Reader Susan e-mailed me this question:
[A recent post] made me think about a pair of my jeans. They fit great in the store, they fit great if I walk around the store, but in real active life they slide down. I have a belt, but it’s weird that it happens. Tops that wind up too short, shoes that don’t fit in places where they seem to in the store, clothing that catches in spots where you wouldn’t expect … it sort of drives me nuts. I guess I’m an active person, always sitting on the floor, running, and moving in places where most adults don’t!
I sent Susan to this post, which suggests a few tests that can be applied to garments to see if they’ll be comfortable in the long run. Many of those vaguely goofy seeming tests – including sitting, standing, sitting again, sticking your arms straight up in the air, hugging yourself, and touching your toes – will go a long way toward telling you how a garment will behave in active, real life. But I’ve got a few more general thoughts, too.
Know your body
You’ve had your body … well, for as long as it’s been a body! So, in all likelihood, you know all about the aspects of it that can be tricky to fit, the bits that get sensitive, the features you want to accentuate. If you feel disconnected from your body as it relates to clothes, throw on a few of your favorite outfits. Why do they work? Is it that a certain dress fits your shoulders and waist equally well, instead of one of the other? Is it that a certain neckline does great things for your bust? What is it about those garments (and combinations of garments) that just WORKS for you? And, once you’ve figured that out, ask yourself what about your body is consistently tricky to shop for or fit.
For instance, I am pretty comfortable buying a full skirt online without trying it on. A pencil skirt, though? Not likely. My waist-to-hip ratio is such that I have trouble with fitted bottoms. I’ve learned this through long years of trial and error, and it informs my purchases.
Know your wardrobe
This is pretty closely related to the previous point, but deserves a bit of the spotlight, too. Since you’ve already gone to the trouble of hauling out your faves, take a closer look a them. What do they have in common? Are all of your pants wide legged? Are most of your tops v-necked? Are the majority your shoes Mary Janes? What common threads run through your whole wardrobe? This information can help you predict which styles will work well for you in the future.
Now, of course, this may sound a bit limiting. I’m certainly not saying, “If your favorite skirts are mini skirts you must wear only minis from now UNTIL THE END OF TIME.” That would suck. And be boring. I believe that trying new styles – even styles that you’ve totally hated in years past – is an important way to push your sartorial boundaries. But! If you’re on the lookout for items that are less likely to cause fit issues after purchase, those items may have characteristics in common with your current, best-fitting garments.
Know that some post-purchase fit issues cannot be predicted
This is the bad news: Some garments with lots of spandex will sag. Some skirts will migrate. Some shoes will pinch, but only after five hours of wear. No matter how much dressing room gymnastics, body research, or wardrobe foreknowledge you apply, some clothing and accessories will trick you. So, here are some work-arounds:
- Befriend a tailor for simple alterations
- Hone your layering skills for tricky garments
- Track down a cobbler for shoe stretching and repairs
And if those options either fail or irritate you:
- Open up an account at a local consignment store
- Create an eBay account to sell the stuff that unexpectedly fails you after 10 hours of wear
- Take note of friends and relatives who wear your sizes
I wish I had a foolproof set of rules about garment styles or fiber content breakdowns that would prevent post-purchase fit issues, but I just don’t. In my experience, no brand, style, or fiber is 100% reliable or unreliable. There are simply too many factors. But hopefully some of these guidelines will help you feel a bit more prepared.
Image via Real Simple.