How to use a catalog size chart
Knowing how to use a catalog size chart will help you find the perfect fit
Standardized clothing sizes are a relatively recent cultural innovation. Imagine how fun shopping online or from catalogs would be without them. Not very! Using a catalog size chart will help you order clothes that are most likely to fit you just right.
Clothing sizes in America are very different from those in Europe. Not only do we use a different system of measurement, but standard sizes fluctuate every few years. In other words, it’s important for women to know how their actual size corresponds to a somewhat confusing system.
Remember the mission is to feel good in the clothes you wear. From pretty, flowy dresses to a denim stretch city dress, everything you wear should look as if it were tailor made for you.
Charts for women vary by height and weight. It’s always helpful to read customer reviews online before you order as actual sizes can fluctuate by about an inch from one manufacturer to another. Here’s a guide for measuring yourself in order to find the right fit.
Chest – Measure around the top of your chest and beneath the arm pits.
Bust – Bring the tape around the fullest width of your bust. Look in a mirror to make sure the tape is straight all the way around. Getting an accurate number for the bust is key for everything from blouses to business casual dresses.
Arms – Don’t measure your arm when it’s straight or your sleeves will end up too short. Instead, bend it and rest your hand on our hip. Have someone place the tape at the middle of the back of your neck and trace from your shoulders to the elbow, then the wrist. The total length is how long your sleeves need to be for sweaters and stylish cardigans.
Torso – Bring the tape across your body in a diagonal from shoulders to bring your legs and back up to the shoulder.
Waist – Measure around the fullest part of your waist. Don’t pull the tape too tight or your pants will be uncomfortably tight! Slim-fit pants and pencil skirts should sit snug on the waist so the lines stay straight and sleek.
Hips – Look in the mirror and bring the tape around the fullest part of your hips with your feet together. Slacks and jeans in particular need precise measurements in this area as they're made to hug your shape.
Plus sizes are larger at the hip, waist and bust areas to accommodate women with fuller figures. They can range from 41” to 59” at the bust and 35” to 55” at the waist.
Petite garments are for women between 4’11” tall to about 5’3” tall. Sleeves and inseams are shorter. Bust sizes for petite vary on charts from 32” to 46” while the waist goes from 25” to 39”.
Ideally, every dress would fall just right, jeans would hug where you want them to and every shirt would complement your figure. Since manufactures can’t afford to make every garment to fit every possible measurement, standard sizes are based on averages.
This can be frustrating if your body shape differs in proportion. When your measurements vary significantly, call the customer support line. Larger retailers like Sears will help you find the right size.
The first time you look at a catalog size chart can be overwhelming because the system is quite different from the standard sizes you see in store, 4,6,8, etc. Don’t panic. Many companies provide addition charts to convert your closet size to the closest catalog size.
Remember that standard clothing sizes in the U.S. were created in the 1940s for men. Women’s bodies vary far more, particularly with the infamous trend of vanity sizing. This is the method used to make women feel smaller than they are by making size numbers lower. According to a Slate article, a size 8 in 1958 had a 31” bust, 23.5” waist and 32.5” his. By 2008, size 8 was about 5 inches larger in each measurement!
Sizes fluctuate on both the manufacturer and customer end so it’s worth taking the time to refer to the catalog size chart often and re-measure yourself from time to time. Getting a dress that looks better on you than on the hangar will make it all worth it.