It’s Not You, it’s the Clothes

On writing this, I’ve just returned from the tailor. I needed two pairs of pants and a dress hemmed; Both were MILES too long, and I am 5′ 5.5″, which is quite an average height for an American gal according to every chart I’ve ever seen. Yet I am not anxious or uneasy about having to tailor my duds. I didn’t start questioning my proportions, height, or body just because the clothes I bought didn’t fit me properly. I didn’t worry that I should be taller or longer-legged because I know it’s not me, it’s the clothes.

I feel like more and more women are adopting this mentality, and I’m thrilled to see it. You try on enough dresses that seem ridiculously short and wonder if you’re an absolute giraffe. You struggle to find a bra that fits your girls and wonder if you’re a mutant. You search and search for cute shoes in your size and wonder if your feet are really that outrageously unusual. But you’re not. You’re not a giraffe, or a mutant, or a weird-foot. You’re marvelous. It’s not you, it’s the clothes. There is nothing wrong with your body just because it won’t fit perfectly into off-the-rack everything. You should not attempt to change how you’re shaped, how you look, or how you feel about yourself just because nothing at Zara or Forever 21 fits you. Needing to alter your clothing is not an indicator that you should alter your body.

It’s not you, beautiful. It’s the clothes.

Clothes should fit you, you needn’t fit them. The styles, shapes, and specific garments that slide onto your gorgeous form and make you grin at your radiant reflection? Those are the ones that deserve the honor of bedecking your bod. Don’t let ill-fitting clothing convince you that you’re wrong or strange. Celebrities – who spend hours exercising every day and hire chefs to keep their diets monitored – have every single item of clothing they own tailored to fit, including plain tees and camisoles. No one – not even a professional clothing model – looks amazing in every garment ever designed. Don’t expect yourself to, and try not to agonize over the items that fight your body.

Easier said than done, of course. I know exactly how disappointing and unfair it feels to realize that not a single item from a particular line is going to work for you. When I adore the aesthetic of a brand or store and cannot squeeze into anything they offer, I feel heartbroken and hurt. And, perhaps more importantly, I’m inclined to blame myself. I mean, obviously if my hips can’t be jammed into a single pair of those pants I’m a disproportionate, repellent eyesore. But I try to remember that those fit issues aren’t about me. They could be about the designer’s narrow view of bodily proportions, they could be about fitting a perceived set of average sizes, they could be about some quirk in that specific pattern or design. They could be about any number of factors, all of which are utterly unrelated to me, my figure, my body, and my value as a human being.

Many women can shop at mall stores, and many of those women look amazing in nearly everything they throw on. But the emphasis here is on the “nearly.” There isn’t a single, solitary soul walking this earth who can wear every garment ever designed and look ravishing. There isn’t a woman alive who has bought everything she owns from a mass-market store and had it all fit perfectly, as if tailor-made for her unique curves. Everyone deals with clothes that are “good enough,” everyone needs to visit the tailor for certain garments, and everyone looks awful in something.

Those off-the-rack clothes that just won’t fit you? They say absolutely nothing about you. YOU are amazing. Every last one of you.

It’s not you, it’s the clothes.

Image courtesy Gap

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Next Post
Previous Post
  • Lia

    OMG! I was just having this conversation with a (younger) girl at work. She was lamenting she was ugly because she felt nothing at Zaragoza worked for her. Hello! Change the clothes. Not body. Brava!

  • I’ve only just started to realize this, and the knowledge that it’s not MY body that’s the problem is so reassuring… and freeing! For years I didn’t think I could afford tailoring (and at 4’10” it’s sort of a necessity), so I wore ill-fitting clothes and felt miserable. Now I realize that I can’t afford NOT to tailor my clothes! The change in how I look and feel is phenomenal. =)

  • Thank you for this post, it’s so important to be reminded of this, it really isn’t me, it’s the clothes, and that’s something I need to keep in mind when I go shopping for clothes 🙂 Thank you again 🙂

  • I love this and it is so true. We don’t need to sculpt ourselves to fit into some unrealistic ideal. A piece of cloth shouldn’t have the power to deterime who we are! Are we supposed to somehow lengthen our legs or cut our hips off. That is job that is fit for photoshop! That picture you used for this post also looks altered via Photoshop or the model is 6 feet tall!

  • I first learned this concept …IT”S NOT YOU, IT”S THE CLOTHES…from Stacy and Clinton on What Not to Wear. It helped me so much to stop beating myself over the head and look for clothes that fit my body. In retail world, there are so many definitions of sizes….you cannot assume that if one size doesn’t fit you that it is your fault. Thanks for the great reminder!!

  • I came to this realization a few years back, and it’s a game changer for sure. Now, my new motto is: I don’t serve the clothes, the clothes serve me. Thankfully, I have a friend who is an a-ma-zing knitter and likes to use me as her guinea pig, so she’s taught me that tweaks to a garment’s fit or sizing, when needed, are totally worth the extra effort – the extra payoff is fabulous.

