Great Jean Debate: How Many Sizes Are You?

A viral picture inspired a nationwide conversation about discrepancies in sizing between brands. Grazia investigates why the high street still has a problem with sizing...

the great jeans debate different sizing

by Laura Jordan |

Do you know what size you are? Perhaps it’s more pertinent to ask, do you know how many sizes you are? After all, we’ve all been jean shopping only to find that our regular size won’t even squeeze over our knees. Go into the shop next door and the same size might require a belt to hold it up. Either we’re kidding ourselves – or something’s gone awry with sizing.

It was this scenario that Chloe Dunn, 18, from Glasgow faced recently. ‘I was trying on some jeans and some were fitting me great, while others wouldn’t go past my hips. To me, that didn’t make sense because they are all the same size,’ she tells Grazia. To prove her point, Chloe took a photo of several pairs of the size 12 jeans laid on top of one another, a stark illustration of how much the ‘same’ size can vary, and uploaded it to Twitter (Grazia created our own version with six pairs of size 12 high-waisted skinny jeans from the high street). ‘I lay them down just to see if they really were the same size and was really shocked at how different they were,’ she says. The picture resonated and went viral. ‘So many people responded saying they have experienced the exact same thing. Lots of people said it’s been this way for many years.’

So why is there so much variety? It’s a multifaceted issue. Brands cater to different global markets – not everyone who is the same size is the same shape, and so on. ‘Any variation is the result of numerous factors, such as styling, fabric choice and the “cut” of the garment, rather than just sizing,’ says Dawn Brazier, pattern and fit development lead at Marks & Spencer. ‘Each retailer and brand will have their own specific target market and will base their sizing, styling, etc, on this.’

This isn’t a case of some brands being meagre and some being overly generous with their sizing; without a universal system, there is no right or wrong. But brands are accepting that perhaps a system wouldn’t just make shopping easier, but more enjoyable. Last year, major retailers such as Next, New Look and River Island signed up to take part in the Shape GB campaign, a nationwide survey designed to help implement standardised sizes in the UK.

If you’re feeling frustrated, then tell your favourite brands that – believe it or not, they are listening. ‘Following customer feedback, in 2018 we took steps to change our womenswear measurements to be in line with UK sizing,’ says a spokesperson for H&M. ‘For example, the previous measurements and fit of a size 12 are now the measurements of a size 10. We hope our customers feel encouraged that we have listened to their valuable feedback.’

‘After spending time with our customers and listening to their feedback we have decided to trial in-between sizes in some of our favourite jeans and tailoring pieces to ensure that we are offering them the best fit possible,’ says Next’s technology manager Claire Brealey. ‘We will introduce sizes 11, 13, 15 and 17 and hope to roll this out in more sizes and styles soon.’ And above all, do not take it personally. ‘It’s so frustrating to find that your usual size doesn’t fit at all,’ says Chloe. ‘It made me feel really insecure. I had only realised it was the jeans when I tried on my other size 12s and they fitted totally differently.’ In other words: it’s not you, it’s them.

Read more: 32 items we're loving from the high street this spring...

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