What are your sizes in different countries?

Have you had that weird feeling before, entering a shop somewhere overseas and not having any idea what size you are? Or even worse, realizing that you have to keep going up, up, up on the sizing scale when you’re shopping overseas?

I’ve asked girlfriends of mine on what they would do when in a situation where they usually are a size small, but a size small just doesn’t cut it in different places. What would they do? Now I would have thought the rational person in me just automatically goes up a size, or keep going up until I find one that fits well. As it turns out, I’m one of the few people who actually does this. I had a girlfriend who insisted she would buy the size small (even if it didn’t fit very well) because ‘Dear God! I am a size small!’

In my travels abroad, I noticed there are usually two effects at play

Effect number 1: Different numbers used in different countries


These are probably the numbers you are most familiar with, reaching for a size 0,2,4 in the US or a 32,34, etc. in Europe or some version of the S,M,L,XL you see most of the time. These are pretty much an amalgamation between your height, bust size, waist size, and hip size (in inches for the US). Even though not always standardized (will talk about in effect number 2), by and large this is a good way to estimate what your clothing size is. The thing is though, that this also is influenced by the country you are in.

size chart(Source: ebay.com)

Take for example my experience in China. I was walking around Xi’an and had gone into a wonderful department store that had a whole range of local (medium range to high range) designers. In between my non-existent Mandarin and their non-existent English we tried to communicate on the size of a skirt I had eyes that would work for me. I started with a medium, knowing full well I am probably twice the size of an average local Chinese.

The skirt didn’t fit, so I tried asking for a size up.

The next skirt didn’t fit either. I tried asking for a bigger size, but they didn’t understand why I needed something bigger, I tried to explain that I couldn’t fit into it, but even my pointing at the exact words in my travel language guide didn’t help.

I ended up yelling out “wo de pi ku hen ta” (loosely translates to my arse is huge). That got some laughs out of them, and I finally got an appropriate size for the skirt. End result? The skirt I bought was an XL in China, and I am a US size 2-4, a UK size 10-14.

Similarly when I was over in Argentina, I ended up buying a dress that fit me well, but was a size 40 (which I guess should be different then a French size 40, because that would make me a US size 8) See how complex the whole damn thing is!

Effect number 2: Vanity sizing


(Source: tiredofbeingfattt.blogspot.com)

So there have been a lot of articles on vanity sizing especially around whether it’s real or a myth. Vanity sizing pretty much means keeping the numbers low, even when technically your size is bigger. It means appealing to your vanity to showcase that you are a smaller size. In the same token, I as a US size 2-4, UK size 10-14 would suddenly be a US size 0-2, UK size 8-10. It’s supposed to make you feel better like “oh look! All those hours at the gym paid off!” and therefore happier and more willing to buy the clothes. I don’t know if this always holds true or not, which I guess is why some stores also use vanity mirrors to help push the sale. You know those kinds, the ones that actually belong in a funfair house and makes you feel like you have Giselle Bundchen’s legs in those straight cut pants. Funnily enough, in this case, even if you feel you should actually buy to your own size, you would tell yourself, oh its fine to buys a size ‘smaller’.

So, the thing is, the sizing on a garment is just a number, and sometimes it seems that anywhere around the world its as though some random person chose a random number to start with. Your choices when it comes to trying on clothes and shopping around the world are two-fold. You could memorize your exact measurements (in both cm and inches to be safe) and use that as a gauge against their measuring charts when you are unsure. Or you could just swallow your pride, use your closest gauge as a base to start the clothes trying (always start with an M to be safe), and then keep sizing up or down based on the sizing in those countries. Remember, it’s not you, its them. And honestly, who else would be seeing this label on your clothes? If all else fails and you’re worried a fella or a friend might find it, just snip off the sizes after you buy the clothes. No one would be any wiser.