  • I know…but but but, I really want to lose 10 pounds so that I can fit into All Saints, and Theory suits. The one thing that a tailor can’t fix is when a brand you like just cruelly sizes you out because you happen to be a larger specimen than they like to think about seeing their clothes on. Or, at my size, every “designer” brand just cruelly sizes you out…but not by miles, by just a smidge. It’s maddening.

    I have started getting regular things tailored though — dresses and pants shortened so I’ll wear them more, mostly.

    • Maggie May

      Ah, I went to my first All Saints store in Chicago while on travel recently. I was SHOCKED that the entire (ENORMOUS) store stopped at size 10 (US). Perhaps there is a whole body of blogging about this topic but … I mean their aesthetic isn’t apparently so exclusive (like designers who don’t want their work on “larger” customers). I was baffled. A hint to those tempted (and willing to patronize): the men’s stuff fit just fine!

  • Yes, yes, yes! I read a very interesting article last week called “Why Your Clothes Don’t Fit” from Rostitchery, explaining how if your body isn’t identical to the fashion industry’s standard dress form, you’re screwed. Here it is:

    Now I need to figure out how to make that custom-tailoring thing work in my own life!

  • LinB

    AMEN! Preach it, sister.

  • It took me a long time to figure this out but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am short and have ‘large’ hips. I spent one summer searching for the ‘perfect’ pair of jeans I discovered there is not a single pair of pants in ALL of Old Navy that fit me. Even though friends shop there with no problem I don’t even look at their pants anymore the hip-to-waist ratio just doesn’t fit me. Instead I’ve learned to do some alterations. I just wrote a post about waist-band alterations this weekend. Although I didn’t do it 100% correct the pants fit LOADS better.

  • This is an awesome post! Thank you. I was just talking about this exact thing with my sister. I don’t know what “average” model the store clothes are based on, but nothing ever fits. I started sewing my own clothes again recently so I can get the look and fit I want, and I have been having more fun doing this than shopping at the mall. It has renewed my creativity and filled me with joy and pride! We are women! We come in all shapes and sizes. And we are all beautiful.

  • i’ve never commented before, and i wanted to say thank you so much for this. i do get stuff hemmed here and there, and i even have a friend who buys stuff sometimes that is the style she wants but not quite right in size and has it altered to her liking, but i NEVER realized that people have their whole wardrobe tailored. my mind has been blown. thanks again.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely right, Sally. I once went to a bra specialty store in an attempt to find a replacement for my go-to petite Wacoal model which has been discontinued. We weren’t having much luck and the saleslady very sweetly asked me if I had ever considered (augmentation) surgery. I was very surprised when she asked me that but as mildly as I could, I responded that I felt I should be able to find a bra that fits me rather than having surgery so that I could fit into a bra.

    • Sal

      I cannot even imagine. How presumptuous and invasive and insulting. I’m so impressed that you were able to respond calmly to such unwelcome and intrusive “advice.”

    • pope suburban

      What is that I don’t even! That would have had me beating a path to the store manager at once, because I really, truly feel that someone who would say that should not be in a job that impacts people’s sense of self-worth and body image so much. That is just beyond rude.

    • This reminds me of the time I was trying to find a pencil skirt (as part of an interview suit) that fit both my waist and my much larger hips and butt. The sales associate joked that a certain size would fit perfectly if I “lost a little junk in the trunk.”

      I responded that no part of my body is junk; if a skirt doesn’t fit my “trunk,” that’s probably a sign that it’s the wrong skirt for me.

  • Angela

    Thank you Sal. As a result of reading blogs this summer, I discovered a lot of women tailor or adjust their clothes. I had never thought of it, but in the past 2 months I have added simple darts to skirts and shorts. They would not pass my home ec teacher’s guidelines, but the piece fits so much better!!

    Now I look at clothes differently: can I fix it? Is it worth a seamstress/tailor fixing it?

    Finally, it is not me 🙂

  • Love this, Sal, and I really relate to all of this. I’ve had to alter so many items over the years, it began to cloud my self-image mentality (why am I so short for all of these dresses?). But it’s true — clothing is mass-produced, and cannot fit everyone perfectly.

    It kind of blew my mind when I read that blog post (I think you linked to it) where Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear explained that all celebrities altered their clothing, right down to their camisoles.

  • Kati

    Can you please remind me of this next March/April, when I will be just post-partum with my second baby and trying to figure what the hell I’ll be wearing to work when I go back in May?? 🙂

    • Sal

      You bet. Just swing by for your reminder. 😉

  • Nancy

    Sigh. Where do I start? Having short arms so that sleeves hang over my hands (or else “three-quarter length” sleeves rest somewhere in the middle of the forearm…). I’m not sure how you go about getting a sweater hemmed! Then the huge bust on a short, plus-sized, short-waisted body…I could go on and on. And losing weight hasn’t made it easier, since now I want to lose the t-shirts and get something more tailored and fashionable, and I’m still short and really large-busted!

