Friday 20 April 2018

So. . . what size are you really?

Women's dress sizes can be all over the shop but a website aims to take the stress out of the fitting room.

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It’s only a number: Kate Olohan has size 10,12, 14 and 16 garments in her wardrobe.
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Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Designer Paul Costelloe won't be too happy. Debenhams Ireland has just confirmed that it's to follow the example set by its flagship London store by introducing size 16 mannequins in this country.

The department store's Oxford Street branch made history when it became the first high-street store to use plus-size dummies.

And Costelloe blasted: "It is just so typically Debenhams and typically British trying to normalise everything into becoming acceptable.

"At the end of the day, I am in the business of selling a product, and unfortunately it wouldn't help in my business to be using size 16 models.

"We have to start distinguishing between curvy and large and stop fooling ourselves that we are all in the former category."

Research has shown that the dress size of the average Irish woman has grown from a 12 to a 16 in just over a decade, but most stores still use size 10 dummies to display their wares.

Karen Nason, spokesperson for Debenhams Ireland, says: "Having worked on this project for three years, we hope that it will help people in some small way to feel comfortable about their bodies."

If only it helped you decipher what size to bring into the dressing room, too.

A new survey has shown that women have an average of three different dress sizes hanging in their wardrobe: that's the difference between the old mannequins and the new ones.

With no standardised sizing in fashion stores here, women's dress sizes are all over the shop, admits stylist Courtney Smith.

"No size 10 girl has exactly the same body shape as another girl who is size 10, and she certainly doesn't have the same proportions as a mannequin," she says.

"At the end of the day, the reason high-street clothing is so cheap is that it is created in bulk."

When web developer Anna Powell-Smith jumped from a size 8 to a size 12 without gaining a single pound, she decided to do something about it, setting up a website called 'What Size Am I?' to help other women figure out their dress size before hitting the fitting room.

"As a web developer, I buy a lot of clothes online," Anna, who's 5ft 8in and size 10, told the Irish Independent from her London home. "I got sick of having to buy lots of different sizes and then send them back.

"Most stores give a size guide online, but firstly they were all different, and secondly they weren't very user-friendly, so I decided to make one myself.

'The reaction on Facebook and Twitter has been amazing. I made it for fun -- I had no idea so many women had the same problem."

"'With 'What Size Am I?' (www.sizes., you just put in your bust, waist and hip measurements, and it calculates your closest size at 20 different online stores from ASOS to Zara," she explains.

"Obviously, the sizes are just a guide. Lots of unpredictable factors, from fabric to body confidence, will affect which size a woman prefers to wear and how the garment fits."

Currently, there are three European standards on clothes sizing that aim to establish a common sizing system. However, retailers here are not forced to use standard measurements by law.

"The first thing to understand is how retailers fit clothes," says Anna, who found Monsoon best for hourglass figures and Next best for pear shapes.

"Most retailers use a size 12 'fit model' who is about 5ft 4in and slightly pear-shaped to make their prototype.

"Patterns for other sizes are then uniformly sized up or down from these measurements -- for example, three centimetres less all the way round for a size 10 or three centimetres more all the way round for a size 14.

"However, this is not how a real woman loses or gains weight, so if you're size 10 or 14, not to mention size 8 or 16, it's probably not going to fit perfectly."

Despite having perfect mannequin-esque proportions, Bond girl Gemma Arterton (27) says it's hard to find clothes that fit in Hollywood: "It is ridiculous. I went to a designer [who] said to me: 'I'm amazed that you're fitting into these sample sizes' ... and I'm a size 8 to 10!"

"If you find a store whose clothes fit well, my advice is to stick with it," says Anna Powell-Smith.

"Smaller retailers generally use fewer suppliers than the big ones, so you'll probably find the sizing is more consistent. If you're shopping on the high street, remember to budget an extra €10-€20 to get the item altered," advises stylist Courtney Smith.

"But I don't think women should get too hung up on size either.

"If something fits like a glove and you feel like a million dollars in it, it doesn't matter whether it's an 8 or an 18 or what the mannequin looks like."

Irish Independent

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