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Why fashion needs to fix its sizing problem now

When the head honchos in the clothing industry sit down to discuss resetting the fashion calendar, I sincerely hope they give some thought towards introducing standardisation of sizes.

This issue around sizing has been one of the big frustrations of shopping online during lockdown. As consumers, we’ve become acutely aware of the trials and tribulations around size and fit, but the rag trade knows only too well about that, as our homes become the changing room.

Is it just me or have the sizing gods gone a little mad? Between vanity sizing and the other extreme of tight fits, I can now fit into a size 10, 12, 14 and 16… all in the same day! And a pear-shaped woman should not be taking a bigger size on top than on the bottom, but then that’s vanity sizing for you.

We are bigger women than our grandmothers and the numbers have changed dramatically. A size 8 dress in the US now is the equivalent of a size 16 dress back in 1958. Vanity sizing was introduced as a form of flattery, to make us feel better about ourselves when we fit into a smaller size — but while we may feel good temporarily, dialling down the numbers only adds to the size confusion.

Size and fit are especially important with jeans, yet not only do they vary in size from brand to brand, but from country to country. There could be several inches of a difference in the waist measurements of same-size jeans but ordering in multiples, in the hope that one will fit, is not good consumer practice. With return times extended during the pandemic, what happens to clothes that are returned and out of season — or out of fashion? Are they destined for discount… or for landfill?

Retailers have compiled informative grids as buying guides to help us assess measurements and compare European sizes to the American size 0 standard, while the Asian size chart runs smaller to both.

When YouGov Omnibus surveyed shoppers in 2018 about sizes being too small, and out of sync with their label size, Miss Selfridge received the most complaints (68pc) followed by Topshop (66pc) and Zara (62pc). Footwear came in as being the most consistent, with only 15pc reporting fluctuations compared to jeans (65pc), dresses (57pc), tops (52pc), skirts (44pc), shirts (43pc), bras (37pc) and coats (36pc).

The digital world has come to our assistance with body-scanning analytics to help shoppers find their right size. True Fit, a US retail software start-up, uses data analytics to take the guesswork out of online shopping and works with over 10,000 brands. Sizer is another body-measuring app for getting clothes to fit but, personally, I’m old-school and cannot wait to get back into the changing rooms, where I prefer to see actual size numbers to the more confusing brush strokes of S, M and L.

In terms of diversity and offer on the high street, M&S offers choice and realistic sizes, and sells its Per Una, Goodmove, Autograph and M&S Collection in sizes 6-24, including a wide selection of denim jeans. At Primark/Penneys, leisurewear, underwear, jersey, knitwear and outerwear sell in sizes 4-22, while its denim, blouses, dresses and tailoring sell in sizes 4-20.

Dunnes Stores sells womenswear ranges in sizes 8-22. The “small” in its Gallery range is a 10-12 while in Savida, the more youthful range, the small is an 8-10. It makes a point of flagging up the different sizes, which is helpful.

This may feel a little like maths homework but it pays to keep an eye on the numbers. And before you buy anything else, arm yourself with the truth. Buy yourself a measuring tape!

Oh, Ella!

If you are not following the very cool Ella Emhoff on Instagram, start now! The young New York fashion student was the breakout star of the recent Presidential Inauguration when her crystal-shouldered Miu Miu check coat lit up the front row on Capitol Hill… and social media loved her on the spot.

The 22-year-old Parsons student, daughter of Doug Emhoff, the Second Gentleman, possesses a very New York point of view, which stood out like a beacon in Washington DC.

Gifted when it comes to a crochet hook, Ella’s “granny square house coat” took her a million hours, she says, and it’s a wow, as are her other handcrafted pieces. I really like the cut of her jib and her philosophy of working with designers she respects, as an artist. I also liked how her mum, Kerstin Emhoff, was out canvassing for Kamala Harris, her former husband’s new wife, and was invited to Inauguration Day — blended family goals.

Watch out for an upcoming collaboration between Ella and Batsheva Hay, who designed her Inauguration Day dress after they met on Instagram. @ellaemhoff

Valentine treats

One of the nicest things about being at home so much is being able to create your own rituals to put shape on your day and calm the brain. In the morning, I do my “commute”, which is a walk around the block, stopping for a takeaway to bring back to the “office”.

At night time, it is about changing out of my work “suit” (trackie bottoms and jumper) and stepping into my PJs. My ears pricked up this week when I heard that Cliona O’Brien’s Moon + Mellow is doing a Valentine’s gift pack costing €220, which includes her ‘Poetic Vista’ 100pc organic cotton pyjamas set along with two Voya products, the Mindful Dreams body oil and Lavender candle. Keep an eye out for the discount code on moonandmellow.com.