    • Trudy Blue

      Well, it’s true that you can’t generally hem a sweater, but a tailor or seamstress can easily shorten sleeves or hemlines on other clothes, add darts to bring a blouse or jacket in under a large bust, or even make you a few workhorse pieces from scratch. If you really do want some perfect-fit sweaters, have you considered learning to knit? It’s a lot easier than you might think—I just started a couple years ago and am so happy to finally have sweaters that are the right length (and color and shape and neckline…). Barring that, find a knitter whose work you like and ask if they do custom work—browse Etsy, craft fairs, etc., or try your local yarn shop, where the employees are likely to be skilled knitters and might either do commissions or know someone who would.

      • Nancy

        Thank you, Trudy. I’d never considered it. My mom is a great knitter 🙂 and there are times when I really really would like to be able to sew and create my own patterns.

  • Miss T

    I’ve bought a few things from Etsy lately (both sewing patterns and ready-to-wear garments) and a few of them were marked as “half-size”. The sewing patterns specifically (from the 60s and 70s) describe a “half-size” as a “fuller figure that is under 5’3” tall). Well, the fit is perfect. I mean PERFECT. The issue for me is a small waist, average hips, and full bust. Overall, I am “slim”. but with curves. There are relatively few clothes that fit me, as a result, unless they have tons of spandex in the top. But there are other styles I’d like to wear, occasionally, that do not involve the t-shirt look. I should stress that these “half-size” patterns are NOT the equivalent of current “petite” sizing, which are tight all over and not meant for women with curves even if they are short. And they aren’t the equivalent of “plus” sizing, either, which are voluminous on me. However, it’s interesting that Etsy vendors do describe them as “plus” garments because that is all that young women know today: “misses”, “petite”, and “plus” sizing. So my question is, why did they eliminate an entire sizing range (“half-sizes”) that actually FIT a substantial number of women ? I’m sure that economics had something to do with it, because of course, if forced millions of women to buy ill-fitting garments and have them tailored, or buy cheaply made, stretchy, shapeless garments that technically “fit” but make you look like a stuffed sausage. Or perhaps it had to do with the demise of clothing manufacturers in the U.S. (more likely) because it’s obvious that a U.S. manufacturer might actually know exactly what their U.S. customer’s proportions are. When clothes are made (cheaply) in China or elsewhere, they are going to be the smallest “average” size that can statistically fit the most women while using the least amount of fabric because fabric is expensive. I say all this as a woman who straddles the two clothing “generations” (I’m in my 50’s) and actually, I DO remember when a time when all clothing fit. And if something didn’t fit, the store that sold it heard about it, took your complaint seriously, and did not order from that manufacturer anymore.

  • Haha it’s so refreshing to hear someone say something like this! My legs are always too short for every pair of jeans I try on!

  • JennyDC

    I can’t take clothing sizes seriously – I have gained about 15-20 lbs since college but actually wear a SMALLER size now in some lines (looking at you, Banana Republic). Last year, NY& Co pants didn’t fit me at all, this year they do. Loft petite pants used to fit me great, now they don’t. I am in a training program that involves getting weight and body fat checks every ~6 weeks. In the past 1+ year, my weight has varied by no more than 1-2 lbs and my body fat by maybe 1-2%. I say this not to brag, but to show that my body is not really changing in size or shape (plus everything in my closet still fits), but the differences in how clothing (especially pants) from the same store fits me from year to year are so vast that it’s obviously them, not me. It can be frustrating – I love some of the Banana stuff this year, but they apparently are using a fit model whose proportions are so different from mine that nothing works – not a smaller size, not a bigger size, not petites. I don’t love their stuff enough to pay BR prices AND get items tailored, so I’ll just shop elsewhere this year.

    Sally, this is such an important message and I hope people see it. I hate to see women getting down on their bodies when stuff doesn’t fit, when really no one fits into ready-to-wear clothing perfectly, with no alterations. Plus manufacturers just get weird with sizing/proportions from time to time.

  • Bron

    Yes! I had this revelation when I was reading a pattern-drafting textbook for commercial fashion students (y’know, as you do) and saw the standards and variations on body shape – and you know what? The book didn’t say ‘this one is right and the rest are wrong’, it simply stated how our bodies can differ. Amazing. And went a long way towards helping me understand why clothes in my size don’t always fit terribly well.

  • Big Amen to this! Stacy and Clinton have also been preaching this sermon: there’s nothing wrong with you, just keep looking for clothes that fit! I can’t wear some of the cool brand jeans, because I need a higher rise – oh well — on to the next brand!

  • Ruthe

    You are one special and wise lady Sally! Someday, perhaps we’ll visit and I can just listen to you all day. Hope all is going well with you.

