Fashion & Style

How do kids' clothing sizes work?

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Buying clothes for your baby or child is often confusing, and you may have wondered how kids' clothing sizes really work.
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A quick lesson on how kids clothing sizes work

How do kids' clothing sizes work? If you've shopped much at all for children's clothes, you've probably asked this question. Although ASTM International offers tables of body measurements to clothing manufacturers, these manufacturers are not required to conform to any standards. So each clothing manufacturer can actually develop its own standards or label sizes however it wants. Thus kids' clothing sizes can vary from company to company.


Though changes have been suggested to label clothes in the U.S. by body measurements instead of numbers, no such changes have been implemented. (Of course, a few specific articles, such as men's pants, run on measurements, but the majority of clothing sold in the U.S. doesn't show measurements on the tag.) It is possible that the country's sizing system may change in the future, but for now, it remains the same. Read below for information on selecting the right size of children's clothing.


Numbers for Kids' Clothing Sizes


While each size may not fit the same across manufacturers, the actual numbers of kids' clothing sizes are pretty standard in the U.S. Clothing for newborns usually will display one of the following sizes:


  • 0 to 3 months
  • 3 to 6 months
  • 6 to 9 months


Older babies often wear one of these sizes:


  • 12 months
  • 18 months
  • 24 months


Toddlers' clothes are 2T, 3T, or 4T. Older kids' clothing sizes generally run from 4 to 12 or 14. As you've probably already noticed, kids' sizes in the U.S. are supposed to be based on age.


How do kids' clothing sizes work? You can now answer that question if any of your friends ask. But knowledge of the sizing concept doesn't automatically direct you to clothes that will fit your child. In fact, age is really not the best determining factor when you're buying children's clothes.


The Best Way to Pick Kids' Clothing Sizes


If you have the option, the best way to pick kids' clothing sizes is to shop by height and weight. If you're shopping for your own children, periodically measure and write down these two numbers.


Some stores may post sizing charts that will help you match their kids' clothing sizes to your child's measurements. And you can require older kids to try on clothes before you buy them. But if you're shopping without the kids, shopping online, or shopping for younger children, you may need to guess on the correct size.


Retailers Who Don't Offer Charts of Kids' Clothing Sizes


What about retailers who donít offer charts? How do kids' clothing sizes work then? If a particular retailer has cute kids' fashion clothes but doesn't offer a sizing chart, you can refer to another chart. Print a copy of an appropriate apparel sizing guide and carry it with you when you shop. Although sizes can vary among manufacturers, a chart of some kind will at least give you a starting point.


Small, Medium, Large?


Sometimes kids' clothing sizes only carry a designation of small, medium, large, and so on. Generally these word sizes fall right in line with the list of sizes and start over again each time a new category begins.


For example, 0 to 3 months is a small, 3 to 6 months is a medium, 6 to 9 months is a large. Again, 12 months is a small, 18 months is a medium, 24 months is a large. Word designations are less common in babies' clothing, but you might see them more often in older children's clothes.



ANSI News and Publications, "What's My Size?", "Children's Clothing Buying Guide"

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