences in fit were too many for me to be able to make the necessary adjustments).

Fit and Size are Two Different Things

I find myself questioning statements such as “the main reason people gave for online shopping returns was wrong size.”     Were there two separate options on the return questionnaire (among other reasons for the return such as defective)?  Could you differentiate between;  Wrong Size, AND Doesn’t Fit.

Saying that it is the ‘wrong size’ suggests that a different size would solve the problem, which is not always the case.

Bust, Waist & Hips

I get really annoyed when articles about fitting focus on just Bust, Waist and Hips, and suggest that all that is needed for a good fit is to get those measurements correct.  Two women can have the same Waist, Bust and Hips and still have very different shapes: one could have a B-bust cup, the other a D-bust cup.  The D-cup will have a much smaller Upper Bust (the underarm level), so the garment will be too wide there, but too tight in the bust.  One could have very square shoulders, the other could have very sloping shoulders, one could have broad shoulders, the other narrow.   One could have a larger-than-normal neck, the other could have larger than normal biceps.   One of them could have ‘hips’ that are actually ‘thighs’ (since ‘hips’ are defined as the widest part of the body, and for some people that is actually the thighs, and it matters for how a garment looks and fits!).

There are so many issues at play, that ONLY Bust, Waist and Hips are NOT a way to determine a good fit.


I have a bust of 98cm (38.5 in)  and a waist of 76cm. (30 in), which is fairly close to a Size 16 Vogue Pattern.    In the image below is the shape of a Vogue (Patterns) Fitting Shell in a size 16 (green), and the block (white) that fits me.  Both have a bust pretty close to 38in, and a waist of 30 in.  It should be obvious how ill-fitting the Vogue Size 16 pattern would be on me.  Even though it’s “my size” according to the bust.

It should be equally obvious that a size bigger or a size smaller is not going to help any.

3 Responses

  1. Yay! Finally someone has put into words, and very eloquently, the problem that many of us have with standard clothing and patterns.
    I have trouble finding clothes that fit well and just like you, race out and buy several when there is something that fits well.
    I have tried to sew my own clothes on and off over the years and now I understand why that didn’t work either…
    I am looking forward to learning from all the information you have provided here.
    Thank you!

  2. This resonates so much! As someone who is very petite, the smallest size is almost always still too big, and kids’ clothes usually don’t fit the way I’d like. Learning to draft my own patterns to create my perfect fit and style has been so empowering (and fun)! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and making this skill so much more accessible 🙂

  3. Hi there

    So glad you are finding the information useful. Hope to see you around. I haven’t posted much for a while but hope to put up a pattern on Youtube in the next month….

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