  • Bekka

    Hear, hear! I’ve always had a great relationship with my tailor (once I realized that the to-hem pile wouldn’t get smaller on its own), but I still cried a little when I read that blog post.

  • Here, here! There is nothing wrong with not fitting a sloper. I happen to like my D cups even if they do pose fitting problems. When the clothing do fit, they look fantastic.

  • Katharine

    I have always been difficult to fit, but it’s been a long road to accepting that it wasn’t because I was “broken”. (Especially when I was younger, and clothing size ranges were smaller, so at 25 pounds lighter with a 24″ waist I was still stuck exploring the very upper ranges of the standard racks in size 14, where everything bagged at the waist and pulled at the shoulders, and never fit me in the crotch.)

    But yes, it’s still frustrating. And particularly frustrating when a company that apparently used a fit model of my proportions LAST year suddenly changes everything THIS year, and I go back hoping for more goodness and suddenly nothing works any more.

    But I do agree that sizing, and pattern grading, has grown much, much sloppier in intervening years, and seems to get worse the higher up in the size ranges you go in many lines. Sleeves and tailored pants, in particular, are a nightmare for me… which did NOT happen much during the brief, and otherwise painful, period that I was a size 0-2, even though the real weirdnesses of my figure (crazy wide shoulders; extremely short rise) were still fully in effect, being part of my skeleton and not part of my more or less surface fat.

    If you’re interested in some down and dirty discussion of commercial clothing and pattern manufacturing, and have a lot of time to kill, Kathleen Fasanella (who is an industrial pattern designer) over at Fashion Incubator is extremely opinionated and knowledgeable. ( There are way too many posts to link to, but she has often discussed fit, sizing, and bad commercial grading in her extensive archives. (Wait… here is the massive series on vanity sizing. Unfortunately, Kathleen IS pretty anti-fat in her views.)

    • LQ

      Wow, I just read several of those posts and realized Kathleen is totally convinced that there are no fat people who aren’t poor.

      • Katharine

        I know! I had forgotten what a snobby jerk she was about that (the reason I don’t actually FOLLOW her blog, but only come across it now and then…)

        And, based on both my personal and Internet experience, I’d say she’s wrong, wrong, wrong; I think a lot of the increase in “plus” sized women wanting better, higher quality clothes is due to the increase in women in general working and making good money. Not, perhaps, Balmain-style money — but Theory or DvF or Marni style money? Absolutely. Most of the women I personally meet (as an artist, not as one of them!) who work in the upper echelons of finance, law, marketing and the like making in the six figures, are in their forties or early fifties, and a great many of them would technically be “plus” sized.

        I’d suspect that the difference is partly regional (I’m in Canada, and not in one of the big metropolises — although I certainly saw a lot of women coming out of a swanky sponsor reception to their limos at TIFF two nights ago who were not “social X-rays” either — and wearing, for the most part, really excellent shoes, and somewhat drab and ill-fitting Little Black Dresses) but still. If her opinion is widespread, and I’m thinking it still is, then it does reflect a persistent blindness on the part of clothing designers and manufacturers, however much she goes on arguing that it doesn’t. (People wanting to wear “clothing that was never intended for them,” forsooth!)

        However, she does know her cutting.

        • LQ

          Hey, I’m 41 and in New York City and am pretty much exactly the woman you describe at the style/price desire point you describe (would happily live in Theory and DVF if they came in 16 or an hourglassy 14W) and yes to all of that! That’s why I had this creeping feeling of unreality as I was reading her series. I’m pretty privileged in most respects and I think I’ve never felt so directly, specifically erased by a blog post.

          OH WELL, if she doesn’t want me as a customer then she can’t have me.

  • Mary

    Thank you, thank you! Women need to hear this – just to know that when you go out shopping, it is actually possible not to find anything that fits perfectly, in a whole day’s outing. And that that’s absolutely normal! A close friend of mine has been telling me for years and years that she can’t find jeans in her length – or she doesn’t want to delay the wearing of her lovely new purchase by waiting a week for a tailor to hem them. I have ceased to have any compassion there. Come on!
    I can understand not having your t-shirts taken in. And adding an extra dimension to your shopping doesn’t sound welcome to some out there. But if you don’t want to take everything to the tailor at once, it’s still important that the average woman give a little more time to getting the right fit in pant hems and waistbands, especially. It’s not as hard as you think! I have never once – never once – bought a pair of jeans and worn them as is. Every pair I own has had the waistband taken in, and the flares and wide-legs always get hemmed.
    And then, the magic: my jeans don’t slip off over my butt, and I’m not walking on my hems and tearing them up on the sidewalk. A bit of knee that wasn’t showing under my skirt before, shows, and makes the whole proportion more pleasing. Coat sleeves suddenly hit the right spot on my wrist and I no longer look like I’m wearing my mom’s coat.
    Full disclosure: I’m a tailor, and I wish more women and men knew about the potential of this craft. Bring it to me or do it yourself (I liked that jeans tutorial at Halcyon Days mentioned above) – but just get it done!
    I know I’m talking like it’s the cure for breast cancer. But it makes such a gigantic difference in what you wear, what you suddenly realize you’re able to wear, and the sheer possibilities available to you once you know!

