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Why is a Size UK12 a Large?

By Irene Feeney

Picture the scenario. You’ve started to feel good about yourself again. Perhaps, you’ve just had a baby, maybe you over-indulged on the mince pies over Christmas or since that first ‘lockdown’…you just couldn’t shift those few pounds? But finally, you feel ready to hit the shops, a new wardrobe is beckoning and you’re excited to be back to yourself.

Potential new purchases in hand, you deliriously head into the ‘well-lit-with-copious-amounts-of-mirrors-and-plush-carpet’ fitting room to enjoy a try-on session. You’ve always been a Medium; in your book a size UK10-12 is a Medium…nothing more, nothing less. That’s always been the age-old rule…until now that is. You start trying on everything. Medium is now very much on the ‘tighter’ side. Those ‘Medium’ size jeans are hardly pulling up over your thighs and suspiciously feel like a Small? You check the size again – it’s definitely a ‘Medium’. Panic and confusion comes over you? Has the brand made a mistake? Has it been labelled wrong? You’re finally back to your ‘Medium – size 10-12 weight’ – how come ‘your size’ is not fitting you? When did they change all the sizes? You ask the sales assistant for the next size up. She brings a size Large. It fits. Why is a size UK12 a Large?

In the modelling world, a UK size 12 and upward is considered plus size. Are retailers and brands starting to mirror this complexity? In the UK, a size 12 is two sizes below the national average, yet retailers and brands are labelling it as Large. For many women, whose insecurities lie heavily on appearance and body confidence, this can be embarrassing and detrimental.

Inclusivity has a long way to go within the fashion industry. Former BBC ‘Clothes Show’ presenter and ‘body diversity’ in fashion campaigner, Caryn Franklin explains, “there’s really no such thing as standardised sizing. Each brand will have it’s own measurements, which are based on it’s target customer. A Topshop 12 will be very different to a Wallis 12, because Wallis designs will attract an older customer, who has a thicker waist and possibly, lower-placed breasts”.

In my own experience as a seasoned shopper, I equally share ALL of the frustration. I find many of the well-known retailers we all know and love plus frequently shop in such as Zara, H&M and Primark quite volatile when it comes to sizing options. For example – I’m a standard UK12 but I’m a Large in Zara – especially in trousers, skirts, shorts etc., – attire basically suited to the bottom part of my body. In H&M, most of the time, my size UK12 requirement is a size UK14. It’s hit and miss and requires a lot of time spent in the fitting rooms. Kudos to those brands offering easy and free return-options on online purchases. Marks & Spencer is probably THE one high-street retailer I can count on in terms of sizing. Their size 12 IS in fact a size 12. Their Medium equates to a size 12 so you 100% know where you stand with them. I usually relate sizing measurements to a M&S Size 12.

As a Fashion Stylist here in Dubai, this is something that comes up time and time again. The psychological effects on having to ‘size-up’ for some women is HUGE (pardon the pun). The one piece of advice I can give to navigate through these confusing sizing issues is to IGNORE THE SIZE LABEL. Trust me, once you don’t bat an eyelid at the size, you’ll start to forget about it. Have a try-on haul; focus on what looks good on you. How do you feel in it? Does it make you feel like a million dollars and ready to take on the world? Do you feel comfortable; does it show off your figure, do you feel confident? At the end of the day, THIS IS WHAT MATTERS. Not a label playing mind-games and dictating what the fashion industry correlates as their interpretation of size.

“Happiness Is Not Size Specific”


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