Almost 20 years ago now, I was in Hong Kong in a North American size 6 body. I was shopping in a mall and walked into a store where I noticed a perfect hot weather dress. I smiled, pointed and asked for my size. The woman told me to go away because I was too fat. Granted, she probably had limited English and was trying to tell me that she did not have my size. At least I hope that's what she meant. Another time, still in Hong Kong, I was shopping for shoes with my friend. We found a great store and when my friend asked for her size, the woman looked at her feet and with incredulity said, "O-o-oh, your feet so bi-i-i-g!" But the saleswoman took her to the back and found the shoes my friend wanted. However, the saleswoman was shaking her head the whole time she served my friend.
Those recollections made me analyze the sizes in my closets.
In my Canadian closet, I have a range of sizes from 4 to 12 and in my French closet a range from 38 to 46. Yes, I have lost weight and many of those items are too big for me now but still in Canada I wear a range of 4 to 8 presently and in France I am more consistent at 40 but I can fit some 38s and some 42s are also comfortable. Clothing made in Germany fits me better than clothing made in France. I have been told that I have wide shoulders, for a woman, and my frame, even when slim, can be considered athletic rather than thin.
Many sales servers will tell you not to mind the sizes because some start at 0 and others start at 6; therefore, a three size range is always possible. I have also been told to take care of where the item was made. A sweater set I once bought was labelled as Extra Large and fit my size 6 body perfectly. In this case, where in the world is an Extra Large the standard to fit the frame of a woman, who can wear sizes 4 and 6 in North America?
Since many clothing items are made offshore, strange interpretations of sizes arrive in North America and Europe. Standards appear to be different for items made in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, and Philippines. I imagine each factory has different standards for the country for which they are manufacturing. I have a "small" outfit made in India that is too large for my friend who is a Size 46 in France. I am presently wearing size 4 linen pants made in Cambodia and purchased in North America, that are baggy, and a size 42 pair of Zyga (Paris) pants that fit me just right. Yet, in France a size 42 is equivalent to a "large" whereas a size 4 is equal to small most of the time.
I am perplexed. In what sizes and where are larger women buying their clothing? If my body frame is wearing an XL and that represents the size options for that clothing item, then anyone in an American size 12 would be considered XXXL - that seems ridiculous!
Shoes tend to be more standardized around the world than other clothing items. But even with shoes, I can wear a 6.5 to 8 in Canada and 36 to 38 in France. That being said, I still have more consistency with shoes at sizes 7 and 37.
I suppose the only inconvenience is that one cannot simply purchase when they find something on sale; everything must be tried on. When it is crowded, as in the case of sales, it would be nice to be able to just read the label and buy. In that situation, I often scrutenize the item, try to determine if the size and shape would fit me, and then defer to Medium.
Whether the number is 4, 12, 18 or 24, I'm sure I am not the only one who wishes there were more consistent size standards.