    • Anneesha

      Are you in Minneapolis area, by any chance?

      • Mary

        I wish I were! But if you ever come down to Chicago, let me know … 🙂

        • Rita

          where in Chicago? I need a tailor…

          • Mary

            Not sure about online etiquette regarding this stuff … but I’m in the city, on the North Side. I’m Storefront coming by spring …

  • Laura B

    Sal, Thank you for this post, it was like medicine to my soul. Keep doing what you are doing!

  • Trudy Blue

    When I once worked in a clothing shop, I’d see women wrestling with clothes that clearly didn’t fit but had their “size” on the label. I developed a little speech: “Every pattern from every brand is going to come out in a different shape, so ignore the label size and just try on a bunch until you find something that fits your body, then take it home, cut off that label and call it yours—even have it altered if necessary to customize it.” Most women were amazed by that idea; they had truly believed that if they were a size 10, that every size 10 garment ought to fit them properly, as if we were all interchangeable paper dolls. Happily not.

  • Sara

    Fabulous! I have recently discovered the wonders a tailor can work, both for fit and details that should have been seen to (pockets that don’t gape anyone?)

  • Joey

    Honestly, you cannot apply how you think you are to how other women are…that’s wishful thinking.

    I am a model photographer and interact with dozens of women a week. It’s exactly the opposite to how you describe. Women, in my experience, are getting more and more affected by what they see and hear on TV and in women’s magazines, not less.

  • danielle

    Ah, when you’re 5’0 like me you realize very early on that is in fact the clothes and not you. I’ve been getting things hemmed to fit since I was in high school and now it just seems like part of the routine for buying pants – when I find a pair that DOESN’T need hemming I’m pleasantly surprised!

    I’ve also learned that some stores just don’t work and not to bother trying…. but on the other hand, to also learn to look in unusual places. The rise on the top of my foot is sharper than most, so I have a hard time finding cute strappy sandals that fit – until I hit the kid’s section in Payless. Completely adjustable everything = perfect fit, AND inexpensive!

  • Bravo Sal! I preach tailoring and alterations all the time, and so many women think I’m crazy to alter this and tailor that. I find it fascinating that there is a whole generation of women that have literally no idea about tailoring their clothing, except for perhaps their wedding gown.

    I also LOVE that link (thank you for originally sharing it a few weeks ago!) and have shared it like crazy with my readers…and they have all loved it too! It’s such a moment of clarity to realize…all those beautiful, perfectly put together women with their perfectly fitting clothes…have had help! They did not fit those beautiful clothes off the rack like so many of us try to do. Ah ha!

    I wish I were personal bbf’s with Clinton Kelly, because he needs to know that this is a WNTW special just begging to be made. Educate the masses! It’s not you…it’s the clothes!

  • Nomi

    Thank you so much for this. I don’t even shop retail anymore, I just buy shapelesss junk at the thrift store, because no matter how pretty it looks on the rack it will hang badly on me…. maybe I should rethink this.

  • I don’t even know how to follow your blog but I wish I could!

    I always feel 10x better and more educated after I read your posts. Thanks for this one. ^_^

  • SamiJ

    There seems to be a lot of anger over sizing. Huh. That’s weird.
    Especially when most would agree that everyone is different. It bears repeating — Everyone is different. That is why there is no true “standard size” that will fit you. It’s not that clothing companies are trying to tell you that your proportions are wrong. It’s that they simply cannot make clothing that will fit everyone exactly — they would have to create hundreds of more sizes to capture our unique beauty and form. So they do their best to estimate. In the olden days, people sewed their own clothing, or had it sewn to fit — so it wasn’t an issue then. But in today’s industrial consumer world, what is missing is that individual attention and unique fit. Your unique form is what makes you beautiful — now take your beautiful self to a tailor.

  • Anonymous

    I think you put your finger on why shopping at thrift stores has gotten me happy about clothes for the first time ever. In a regular clothing store where there’s a whole rack of “every” size of a particular item and none of them fits right, it’s (unfortunately) easy to feel like a freak. In a thrift store, the treasure hunt is inherent and if an item doesn’t fit, I say “oh well” and move on to the next option–with no illusion that a particular piece in a particular size should fit.

  • This was one of the first lightbulb moments I had watching What not to wear. I am not the problem, the clothes are the problem. I try to focus on this but sometimes shopping is hard and not being able to envision the potential of tailoring. Also finding a great trustworthy tailor is another difficulty.

