The Curious Inconsistency in Clothing

an antique cash registerA few years ago, a group of friends and I went factory outlet shopping to a picturesque location a couple of hours away.

During this trip, I bought two 3-packs of a popular brand of underwear, in the same brand, style and size as I was actually wearing at the time. What could possibly go wrong?

When I returned home a couple of days later, I ran them through the wash.

Even though I didn’t do anything differently than I did with the underwear purchased previously, when I tried on my new skivvies, I had to look at the packaging again to make sure I didn’t accidentally buy boy’s size medium. My legs were choking from the lack of circulation… And my waistline… well…

It is true that as I got older, my weight did see slight fluctuations, but definitely not enough to graduate to the next size up in undergarments.

I also admit that it only takes one salty meal to have me retaining water like a sponge. But then again, not to the point of going beyond the allowable stretchiness of a poly-cotton blend.

Unless I could suddenly lose something like 40% of my body weight, there was no way I could make use of these new undies.

My emotions ran from sadness to irritation (and not just from the underwear that was chafing as I breathed).

I was stuck with six pairs of underwear that I couldn’t use, I couldn’t return, and likely couldn’t donate or give away (who wants used underwear despite assurances that they were brand new). Fortunately, they were a great price so I just cut my losses and tossed them.

While I certainly would not qualify myself as a retail expert, as a consumer I would hope that companies have patterns or templates for the different sizes, and that they follow them consistently. But in recent years, I have wondered if that was truly the case.

I recall finding a pair of pants that I really liked, in a style that was quite flattering. Naturally, I went online to buy additional pairs in the same waist size and inseam length, but in different colours. When the pants arrived, I couldn’t believe that there were slight variations from one pair to another. The variations weren’t severe enough to warrant a return or even an email, but different parts of the pant leg fit slightly snugger or looser depending on the colour.

How does that even happen?

Given the results of my unscientific study, I decided to never assume that just because a garment says it is a given size and style, it will be identical as a garment purchased previously, even if it is in the exact same size and style.

I put that resolution into practice when the Sears stores were closing in Canada and I went to the men’s department in search of good deals on office shirts. I recall pulling about 10 shirts off the rack, in a few different brands and styles, but all in the same size… or so I thought.

Through my rapid-fire fitting room session, I could not believe that only a couple fit me properly while the others were either too boxy (and unflattering), too slim (and I couldn’t breathe) or too tight in the neck (as my face turned beet red).

Call it experience as a shopper, but I realized that I may have been overly optimistic in assuming the universality of sizing within a brand. It would be even more Pollyanna on my part to imagine that a size would be identical from one brand to another.

Live and learn!

I appreciate the generous return policies of most stores and frankly, to be a good customer, I am a little neurotic about keeping the original packaging, receipt, tags and stickers.

Maybe it’s because I worked in retail in my high school and university years that I do everything I can to do my homework and help make a return as pleasant as possible for everyone.

Just the same, in accepting that sizing is perhaps not as universal as I once thought, for in-person shopping, my policy is to try on everything before I buy, in an effort to avoid having to drive back to a store and return it later.

With online purchases, I do my very best to check their size tools to try to get the very best fit, with the sincere hope that consistency prevailed.

If it didn’t, I take the time to familiarize myself with the intricacies of the store’s return policy and to follow it meticulously, in accepting that life isn’t always about perfection.

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Filed under Humour, stories

4 responses to “The Curious Inconsistency in Clothing

  1. I feel your pain. Shoe sizes are another issue. Whereas I used to be a 5, I now also fit in 3. Depending on manufacturers abs designers, I fit in sizes 2, 4, and 6. Pants/trousers are the worst especially with hip width. Now, if I find something that fits and is neutral enough, I buy several. Like you, I am grateful for return policies and frankly, that is my first research item. How easy are returns, if easy and free, I breathe easier.

    • Hi Alice,
      I hope that all is well with you. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your observations.
      Oh my, yes, I could write several blog posts about my challenges with shoe sizing as well!
      I am grateful for the many options available to us, but when companies seem to have their own take on sizing, it truly is an apples to oranges comparison, which makes shopping a challenge.
      Me too, I research or ask about return policies before buying, to have the reassurance that I wouldn’t have to absorb a loss if something doesn’t fit just right.
      Have a great day,

  2. This is why I dislike shopping so much! It would be so much easier if sizes were universal and you always knew that size X would more or less be the correct one for you.

    • Hi Lydia,
      I hope that you are doing well!
      Thank you for the comment and the observation.
      I completely agree that life would be so much easier if sizes were universal (not just within a brand, but across brands) to make shopping less of a chore. I wonder why there never has been such an agreement.. wouldn’t standardization make it easier for industry too? I wonder.

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