  • Kate K

    About two years ago, I lost about 50 lbs and went from plus sized to “regular” standard sizing in the stores. And I was so excited to shop and have everything fit me and look great on me. It was easier to find the size I needed but I was shocked when I still had those same problems finding clothes that fit me and flattered me. It was frustrating but learning that everyone has problems with fit was a really good lesson to learn.

    Also, when I’m trying on clothes and they don’t fit and I’m getting that “I don’t look good in anything!” tunnel vision, I think about all of the great clothes I have in my closet. Those fit me, I love them and if I could find those, I will find other things.

  • Before the 20th century, clothes were custom made. Period. There were no “off the rack” sizes. Ok, in the very late part of the 19th century, men’s & some women’s shirt could be bought pre-made, simple button-down shirts that only had a neck & sleeve measurement, the body was loose & tucked into pants/skirt.

    Even until the 1960s, most women knew how to sew & could sew or at the very least alter their clothes. My grandmother & mom grew up sewing their own clothes. Mom sewed a lot of my clothes until I was maybe 6-8. We’ve really lost an understanding of customized fit.

    Instead, we bend to the arbitrary whims of dozens of different designers or retreat into baggy unsized clothes that don’t fit at all.

    • Condlee

      I agree, if you can sew you are better off. I don’t know if the sizing is due to aribtrary whims, or just designers trying to guess what proportions are most common. But customized fit is impossible for ready to wear. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid or put off from seeing a tailor. Who wouldn’t pay an extra $10 for a jacket guaranteed to have the right sleeve length? Or $5 for jeans that have exactly the right hem length (or waist/hip ratio)? What doesn’t make sense is that stores or malls don’t have an onsite tailor, or that somehow we’ve gotten the idea that we should wear ill-fitting clothing because we have “non-standard” size bodies — even though we know there is no standard size when it comes to beauty.

      • Melinda

        I really wish I could sew….oh, the beautiful clothes I would make! 🙂

        I’m literally full of ideas but I’m unable to put it all into action. I want to make some pretty skirts and dresses.

        I’m not into contemporary styles at all. I love the looks of the 1920s to the 1960s.

        I just need some patterns, some gorgeous material, a sewing machine, and the right skills.

  • Sally, this post is awesome! It’s such a common problem for so many women (and men). It’s interesting that we automatically assume that we should fit into clothes, and if we don’t, then we’re somehow less-than, ugly or deformed. And this makes you feel like crap and helps a positive body image plummet. I have to remind myself of the same thing from time to time. Like you said, it sucks not being able to fit into clothes you like. But it’s about the clothes, not us. Brilliant post! Seriously, thank you for this.

  • Yes! I’ve espoused this mentality for years now and it does wonders for your self-esteem. It’s not you, it’s the clothes. Conversely, finding something that does fit or getting something back from the tailor can make you feel like a million bucks. 😀

  • Pingback: It’s not you, it’s the clothes! | WHOA! It's BEXXCO.()

  • Thea

    I’m “Plus” size, average height (5’5″), short waisted with long legs. Pants are a nightmare to find. Most are up to my bra band in the rise, but too short in the legs. Go figure. This is nothing a tailor can fix so lots of patient shopping for me. Fortunately, I’m happy with a few pair of pants.

    Finding shoes is another thing all togther. I’m a size 11-12. Many stores (Macy’s!!!!) don’t even carry these sizes though, I know several women who wear them. Shoe designers and stores really need to get a reality check. Whats with the mile high heels on hard narrow soles? Its like they’re intentionally trying to cripple us. Why isn’t there more variety in cute, practical shoes that come in larger sizes? I know its not me, its them. But its still so frustrating!!!

    • Katharine

      Thea, if it’s any help to you, someone I know on a forum (who is also size 12) just posted a link to Barefoot Tess ( whose slogan is “because style doesn’t stop at size 10.”

    • Anneesha

      And even if a shoe in an 11 or 12 is “big enough” it doesn’t mean it fits or isn’t painful … I live in sandals which are more forgiving, then have to switch immediately to boots when it’s cold enough, because then you can buy a size 12 and wear big sox and they don’t fall off. DSW is one of the few places where I can occasionally score something that’s not dowdy. Sadly, Nordstrom Rack selection never comes through; not sure why! there’s no tailoring of shoes – other than doubling your tights or kneehighs.

      • Erika A

        Yes, DSW! I wear an 11 and DSW is one of the few places I find affordable dress or work shoes in my size. I’ve given up on department stores.

    • Jen

      Oh, Thea. You’re singing my song, girl. First of all, many thanks to Sally for this post. It’s so flipping true and seems so basic yet I’m sure so many would read this and have that beautiful light bulb go on over there head which is absolutely PRICELESS. I have been a plus size for most of my adult life (I’m 41), and for ALL of my life I’ve been tall (a quarter-inch shy of 6′). AND I wear a size 12 shoe. So shopping for me has always been about assuming it will be a miracle if I go into a store and find a piece or pieces that work on ME. Knowing that I have to adapt and fumble and be creative is a way of life, but of course, like so man women, I still find myself feeling sad and deficient, even in a plus-size store with clothes for ME. But the main thing I wanted to comment on was the shoe thing. It’s a major pain in the butt if you are someone who doesn’t have a bunch to spend on shoes. I have managed to find a pair of shoes I LOVE for work at Payless for like $19.99. It’s the find of my life and I wear them until they’re worn out and get some more. But they’re not cute or anything, just practical. For cute, if I walk into a Payless there are rows and rows of size 8. Size 12 has a tiny little section with a mish-mash of styles. Frustrating beyond belief.

  • When I sew clothes for myself, I’ve found that I need to spend nearly as much time on getting the pattern to fit right than I do on actually constructing the clothes. Learning an experimenting with fitting has made me realize that it’s amazing that anyone finds anything at all to fit them at the mall.

    One thing I love about sewing communities is that when they discuss fit and alterations, they refer to figure “variations” instead of “flaws.” Because we’re all just variations on theme.

  • swissrose

    Sometimes it has to do with a certain brand. Zara is Spanish, for instance, and is cut to fit the body shape that is typical for the Mediterranean, which tends to be fairly petite for young women, often quite narrow-hipped. Any Spanish, Italian or French brand is likely to be cut on the small side. German sizes are usually generously cut both in breadth and length – at only 5’2″ I can forget those, even more so when they are for “larger ladies”, since they then assume you are a Valkyrie of at least 6’… I could wear their Tshirts as tunics! British brands are usually cut for the pear-shaped, a typical British shape of woman. Then you have the skimping on material resulting in mini-sizes in some other brands. So in the end, it’s try try try again and get the best fit you can – and then, as Sal says, tailor!!

  • I wish I could send this post to my 15-year-old self…

    H&M is easily the most problematic brand for me, in terms of how the clothes work with my proportions – I don’t know what kind of figure they design for, only that it’s nothing like my own. As a teen, though, I bought most of my clothes there and would blame myself for all the fit problems I had. It literally never occurred to me that proportions vary and sizing is inconsistent.

    I still shop at H&M, but I’m a lot more selective (I know which types of garment might work vs. which ones to avoid completely) and I go elsewhere for staple items. Lately it’s been Uniqlo, where for some reason I have a much higher success rate with fit.

  • Kookoo

    This is why I wear dresses 90% of the time. Sure I’m often called a fancy pants, but at least I spend less time tucking and pinning and more time living,

  • So true Sal. I even named my blog The Problem is the Clothes, Not the Body so I always reminded its not my fault I’m not like the fit model.

    i do want to start getting things tailored, it seems like it would make such an improvement. How much does tailoring tend to cost?

    • Mary

      Prices in my large city run about like so:

      waistband & seat taken in: 18-25
      plain hem: 12
      original (tricky) hem on jeans: 22
      jacket sleeve shortened: 18
      buttons reinforced: 2 each

      There’s a lot of variation in styles, and thus in price, but there’s also lots of tricks up everyone’s sleeve (ba dum bum). You never know what can be done until you have someone who sews take a look at it!

  • Lauren

    Thank you for this, Sal. Reminders like this are exactly why I love your blog. So empowering!

  • It is very good to hear this, two days before I go shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress!

  • You need to republish this post once a month and keep reminding us! It was news to me that celebrities might tailor something as innocent as a tee–no wonder mine never quite look the same.

  • Karen

    My sister and I have been bemoaning this fact ever since we started doing our own shopping. She’s just shy of 5’0″, and I’m not quite 5’3″, so we realized pretty early on that the clothes were the problem. Designers don’t seem to realize that women might need shorter pants (or, for that matter, that short women can have big, athletic calves like my sister and I do). It’s especially irritating because, aside from being petite, I’m a pretty proportional gal who’s just a smidge more hourglass-y than the industry standard, and that smidge is just enough to make buying clothes off the rack difficult.

    Sal, this is a message that every woman should have written on her forehead when she goes shopping. Thank you for spreading it!

  • Tabithia

    I had to adopt this way of thinking, especially when I’m 5’10” and all legs I can’t tailor most of the problems I have with clothes! I also smile when I hear women saying pants lengths are made for models, because guess what it’s almost impossible to find pants long enough for me! Even the “longs” are too long. I think they saw one woman on the street, grabed her and said “you have the average length legs of the American woman, we’re going to use you as our model!” and have gone by that woman’s measurements! Lol I also can’t fix the length of dresses, etc. Oh well, I still have a pretty slammin’ body!

    Also keep in mind, many MANY stores say they use the same sizing chart. I’ve read many sizing charts from many different stores they all say a size 12 pant is xx inches in the length but in Forever 21 I can’t get the pants over my knees, American Eagle they’ll fit but be a tad loose, Express will fit perfectly and Hollister will go over my knees but not my bum. But they all supposedly have the same sizing chart???

  • Great post!

    I worked with a woman who moonlighted as a catalog model. She was fit, well-proportioned and beautiful, and the stylists still used clips and tricks to make the garments drape well for the perfect shot.

  • Guenevera

    It makes me so angry when you hear the statistics about X% of American women are wearing the wrong bra size (usually the article is something like 70%+ in the wrong size). It’s usually framed that the poor, dumb, women just don’t know what size they are, but I’d say it’s far more because so many women are unable to FIND the right size bras in store. If you live in an area where big box stores are the only shopping options, you’re out of luck if you’re anything more than a DD.

    • Katrin

      That “statistic” is infuriating. It’s always some different huge percentage of women allegedly not knowing that they need a larger cup and smaller band size. While that may (or may not, I don’t know) be the most common bra fitting mistake, that doesn’t mean that X% of all women who wear bras are making it.

      The insidious condescension of the whole meme, though, is what I really object to. Its actual message is “Cheer up, girls! You’re really thinner with bigger boobs than you think! And that’s always a good thing, right? You just need to be told by an authority figure what shape your body really is!”

      I cringe every time I see this forwarded by someone who I thought would know better.

  • SAE

    Thank you.

  • Sarah

    As a 30-year-old who has been a size 2 since age 15… this is spot on. People think it’s “easier” to be a skinny-mini. No. I look awful in plenty of clothes. Actually a lot of clothes. There are entire lines I can’t wear. Friends once took me to TJ Maxx to prove me wrong when I said it’s tough to find a dress that flatters off the rack. What followed was a “fashion show” where all my friends tilted their heads to the side, and mused, “Hmmm, well, gee that really doesn’t fit you, does it… ” Every body type has pros and cons, and every body type can be beautiful!

  • Pingback: Well-Rounded Links()

  • Pingback: In Case You Missed It Edition! Volume 35 – Magic, Faith and Pants That Fit, Damnit « Teacher Goes Back to School()

  • Pingback: Sunday Media Montage 9-18-2011 – Balancing on Two Feet()

  • Maggiethecat

    Very, very late to the party, but just felt the need to add… I live in Spain, birthplace of Zara, and pretty much everyone I ever talked to about the subject agrees that their sizing is completely ridiculous, in both the women’s and men’s lines (dunno about Zara kids). So we generally don’t sweat it if we can’t get in their idea of an S/M/L, or what have you, and nobody else has to either. I’m generally considered small even by the local standards (I’m a hair under 5′ 2″, and generally range between XS/S/M / four-ish), and I’ve sometimes shopped their men’s department for shirts… I have strong arms and wide shoulders, and they’re nice and roomy on me, but I think that even a somewhat hefty guy would have trouble finding stuff here; my brother, who is slightly built like me, confirms it – he has to go at least a size or two up there. Women’s shoes run a full size small, and generally I’d say their smallest sizes would accomodate a very slender teenage girl, and their largest a medium to large-ish woman, and I’m talking about the average I see in my area (yep, mediterranean Spain). In a word, ridiculous (despite of which I confess to a mild Zara addiction, which by now you’ve probably guessed. 🙂

  • Pingback: Body Loving Blogosphere: 09.18.11 | Medicinal Marzipan()

  • J

    Well hello there lovely lady, & thankyou for this amazing post! 🙂
    I was wondering if i might be able to re-post this as a guest post over at Lifeinfullcolour (
    I’m sure my readers would get a lot out of hearing this message!

  • Michelle

    As a kid, I remember going shopping for clothing with my mom. I would show her things I liked, and she would look at the clothes and say to me, “You’re too big for that.” It made me feel really bad about my weight. I always wished that she would rephrase it to say instead that the clothes were too small.

  • Pingback: Love Your Body Day | Dr. Sheila Addison()

  • Pingback: Sunday Media Montage 9-18-2011 | Balancing on Two Feet()

  • Moe

    And not all tailors are considered equal. A friend told me the other week that a tailor wanted over $50 to hem a skirt for her. There are many excellent tailors out there who will not empty your pocket book. Definitely shop around town until you find a person and a price you like (or can still eat and pay rent with).

    I came here via a tweet. Excellent piece with some great catch phrases that should become mantras for women everywhere!

  • Pingback: A Belated Vintage Tips, Tutorials and Links Round-Up | Penny Dreadful Vintage()

  • Pingback: We’re already pretty! | The Genesis of WhatFitsMe()

  • Finding clothes off the rack that fit me well is a nightmare. So I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m creating WhatFitsMe, which is a website that recommends clothes based on how they fit you. Check it out! We just launched the site today.

  • billy

    Name brand clothes sizes are not acurate. So i have to buy clothes from the flea market at least the fit me and the sizes are acurate